Steven Den Beste has a new post about the political parties and the 2004 election. It’s good, so check it out. In it is this gem:
Our system doesn’t necessarily offer any given person the choices they really want, but they do get offered choices that actually make a difference. We have to take candidates as packages, and can’t really pick and choose features to create a best-of-breed candidate (i.e. Clinton’s charisma combined with Dole’s erectile dysfunction).
On a more serious note, he observes that
However, in the US system as it now operates, voters aligned with each party are the predominant factor involved in selecting the candidate for that party, and then the two candidates face off in the general election.
It’s interesting that because of this the two-party system is self-sustaining. There have always been more than two parties, but the others have never been competitive. Generally speaking, upstart parties tend to hold positions which are not equally appealing to Democrats and to Republicans, or to the larger group of voters who tend to sympathize more with one of those two parties. So when an upstart party gains significant numbers, it has the effect of diluting the influence of voters with that general political alignment, handing victory to the other side.
Perot’s Reform Party primarily appealed to Republicans, and was a major factor helping Clinton to win in both 1992 and 1996. Nader and the Greens appealed mainly to Democrats, and helped Bush win in 2000.
If such a party challenge actually gained strength and lasted for years, it would be a disaster for their end of the political spectrum. If the Greens gain strength and split the Democrats in two, then the biggest winner would be the Republicans, who would face two weak opponents instead of one stronger one in our winner-take-all electoral process.
Although this is too bad, it’s a fact. So many times I’ve heard people bemoan the fact that there isn’t a choice besides the Democrats and Republicans. But to actually make a third party viable, it would have to either a) wreck the existing party that it most closely resembles by stealing many of its voters, or b) steal more or less equally from both existing parties, meaning that it probably be a centrist, cardboard-tasting version of the moderate blocs in each party right now. And I don’t think that’s what anyone is after when they wish for a third party.
I’m a registered Republican. I very nearly always vote Republican. But I have no allegiance to the party itself, and I generally find myself as disappointed in them as I am in the Democrats. Although the speeches and the demagoguery are often night-and-day different, the end results from each party are generally indistinguishable. Both sides will spend every dime they can get their hands on if it will go in the direction of their district or state. This will allow them to get re-elected, which will give them another opportunity to spend more in their district, blah blah blah. It’s not about what’s best for the country. It’s all about the money. If Al Gore was the president, it would be Republican senators on TV saying we can’t afford to spend so much money fighting terrorism.
The problem with American politics (which are the worst in the world except for everywhere else) isn’t the number of parties or the infighting. The problem is the lying, corrupt, ignorant people who run for office. And their campaign managers.
UPDATE: The Lemon had a post about how to tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats in August. Check it out.