The problem is not that the two parties are polarized. In many ways they're closer than ever. The problem is that the parties in Washington, and the people on the ground in America, are polarized. There is an increasing and profound distance between the rulers of both parties and the people—between the elites and the grunts, between those in power and those who put them there…
Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter. They're in agreement: immigration should not be controlled but increased, spending will increase, etc.
Are there some dramatic differences? Yes. But both parties act as if they see them not as important questions (gay marriage, for instance) but as wedge issues. Which is, actually, abusive of people on both sides of the question. If it's a serious issue, face it. Don't play with it.
I don't see any potential party, or potential candidate, on the scene right now who can harness the disaffection of growing portions of the electorate. But a new group or entity that could define the problem correctly—that sees the big divide not as something between the parties but between America's ruling elite and its people—would be making long strides in putting third party ideas in play in America again.
The primary cause of the American Revolution was that Americans, who saw themselves as English citizens, were, through the folly of British policy, made keenly aware that the British Parliament considered them to be colonists who were bound to submit to the will of Parliament. Indeed, Parliament, irrespective of American wishes, their lack of representation in London, or indeed, the willingness of Colonial legislatures to impose the taxes, by proxy, that parliament wished to levy to pay for the French and Indian (Seven Years) War and the subsequent defense costs arising therefrom, went out of their way to impose the idea of parliamentary supremacy over the colonies. And Parliament, under the government of Lord North, did so despite the counsel of eminent members such as Edmund Burke, that to do so was to assert a power they knew they could not enforce.
The Republican Party itself arose from the distinct feeling of Northerners that neither the Whigs nor the Democrats were willing to take a definitive moral stand on the issue of slavery. In the space of four years, the Whigs passed away, and the Republican Party became the majority party. Indeed, the Republican ascendance was the primary trigger of Southern secession and the ensuing Civil War. That was a steep price, and one which the country paid in full.
This isn't surprising. America's British ancestors, after all, were the same people who looked on approvingly when Oliver Cromwell's Long Parliament lopped off the head of King Charles, during the Civil War, then, in the same Generation, repudiated the Parliament by supporting the Glorious Revolution that re-established the English Crown (Albeit with the rule of Parliamentary Supremacy firmly established). While the British themselves have arguably lost that antipathy towards intrusive government, the American citizen's relationship with the government is still…uneasy.
The party system, as it's developed at the national level since 1968, has left liberty-loving Americans at a bit of a loss. One of the parties seems to have a laissez-faire attitude towards economic questions, but has become increasingly totalitarian on moral issues, while the other party has become laissaez-faire on moral issues, while becoming increasingly totalitarian on economic issues. Within a generation—indeed, half a generation—we have turned out one party in Congress for their arrogance and wild spending, only to see their successors from the opposing party quickly growing to ape their predecessors ways. And in both cases, Federal Spending has grown and grown.
Oh, sure, Republican apologists are quick to point out that the Republican Congress of the 90's "balanced the budget. And that might be an interesting argument if today's Republicans a) acted like the Republicans of 1994, or b) if the assertion was actually true. Which, in the larger sense, it wasn't1.
Jude Wanninski, in his seminal book on Supply Side Economics2, The Way the World Works, describes the American political process with an interesting analogy. If the American people want "duck" and the two parties offer only "eagle" and "chicken", then the people will choose "eagle" or "chicken", based upon their judgment, at a given moment in time, of whether "eagle" or "chicken" comes closest to "duck". This analogy is fine when both parties present a policy that is recognizably avian. Where it falls apart, though, is when the people want "duck", and the major party alternatives are "ferret" and "weasel". Like Ms. Noonan, I am increasingly of the opinion that all that the major parties offer is a variation on the family mustelidae.
So, I also believe that we are on the verge of a major change in the two-party system. In the end, I think that the structural nature of the political system described by the Constitution requires a two-party system. I suspect, however, that in the near future, it won't be the two parties we are familiar with today. ____________________ 1 from 1993-2000, the Public debt of the United States increased from $4.4 Trillion to $5.7 Trillion, despite "balancing" the budget. 2 Long-time readers of this blog know that I am a Neo-Keynesian, not a Supply-Sider.
I fail to see where the Constitution enshrines a two party system. If anything it enshrines a no party system where people from local communities work it out as to who their represenatives are. Parties were added later. Although they’ve now entrenched themselves and given themselves advantages come campaign time.
I know it might be human nature to reduce everything to a football game. Us and Them. But I believe the Founders knew that entrenched Parties were wrong. In fact they moved away from the Parlimentary System which does engrain an opposition.
Perhaps we should ban Parties altogether. *blasphemey*
I know you couldn’t ban them on a organizational level. But you could apply finance reform where only citizens of a district and contribute campaign money to a prospective candidate. Basically remove outside money. Therefore there is no reason to loyal to a national party. This would nuke parties in general as candidate would be free to depart from their Party Leadership. You wouldn’t people like Joe Lieberman frozen out. Everyone would be equally frozen out.
The Constitution does not enshrine a two party system, but our legislative structure makes it seem inevitable. Nevertheless, the parties we have today need to go. I hate to say "I told you so", but I did some months ago.
I just hope the remains of the two parties can be forged into a meaningful new party that actually represents America. The major hurdle, as I see it, is the preponderance of career politicians. Our nation was not founded by career politicians.
The future does not look promising in that regard, given our decline of literacy.
So, I also believe that we are on the verge of a major change in the two-party system.
I can only hope that you are right. However, I see many barriers that will stop this, and I don’t see the mechanism that is going to break through these barriers. Any thoughts as to what steps must occur for this to happen?
I think that we will see a new party or parties emerge, and that there is a very good chance that it will come about through or directly because of weblogs. The big reason for the political parties was to promote candidates and basic policies, and that required the money that the parties have. But that influence of money is why we have a constant repeating history of corruption in government.
But with blogs, candidates and ideolgies can be promoted for free, almost.
So maybe you can start the new party. Call it the Blog Party, not neo-libertarian, which recalls neo-con, neo-liberal. In 200 years, people will say, what is a blog anyway, just like they might wonder, what is a whig?
there is absolutely nothing in Articles I & II that compell the formation of two or more groups whose members think identically on diverse issues. We have Representative government where represenatives should be loyal to their constituancy and not some national organizations.
The Constitution sets up a two-party system by requirements for working majorities. A nascent 3rd Party is quashed by the Big Two, which have an inherent interest in blocking a 3rd Party from siphoning off their captive members, so the Big Two combine to ensure the 3rd Party gets NOTHING they want and is shown "ineffectual".
Bush II, the worst President at least since Carter, and the Republican fatcats on the Hill, have betrayed the 1994 Revolution. They have shown the Republicans are as corrupt, in love with deficit government spending, and as beholden to the Ruling Class as the Democrats were.
Not only are the two Parties leadership pro-mass migration, pro Big Government, and whatever else the Ruling Elite wants them to do.....they ensure they distinguish themselves on cultural and ideological issues that serve their activist base with Ruling Elite blessing that the hoi pollei be tossed a few bones now and then - but which repulse the American mainstream.
It took major crisis to cause the last big shifts in "two-party" business as usual. Republicans rose in prelude to the inabiility of Democrats and Whigs to resolve pre Civil War issues. The Bull Moose Party rose to reform the Republican Party, which then as now had become a Party of the Rich. FDR and the New Deal fundamentally altered the Democratic Party into something new. Nixon and Goldwater reinvented the Republican party in the 60s.
But 40 years later, the 2 Parties have become Frick and Frack. While retaining the worst of their partisan notions - religious totalitarianism, belief in military adventurism, feminazis, blacks pandered to if they saty on the plantation, a visceral hatred of national security and Western culture in the Democratic Party’s big bucks Jewish donor base, and academia bastions.
Yeah, it’s time. Peggy Noonan has it right, and as Reagan’s former #1 or #2 speechwriter, she knows it. Better we gut the entrenched politicians of both camps out, and get started on the transformation.
The only way we could have a viable third party in our system is if we changed the system. We could, for instance, change all representatives to proportional representation. That way you would have multiple parties at least in the House. Of course that is a pipe dream and would require a constitutional amendment.
I think we would have a much better chance of some other constitutional amendments to try to bypass the politicians, I can think of several, Line item veto, term limits, balanced budget, maximum allowable tax. Freedom to ingest "what ever substances you want". How about repeal of the income tax?
You don’t have the formation of the Republican Party and demise of the Whig Party correct. You write, "The Republican Party itself arose from the distinct feeling of Northerners that neither the Whigs nor the Democrats were willing to take a definitive moral stand on the issue of slavery. In the space of four years, the Whigs passed away, and the Republican Party became the majority party."
The Whig Party disappeared because its Northern and Southern elements could not agree over the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Southern Whigs supported it. Northern Whigs opposed it. AFTER the Whig Party effectively disappeared in 1854, a new coalition of Free Soil Democrats and Conscience Whigs formed to create a new Republican Party. And remember, the Republican Party was hardly the only alternative to the Democrats. The new American Party, based on anti-immigrationism, had as much a chance to succeed the Whigs as the Republicans. But the immigration issue died down by the mid-1850s, and the slavery issue kept escalating. A big reason the Republicans lost in 1856 but won in 1860 was that the anti-Democratic opposition was divided in 1856 between Americans under Fillmore and Republicans under Fremont. Nevertheless, it wasn’t so much the "distinct feeling that neither the Whigs nor Democrats would take a definitive moral stand on slavery" but that the vehicle for Northern opposition to slavery before 1854 - Northern Whiggery - had disappeared.