Patterico's Pontifications


Fed Up With Our Political System? Try This Game…

Filed under: General — Stranahan @ 7:07 am

[Guest post by Lee Stranahan]

Here’s a little Friday morning creative thinking exercise.

Is America ready for a third political party?

Okay, before you answer “no” let me ask the same question a different way.

Are there a large number of Americans who feel discontent and disconnected from both the Republican and Democratic parties?

We aren’t thrilled with either our politicians or political system. The polling is dismal and for good reason. Conservatives, liberals, independents, socialists and libertarians all agree that something is very very wrong. We’re not dumb. We all know this thing is broken.

Our system of governance has become a busted vending machine and we keep feeding it money. Okay, that does make us sound kind of dumb but look around – it’s really the only machine in the room right now. It’s the one that seems to have the stuff we want and even though we end up frustrated and disappointed and broke most of the time, this stupid machine is all we’ve got. We keep hoping someone else will tinker away at it and maybe make it work a little bit better.

Or – we can stop throwing our money away and get a new machine that actually works.

The problem with the third party solutions available right now and the reason they aren’t viable is that they are at the outer fringes of the political spectrum. The Libertarian Party and the Peace & Freedom Party and any number of other small political parties are small for a reason – they are out of bounds of the majority of people’s political thought.

There hasn’t been a third party in recent memory that has been able to provide a clear alternative that has mass appeal but our current discontent may provide an answer to that – which leads me to the exercise.

Try this mental game – forget what supposedly divides the Democratic and Republican parties and ask yourself what unites them. It might be ideological similarities or it might not. It might be structural or cultural…or not. Don’t limit yourself, just ask; what do the two parties – our theoretical ‘only two real choices’ — have in common?

Now ask yourself – what’s the opposite of that? What’s the alternative to both the Democrats AND the Republicans that doesn’t exist yet? Fill in the blanks on a political sloga…

“The Republicans and Democrats are ______ — but we’re _________”

I have my own answers but I’m interested in seeing what other people have to say.

– Lee Stranahan

33 Responses to “Fed Up With Our Political System? Try This Game…”

  1. … are both greedy, manipulative scum who have rigged the game to make sure their players stay in power. I’m not sure what the viable alternative to that is. Especially the rigged game part. So little of the machine is actually up for grabs at any one time (ie non-competitive races) that I’m not sure it matters how attractive an alternative you provide.

    Soronel Haetir (c12482)

  2. My loathing and contempt for the D party runs at about 9.6 out of 10.0 with the R’s at about 8.6 (at least they talk a good game at times). Having said that, a third party will not address what I think is one of the fundamental problems with the current political system: lack of term limits for congress and state and local offices.

    We have a professional political class that games the system (McCain-Feingold anyone-signed into law by George Bush and ratified by the SC). We have Senators and Congressmen who serve for life (Ted Kennedy/Charlie Rangel) and in their cases do a great deal of damage to the country. And because of gerrymandering we are stuck with uncompetitive congressional districts that re-elect the same class clowns like Jesse Jackson Jr. Should these issues be addressed (and other related ones such as benefits/pensions for elected officials) I think the current system would work much better and be more responsive and that working within the two party system would be just fine as it has been for the last 200 years or so. Now if Illinois can just get rid of Dick Durbin.

    BT (74cbec)

  3. A characteristic of a party is a shared vision. While there are a lot of people who aren’t enamored with either party, they have little in common with one another other than that they’re not enamored with either party.

    And even where there is some agreement as to a problem (for example, the deficit), there’s no common ground as to the solution (do we cut the deficit just by cutting spending, defense on or off the table, include tax hikes, over what period of time, etc.?)

    steve (369bc6)

  4. Steve — play the game! I think there is common ground, once you’re able to look beyond the artificial D-R axis.

    Stranahan (708cc3)

  5. Team R selected the same McConnellBoehner doucheholes what led them into the political wilderness last time to be their leaders a second time – and that’s not something a third party can fix – it’s more of a we need to stop electing so many filthy whores thing

    happyfeet (71628d)

  6. Washington is a corrupting environment. It matters little which party, but more the length of time in the thrall of the corrupting influence. Very few people elected to Congress go in with the intent of getting all they can for themselves, but, over time, that attitude of right and privilege asserts itself.

    For a third party to remain true to its core beliefs, it will have to institute some form of term limits.

    Rick Caird (0ceb78)

  7. It’s not as though this is a new idea.

    Third parties are started by well-meaning citizens and taken over by wealthy cranks.

    That’s just the way it is.

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  8. I’ll try to play the game, Lee:

    Republicans and Democrats are “economically illiterate statists” – we’re “educated freedom lovers”

    Some chump (4c6c0c)

  9. Lee: I’d play, but unlike the others, I am firmly grounded in reality. If I was to speculate about things that aren’t going to happen, I’d rather dream about winning the lottery.

    And I disagree that the D-R axis is ‘artificial’, I think those labels do a fairly good job of letting people know where one stands on the various issues, even if there’s isn’t uniformity of thought on the part of everybody with an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to their name.

    steve (369bc6)

  10. My suggestion is to change the game instead of the parties. Along the lines of Tom Woods Nullification and the legislative proposals of the Tenth Amendment Center, get some States to tell the Feds to “go to hell and get out of our business.” Then exercise shoeleather voting and collect the people who think alike in one or more of these States. If these people care enough to move, they will be committed to implementing real change.

    docduke (10c150)

  11. Steven Den Beste beat me to it – to say that the problem with third parties is that they reside at the political fringe is to implicitly mislabel an effect as a cause. Third parties reside at the political fringe because the logic of a winner-take-all geographic district demands that voters adopt a binary political mentality or risk the dreaded “Wasted Vote”. That’s Duverger’s Law – single member plurality district systems lead to two-party systems, like clockwork. If we want to make third parties viable (and, politically speaking, that’s what I want the most) we need to get rid of geographic electoral districts, or at least counterbalance them in a significant way.

    Leviticus (ed6d31)

  12. Lee, you raise an excellent point with this exercise. It’s easy to just say that both parties are beholden to “special interests,” but once you get beyond that cliche and really look at who the “special interests” are, it turns out that it is you and me. My neighbor works for the state government, so she naturally does not want to see her department’s budget cut and her job threatened. I work in the private sector and pay taxes, so I naturally don’t want to see those taxes increase and take a bigger bite out of my paycheck. That makes us by definition “special interests” even if we don’t want to view ourselves that way.

    I don’t think a third party is feasible, unless a fourth party is created at the same time. Right now there is enough of a gulf between Democrats and Republicans — especially on the issue of what services the government should provide to the citizens — that I think most people can divide themselves between the two camps. I just don’t see a party of the center materializing, so the more likely scenario is that the hardcore right split off into their own outfit and the far left does the same. Maybe our political future will be a multiparty European-style system of coalitions and alliances, with there sometimes being a Libertarian-Constitutionalist-Republican alliance pitted against a Socialist-Green-Democrat alliance, and sometimes a Republican-Democrat coalition against the other groups.

    JVW (615582)

  13. I posted this on Lee’s page:

    “The Republicans and Democrats are interested in getting re-elected — but we’re interested in assuring that the nation’s elected representatives are responsible national stewards, in accordance with the Constitution.”

    The fact that we are facing a government shutdown is just the latest and largest symptom of our government’s dysfunction. Consider that a budget has not been passed in each of the last two election years-is that the new normal, that Congress is unwilling to pass a budget before an election? Simply put, our elected leaders are not constrained enough, and do not have enough skin in the game to act responsibly. Some changes I’d make:

    Congress should not be able to pass any legislation until after they pass an annual budget.

    The budget should be roughly balanced (for example, deficit no more than 2% of GDP)

    If Congress passes a deficit in excess of 2% of GDP:

    -Any Congress member voting for that budget will be ineligible to run for any Federal office ever, nor will they be able to register as a lobbyist for ten years.
    -The President gets a line item veto to bring the budget down to 2% (or less) of GDP
    -If the President signs a budget with a deficit in excess of 2% of GDP, his term will end sixty days after signing the budget, and he is ineligible to run for federal office again. The Vice President will ascend to the Presidency and will complete his term, but he is ineligible to run in the next election cycle.

    I don’t object to a permanent political class if they are competent. It’s the incompetent permanent political class that is doing this country grave harm.

    MartyH (52fae7)

  14. As I often find myself explaining to friends from Europe, our two parties are already coalitions, then we have an election. In parliamentary systems, they hold an election . Then, if no one party has a majority with which to form a government, two or more parties will horse trade and form a coalition to govern. With our system, any possibly viable third party is absorbed by one of our two, which is why our national parties usually resemble each other. The last time we had a valid new party, the Republicans replaced the Whigs. Civil war followed. Our executive and congressional branches are so separated, that we can have a President of one party and a congress of the other, or even what we have now, a Republican house and a Democratic Senate and President. The whole system is designed to limit the power of the Federal Government. That drives Europeans batshit. It usually works for us.

    BarSinister (a9e7f6)

  15. I think a lot of people who might be interested were taught a lesson by the Ross Perot debacle.

    At this time I think the best hope is for a Tea Party internal coupe of the Republicans.

    agesilaus (b8b344)

  16. I often vote third-party, but I’ve come to believe one wouldn’t work big-time in this country. We like seeing things as dichotomies — consider the way sports fans often have a favorite team to root against as much as one to root for.

    We won’t get a third party for the same reason we don’t have triple-threat playoffs in any pro-sports league.

    I think in terms of their stated ideals, the two major parties work for most people. It’s how they practically execute them, compromising on those ideals, that people dislike.

    Or not. Some people honestly like stalemates and gridlock.

    LYT (0c20a0)

  17. The problem with having two parties that look increasingly alike is that it renders the vote worthless in one of its two primary capacities: affecting actual policy change.

    If the two parties look exactly alike, then it doesn’t matter if we vote, because the outcome will be the same either way. You’ve effectively castrated the institution of enfranchisement. What was originally intended to limit the power of the Federal Government ultimately limits the power of the people to control it, because the unstated “coalitions” of the two parties are so broad that a representative can hide behind any three interest groups to avoid taking up the cause of a fourth for whom he’s responsible. It all becomes a prolonged exercise in the abdication of responsibility and the pursuit of personal power, cloaked in the language of moderation and independence.

    Leviticus (ed6d31)

  18. The Republicans and Democrats are only instrumentally interested in their constituencies – but we’re interested in having representatives who “prefer our interest to their own.”

    Leviticus (ed6d31)

  19. So what of the Huckabee party? The socially conservative, fiscally liberal types? That’s a major faction.

    I can see a lot of ‘moderate’ republicans, and perhaps moderate democrats, taking a libertarian-lite view on a lot of social issues, while hoping for fiscal sanity. I guess that’s what the 3rd party is supposed to look like, and I’d support it if I thought that was the way to reform spending. The problem with that is that the Huckabee party (for want of a better term) would go to the democrats. So this third party appears to lead away from the goals it would want.

    So we need a 3rd and 4th party to appear together, somehow.

    Dustin (c16eca)

  20. The Democrats and Republicans are Progressives

    – we are Federalists.
    – we are traditionalists.
    – we are DIYers.
    – we know that our lives are our own, not the States plaything nor test lab for social experiments.
    – we will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, de-briefed or numbered.
    – we are free men. And we MEAN IT.

    ajacksonian (87eccd)

  21. Stalemates and gridlock are absolutely preferable to the creeping statism of one party, and the institutional statism of the other.

    JD (3ee1ee)

  22. Historically, third parties have been a distraction. Right now we are seeing – to my mind, anyway – BOTH of the two parties going through internal struggles with new blood trying to get control away from an entrenched elite. With the Republicans the process is already well advanced. Not COMPLETE, but clearly happening. The outcome is always in doubt, but giving up is not called for.

    My real hopes for 2012, however, involve the Democrats. They re-took Congress in 2006 with a slate of Populist (or Faux-Populist) candidates, and then the Usual Suspects got all the top spots and set all the agendas ….. and that hasn’t worked out so well. If the populists make a real fight out of this internal divide, we could suddenly have two parties worth voting for in the near future. But in the meanwhile it’s gonna be messy.

    We have to remember; the calcification and entrenchment of the Entitled Left didn’t happen overnight. It took decades, stretching all the way back to Woodrow (elitist bigot) Wilson. By the time Nixon was in office the Political Left had achieved such control of the terms of argument that, at least in terms of domestic policy, Nixon was a RINO. It’s going to take decades to shift things away from the Political Correct Idiocy that hamstrings us now.

    But the fight should be LOTS of fun.

    C. S. P. Schofield (8b1968)

  23. The Republicans and Democrats are kicking the sleeping dogs — but we’re awake now and angry!

    Lorrie (cf390f)

  24. The Republicans and Democrats are gatekeepers, but we’re gate busters.

    With transparency comes motive to change.

    Mine are 1) End of Interstate Commerce Clause as the avenue of the destruction of the Tenth Amendment. 2) Flat Tax to be determined. Only the MOST extreme needs get waivers/credits/deductions. 3) Isolationist foreign policy, while retaining the right to a response of our choosing at anytime. ROE’s that are extremely loose and allow a free-wheeling destruction and mortality to the enemy. No more American loves spent to save “innocent” indigenous lives. If we are compelled to use force, force we shall use.

    Ed from SFV (4a7c52)

  25. I’d like to play the game. But I don’t know who real live American Democrats are any more. Discounting the vulgar trolls we experience daily, I can’t believe the real people comprising the Dem party are as portrayed or represented: Mr. Hope&Change Obama, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Pelosi/Reid, Grayson/Wiener/Frank, Eric Holder, pushy union guys, dirty kids, etc. Is this all some kind of bizarre show-biz, or is this the real Dem Party? I’ve heard Dems saying the party moved left and abandoned them. I have seen intelligent Dems recite stuff parrot-like, while looking at their fellows to see how it is accepted, and I wonder what they really think…

    As a Tea Partier, it appears Dems find me exotic and reprehensible, rather than just elusive. I’m not impressed with the GOP, but trying to remake it.

    I hope we have more in common than it appears.

    jodetoad (7720fb)

  26. Apologies for typo…..”American loves” should be “American lives.”

    Ed from SFV (4a7c52)

  27. I should point out that I think a new third party could shut down one of the other two existing ones..leaving two major parties again.

    But I think both parties are beyond repair for the exact reason many have pointed out — corruption.

    Stranahan (708cc3)

  28. Lee-

    Can you elaborate on the nature of the corruption that each party falls prey to?

    Is it the earmarks? The demagoguery? Being beholden to big money funders? Is what the parties do illegal? Is it failing to uphold their Constitutional requirements?

    Most importantly, how would you keep this corruption from entering your new third party?

    MartyH (b20e9b)

  29. Lee, I’ve given up on party labels. They simply don’t describe the spectrum of politics nearly well enough. In general, Republicans and Democrats are my enemy, the enemy of my freedom, the enemy of my prosperity, and the enemy of my pursuit of happiness, to say the least. Both parties tend towards big government, They both say, “You want XXX, we’ll get you XXX, trust me.” Then the party members deliver bigger government because that tends to give them more personal power and financial well being.

    This is not universally true. For a short time now the people who want the government out of their hair have more or less convinced a fair number of politicians that ‘this week’ trimming the size of government is a good thing for my future. And we’ve elected some others who share this philosophy.

    Big and small make one political axis. And neither party owns the big end or the small end. They tend to be divided on social issues. Those issues do not make is more prosperous. Under a big government they tell us how we should live our lives. Under a small government they suggest to us how we ought to live our lives. The religious on one end of the social axis might be likened to those wishing their religion to dominate the drafting of laws. Under the “rationalists” or “atheists” you have people trying to tell you how to live based on their definition of “rationality.”

    You might liken the extreme big government religious group as fascists, Muslims, or similar. You might liken the extreme big government rationalist group as communists. At the extremes of small government you might have the rational Randites and the irrational anarchists. Virtually anything else you can define sits somewhere on the same two dimensional graph.

    Since neither party is particularly homogeneous where can I put them on such a graph?

    At the moment Republicans are smeared out all over the place. They do tend, in my view, to cluster up towards the religious end of the social axis and range from extreme small government types (not nearly anarchists but playing footsie with the thought) to larger government types who plan to grow the government when they get the chance.

    The democrats seem to be divided with a big blob up playing footsie with Communist principles and another blob somewhere up around rationalist slightly large government. Both party’s big and huge government types really seem to want to make government and your duties to the government in terms of service, taxes, and rights all encompassing – “but we can’t get there yet.” I see these nasty people jockeying for position, “Who is going to end up the Tyrant of the US?”

    I guess I’ve had enough years on this Earth that cynicism is inevitable. No matter what happens I don’t see you, me, and other average US citizens coming out ahead and free in the future.


    JD (bcdcf2)

  30. Third parties are not out of bounds. Have you heard of rigged elections? The reason third parties can’t win is the single member district structure. Gerrymandering of these districts does not help the alternative parties. However, if we could elect several members from a single district using a system of proportional representation, third parties would be represented in state legislatures and the U. S. House. If they did a good job they would probably expand their representation. Until those of us, who are in a majority, are able to raise the millions of dollars necessary to launch ballot initiatives and run strong campaigns to change the rules of the game, Democrats and Republicans will continue their unpopular reign.

    C. T. Weber (fbeb28)

  31. “Is America ready for a third political party?”

    Hell, I’m ready for violent revolution, and a mass purge of the lefties, but I can’t get anybody else interested.

    Not so far, anyway.

    Like it says on Ace’s site…

    “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.”–H. L. Mencken

    Well, we’re normal, ain’t we? Let’s get on with it!

    Dave Surls (d8194a)

  32. What we are seeing is the natural progression of “democracy.” We have reached the ‘tyrany of the majority’ stage, where those supposedly running the government must submit to the will of the people or lose their jobs – even when the people are wrong. The average “man on the street” is not engaged enough, informed enough, or rational enough to understand all the various issues, and yet he can vote. Unless and until voting laws are changed, Average Joe will just keep voting for the his next paycheck (more and better gov’t services) – completely oblivious to the eventual bankruptcy just around the corner.

    For what it is worth, I don’t think the parties are the problem.

    Onus (b6ba84)

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