Why an American "Third Party" is Not a Good Idea Part 1

Why an American "Third Party" is Not a Good Idea Part 1
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This is the first of two articles as to why a new political party is not a viable option.  Many of my former GOP colleagues and many Democrats are unhappy with the current state of their respective parties.

The original vision of the Founders was to create a political system that each voter would judge candidates on their own merit without a consideration for political parties. In fact, if you read President George Washington’s farewell address in 1796, our outgoing President admonished the young nation that political parties were contrary to the notion of freedom. You may read his address here.

Ah, President Washington, we will always remember your name, just not remember anything you said.

“Bob, what we need is a good progressive party. Don’t you agree?” Asked someone on my subscription list about a week ago. One thing that seems to be bipartisan these days is talk about a new political party. We live in divisive times. Discontent follows division and many people feel that neither The Republican or Democratic Parties are rising to leadership Nationally.

The wings of the two parties seem to encourage this division. A minority group within the Republican Party for all practical purposes has hijacked the GOP, as Forbes writer, former Republican, and the founder of Political Orphans, Chris Ladd points out in his article, “How A Sub-Party Captured the GOP.” You can read the article by clicking here.

On the Democratic side, my Chicago Now Colleague, Judy Marcus, a life-long Democrat wrote a good article last week, “Why this longtime Democrat thinks it is time for a viable Third Party.” In her article, she expresses a common theme of why not have more viable parties, other nations do? You can read her excellent article here.

There are radical individuals and some radical movements within both parties. When you see someone grousing about “the establishment,” odds are you have found one. The establishment runs both parties. The way to get a party to change is to change the establishment of a party. More about that later in this article.

We already have a lot of political parties

In the 2016 Presidential Election, 21 Political Parties not including The Democratic and Republican Parties had candidates on at least one state ballot and won at least 1,000 votes. The parties run the full spectrum of political thought and ideologies. From the leave-me-alone crowd in Libertarian Party to the anti-business Green Party, to at least two socialist parties, all bases were covered. Ballotpedia list 29 political parties in America.

If you don’t want to be a Democrat or Republican, you have a lot of options. Judy hit on something by using the word “viable” in her title.

What does it take for a Political Party to be viable?

A vision of who they are and what they stand for. I know a lot of people claim the two major parties in the USA are ideological in nature. I lived overseas for a while. The Europeans see little difference between our two major parties. To us, there is a gulf between us. If you’ve lived overseas and seen the party differences in Europe, you quickly see our gulf is not even a puddle.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the two major parties are not based on ideology. They are based on practicality and governing. That sets them apart from parties based on an ideology. The GOP has moved to the right. There are many who are dogmatic and doctrinaire in the GOP. Even our notions that one party is for the elite, the other for the common man is awkward.

Warren Buffett, a Democrat and the Second wealthiest man in America is about as elite as elite can be. He is only one of many Democratic billionaires and multimillionaires. The working men and women who supported Republican Donald Trump are about as common man as can be found in America. Does that mean a political realignment is in progress? More about that in part II of this article tomorrow.

There is a role for ideology in the two major parties. That role is crowd control. Over the past 8 years, the GOP has been running away from its tradition of seeking conservative solutions to national problems and moving toward a more Libertarian model which holds little regard, if not outright contempt for government.

Establishment GOP was traditionally conservative, but not at the expense of good governing.

The Democrats went through a similar phase from the early 1970s until 1992. The result of their move toward liberal dogma at the expense of good governing was 12 years of uninterrupted GOP control of the White House. Bill Clinton moved the party back toward the middle.

A party needs a lot of cash to operate. This is America, you can’t run very far on altruism. It costs a lot of money to run a Political Party. The Koch Family tends to support candidates with Libertarian leanings. It is not enough to support a winning party. George Soros provides a lot of money for candidates on the left. Just as the case of the Koch Brothers and the right/libertarian, it is not enough money to operate a party.

A party needs grass roots organization. Elections are still won by boots on the ground, and not by ads on TV in social media chat rooms. For a party to be viable, a party needs at least one precinct captain in all 174,252 precincts in the USA. That includes getting party materials to the precinct captains. See the section about needing a lot of cash.

A new party needs a charismatic leader. A politician from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln stepped into that role in 1860.  A lot of people are of the mind the GOP is going the way of the Whig Party. The GOP incorporated a majority of the Whig Party. Those who didn’t join the GOP went to the Democrats, or they started other minority parties that failed. The spin-off third party failures helped seal the fate of the Whigs.

A party that is based on ideology is doomed from the outset. As I mentioned above, an ideology if strictly adhered to is the definition of doctrinaire. History’s political graveyard is filled with the bodies of politicians who put ideology above practical considerations.

For instance, in the early 1940s, there was a party in the USA that was dedicated to being pacifists. The GOP with its “America First” movement were isolationists. Have you ever wondered what happened to those movements after Pearl Harbor? They evaporated nearly overnight.

A movement is not the solid base for a new party.

There is a lot of talk in the Democratic Party about Bernie and his movement. It is very like the Tea Party Movement in the GOP. Many in the GOP embraced nationalism. Socialism is contracting worldwide. Like any economic system that is founded on political ideology rather than economic reality, it just doesn’t work well.

Movements by their very nature are transitory. The Peace Movement, the Tea Party Movement, The California Tax Revolt, and now Bernie’s Movement. They ebb and wane and sooner or later pass out of fancy, or conditions change in America that makes them not as relevant as they once were.

Bernie has caught the imagination of a lot of young people. George McGovern did the same in 1972 and the young ideologues set the stage for 12 years of unchallenged GOP rule of the White House. Do we need to walk that road again?

Tomorrow is part II, why the system is engineered against the multi-party rule found in other nations. I hope you will be with me then.

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