Tobold's Blog
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Party politics

In Belgium, where I live, the federal parliament has 13 different parties. Not only is there the usual spectrum of parties from left to right, but there is an additional axis north-south, with Dutch-speaking parties from the north and French-speaking parties from the south. Under these conditions it isn't a big surprise that Belgium holds the world record of 589 days needed after one election to actually form a government.

A two-party system in comparison appears to be a lot simpler. There is always a majority. Or so you would think. But what if the people forming one party are in fact deeply divided and can't agree on anything? This is what appears to be happening in the United States. The Republicans hold both houses of parliament, the presidency, and a majority of governorships. If they would agree on something, changing the country in their image would be relatively easy. But in reality the one party calling itself the Republicans consists of at least two, if not much more, sub-parties.

The Republicans are the party of the rich. They are the party of the rural poor. They are the party of religion. They are the party of freedom. They are the party of family values. They are the party of the industrial military complex. They are the party of free market capitalism. They are the party of trade barriers. There are so many direct contradictions in their positions that I would consider it to be actually impossible to hold all the values that the Republican party stands for in a single person.

So increasingly the Republican party is the party of "no". They are against pretty much everything. They either aren't *for* anything, or at least can't agree what that something is. They agree that they all are against Obamacare, but the best alternative they could come up with looks a lot like Obamacare with a new coat of paint, and then they couldn't agree on the color of that paint either.

That not only is horribly inefficient, it also is somewhat dishonest towards the voters. Somebody casting a vote for a Republican doesn't really know what he will get. Okay, he could inform himself in detail about the candidates position. But on election day he'll have the choice only between a Republican who holds different values than he does, or a Democrat. Makes you wonder if the multi-party system isn't better after all.

You are lucky with your party system. Over here in Belarus we have no parties that play any significant role. They just exist. What matters is the current government led by the president and the way they crack down on any dissent. I sometimes get very gloomy mood swings when I focus on it. Some people tried to protest against a tax on unemployment (you have to pay it if you have had no job for half a year in order to help the state pay for public expenses)

It looked like this:

And here is an aerial view:

And election results are forged every time. Presidential elections, elections to the parliament. All the time.

Sorry for hijacking your post. And yes, I agree that parties in the USA are not so solidified. Their members do indeed have different views. That's what I hope for in my country: that the state and its supporters are not as united as it may seem.
You left out 'days' after '589'... I read it as 589 parties!
I wouldn't say they are the party of no so much as government shouldn't do that (because free market can pretty much handle anything)
The problem in the US isn't so much that the Republican party is so fractured, it's that Congress has been mainlining corporate money for so long they can't pull the needle out.

Once you construct these progressive monuments to "progress" like Obamacare, they can't be torn down without damaging the all-mighty economy. And, in the process, these monstrosities bleed the country dry by allowing crony capitalism to run them unfettered.

That said, I'm all for government run health care, as I'm all for government run roads. Some things just NEED to be government run. What you CAN'T do is set up a government run monopoly, then hand it to a business and say "Sure! Run this for a profit with minimal oversight! We trust you."

I don't think it's fair to suggest that a two party system cannot function as well as a multiparty system such as you present using Belgium as an example. No single party in Belgium would ever stand a chance at winning a majority vote. It's the reason they form coalitions. You also seem to suggest that a two-party system is somehow less representative than a multi-party system, which is preposterous to even the most less astute observer of party politics. If you look at a breakdown of Democrats and Republicans here in the US, you will find that the line that represents moderates shifts left or right during each election cycle depending on the platforms of the given candidates prior to the primaries. Also, political affiliation in the United States is a matter of self-identification, in both the governing system and the party organizations, and party leaders simply lack the ability to say that someone is or isn't a Democrat or Republican.

One look at what Bernie Sanders did to Clinton is enough to plainly illustrate this. Especially when Clinton came out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership after being instrumental in negotiating the TPP as Secretary of State. Quite the turn-around indeed. It was nothing more than an effort on her part to help align herself with the voters who supported the self stated socialist Bernie Sanders and his positions. It was a purely political move. Nothing more.

A socialist running under the Democratic ticket? Not possible, you say? Well, it is possible for the reasons I give above. Historically, the US has always been in a tug-of-war with where the moderate line is positioned - either more to the left of center or more to the right. The voters simply decide where that moderate line resides for 2-8 years.

I disagree that a two party system is more representative. If your politics don't align with either party then you are left out completely and receive no representation. Even in systems with many parties this can happen but the number of people that are disenfranchised is going to be drastically less. The real root of the problem though is first past the pole voting. That is what leads to a two party system. And the fewer parties their are the easier it is for corporations to buy the laws they want. In reality lobbying groups with large budgets for bribes/campaign contributions are the ones being represented in our government, not the citizens.

I never said a two-party system was more representative. I merely pointed out that Tobold's use of Belgium and it's 13 parties is not grounds for a condemnation of a two-party system or election outcomes. Across Sanders career he has ran as an Independent, Socialist and Democrat. His followers know this and yet he still represented the Democratic Party in the last election. What I'm pointing out here is that if a Socialist/Independent can run as a Democrat, and be representative of a large portion of Democrat voters, it's basically no different than what occurred with the Green Party and Nader during the 2000 presidential election. Nader garnered almost 3% of the popular vote which arguably cost Gore the Democratic bid for President. It's called the "Spoiler Effect".

The same thing happens on the Republican side with the Tea Party. There are over 15 political parties in the US that align with right-wing politics and 50 that align with left-wing politics. But just because they align left or right doesn't mean they support the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. The majority of them simply align themselves politically as a matter of legitimacy.
I think people generally get used to their version of democracy, and parties also respond to how it works. E.g. if the same party is in power all the time, factions in that party will tend to start reflecting public views. So maybe people usually end up getting about as much democracy as they want.

The US has an extra problem - it's a federal superstate. That seems to be relatively incompatible with democracy working properly. We're seeing the EU turn into the same, and democracy is disappearing here too.
It's not too different on the other side of the aisle. Sure, Democrats are united now in their hatred of Trump, but rewind the clock back 6 years and Democrats had Obama in office and control of Congress and barely were able to pass bills. They had to make concessions to Republicans to get the ACA and other things passed.

I imagine if Democrats gain control of Congress in 2018 and then the presidency in 2020 we will see divisions crop up in the Democratic party just like we saw in the first 2 years of Obama's presidency.

This is a fundamental problem with the two party system.
Something that's always confused me a bit about broad multi-party systems is how to reconcile each party's narrow focus with the wide variety of issues I'm passionate about.

Like I'm very strongly interested in improving the environment, I'm opposed to minimum wage increases, and I somewhat in free trade/open borders. In the US that makes me an independent, and the two parties either try to court my vote by leaning my way, or suppress my vote by not enraging me into the opposition.

In a multi-party system there'd be a green party, but perhaps they'd also believe crazy things about the economy. There'd be a pro-business party, but perhaps they'd be dismissive of water/air pollution measures. There'd be a globalist party, that perhaps might not have anything too objectionable, but then I'd be ignoring other beliefs I'm far more passionate about.

How do you balance it all to make it work, to identify with any one particular party, if it doesn't have full scope?
@Michael I think the thing is that you end up not picking just one party to identify with. Instead you pick the parties that best fit your views on various subjects. If First past the pole voting is eliminated then you hopefully end up with representation for each party actually being representative of the populous. Whereas with a two party system and first past the pole you end up with gerrymandered districts and only the two main parties having any real representation.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool