morepartyanimaldadfs1 - wideTonight I introduce a new feature: A recurring seminar on various topics.   The concept is deliberately academic.   I (and others assuming y’all embrace the concept) will be conducting a conversation on various topics: politics, policy, economics.

For this first effort, I will outline a discussion and invite you to comment.    We will have the thread up for a day or two, then take it down.   I would ask you to do some research in preperation for next week’s continuation of the topic.   Please try to find trenchant and persuasive material and bring us a link.   Also write a synopsis of the mateiral that you are bringing us.  Hopefully we can work for several weeks and find quite a bit of material to share.

And perhaps we can synthesize some new thoughts on the topic.   Do please try to be careful to follow standard academic rules: avoid plagiarism or anything smelling of it, and give us citations.    I’m pretty jazzed on this, I hope you will join me in this exercise.

So:

A recent comment on a thread got me thinking again about a subject that is often in the back of my mind.

Someone wrote that America needs a third party, which could lead one into an interesting Political Science conversation.

Obviously, for a democracy to be a democracy, there must be more than one party.    The question then arises: how many would be ideal?   I would not hold up America’s two party system as a desirable model.   Now, I have often twitted people who threaten to bolt off to the Greens for being irrational and silly.   My beef with the American Green party is that it wastes money running a candidate for president.   I know, I know, it draws attention.   Not much, it doesn’t.   My argument is that if the Greens got six congresspeople elected, they would become a real power.    Imagine how Pelosi would  be wooing them just now.    Look at how gingerly the Senate Dems must treat that cold fish Leiberman!

So I think we could agree that two is too few.    How many is too many?   That would depend in part on your expectations of govt.   If you were a Rethug, you want govt to accomplish nothing at all.    You seriously want govt to shrivel up and die.

Most other democracies are parliamentary in nature.   Which means that the executive power resides with whichever party in the legislature has the majority.   Some states have a somewhat mixed structure, featuring both a president and a prime minister.   France, Russia and Israel are important examples.

The question that we are attempting to answer is: What number of parties leads to the most progressive and effective society?

In America we have been fixed on a two party system for nearly two centuries.   Arguably that is not ideal.

Britain has two and a half parties: Labor, Tory and Liberal Democrat, the LD being really only half a party, as it has never lead a coalition (to my knowledge.   Part of this exercise is to fill in our collective knowledge.)

Other nations have settled on three parties, in general.

Others have multiple parties.   In some systems it is necessary to achieve X percentage of the vote to win a seat in parliament, which is designed to limit the number of parties represented in govt.    I believe Britain and Germany could be counted in this group.

Italy, famously, had a new governing coalition every year for the first 45 years after WWII.   A driver of that is the fact that there is (or was) almost no minimum needed to gain a seat in parliment.

Israel is a dramatic example.   The Knesset has 120 seats, and any party that earns at least 120th of the vote has a shot at a seat.    Often as not, the Knesset has ten parties seated.   Many analysis of the deadlock in the MiddleEast has referenced the out-sized influence of minuscule parties in Israeli politics.

That is the first installment.   An overview of subject and a few examples to discuss.   Let’s chat about this for two days then go find more material to share in a week.   I’ll repost this introduction and your comments, with a bit of a refresh, then we can continue our chat.

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kesmarn
Admin

I know this is possibly the most light-weight comment I could make but: I LOVE the graphic for this article. The notion of a Rooster, Kangaroo or Beaver Party is too funny.

I’ll try to come back later with something more intelligent to say.

nellie
Member

Maybe it’ll give more weight to your comment if you get a reply that agrees with you totally. It’s a great graphic.

kesmarn
Admin

I’m going to go on the assumption that great minds think alike. Hence, I also agree with you totally.
Have we got gravitas or what?

nellie
Member

It’s what makes this site a great place!

Mogamboguru
Member

Hi, folks!

10 in the morning here in Germany, and I am having breakfast, while I am watching your political discurse.

A short note on the Green Party in America: I am afraid, that they may have been set up as a mere deception, to draw the attention of voters away from serious topics. One has to accept, that tha mayority of voters IS and WILL ALWAYS BE consist of moderate conservatives, with occasional progressive twinklings.

So if yo uwere REALLY going to change the political landscape in the USA, you had to go, where the mayority is, to get things done – i,e, establish a party, where the farmer as well as th clerk, the progressive redneck as well as the conservative businessman may find a platform to join.

I know – because I am fighting this same fight in Germany actually. I am a member of the Left Party. We have a HUGE chance to replace the SPD, the left-leaning, moderately progressive mayority-party in Germany, which has taken a way too far to the right recently due to the bad influence of too conservative leaders, and, thus, have laid a good swat of their former constituency left out and laid bare to pick up and incorporate into our party.

But while there is a HUGE chance for us to become a mayor player in german politics in short time and become able to REALLY influence the course of this country, we hava a huge problem with the extreme left wing of our own party, which is still fighting for socialism and is out for an all-or-nothing approach in the streets.

I am not fighting for leftist ideals. I am fighting to improve the lives of people. And a party always only should considered to be a tool for improving the lives of people.

Extremism in ny direction is NEVER adaptable to the mainstream. But it’s the mainstrae one MUST appeal as a political, to really get things done.

nellie
Member

Hey, Mo. Interesting take on our Green Party. I don’t know if the Green Party is a set up, but it certainly is ineffectual. I was the chair of my Green Party local a few years back, and the party is plagued with angry, idealistic, inflexible types who genuinely don’t know a lot about politics — don’t know how our system works, don’t know how to get things done. The party is highly dysfunctional, with a lot of infighting and not much direction. Which is why I am no longer the chair of my local, or even a member of the party.

The idea of a progressive party is very appealing, as long as it does not attract a leadership group like the one in the Green Party. From experience, I can see that the leadership component in the party is essential — not only in establishing a sustainable platform, but also in managing the growth and public image. It sounds basic, but the Green Party has never gotten those things under control, despite national recognition and years of growth.

AdLib
Admin

Hey Mo!

I agree that there is an element in the American population that keeps one foot of society nailed down in conservatism (and against progress), mainly stemming from the overly religious nature of Americans (certainly as compared to most other industrialized nations).

At the same time, there is the dichotomy of a desire to be able to change, to try new things.

Take for example the election of the first black man as President of the United States. Looking back at all other industrialized nations, the U.S. is the only major nation to date to have chosen that kind of diversity in their leadership. And in health care, most polls show a clear majority in favor of the public option and even for single payer. These are actually quite liberal positions.

So, my perspective is similar to yours with a bit of a variation. The American public has a very status quo side to itself but when times are tough, they are flexible enough to discard that conservatism and move towards big change.

As for the Green Party, it was a wholly “grass roots” (couldn’t resist!) movement that founded this party, under the same Green Party organization that as I’m sure you know, began in Germany.

Still, you and I end up with the same conclusion about the Green Party, it does not seem ideal to become a competitive third party in this country.

As to your proposal, I don’t see how any party could effectively represent the political leanings of the conservative businessmen who oppose regulation, taxing the wealthy, the minimum wage, universal health care, fighting global warming, etc., and progressives who are all about supporting those things.

I do think that a populist-stylle Progressive Party could be a viable third party, if financed in the same internet grass roots style Obama’s campaign was so special or wealthy interests were kept out from control.

Right now, the majority of the public seems to be behind more Progressive issues than even straight ahead Democrats.

And when we see the compromises made to appease some of these regressive Dems, it’s discouraging to be in a party where some of “us” are Republicans in every way but name.

A Progressive Party that aggressively campaigned for single payer, cutting carbon emissions, taxing the wealthy, independently regulating business and industry, reforming the electoral process to carve out corporate domination, these are all popular positions.

Now, I am very pleased that a health care bill passed The House but look at how they had to cripple and compromise it to get their whole party behind it? And the radical anti-abortion amendment they passed and approved?

How many Americans would support a party that was like the Dems but didn’t have a religious/conservative element that corrupted every progressive piece of legislation?

Properly done, I think a good amount of Americans would.

Mogamboguru
Member

Good points!

I like your ideas, Adlib.

(BTW: Only yesterday I found out, what an “Adlib” really is. You seem to be quite an old hack, like I am, aren’t you? 😉 )

How difficult is it in the USA to establish a party? Purely from the organisatorical point of view, i mean. In Germany, it’s quite a simple and straightforward process. All you need is a certain number of signatures from supporters, a meeting, some elections forthe positions of party-officials, then have your party registered at the electoral offices (federal, state, county and city) – and off you go.

Perhaps, a little propaganda and organisation are worth the efford? I mean, in the end, PlanetPOV offers a good internet-platform to start such a movement through discission and community-building, doesn’t it?

Never before has it been so easy, to buld a communita and gather people around an idea than today, in the age of the internet, facebook, mobile phone and twitter.

The Democratic party has shown a good understanding for these new means during the past elections. But perhaps it’s time, to bring the socializing and community building in the name of founding a new, progressive party to a whole new level???

(CAUTION: SUBVERSIVE COMMENT!) 😎

Mogamboguru
Member

Off to work (late shift).

Seeya later, folks!

Khirad
Member

Boy, Britain is an interesting one. Don’t forget the national parties, and the increasingly complex dynamics there with devolution, as well. I’m probably most familiar (and avid PM’s Questions viewer) with the British system (with special interest in Scottish politics, though I haven’t kept up lately), but also have working knowledge of Canadian, German, and Indian politics. Even the Mexican system, with two major parties in the Socialist International is intriguing, and I wish I had more of a knowledge base there.

I fully agree with your take on the Greens. The only reason I voted for Nader in 2000 as a young voter in my first presidential election (in a reliably blue state, too) was I hoped in getting enough percentage to qualify for federal funding and build a party with a greater profile. Since Nader bolting, and such figures as Cynthia McKinney in its leadership ranks I long since became disillusioned. Start off with town councils, build up. Grassroots and Green should go together, no?

In any case, very interesting topic. I’ll give it some thought, but don’t really know if I’ll be up to the task. I’m more likely to anticipate eagerly the thoughts of other such luminaries of our Planet’s denizenry on this subject.

Pepe Lepew
Member

Canada has four major parties — NDP, Liberal, Conservative, Quebe

Khirad
Member

Especially when the Conservatives play the other three off of each other. In progressive cities like Vancouver and the Toronto area, you also have the Greens poaching off likely NDP seats.

TheLateGrardini
Guest

Thanks for the information and the links, nellie.

Pepe Lepew
Member

We got our Ovechkin autographed photo…

nellie
Member

My pleasure.

🙂

bito
Member

This is the search page from “The Nation” on “German Party Politics”
http://www.thenation.com/search/index.mhtml?search=German+party+politics&x=28&y=7
The fist one listed is from the the Nov. 2 issue and it does offer many thoughts on the multi-party system. One of the points made by Katha Pollitt stands out for me. That a smaller party (in a leadership coalition) may be tainted for a long time if that coalition fails in its leadership. Much like the Social Democrats(SPD) are now. One of many thoughts I have on this system.

KQµårk 死神
Member

The biggest thing blocking a three party system in this country is the Constitution itself. Because we don’t have parliamentary rule where the executive comes out of the legislator multiple parties will never have enough money to run national presidential elections. Worse yet because the executive does not come out of the legislature there really is no impedes towards the formation of coalition governments where two parties rule. I find it very ironic that when the US had a chance to institute democracy in Iraq Bush did not institute our form of democracy but Great Brittan’s form of democracy.

I don’t have as much problem with not having a third party as some either because face it the Dems are like a multiple party with their various coalitions. I would much rather have the executive come out of the legislative branch though because our form of government is one of the reasons the Executive Branch has too much unchecked power. Face it half of Americans cannot even name their own Representatives or Senators but all Americans know who the president is. Legislators would have much more clout if they produced the executive.

If I do start a third party I think I’ll name it “Strange Quarks Progressive Party” or the “SQPP”.

TheLateGrardini
Guest

It is nice having somebody disagreeing with you and not questioning your sanity or ancestry!

nellie
Member

I always have the same answer to our two party system — Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). It ensures that any third party will not end up being a spoiler for any stronger party—giving people the freedom to vote their conscience and thus giving third or fourth parties a real chance at winning an election. It would have solved the problem in 2000. It would have solved the problem of the Franken election. And it serves the will of the people.

With this type of voting system, the party in last place has its votes distributed to the other party candidates according to the wishes of each voter. Right now IRV is being used to a limited extent in local elections (http://www.instantrunoff.com/uses/us.php ). Not surprisingly, MN was one location where IRV was tried this year (http://www.fairvote.org/?page=19 ). And there is current legislation pending for larger elections around the country (http://www.instantrunoff.com/legislation.php ).

IMO, the question is not how many parties, but how we give smaller political parties a fair chance at winning, and how we become more inclusive without obstructing the people’s will. IRV is one of several electoral reforms that would help our democracy become more representative of (and responsive to) our citizenry.

KQµårk 死神
Member

Thanks for the info Nellie. I’m totally ignorant of the concept. I will check out the links.

TheLateGrardini
Guest

Have you or do you know anybody that has participated in this? I can just about guarantee that would never happen here in Kansas.

Corgi Lover
Guest

You’re in Kansas? I’m sorry. Just kidding Lardini. I sold my last property in Kansas this winter. Kansas politics has always been strange but it appears to have gotten much more so since I left twenty years ago. I was born and raised in Salina. Nice place to drive through, but I wouldn’t call it living there!

nellie
Member

Yes, the links I posted will show you places that are using or considering IRV. It was an important item on the Green Party agenda a few years ago. Here is one of the information sties:

http://instantrunoff.com/

And if you do a google, you’ll see a lot of information on the IRV electoral reform movement.

escribacat
Member

I have never heard of IRV. It’s an excellent idea. Even though the lack of mandate might be an issue (as you describe below), it would give the winning candidate motivation to shift more in that direction.

I still resent Nader for giving us Bush in 2000. I don’t think I will ever forgive the guy.

TheLateGrardini
Guest

Two things would be required for a third (or fourth, or fifth…). We would have to amend the Constitution, if the other parties become viable. Suppose you had a three way split of Congress, and a Presidential candidate did not recieve an electoral majority? I think that would lead to even more corruption than we have now, with coalitions having to be formed, etc. I think then you would really see government to the highest bidder. Legitimate public financing of elections would also have to take place. Equal amounts of free advertising would have to occur (which would cost our radio stations a ton of money every two years, but sometimes you just have to suck it up). We would also have to find candidates that not only had a great deal of courage and principles, but also a great deal of charisma. Are there any out there? Right now I don’t see any. But, in this day and age anything is possible.

TheLateGrardini
Guest

I guess that was three!!!