Battlepanda: There's no third-party solution to the two-party problem.


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

There's no third-party solution to the two-party problem.

I think most of us reading this blog are not happy with the two-party system. It seems crazy to think that you can have a robustly functional democracy with just two parties representing the political aspirations of all of us from the extreme left to right, with that single axis political spectrum being an absurd simplification in and of itself. This state of affairs can seem even more fucked-up to those of us on the progressive left, as we watch the Democratic party get dragged ever rightwards by the Republicans. Sometimes, it is tempting to consider abandoning the Democrats altogether and joining a third party who answer to our beliefs. Via Dadahead, I read this post by Burningbird. It's a sentiment I've heard over and over again.
...The game is rigged, so I’m picking up my marbles, and I’m going to find a different playing field, and different players. My most sincere thanks to the prominent Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian gentlemen bloggers for showing me the light.

As of last week, I am now an official member of the Green Party.
Unfortunately, the game is rigged in more ways than one. It might not be what the Founding Fathers wanted, but what they set up is a system that is hard-wired to shape whatever diverse political forces contained within into a two-party co-hegemony. In fact, it would be a challenge indeed to set up a system in which many parties can thrive because the 'side' which is the most consolidated would always have such an advantage in elections. Those who are disgusted with this system have the right to take their votes to a party that more correctly mirrors their personal ideology. But they need to understand that by doing so they are effectively forfeiting their political clout to the other side.

People have to understand that the labels "Democrat" and "Republican" are essentially meaningless. They are political, not ideological, entities. Imagine two rival department stores with the same customer base. There might be a lot of difference in what they're selling, but what motivates the differences is a desire to capture a greater market share rather than stemming from any essential difference between them.

Taking the store metaphor one step further, I can see that many progressives no longer want to buy what the Democrats are selling. The Dems are losing their brand identity as they scramble to widen their appeal. They have dropped the ball on a coherent marketing strategy, and they have done the unthinkable in retail by frequently insulting potential customers. That's all their bad. But the thing is, abandoning the Democrats for being not progressive enough is like cutting your nose to spite your face, because the reality is that politics under our current system is a zero-sum game between two parties. As 2000 demonstrated, if you are a progressive, you cannot not vote for the Democrats without helping the Republicans in the process.

I'm not saying that those who are more progressive than the Dems need to roll over and lump it. They need to do all the things they would otherwise do under the auspices of a new party -- trying to widen the appeal of their ideas through educating the public, fleshing out policy platforms they would support, formulating better conceptual frames etc. etc. But they need to do it in such a way as to not fragment the political power of the left. The only reason I would ever leave the Dems for a new party is if things go so wrong that I think we can have a mass exodus. But that new party is still not going to be a real third party because its' purpose would be to put the Dems out of business within as short a period of time as possible. During that period of time, I would assume, nay, predict with certainty, that the Republicans will dominate in every election as the progressive vote would be split.