Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day: The Inherant Disfunction of a Two Party System and Today In Wyoming's History: Sidebar: Elections and History in Wyoming

 Republican, then Progressive, then Republican Governor Carey of Wyoming.

Some time ago, as we were riding up on a general election, I made this post regarding the history of Wyoming's elections:

Today In Wyoming's History: Sidebar: Elections and History in Wyoming: This is the election season, and therefore, naturally, many of the items that are showing up on this blog pertain to anniversaries of elect...
What surprised me at the time, and what I think would surprise many people in this state now, is that Wyoming's political story was much more fluid in prior years with a couple of third parties showing very well in the past, and even some parties we'd never suppose doing well here, such as the Socialist Party, actually doing well on a local regional basis.

Those days are long gone in the state, and as that post notes, this state has become very solidly Republican. So much so, in fact, that the Republican Primary was effectively the general election for nearly every office save but a few, and some real splits in political thinking erupted during the Primary.  Indeed the GOP was really split between the traditional Wyoming Republican Party, which is traditionally conservative and "Tea Party" elements, some of which seemed to be backed by something called the Wyoming Liberty Group.  This split first became somewhat apparent during the 2010 election, but it's absolutely erupted since that time.

The purpose of this post isn't to comment on current politics per se, however, but to note that in some ways this is the story of the entire country right now.  We complain about gridlock in Washington D.C., but somehow we've really fully accommodated ourselves to a two party system. So much so that now, unlike a century ago, when a third part makes a run at anything, chances are that it's basically on the fringe of things. That is, only those people who hold views so far from the mainstream that they can't accommodate themselves to one of the other two parties fall into third parties, with most of those parties pretty much in the Libertarian camp, even if they aren't all the Libertarian Party.  This past year we saw at least three such parties in operation in our state, but all of them were really various types of Libertarian parties.

This is, quite frankly, a very unfortunate occurrence and it contributes both to gridlock and a lack of real democracy in the country.  The reason is that it cannot possibly be the case that the overwhelming majority of people neatly have their views divided into two camps.  Indeed, the disruptions within the state's GOP shows that's not the case, and the desertion of the rank and file of the Democratic Party from that party also show that this isn't the case.

To go out a bit further on this, it seems to me that the Libertarian elements of the GOP really do have very little in common with the traditional conservative elements of the GOP.  It would make more sense if they were two parties, rather than one.   The strong activism of the Tea Party element has tended to drag that party towards Libertarian positions between elections, but as we just saw, in spite of their active campaigning and backing by an outside active group, the GOP rank and file was not very impressed by them.  Wouldn't two parties, at least, make more sense where the GOP currently is?

To go on, it seems to me that a lot of "social conservatives" are probably only conservative on social issues.  Men and women who register in the GOP because they are opposed to same gender unions, terminating pregnancies, and the like, might also actually be quite liberal on other issues.  I"ve met, for example, plenty of supporters of the Right to Life who extended that into opposing the death penalty and supporting social programs aimed at women and children.  The political left likes to go after the conservatives for this, but I suspect that's because they don't actually track those voters.  If the there was a party something like Germany's Christian Democratic Union, these voters would be in it, and I suspect that they would not be quite as conservative as people suppose.

By the same token, a lot of opponents of gun control around here are super sincere about that, but they're also sportsmen. They may seem to be hard core conservatives in a national poll, but if they were polled on public lands issues or environmental issues, they'd seem hard core left.  It's not intellectually inconsistent at all to know that a person can safely have and use firearms, and support free access to public lands, and to worry about environmental issues.  Indeed, I've just described several of the local conservation organizations that have sprung up in the state.  A Wyoming Green Party, if there was one, would probably get NRA A ratings on everything.

I don't mean to pick only on the Republicans here, it's just easy to do as the Wyoming Democratic Party killed itself and buried itself six feet under well over a decade ago and it largely doesn't exist. The only people mostly left in it are far to the political left, although rare exceptions pop up, but have to distance themselves from their own party.  It's a pretty sad state of affairs. But here too, I really wonder if Democrats were given a chance to be in a party that expressed their actual views, what that party would be like.

It used to be famously observed that Wyoming Democrats would be middle of the road Republicans anywhere else, and if there was a party like that here, that's probably where they'd be.  Indeed, that is where they are, as most of them left the Democratic Party and registered as Republicans long ago.  But, once again, looking at it is an interesting thing to do.

Using an example above, one thing that drove a lot of Democrats out of the party here, and elsewhere, is that it became impossible to be a Democrat and not support certain social views that many simply do not.  Traditionally in much of the country Catholics were Democrats, but there's no doubt now that Catholics in the Democratic Party have either allowed themselves to compromise their religious views or they stand as the odd men out in their party.  Supporting the poor was traditionally a big issue with these voters, and if there was a party that had traditional social views, but still advocated for the poor, and the environment, etc., they'd be in it.  There's really no reason to suppose somebody who worries about hte poor also supports same gender marriage, for example, which isn't really a big concern amongst the poor.  

It also seems that it would really be the case that the hard left edge of the Democrats, just like the Libertarian edge of the GOP, really ought to be its own party.  That party would more closely resemble the Social Democratic Party.  There's nothing wrong with that. It would be a big party in some areas of the coats, and a tiny party in the middle of the country, but it would more purely reflect its actual views in that form.

We don't do this as the parties believe that the only way that they get their agendas across is by being big blocks.  But because they don't really have an agenda that makes sense, in a larger sense, this is not true.  Parties that try to house so many really divergent views can't possibly be effective when they try to put their views into effect.  For that reason, it's probably not too surprise that so little gets done, and when it does, it's only on issue that broadly unit a big patch of one of the two parties, and probably even cross over members of the other party.  

European Parliaments do not work this way and typically they have a multiplicity of parties within them.  Of course, the majority party in a parliament is the government, which is not true of the majority party of Congress, which does not pick the Executive. Still, if we had more parties, chances are that the deals they'd have to make amongst themselves would also mean for a more effective government.  If the GOP nationally was the two or three parties it really is, and the Democrats were the two or three parties they really are (or if the middle of these two parties became one), we'd see a Congress with as many as twelve parties in it, and probably new fewer than six or so.  They'd have to trade with each other to get anything done, but they almost certainly would.  Right now, they just have to sit and wait and hope for better fortunes.

No third party has made a serious run at anything in the US since the Progressive Party, which split the GOP in two, and which had the collateral impact of causing a progressive takeover in the Democratic Party at the same time.  The Populist had made a pretty serious run just a decade or so prior to that.  Now, the parties seem set in stone and occasional runs at creating a third party fail.  Too bad, as perhaps a third, fourth, and fifth party would be more democratic, and effective.

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