Time for a New Party?

May 8, 2009

Are We Ready for A Third (or Fourth) Political Party?

It’s Friday, so I thought we could have some fun with numbers. I’ve seen these numbers bandied about the net and on the news media. Their exactness isn’t totally important, it only matters that they are in the ballpark.

This week I have heard the numbers of self labeled Democrats and Republics stands around 39% Demo and 21% Rep. So roughly 60% of Americans identify with one of the two major parties. We are led to believe that the rest of the 40% of Americans belong to either small parties or are not committed to a party.

Now those numbers may worry you a bit if you are a Republican or a Conservative, but let’s look at some other numbers.

Among Americans, those who self identify as Conservatives is about 34%. While those who call themselves Liberals comprise about 7% (seven percent) of the population. Everyone else (~ 60%) gets lumped in as Moderates.

So let’s say, for fun, parties apart, the Liberals and Conservatives both decided to support the SAME candidate in an election and the Moderates all got together and supported someone else. The moderates would win. Hmmm

But wait… If Republicans are Conservative and Democrats are Liberals how come there are a WHOLE lot of Conservatives who don’t align with the Republican Party? More Importantly, who are all these Democrats who aren’t Liberals?

Well, we all know that MOST Democrats would never label or even consider themselves ‘Liberals’. Mostly because they aren’t. Most Democrats, well many at least, see themselves as conservative. Just as many Liberals are probably far more liberal than the Democratic Party sets itself out to be and they would self identify with those smaller parties with more liberal or even radical views.

So what is broken here? Those conservative Democrats want a lot of the things the Democratic Party supports. While they don’t want a bunch of government involvement in their lives, they do like the programs that we have come to enjoy and rely on. But maybe more importantly, these “Conservative Democrats” vary widely on specific issues. But they usually aren’t swayed by individual issues in the ways we think Conservative Republicans are. If you notice even in campaigns, Democrats are much less likely to get tied around individual issues. Democrats often change their views as the times change. That isn’t necessary a bad thing (unless it happens DURING an election). It is a pragmatic thing. It shows someone who is bright enough to change as our understanding of situations and knowledge in general change. These Conservative Democrats also understand that government is a compromise if it is going to work.

The idea that these Conservative Democrats don’t have a real ‘dealbreaker’ stance on most issues is what differentiates them from their more right leaning cousins.

It was these Conservative Democrats who brought Ron Reagan to power. Since most people vote their ‘conscience’ rather than by party ticket. These Moderates have no qualms about voting for the party/candidate which makes the most sense.

This is the same concept that brought Republicans control of Congress in 1995 after 50 years of Democrat control.

The big difference in the 1994 elections was that Clinton helped to mobilize the Religious Right to go to the polls and they greatly boosted the Republican numbers.

And in 2004 there was really no distinction between Kerry’s campaign and Bush’s campaign that would bring those Moderates over to Camp Kerry in big numbers.

Of course, the Republican Party was just the ‘Best Fit’ for the Religious Right. Too many Moderate Republicans have those flexible ‘values’. That really stymies the Religious Right. The Religious Right
have an inflexible and seemingly identical set of base values. They see no reason to compromise those beliefs to support ANY party. Which is why prior to 1994, they weren’t as big a block as they became. Also, Bill Clinton was an easy target for those who could embrace the Religious Right and bring them in against Clinton, and by proxy, all Democrats and Liberals became painted in the same shades.

But the Republican Party allowed the fire and brimstone style of their new best friends to take over the voice of the Party. You see that Farther Right portion of the Conservatives must either Fix the Party or leave.

So what happens is the Far Right’s inflexible rhetoric keeps away the Moderates and pushes away some of the Conservatives. Not to mention those Far Rightist leaving who feel the Republican Party is too Liberal.

So now our Parties are an ideological mess. That Majority of Americans that both sides claim to represent swings back and forth based on the message and outlook of the candidates.

What we need are probably four political parties in America. Let the Democrats and Republicans fight over their 40 to 60 % of the Moderate electorate while the Further Left and the Further Right fight over the other roughly 50%. If this really happened what would it mean? First of all elections would have to be much more issue oriented as the full spectrum of ideas and concerns are faced, rather than just shades of the same Moderate concerns. The Congress would be manned by a variety of representatives for 4 parties –or more– and No One would be assured of any topic passing without much debate and compromise. And more debate and even more compromise is good.

But would we really like 4 parties? We like winners. We like to be on the winning side. With 4 Parties all having 20% of the electorate fighting over the other 20%, there would be no clear party to side with. Are we ready for a political system where the electorates themselves have to understand the issues and make hard decisions?