1 Mar 2018          home | subject timeline

Political Parties and Change

Watching CPAC this last week, it seems that political party identities are becoming fractured. David Brooks wrote about it on February 12 in an opinion piece titled "The End of the Two-Party System." And Ohio's Governor Kasich on the 25th told ABC News the "We may be beginning to see the end of a two-party system." He added:

I'm starting to really wonder if we are going to see a multi-party system at some point in the future in this country because I don’t think either party is answering people’s deepest concerns and needs.

Brooks writes:

Eventually, those who cherish the democratic way of life will realize they have to make a much more radical break than any they ever imagined. When this realization dawns the realignment begins. Even with all the structural barriers, we could end up with a European-style multiparty system.

Someone comments:

For me the two party system cannot end soon enough.

Someone else:

The reality is we are not about to form a parliamentary system. We are lucky if we can agree what day it is.

Regarding the dynamics of a political system with multiple parties look at Norway. It has ninety or more political parties and two major parties: the Labor Party and the Conservative Party. Each of the two has 49 seats in Parliament (98 seats), and seven other parties together have 71 seats. Despite all the parties, politics still revolves around two big tents, one right of center, one left of center. The party in power, the Conservative Party, led by Ema Solberg, is in a coalition with the Progress Party, described as Right-wing. The labels given these parties don't matter so much as where Solberg and her government stand on the issues — policies that today in the United States would be left of center. The centerpoint in politics depends on the the nation's experiences, including educational experiences (voters aware of what's happening and their interests). It is the political spectrum dynamic that matters, not invented party labels.

In the US in 1964, the party labelled Republican was not the Republican Party of 1904. The Republicans in 1964 had new experiences and new ideas. Now we are having new experiences. We have a recent history of third parties and politics continuing to revolve around two centers as in Norway, with each party a coalition of people who don't quite think alike. Come election time it will always be a matter of whose coalition is bigger. If an individual wants to broadcast his views and make his bid for office he can run in a primary. Ralph Nader, in my opinion, should have done that in. Third parties weaken the coalition they are closest to.

With all of the conflict in ideas that exist within our political parties, we can expect the parties to wiggle in the years ahead. We will see a new label as holder of the big tent on the right only if the Republicans suffer egregious defeats. A new label on the left is less likely. The Democratic Party label dates back to 1828 when the Democratic-Republican Party label was abandoned in a split within the party between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Today, inventing a new party label would be more difficult.


Copyright © 2017 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.