Today I am going to reblog and comment on an essay that struck as an excellent analysis of the present state of our two-party system . Norma Brown is the host of the outstanding blog, Ooobie on Everything. Not only is she a very talented writer, she brings a special perspective to her work because she spent her career in the US Foreign Service. Her post dubs very well with what I wrote yesterday.
Is the GOP on Life Support?
An exchange with a reader recently on the subject of third parties has made me give some thought to where we are vis a vis the Republican Party. More specifically: can it survive as one of two political parties, or will it shatter into pieces in internecine warfare? This is an experience many other countries have had. In Panama, the Liberal Party began disintegrating in the late 1980s under the pressure of the back-to-back dictatorships of Torrijos and Noriega. In Nicaragua, the Liberal Party of Anastasio Somoza went underground with the Sandinista dictatorship, surfacing throughout the contra ranks and in exile. Today, there is no central Liberal party to rally the troops and the Sandinistas, under the flag of democracy, have reestablished their dictatorship with full approval from the international community and the US White House.
What happens when one party in a stable two-party political system starts to collapse? The most immediate effect is alienation. At first, as the party elite grows ever farther from the base in thinking and interests, a large faction of the base expresses its objections by staying home on election days. The difference in turnout hands the election to the opposition. An even larger share of the party base becomes alienated as a result of the defeats. Future losses at the polls are virtually guaranteed because people who don’t think their team can win start looking for a new voice. Contributions to the old party start to diminish as people put their political investment elsewhere or nowhere.
Suggestions of new parties begin to spring up, but overall leadership is missing — the pieces of a winning strategy remain fragmented, with no rudder to guide them. Individually the factions are weak and their lack of coordination and focus adds to the overwhelming power at the polls of the opposition party. The final step is the actual creation of new political parties, thus institutionalizing the demise of the two-party system and ushering an era of multi-party elections and effective one-party rule.
Of course, there is always the possibility that a strong leader or leaders arise who can unify and lead diverse groups to victory at the polls. The GOP has a small but strong pool of political leaders, young and vigorous. Maybe they could rescue their party. Or maybe not.
If you think multi-party elections are good for a country, take a look at Italy. The last time it knew any stability was under Mussolini. Look at England, where the failure of the Tories to preserve the spirit as well as the banner of their credo has led to a strengthening of conservative “interest group” parties, some with only a single issue. The more the number of parties, the more fragmented power becomes, and the more fragmented politics become, the greater a country’s instability.
That said — and it isn’t a happy outlook — I’m afraid we may be seeing the actual break-up of the GOP. It suffers from a leadership outlook that in many ways is indistinguishable from that of the opposition and grows more distant every day from the people who vote them into power. The sense of alienation from our political system as a whole and from our own party in particular is growing. And we are hearing louder calls for secession or a third party. I think a third party is far more likely to happen, but secession is a happy thought.
I’ve said before and I reiterate, a new political party is not the answer. We need a political movement, which is a much broader stream, one that can embrace a far greater number of people who share fundamental beliefs even if they don’t agree on each and every issue. The GOP should be part of the movement, but not its face. This strategy is the only way to attract all the people who are alienated from the Democrat Party and others, too, to the battle to oust the neo-totalitarians.
Movements are not forever, unlike US postage stamps. They arise because they are needed at some moment in time to mobilize a great chorus of voices, all out of tune with the government that purports to represent them. If the GOP performs well, it can emerge intact and strengthened in a post-leftist period, but if it can’t find its backbone — we could end up in that bad place called a multi-party system and that can only mean an effective one-party system.
But then again, all of life is a risk. Sometimes the risk is worth it, and I’d say we’re about there.
I agree with Norma that the GOP is disintegrating. The fault lays with both the leadership, who are not that much different from the Democrats, and with the Republican electorate, who keep reelecting people like John McCain. But, it is mainly the party bosses who pick candidates that say the right words, but who, in fact, stand for nothing but themselves. The Good Ol’Boy Club.
I do think we are going to see more conservatives going to third parties. I agree with Norma that would mean an effective one-party system. However, I personally would rather stand with a loyal opposition party that supports my principles than to sell out my principles just to be able to say my party won. Won what? If the GOP puts up someone like Jeb Bush in 2016, I can tell you right now that I will not vote for him.
I had great hope for the Tea Party movement. And, maybe they can still be the movement that Norma suggests we need. But, all indications are that the RNC is going to make it very hard to unseat their chosen candidates in the primaries.
Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?