February 23, 2004

2 Party / 3 Party Dynamics

update: The piece below was written one day before US President Bush backs constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages. With that one move the piece takes on a whole new dimension as Bush moves strongly towards the social conservative side of the Republican party, while alienating large masses of fiscal conservatives who once supported him. With any luck this is the beginning of the end of the Republican party. But it also may be the beginning of large scale cultural warfare. Two month in and 2004 is already proving to be a crazy year.

In any case here is the original piece:

It has come to my attention that there are a bunch of candidates running for president that don't belong to the two dominate US political parties. In other elections I might pay attention to them. However in this particular election they are no better then gnats and will be ignored as such.

In the past two elections I voted independent (Nader in 96, Browne in 00) and I truly would like to see a different political structure in place in the country I love. However at the present I think the best way to achieve this is not by voting for a "3rd" party candidate, but instead by destroying the Republican party.

At the present there is a deep rift inside the Republican party between the fiscal and social/religious conservatives. Of the two the social conservatives are by far the more odious. They also have effectively used the Republican party apparatus to gain far more political power then they merit. In addition there is a third conflict, one that is present in almost every political party, a conflict between the special interest groups who see politics as a means to their personal ends, and those that take a broader view of governments roles (or lack of roles).

George W Bush took office promising to be a "uniter not a divider", and he's failed miserably in that task. Any unity between the two parties has be cast absurdly into the wind, and more importantly to the issues of this essay, the unity of the Republican party has also been jostled by Bush's reign. The special interests of the investment banks, defense and natural resource industries have been given by far the highest priorities. The social and religious conservatives have gotten a good amount of attention, but at the same time the broad trends of American society are stiffly against their agenda. In their eyes Bush has failed to stem the growing acceptance of gay rights, abortion and other acts of social liberalism.

The fiscal conservatives however have basically been reamed by Bush. The only thread holding the two together is an anti-tax stance that some fiscal conservatives hold tight to. Bush's constant pandering towards special interest groups and causes he hopes will help him come election time is sending fiscal conservatives into conniption fits. And they have no love at all for the religious conservatives dreams of using government to enforce a regressive social agenda.

While 9-11 has allowed Bush and company to place the Republicans in a position of seeming dominance, the fact is they are internally weak and in a position of hubris that might just set them up for the fall. As the Democrats mobilize to try and reclaim the presidency, they are in a position to weaken the entire Republican party network, and in the process they could well do the whole country a world of good.

The key is to wrest away the leverage the social conservatives wield inside the Republican party. The Democrats need to push and push hard against the religious agendas currently welded into the Republican platform, while simultaneously reaching out towards the fiscal conservatives, many of whom have a lot in common with the centerist wing of the Democratic party. If the Republican party can be polarized between fiscal and social conservatives its going to find itself in a lot of trouble.

The key is driving an actual rift. If the social conservatives dominate, then the Republican party will find itself diving toward the margins. The fiscal conservatives will either head to the Democrats or try and form a centerist party with moderate Democrats. If the fiscal conservatives join the Democrats, then its move towards the center will have reached an apex (hopefully the last one). If that happens then the task is to make the Democrats into the right/center party and build and then build a new second party to their left.

If a centerist party somehow rises, either out of a fiscal conservative / moderate Democrat movement or by having the social conservatives leave/get kicked out of the current Republican party, then the Democratic party is going to be forced left. Again the result is a political shift leftward, with the two dominate political forces being centerist and leftist.

The current rightward political swing of the county is sustainable only by the unholy alliance of the fiscal conservatives and religious right. The leverage held by the fundamentalists far outweighs the percentage of the population they represent. Its unlikely that the fundamentalists could wield much voting power outside of the Republican machine. Thus the left has everything to gain by putting tension on the existing stress inside the GOP. Split the machine and the whole political apparatus shifts leftward. Lets go, time for tactics and strategies.

Posted by Abe at February 23, 2004 05:31 PM


_In the past two elections I voted independent (Nader in 96, Browne in 00)_

Wasn't Browne affiliated with the Libertarians in '00?

I hear ya... I voted for Fulani in 96 and IWW or something in 00 (I'm from/in MA, a safe Blue)

I know who I'm voting for this year. I don't want anyone to be confused about the results this year. Go Blue!

ps-I ain't saying I love the choices... ABB

yeah, Harry Browne was the Libertarian Party candidate in 00. Independent in the US tends to mean anything but the big two parties although I guess if you got real technical it'd rule out any party affiliations at all. I tend to agree with maybe 1/4rd of the libertarian stances (drug legalization, and strong civil liberties mainly), so its better then the big boys, but not great... Basic concept was to get a broader range of candidates visible. Didn't work.

BTW I'm registered in NY, where Bush didn't even bother to campaign. Due to polling difficulties I didn't vote until after the polls had officially closed and the state called for Gore...

Don't you realize that voting for nader in 00' was probably the biggest single mistake that the left has ever made in the history of this country? Those that don't see a differnce between the two major parties, and vote out of some emotionally retarded passionate idealism when the shit is really on the line, just leave me completely cold.

A.O. did you read the actual post?

A friend and I recently had a conversation about the 2000 election. Our take is that Nader running wasn't the worst thing that happened for the left -- Lieberman was. By choosing Joe Lieberman as his running mate and not pushing any discernible agenda, Gore made himself indistinguishable from Bush.

I voted for Gore, but only at the last minute, since Lieberman came close to scaring me off. If it weren't for the possibility of new supreme court appointments I would have fairly quickly given my vote to a third party.

Fully agree with you Mike. Ever read Danny Goldberg's _Dispatches From the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit_? Puts an awful lot of meat onto that argument. Goldberg was the defacto voice of the music industry when Tipper and Lieberman where screaming censorship to all comers. Back when the music industry seemed to be on the good side of things...

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Bush is right