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Political Parties (a Political Issue)


Introduction

The United States Constitution does not mention political parties. Our founding fathers had feared that political factions would tear the nation apart. Our founding fathers wanted to avoid the political divisions that had torn England apart in the bloody civil wars of the 17th century. They saw political parties as corrupt relics of the British monarchical system, and wanted to discard them in favor of a truly democratic government.

Therefore, the candidates for our first elections ran as individuals (independents). However, for some offices, there were often dozens of candidates, which made it difficult for some people to decide who to vote for. In addition, with so many candidates, several similar candidates would split the vote in such a way that a single fringe candidate would sometimes end up with the most votes.

Then, in the 1790’s, in spite of our founding fathers fears about political parties and without really looking for a better solution, the first political parties were organized. The idea behind having these political parties was that likeminded people could combine and concentrate their resources to select and then to elect a candidate who was on their side of the issues and who would work towards their goals. Then, those political parties that had more members and had more resources were better able to get their candidates elected.

Over the years, many political parties have come and gone, but mainly due to the advantages of size, the political landscape has generally been dominated by two large political parties. Today, these happen to be the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

On the other hand, the more members a political party has, the less likely that they will agree on all the issues or on a single candidate. For the most part, the benefits of size have won out over the disagreements that party members have had over the issues. For the members of the political parties, the general feeling may be that it is better to get someone elected who is at least close to their views on the major issues than to risk letting someone else get elected.

Today, unless you are independently wealthy or already well known, it is difficult to get elected to a political office without the resources of a political party. Therefore, most individuals, who run for political office, belong to a political party.

When it comes to getting involved in the political process, the political parties have left many people with limited choices. They can go with whichever one of the two large political parties that most closely agrees with their views, go with a third party where they may have little chance of winning, or try to influence things from the sidelines as independents or as members of one or more special interest groups.

Is there a way to improve the current situation or is there a better alternative? Yes, but in order to see what we can do, we should first look at the current state of affairs a little closer.

Special Interest Groups

A special interest group (also called an advocacy group, lobbying group, or pressure group) is made up of likeminded individuals who combine and concentrate their resources in order to influence and to steer public policy and legislative action on some issue towards their point of view. Since it is often difficult for an individual to get his or her opinions heard, special interest groups can help to provide some people with a voice.

On the other hand, some special interest groups create problems for our political system, since they will often resort to buying influence, to pressuring our representatives or to using misleading or false advertising instead of really discussing the issues.

Interestingly, political parties and special interest groups have a lot in common. They only seem to have a couple of real differences between them. In addition, their differences only seem to have any real significance when we talk about the larger political parties.

The first important difference is that a special interest group is usually set up only to deal with a single or a few related issues, whereas the large political parties must deal with a wide range of issues. Even so, the political parties often try to steer the debate towards those few issues where they feel that their views are most popular with the voters and to downplay or even to ignore many of the others issues.

The other important difference is that the members of special interest groups are separate from the government, but often try to control members of the government, whereas the members of a political party can try to take over control of the government from within it. For the larger political parties, one of their main goals seems to be to become the ruling party, so, theoretically, they will be in a position to more easily enact legislation that furthers their agenda.

Party Loyalty

Ideally, we want our elected officials to represent us, to listen to our problems, complaints and ideas, and to work in our best interests irrespective of whether or not we voted for them or belong to their political party. In some cases, our elected officials do try to represent all of us, but more often than not, they will show preference and loyalty to their political party and to its members. Which means, they may not really work in all of our best interests the way they should.

In most cases, when an individual is elected to office, the office holder will want to be reelected. In order to get reelected, the office holder will need the continued help and support of his or her political party, so the office holder will try to keep in the good graces of their party. To do that, the office holder will often work with and go along with the agenda of their party's leadership and their fellow party members, even if it is not what is best. As a result, our representatives may not feel the need to listen to someone outside of their party who probably did not or will not vote for them. This is especially true if this person wants something done that the majority of their party would not want done, even when it would be a really good idea to do.

This is not to say that our representatives will never listen or help, but it may be harder when you belong to a different political party. One way around this problem is to be an independent voter. As long as your district is not completely dominated by the political party that is in office, candidates will be looking to win over the swing votes. Therefore, independent voters may find an easier time getting heard than members of another political party.

Majority Rule

In most societies, when the majority of the people get to choose how their government works and what it does, it is more likely that more people will be happy with the way things are going than when a minority or even a single person decides everything.

However, as I have already talked about in the subsection on democracy, majority rule may not protect everyone. All that majority rule does is to provide a better way to protect those people in the majority. What we really need are procedures, and the checks and balances that would ensure that everyone and all living things could be protected, and given the chance to live their lives as they want, to the extent that they do not needlessly harm others.

The way our democracy was envisioned to work, we would be ruled by the majority. Although this is not the best option, it would still be better than a monarchy or some other form of minority rule. However, given our current political climate, we do not even have majority rule.

Based on our current political and electoral processes, most of our elected officials are members of either the Democratic or Republican party, which has led to many, if not most, of our governments being dominated by one or the other of these political parties. As of 2020, 31% of Americans indented themselves as Democrats, 25% as Republicans, and 41% as independents.

Since our political parties only represent a minority of the voters, this means that most of our governments would end up being controlled by just a minority of the voters. In addition, members of political parties are often made up of individuals who are farther to the left or to the right of most people. That means that if one party is in control in a given place, then they will be able to pass laws that are farther to the left or right of what most people want.

Platform

Each political party has a platform that lists their member’s positions on the issues and the goals that they hope to accomplish. These positions and goals (planks) on their platform are decided by the party leadership or, at best, by a majority of the party membership. In addition, the positions and goals on the platform of one party may often end up as being the polar opposite of those of another party just so they can differentiate themselves from their opponents.

When people vote for a candidate, they may be voting for the individual, for the party platform, or against the other individual or party platform. Some people may completely agree with a party platform, but most people may just prefer it over the other party’s platform. I have often found that I liked some things and disliked other things on each political party’s platform. Unfortunately, my only choice was to vote for the candidate of the party that had the platform that I liked a little better, or disliked the least, or the candidate that might buck their party on the things I did not like.

When we vote for a member of a political party, our only choice is to vote for or against the complete platform. The problem is that there is no way for a candidate to know, based on the votes, which planks on the platform we are for or against. After the election, if the majority party leadership pushes hard enough, it can often pass legislation for one of its positions or goals that is not supported by the majority of the voters or even the majority of the political party’s members. This means that just a minority of a ruling political party's leadership may be able to control the government. In other words, not only could we be ruled by a minority, but just a minority of a minority.

Political Control

In many countries, there are many different political parties. In many cases, none of these political parties are large enough to rule alone, so they must form coalitions with other political parties in order to form a government. The members of a coalition must then cooperate with one another in order to get things done. If they do not cooperate, then the coalition may break up, and a new coalition must be formed in order to form a new government.

In the United States, things are a bit different. Although there are many different political parties, two of them have become large enough that they can form a government on their own. Now that these political parties have become large enough to rule on their own, they do not want to give that up, and have made it difficult for any other party to become large enough to compete with them.

This two party system has become so ingrained that it even influences who can be election poll workers. Where I live, there is a shortage of poll workers, so I volunteered. However, even with the shortage, I was not called upon, so I looked into why. It turns out that the law states that each of the two main political parties each select half of the poll workers. Therefore, as an independent voter, neither party wanted me. They each only wanted members of their own party. Meaning that independents, who would theoretically be best qualified to protect the integrity of our elections, are unlikely to be able to be poll workers.

In most cases today, one or the other of the two major political parties is in control of each of the local and state governments. This is mainly due to the people in a given locality or state leaning more conservative or liberal, and therefore electing more representatives from the corresponding political party.

Once a given political party has gained control of a government, that political party is able to pass voting laws and to create local, congressional and senate districts that are more favorable to their party. Which can keep them in power, even if the political ideology of the people in the given locality or state has shifted away from their political party.

The one last and most important remaining government that is not completely controlled by a single political party is the Federal government. However, that is now under attack as fewer and fewer federal congressional districts remain competitive. If one of the political parties can gain the upper hand in the number of federal congressional districts that they control, then that political party can gain control of the federal government, and set the rules so that they can remain in power.

In essence, if one party can gain control, we could end up with one party rule, which could end up looking a lot like what China now has. In China, there is only one political party. That political party can do whatever it wants without any checks or balances. In fact, the communist party in China decides who can join and can expel anyone from the party who does not go along with its leaders. Although I have mentioned the communist party, any party on the left, on the right, or with any ideology can take control and rule as a dictatorship.

Gerrymandering and Extremists

When a party is in control of redistricting, they can Gerrymander the districts to create more districts that are favorable to their party's candidates. They do that by dividing up counties and jurisdictions to create more districts that lean their way, and create just a few districts that are heavily dominated by people who would vote for the other party. This can create some pretty odd looking and contorted districts, and can lead to the election of representatives who hold more extreme views.

Let's look at a simple example. Take a state where voters are fairly evenly split between favoring or leaning towards each of two political parties. If party A is currently in control of the state and gets to redraw the congressional districts, then they can do so in a way that can keep their party in power. For instance, with 10 congressional districts, party A may be able to create 8 districts where they have a 60 to 40 percent advantage, and 2 districts where party B has a 90 to 10 percent advantage. Therefore, instead of ending up with about a 5/5 split between the parties, party A can get an 8/2 split in their favor.

In a district that is dominated by one party or the other, Only candidates from the dominate political party may try to run for office, since members of the other party may have little, if any, chance of winning the election. When this happens, there will only be a primary for the candidates of the dominate political party, if any primary at all. The winner of that primary would then run unopposed in the general election, and would therefore be elected.

This all leads to at least three major problems.

First, in most places, only members of a given political party can vote in that party's primary. That means that most voters do not get a choice in who is elected. In other words, if you are not a member of the ruling party in your district, you are deprived of your vote, and the ruling party can pretty much dictate who can get elected. We need a way to ensure everyone gets a vote, so primaries must not be limited to members of the given political party.

Second, more often than not, more members of the ruling party who have extreme views will bother to vote, and in turn, they will select a candidate that also has more extreme views. If these extremists are in the ruling party then they will then easily be able to pass laws based on their extremist views, which would not be in line with what most people wanted. Thus, we not only end up with minority rule instead of majority rule, which is not democratic, but we also end up being forced to live our lives in accordance with laws that we do not like. One way to combat this trend towards extremists is for the other political party to run a moderate candidate who might appeal to more people in the district than the extreme candidate.

Third, over time, if a ruling party can continue to control redistricting and voting laws, it can become entrenched so much that it would be very difficult to overcome, even if its constituents have shifted heavily towards the other party. It is said that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Therefore, if a political party were to gain too much power, it could become corrupted, and even evolve into a dictatorship. Unfortunately, we have seen a trend in that direction since the 2016 election. We must therefore do whatever we can to prevent one party or the other from ever gaining to much control.

What can we do?

Obviously, there are some major problems caused by having a two party political system, especially if one party is able to get too much of an upper hand over the other. There are some things that can be done to make a two party political system work better. These include, but are not limited to, things like having nonpartisan means of redistricting, having open primaries where everyone can vote for candidates irrespective of political party, and having ranked choice voting.

However, I do not believe that these things can really fix our two party political system so that our democracy works as well as we want and need it to. Therefore, the question becomes, can we find something else that does work? In spite of our founding fathers admonitions against having political parties, let's start by seeing if there is a way to fix things so that our democracy can work with political parties, and then move on to an alternative.

A Third Party?

One idea would be to create a viable third political party that could moderate and balance out the influence of the other parties, and provide a middle ground on many issues. With three or more political parties, where none of them could dominate the political landscape, the parties would have to cooperate in order to get anything done. Like in a number of other countries, the political parties would need to form alliances in order to form a majority government.

Third parties have been tried many times in the past and most recently with the Reform Party. Although a third party may sound like a good idea, it has never really worked. It seems like there are just too many things that can go wrong.

To begin with, a third political party would need to become large enough to get enough of its members elected, but not so large that it simply replaces one of the existing two large political parties. Then, without one party having a clear majority, there would be times when none of the parties could agree on something and the government could not get anything done. At other times, two minority parties could cooperate in passing each other’s legislation even if the majority did not agree with any of it.

As we can see, having a third party could simply open up a whole bunch of new problems without really solving the underlying issues. However, there is a way a third political party can work to create a better political system. I will talk about that in just a bit.

A Single Party?

If three or more political parties could cause more problems than just having two dominant ones, what about a single political party? On the surface, it looks like it would have many good points, like your party would always be in power, your elected officials would represent your party and therefore you, and there could not be any party rivalries or partisan politics. Unfortunately, all that would happen is one of two bad things.

On the one hand, the divisions between parties would simply shift to factions within the party. Of course, the large political parties already have many factions that are fighting for control.

On the other hand, if our country had just a single political party, we might not even have a democracy any more. The party leaders could gain so much power that they could do whatever they wanted. For instance, they may do what party leaders do in other countries with a single or one dominant political party, they might limit who can be in the party, and they could select our representatives instead of letting us elect them. In this case, we would end up with a dictatorship.

No Political Parties!

What if we looked at the process more as hiring people to represent us in government instead of electing our leaders? If we need a CEO for our company, would we ask just a couple of placement firms to send us only a single candidate and then we would have to make a selection from whomever they sent us? No, we would gather as many resumes as possible, whittle them down to the top few candidates, put the finalists through an intensive interview process, and then make our selection based on who would do the most for our company.

Therefore, I would completely remove the political parties from the electoral process. (The political parties could transform themselves into special interest groups, which is what they really are anyway.) Then we could elect independent representatives who would work for us, and who would have more of an incentive to represent all of us equally. In this way, we could get back to the principle of a truly democratic government that our founding fathers had wanted.

Of course, it will take a lot more than just eliminating the Political Parties, since the candidates would still need a way to campaign for office, which means the original problems that led to the creation of political parties in the first place would need to be solved. What we would need is a New Electoral Process, which I will talk about in the next subsection.

The "No Politics" or "No Party" Party.

Unfortunately, it may be very difficult, if not impossible, to get the existing major political parties to change the system to one where they would no longer have the power they currently have. Therefore, we may need to create a third political party that would have the goal of getting enough people elected in order to make the needed changes.

One of the most important planks of this party's platform would be the reform of our political process so that the political parties could be eliminated. Other planks on the platform would be to have open primaries, to have ranked choice voting, and to make other needed reforms to our electoral process. Another plank would be to work towards representing and doing what is best for all our citizens, and for all living things.

There are a number of names that might describe this short term political party and its goals. I thought of quite a few different names. For instance, some of my initial thoughts were that it could be called something like or related to Citizens, Peoples, Everybody, Voters, Reform, Transformation, Democracy, Equality, Moderation, Temporary, and Our Future Path Party, Unfortunately, many of these names have already been used, would be confusing, or simply do not fully express what the party would be about. Although I am open to suggestions for a better name, for now I thought I would stick with the party's ultimate goal, and call it the "No Politics" or "No Party" party.

Next Section

New Electoral Process - A New Electoral Process that will help us elect better representation.

Last Updated:
Friday, May 20, 2022
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