Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Pink and Teal States

The two party system here continues for one simple reason: the first party to split loses.

The last major split was the Southern Conservatives, who voted for third parties in presidential (but not congressional) elections in 1948, 1960 and 1968. They voted Republican in presidential elections in 1964, and from 1972 onward. Congressional elections did not turn Republican there until the 1990s (the slow demise of "blue dog" and "boll weevil" Democrats).

The minor splits were Naderites (loony left, bolting from the moderate Gore) in 2000.
Also the confused Reform Party of the 1992 and 1996 (which drew from across the spectrum) and the Reform party of 2000 on the loony right fringe.

The Republican majority depends on liberal Republicans from the Northeast (e.g., Sens. Jeffers, Chafee, Snowe, Collins, Former govs. King, Whitman, Weld). This group still votes Republican in national elections, even though they are way out of the mainstream of the Republican party today. In the 1990s, Governors Pataki (NY), Whitman (NJ), and Weld (MA) ran on pro-choice moderate platforms. Gov. Romney (MA) is pro-choice now. Gov. Weicker (CT) was the first to bolt, running as an independent though a former Republican senator. Gov. Angus King (Maine) was the next to bolt, also as an Independent. In 2000, ALL of New England voted for McCain in the Republican primaries. Then, famously, Sen. Jeffers (Vt.) Yesterday, Chafee (RI) said he would not endorse Bush. When these groups walk out of their party altogether and starting voting for Democrats, you will see major changes. Already, in 2000, they all voted for Gore. It is little surprise that Howard Dean (VT) and Kerry (MA) come out of this region.

Across the country, moderate Republicans still exist in parts of the midwest and California. The Republicans in CA have, with Schwarzenegger, returned to the more moderate mold of Wilson-Riordan Republicans. Minnesota experimented with Jesse Ventura, who was basically a disaffected Republican.

So America is not divided into red and blue states. Rather, America's political spectrum squirms in its two-party straitjacket, remembering always the tradeoff between power and purity.


Raised By Republicans said...

"Two party straight jacket"

If there were a dozen political parties in this electoral system, there would still only be two that had a serious chance of winning in any given district. Which two would vary from district to district but there would always be two.

But since party lables in the US are so loose, we have something close to that anyway. Like you point out, a Californian Republican voter is different from a Republican voter in Alabama or Texas. Democrats in the Chicago area are different from Democrats in Indiana outside of Gary. These regional factions behave in the House and Senate as semi-seperate parties in general coalition with other regional factions with the same party lable. But as Jeffers, McCain and the "Blue Dog" Democrats have shown, cross party alliances are actually quite frequent in the US. Far more frequent than in Europe.

The effect on policy is mostly the same. In both the European multiparty systems and the US loose two party system with multi-cameral legislature, policy is based on compromise and tends towards the center except under extraordinary circumstances.

Now, I happen to know from conversations with LTG that LTG's true wish is that the left would gain greater power in a multi-party system. I suggest that establishing a true multi-party system would do absolutely nothing to the content of the legislation. Legislation would still be be based on compromise and therefore would tend towards the center.

The problem the leftists who see a multi-party system as their ticket to prominance have is that they wrongly assume that if only people could vote for the left in a seperate party, that party would immediately rise to be a major political force. They ignore the possibility that they would be limited to specific regions of the country and would not gain enough support to govern on their own in Congress and certainly not in the White House.

I guess what I'm saying is that the lack of success for the far left in the US is at least as much because of the unpopularity of their ideas as the party system. But admitting that is too hard so they continue to blame "the system."

The Law Talking Guy said...

The idea that compromise legislation is the same, regardless of the # of parties, depends on the concept that all creative ideas get filtered throught he system, regardless of who sits at the table. I think this is demonstrably false. If some parties never make it to the table, some ideas will not come forward. The parties determine the debate, and the media reports only that limited debate. So the public decides if it wants Pepsi or Coke, because there is no serious discussion of cream soda, even though cream soda is a far superior product in every way. Ideas don't get taken seriously until they get into the legislature.

This is the problem today -- the powerful committees that write legislation have ten or eleven centrist major-party members, and liberal ideas never even make it to the table. Thus we discuss *how much* to cut the estate tax, not a range of alternative tax mechanisms, including increasing that tax. The American system not only cuts out parties -- it cuts out ideas. A great example of this is when third-party candidate Perot advocated a flat tax in 1992. It was not on the agenda before, and then it entered the mainstream of political discourse.

The old theory is that third parties propose ideas which get co-opted by major parties if they have appeal. In the new, more interactive, media age, co-optation is far more rare. The 2004 Democratic primaries is a good example of how politics happen these days: the big corporate and union money waited for a "winner" to emerge before donating, but paradoxically the donations were necessary to create a winner. So for months we watched media boomlets finally focus on Dean, only to have another feeding frenzy in early January devolve into a nearly random process in Iowa. Then, once a 'winner' was found, he was crowned and discussion ceased.

I think that a multiparty system would promote real discussion of creative solutions to our problems that might lead the debate - and the results of that debate- in different ways. If you are a political scientists who just posits voter preferences as exogenous to the model of legislative rulemaking, you do not arrive at this conclusion. Preferences, I contend, emerge through the discussion. Discussion needs the media megaphone. Cream soda, to conclude with a terrible analogy, needs more than word of mouth to convince the world of its goodness -- it needs good placement on store shelves and product endorsement by a bona fide political celebrity (i.e., a major candidate).

Raised By Republicans said...

If by "cream soda" you mean that new parties will add new dimensions of debate then I think your on to something. The question then would do dimensions follow parties or do parties follow dimensions. If new parties only thrive if new dimensions already exist (which is what comparative analysis of party systems suggests) then the arrival on the scene of a Green party would do little to change American policy.

I still insist that the reason the Greens are a small party only partly because of the system. Its mostly because their proposed policies are massively unpopular - and in most Green supporters are in deep deep denial about that.

In other words, changing the system to allow the Greens to grow would not greatly change who was at the table anyway.

Dr. Strangelove said...

News article: (10/4) Chafee says for certain he won't vote for George W. Also, a curious remark from Sen. Jeffords to the NY Times: "I understand the feelings that he has," Mr. Jeffords said. "I'm going to be talking to him, so I'm not going to say any more. I probably shouldn't have even told you that." Perhaps... a new party of liberal former-Republicans in the NE really will happen? Isn't that where the GOP started in the first place?

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