Some last minute speculations on third parties.

Here we are at the end of silly season, and it's obvious we've got to do something about our two pointless political parties.

American democracy fully deserves an 1856 moment.  You all remember that in 1856 the Whig Party collapsed, and split into two parties -- the Know-Nothing Party, which disintegrated with the Civil War, and the Republican Party, which became the new second party.  Here's how I see it playing out.

The Republican coalition collapses.  The libertarians are recruited by the Democrats, maybe after some time in the Libertarian Party; the fundies form their own, regional party, limited mostly to the Great Plains, the Deep South, and Appalachia.

A portion of the Democratic Party splits off and becomes the new second party.

I don't think that second party will be the Green Party.  What do you think?

 

 

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Hmmm.

Mehitabel's picture

Honestly, it seems to me that the Democratic Party is more likely to collapse than the Republicans.  Why?  Because the Republicans keep pandering to its far right wing, and continually moves further and further to the right (whether to appease its lunatic fringe or for some other reason, I can't guess).

The Democrats on the other hand just keep moving to the right, too.  More and more of the left, aka the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, are being effectively disenfranchised.  I have a hard time seeing us as having another 1856 moment with two parties rising from the ashes.  I think we're more likely to end up with a lunatic-fringe ultra-right-wing Republican Party; a (relatively) moderately conservative Democratic Party that may end up including any moderate Republicans that may be left; and a new party that will assume the place on the left side of the political spectrum formerly occupied by the Democratic Party.

I have no idea which two of those three will end up being the two largest parties and which will be the "other" party.  I would hope that the loony right-wing version of the Republican Party ends up being the one that's the smallest and least powerful, but who the heck knows.  

The only thing that I can say for certain is that corporate America will do everything in its power to buy up whichever of these parties it doesn't already own.

I would really like to see the Justice Party and the Green Party join forces.  I think the two combined could become a force in future elections.  But maybe I'm just deluding myself.... I dunno.  Sigh.

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the Repub leadership would have to repudiate the Teas

Shahryar's picture

as you say, the party continues to move in that direction and, as long as it does that, will stay unified. A party can only break apart when the leadership and membership are not in sync which is, as you point out, what's happening with the Democrats.

But rather than split apart I think the Dems will just slowly dissipate.

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Not with a bang

shaharazade's picture

but a whimper?  I don't know about that gradual disintegration.  The whole country seems dissatisfied and polarized. Political parties are a means to an end and if they become useless or totally abandon anything that people supported them for I think they will slit up. Don't know how but they either represent and fight for some measure of democratic governance and economic equality or they will not hold their rank and file. Being the loyal opposition to the RW maniacs just isn't convincing even with a PR dude like Obama. It's not like anyone wants to vote out of fear and then get the same damn thing that they wanted to stop. Reactionary support like bait and switch can only work so long with no results or relief. Plus the ridiculous political kabuki is really getting thin and transparent.

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I'm afraid I must reply to that with

geomoo's picture

"thin and transparent" to whom?  I feel in the extreme minority in seeing what is happening.  Almost every poltical conversation I hear among my intelligent friends is based on accepting the thin and transparent kabuki as real and worth discussing which side is correct in their misleading and cynical presentation of the fake issues.

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Thank you for this LaEscapee

traveler's picture

and to RT for presenting it.

I just viewed the opening comments from both Johnson and Stein. I could vote for either of these two. Actually I already did vote for one of them.

It's most unfortunate for the public that they were not able to participate in debates with Obama and Romney but it is understandable why they were not permitted to do so.

Now back to watch the debate on RT.

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I'm a lot more pessimistic.

Glinda's picture

I just don't see it happening in my lifetime, especially with Citizens United, for any party other than D and R to be strong enough to mount a challenge.

Hell, even those candidates on the ballot weren't even eligible to join the debates.

But I still hope.

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I agree with you Glinda

traveler's picture

The powers-that-be will do everything in their power to preserve the narrow portion of the political spectrum within which discussion and debate are are permitted.

As we have seen clearly in recent times and today anyone with views outside of this spectrum will be ignored and marginalized by the pundits, the corporate media and by those already in power.

In the near future I expect an even greater effort to maintain the status quo on these limits. However, if the public should ever wake up, possibly because of some catastropic blowback event, it might spur change and motivate them to throw off the political yoke that constrains us. In the meantime they are not going to find any significant relief in the D or the R column on the ballot.

I would like to proven wrong but in my view the emergence of new viable political parties is not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

An extremely unlikely wild card, such as the removal of money from politics, would open numerous possibilites. Good luck with that.

 

 

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I see two splits.

downsouth's picture

I see a time coming when the electorate rejects the Tea Party, which will leave the Republican Party with the least power it has held since its formation.  A renaissance will then occur led by more moderate, non-evangelical Republicans, who will reclaim that party and eject the Tea Party branch, who will then form their own party, perhaps joined by the Libertarians.

I also see a much more traditional split coming in the Democratic Party, which is becoming evident even now.  The Progressive wing of the party is completely out of step with the party leadership.  That leadership will eventually try to purge the progressives in favor of a more conservative membership, leading to the formation of a Progressive Party, perhaps joined by the Greens.

That would leave us with a 4 party system...something I wouldn't mind seeing.  Would certainly give the voters more of a choice, if we can get the money out of the process somehow.

Ah, dreams...

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You're much more optimistic than me, but I do agree with you

sartoris's picture

I agree with your analysis, however, I don't think that an actual 'split' will occur.  Now that the 'party leadership' has had their selection put back in power they will need to work with the Progressive wing of the party to have their agenda accomplished.  Now is when the Progressives need to make their voices heard to shift the party back to the Left.  Now is when the party needs us more than we need the party.  Where will we go?  No, that's the wrong question, the question is: Where will the Party go without us?  The party has attracted about all of the centrists that it can, but it is simply not enough to give them the necessary majority to enact legislation.  They need the progressives to pass legislation.  Right now the Progressive Caucus needs to demand to be included in the party leadership.  It is now up to the leadership of the Progressive Caucus to make their voices heard.  This is the time for the Progressive Caucus to tell the centrist/pragmatic element of the party, we'll work with you but you have to work with us.  The Progressive Caucus can unilaterally stop the passage of the Grand Bargain.  Whether they do is entirely up to them.  They simply must act in the best interest of the country and demand that their voices be heard within the party.

I'm not entirely confident that this will happen, but I'm really hoping that Raul Grijalva and the other members of the Progressive Caucus find their inner Huey Long.  The Grand Bargain, coupled with the 2008 economic collapse will quite literally set this country back a century. 

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They must step up.

downsouth's picture

I agree that the Progressive Caucus will have to use their power, especially in the Grand Bargain negotiations.  I have little confidence that they will, though.  They could have unilaterally stopped the NDAA, but they didn't.  They could have stopped renewal of the Patriot Act, but they didn't.  Now they will come to the Grand Bargain, and what they need to do is to refuse to vote for the right-wing plan they will be presented with and offer their own plan in return.  What is more likely, however, is that they will once again follow the lead of the President.  The only hope I see for them making a stand is if President Obama is, at that time, a lame-duck. 

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your lucid analysis is really bringing me down this morning....

sartoris's picture

Once again, I am in complete agreement with you.  I have never seen anything that demonstrates that anyone in the Progressive Caucus will fight the Party.  Heck, even everyone's favorite independent, Bernie Sanders, rarely votes against the Party.  Now is not the time for cohesion though, now is the best chance that the Progressives have had in the last decade to influence the direction of the party. 

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The main action is in ...

BruceMcF's picture

... what does and does not come up for a vote. That's when there is the most room to manuver things to the left or to the right. Once it comes up to a vote, the faction in the caucus that faces the greatest opposition from the House majority is in the weakest bargaining position.

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The scary part there is that ...

BruceMcF's picture

... a leader has to emerge from the Senate, and each even mildly progressive Senator likely feels that THEY are that natural leader and all the other even mildly progressive Senators ought to follow THEIR lead.

So its a path dependency problem: if three or four of the more progressive Senators deliberately stand behind one of their colleagues and say "this is the progressive Senator standard bearer", there's a chance for a nucleus of coherent opposition to damaging Grand Bargain deficit hysteria policies being put into place.

If its just a cacaphony of individual opponents each with their own slightly different take and slightly different response, they'll be picked off one by one.

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No chance that will happen

willibro's picture

I have no faith at all in the Progressive Caucus. The party leadership never has to do anything for a caucus that always jumps when they shout "frog!". The Progressive Caucus have been doing their frog impression ever since they backed Obama's play on health care without a public option, and they will continue to see it that way.

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Actually, what I really believe will happen

Shahryar's picture

there are two parties, the ins and the outs. Neither believes anything of any real importance. They both want power. They want money. They want to tell other people what to do.

The side that is out will cater to those who it thinks will help it become in. The side that is in will gorge itself until it becomes too fat to notice that the outs have outmaneuvered them. Then they will switch places, ad infinitum.

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A House Majority is not so simple a thing as that ...

BruceMcF's picture

... today they have a dominant House majority, and the weathervanes in the Republican party are pointed hard right for fear of being primaried by a hard right true believers, so the true believers are in ascendancy.

And there are too few genuinely moderate Republicans left to exercise a balance of power.

If the Republicans lose too much of their current majority, first, a lot of those will be from among the hard right true believers, posing the countervailing risk that following their lead is a guarantee of a primary victory at cost of a more likely general election defeat, second the few genuinely moderate Republicans left will hold the balance of power in many votes, and third, there will be more votes where its easier to recruit Hedge Fund Democratic support than it is to recruit radical reactionary support.

If there are votes brought to the floor by petition, including weathervane Republicans looking to innoculate themselves from being attacked in the general election as a tea party Republican, the radical reactionaries will not look kindly on that, of course, and you have the basis for some bloody intra-party warfare on those ground.

My guess ~ not informed, just a guess ~ is that if 10 avowedly tea party Republicans go down in defeat and there is a swing of 15 seats or more, the political dynamics of the next House will be dramatically different than the political dynamics of this one.

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Television is a game changer

geomoo's picture

The coalitions you mention were based on a populace whose lives were grounded in the immediate environment, and therefore who identified with the interests of people in the same situation as they.  With television broadcasting sophisticated propaganda to an eager populace, I believe these matters are determined more by who controls the homogenizing broadcasts than even with one's own self-interest.

But it's fun to dream.  Who knows what could happen.

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Is the tense right, there?

BruceMcF's picture

Isn't that, television WAS a game changer?

Television is facing declining audiences. The broadcast television of three commercial networks and PBS of the 60's and 70's collected audiences together in one artificial public commons.

But then broadcast networks began their long decline, which continues to this day, as cable started fracturing the media landscape, effectively leveraged by Fox News to create an alternative artificial public commons under the control of the radical reactionary political movement.

And now cable television is in decline, as people's attentions are going somewhere else ... much of it to interactive social media systems.

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Interesting stuff as usual, Bruce

geomoo's picture

Otoh, average hours watching television by Americans continues to rise every year--up to more than 5 hours.  Also, I notice that, even among us free thinkers, television successfully sets the agenda for what people talk about.  It wasn't that long ago that the mainstream "news" channels took only 3 days of biased coverage to convince liberals that bombing yet another country was not only a great idea, but a moral imperative.  Of course, part of that propaganda push was done through youtube videos, so the social media people are turning to will not be free of propaganda, but it will doubtless be watered down as choice of what to watch increases.  Anyway, I do take a measure of hope from your comment.

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Is this electoral samadhi I feel?

geomoo's picture

I considered making this a blog post, but I think it's more fit here.  I was taking the trash out, realizing how thoroughly I am not invested in this election, how for the first time in my life, I understand what the election may change and especially what it most certainly will not change.  What a liberated feeling.  Whew!  I'm not faking it, not trying to convince myself, not second guessing myself.  That's what a few years of intense involvement will earn you:  like the Buddha, who nearly died performing extreme spiritual practices, one understands that it is all endless and in vain.  Like the Buddha, one gazes with equanimity on Rep and Dem alike, on bully and appeaser with balanced gaze, choosing neither for nor against; rather, accepting what is so.  This is electoral samadhi.

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Um, to those who think the Democrats will break up first:

Cassiodorus's picture

May I recommend actually talking to people?  Practically everyone who votes Democrat today is an Obot, and they're all totally hypnotized by all of the Obot arguments.  Democrats are the LAST people in the WORLD to give up on the dream of Barack Obama and his Democrat buddies.

In fact, that person who suggested that DKos was "washed up" by Markos' insistence that we all stop arguing certain arguments against Obama was completely wrong.  There will be no boycott Kos movement. 

They're completely hypnotized.

There's a reason, then, why my argument about DailyKos.com was hedged the way it was.  Kos isn't going to make the case for Obama by banning people, as I said -- but of course Kos doesn't have to do that with his readership, who for the most part have Seen The Hypnotoad.

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If Obama loses...

downsouth's picture

things will get very interesting on dKos as the Obots begin first to eat their own, then try to lay blame at our feet.  I'm hoping the resulting negativity on that site kills his readership.  Of course, I'm also hoping to win Publishers Clearinghouse...about the same probability.

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the purges began after 2010

sartoris's picture

I strongly advise against anyone trying to lay anything at the feet of this progressive.  These dogs are deadly and have been known to make skunks run away crying. 

After the debacle of 2010 did the party shift left or right?  They tacked right.  Did they blame their centrist policies for a lack of voter enthusiasm or did they blame the party's base?  They blamed the base.  The Party does not do introspection.  Like an addict in denial the Party blames everyone for every bad thing that happens to it except itself.  Nothing is ever the Party's fault.  The Party is incapable of blaming itself.  The Progressives must fight for control or our voices will just continue to be ignored.  They tell us that we have nowhere else to go, I call bullshit on that argument, they are the ones that have nowhere else to go. 

Once upon a time I worked with an extremely arrogant man who operated under the delusion that due to his senority he was my boss.  He started giving me his work to do until finally I just stopped listening to him completely.  No matter what he did I simply ignored him.  Finally, he took me aside and told me that he didn't like my attitude and that if I was going to 'get anywhere in the organization' I needed his help.  I listened to him telling me how great he was and why I should be doing everything he asked.  I looked him right in the eye and said, "You'll need me a lot sooner than I'll ever need you."  The priorities of the company changed and his work was phased out.  I was the one who ended up training him in the new workload focus of the organization.  Let me tell you, he was different man once his 'power' was removed. 

The Democratic Party cannot win without the Progressive vote.  The Progressives are sitting on power.  I hope they realize that and make their presence known.

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That 1856 moment is a bit oversimplified ...

BruceMcF's picture

The Know Nothings emerged in the North from secret anti-Catholic nativist associations, with the association of Whigs with the Known Nothings being more of a Southern phenomenon. It did indeed follow the decline of the Whigs, with Unionist Whigs caught between the radical pro-slavery views of the Democrats and the radical anti-slavery views of the Republicans.

But that is starting the story in the Second Act, since first came the purge of the anti-slavery Whigs from the Whig party, and they were in at the founding of the Republican Party alongside Free Soilers and Abolitionists. With the collapse of the Know Nothings in the face of a Great Issue with a competing Party of government to represent each side, most of the northern Know Nothings were absorbed into the Republican Party, as the northern urban Democrats were already the party of (mainly Irish and German) Catholic immigrants.

After the Civil War and through the rest of the third party alignment, the Democrats were dominated by conservative pro-business Bourbon Democrats, until a populist wing upset their control in 1896 with the candidacy of William Jennings Bryan (with the hoped for winning progressive change coalition of the Wizard of Oz: Northeastern manufacturing workers ~ the TinMan ~ southern and western small farmers ~ the Scarecrow ~ with William Jennings Bryan as the Cowardly Lion, and Toto representing the Teetotalers, who woke everyone else up when they were falling asleep in the poppy fields on the road to Oz).

The purge of socially moderate, corporatist Republicans from the Republican party seems to be nearly complete, but unlike the purge of the Anti-Slavery Whigs, for whom leaving the Whigs for the Democrats would have been jumping from the frying pan into the fire, there has been somewhere for them to go in the friendly arms of the Hedge Fund wing of the Democratic Party.

The US electoral system is not kind for a Green Party along the lines of the German or Australian Green Parties (to cite one Green Party with a corporatist economic stance and one with an anti-corporatist economic stance), which makes it less likely that a US realignment party would be a Green Party, but it is the progressive third party with the strongest platform to support party growth in the face of the strong legal discrimination against third parties in most US state electoral systems, so it seems a likely prospect for forming a faction within a realignment party, as the Free Soilers and Abolitionist each were represented by factions within the Republican party during the third party alignment.

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Excellent points

willibro's picture

And I agree, except that you don't seem to address the impact of current facts on the ground. Political realignments like those of 1856 occured because of inherent social and economic contradictions that obtained then (like slavery and the agrarian/industrial split). There is no reason to suppose that a future realignment won't have the same roots.

And what are the facts on the ground? Well, I see massive, ever-increasing economic inequality. Institutional capture or collapse and concomitant loss of faith in them. But most important of all seem to be catastrophic impacts from climate change, to the point that even business people are being forced to acknowledge it (a friend in business in Brooklyn just told me today that Sandy was a much bigger disaster than 9/11 was, and will have longer-lasting effects). Combine that with another economic collapse, which I expect to arrive midway through Obama's second term, driven by continued unbridled speculation, zero enforcement actions, worsening economies and austerity in Europe, and the impact of the austerity measures in the upcoming "Grand Bargain".

Frankly, I see a lot of civil unrest in our future. Imagine that climate-related disasters become more frequent and harder to ignore, and combine with unemployment and middle-class poverty into a sort of involuntary "Occupy" movement. Horrible as it will be, that will be a very friendly environment for a Green party.

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BUT

geomoo's picture

a very unfriendly environment for democracy, especially with the tools of control accumulated by the executive over the past few years.  We're not the only ones who see what is coming down the road.

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