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Three-Party System In US: Could It Work?  
User currently offlineLH423 From Canada, joined Jul 1999, 6501 posts, RR: 54
Posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2073 times:

Could a three-party system work in the US congress? Over the past decade or so there seems to have been a serious polarization of politics in the US and it seems that the left and right sides of the Democrat and Republican parties seem to be splitting from the centre.

On this board alone, I've seen many centrist Republicans feeling disappointed by the Republican Party and it's pandering to the Christian right. Likewise, I've seen leftist Democrats feeling disappointed in the move toward the centre (even centre-right in some cases) in the policies of the Democratic Party.

Could (theoretically) a new, three-party system emerge in the US? For instance, a party that would cater toward the far right, a centrist party, and a party for the lefties. Or possibly have two centrist parties (one centre-right, one centre-left, à la Canada) with leftist and rightist parties to support legislation they seem fit. Or, does the lack of the Westminster parliamentary system with responsible government (the ability to have votes on confidence and bring down the government into early elections) prevent the latter system to emerge?

Or, is the desire to be part of the party in control and at least being to exert some influence over it too great to split the two main parties into a system what would, in all likelihood, favour the centrist party?

While I know a complete overhaul of the American political system is unlikely, and the two main parties aren't going to freely give away those voters (and $$$) to other parties, but I'm curious to know your thoughts. Is a multiple-party system possible under the US system? If so, would you vote for a viable third party if it more accurately represented your views and had a large enough bloc of seats to make a difference in Congress?

LH423


« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
20 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineAsstChiefMark From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 1 day ago) and read 2066 times:

Only if the third party wasn't fickle and loony. The last thing most people want to see are a bunch of "flower children" and religious freaks trying to run a disjointed, in-fighting psuedo organization with candidates to match. All they would do is steal elections from "real" politicians.



[Edited 2008-01-10 12:28:52]

User currently offlineCytz_pilot From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 568 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 1 day ago) and read 2056 times:

I have been thinking recently that if a centrist party was introduced and actually became recognized and respected, it could conceivably become this country's major contender. The 2-party system as it is forces the hand on any issue, as in you are my opponent, so I must disagree with you. If there's one thing that annoys me about politics in this country, it's the black & white polarizing of every issue.

Someone once told me that they thought a polarized 2-party system was holding the country back because even if you have 50/50 Democrats/Republicans, in that makup there is only 1 person on the far right, 1 person on the far left, and 230 million moderates! It's definitely a better bet for idealogical matters to start at the center, find the end goal, and go from there. Maybe that would take a central 3rd party that has no obligation to take sides, and can make independent decisions.

Could it work though? I think in this political climate, people would be reluctant to vote outside of the 2 parties - there's too much change at stake these days to risk throwing a vote away at some up-and-comers.


User currently offlineNeilYYZ From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 1 day ago) and read 2049 times:

I'm not such a fan of our multi-party system lately. The minority governments get more than a little tiring. Mind you, we have about 5 parties, perhaps if we cut it down to just three it would work a bit better.

User currently offlineBlackbird From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 1 day ago) and read 2042 times:

I think our government NEEDS more than two parties for it's very survival. For the most part, the democrats and republicans are controlled by the same lobby groups and are effectively one and the same.

It would be nice to have a relatively new and uncorrupted party.


Andrea Kent


User currently offlineYellowstone From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 3071 posts, RR: 4
Reply 5, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 2022 times:

No, it won't. Multi-party systems work well in parliamentary countries with proportional representation - that is, if a party gets a certain percent of the vote, they get a corresponding percentage of seats in the parliament. The US has a winner-take-all system, where whoever gets a plurality of votes in a district gets the seat, no matter what percentage of people support them. If a third party gets 10% of the vote in some countries, it gets a significant voice in Parliament. If a third party candidate gets 10% of the vote in the US, they get nothing at all. Ergo, it makes no sense to run as a member of a third party - you'll never be able to mount a sufficient challenge to the 2 preexisting parties. And even if a third party sprang up that was as popular as the other two, now you're splitting the votes three ways, and you'll start sending people off to Congress that have gotten 30 to 35 percent of the vote. That doesn't really seem like a good idea to me.

The only way for a new major party to arise in the US is for one party to die off and be replaced. Look at history:
1790s - Federalists vs. Democrat-Republicans
Federalists die off.
1830s - Whigs vs. Democrats
Whigs die off.
1850s - Republicans vs. Democrats
1930s - Republicans and Democrats swap political bases, but remain as the two main parties until the present.

This is known as Duverger's law in sociology.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger%27s_law



Hydrogen is an odorless, colorless gas which, given enough time, turns into people.
User currently offlineYOWza From Canada, joined Jul 2005, 4845 posts, RR: 16
Reply 6, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 2011 times:

I fear it's too late for such a possibility although a third party would eliminate some of the bickering.

YOWza



12A whenever possible.
User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21353 posts, RR: 54
Reply 7, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 1999 times:



Quoting Yellowstone (Reply 5):
No, it won't. Multi-party systems work well in parliamentary countries with proportional representation - that is, if a party gets a certain percent of the vote, they get a corresponding percentage of seats in the parliament. The US has a winner-take-all system, where whoever gets a plurality of votes in a district gets the seat, no matter what percentage of people support them.

Indeed. The majority electoral system basically enforces a two-party setup. While there seem to be valid reasons why this system had originally been chosen for basically infrastructural and technical reasons, I generally prefer a proportional system nowadays.

The main problem is that in a majority / two party system it is more or less impossible to make dissenting voices heard as long as they are "just" a significant minority and as long as they "safely" fall into one of the two entrenched party blocks anyway.

The green party in Germany was the incarnation of a new movement which did in fact change the political landscape. Overcoming the 5% threshold in local, regional and national elections was all it took. In a majority system such initiatives often remain bottled up or wither and die again since they cannot reach representation if they are perceived as a threat to the leadership of both parties.

Their last and only hope is then to infiltrate the parties and wait for an opportunity to become a "swing minority" threatening to decide a narrow election, but that's a rather slim chance which will hardly lead to any substantial and consistent representation.


User currently offlineLobster From Germany, joined Oct 2008, 49 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 1992 times:

Well, I'd sure as hell would like to see a three party system. But, I'd also like to see the Electoral College gotten rid of as well as all campaign funds publicly funded with a limit on what would be spent. I see no point in paying Congress and the Senate seeing as most of them are worth more than what I'll ever make in a lifetime. Why is the President paid $400K a year? When was the last time we even had a Pres that WASN'T rich? The politics in this country are complete bullshit and get worse every year. The American people no longer have a "voice" unless they have millions of dollars to donate and/or have themselves a "special interest group". Politics on the National level is a complete croc of shit and I'm so sick of it. It's nothing but rich, corrupt people who were born into families and bread to become what/how they are today. I'd say that a very small percentage of people on Capital Hill are still true, but not many of them.

It's about time America wakes up and realizes who and what is running this Country.


User currently offlineLH423 From Canada, joined Jul 1999, 6501 posts, RR: 54
Reply 9, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 1970 times:



Quoting Yellowstone (Reply 5):
And even if a third party sprang up that was as popular as the other two, now you're splitting the votes three ways, and you'll start sending people off to Congress that have gotten 30 to 35 percent of the vote.

Canada has the same "first past the post" system as the US so often candidates win a seat in parliament with about 35% of the vote.

Quoting Klaus (Reply 7):
Indeed. The majority electoral system basically enforces a two-party setup.

How does a country like Canada have four major parties in parliament? Granted, one of those (the Bloc Québécois) is found in only one province and it's main goal "officially" is for the protection of the rights of those in that province and "unofficially" to effectively remove that province from the country. This is even a reduction in parties after the Reform Party (later the Canadian Alliance) and the Progressive Conservative Party merged and formed the present Conservative Party of Canada. So, that's why I'm wondering. If it works in other democracies with the same voting system as the US, why not in the US?

However, these two posters bring up another good point? What about an overhaul of the election system? There was a referendum in Ontario to change the way people voted. I didn't agree with all of it, so had I been eligible to vote, I would have voted no (which the majority of people did), but I do think it brings up a good idea. Of course we'll have those in the "If it ain't broke..." crowd and, yes, it is tradition, but could also a change to a proportional representation form of voting be beneficial.

I just think something is seriously wrong in Washington when I look at the two main parties and don't really see myself in either. Of course one fits me a bit better than the other, but ultimately, I see them both pandering for votes to people not like myself. I also think that a shake up in Washington will bring up better voter turnout since people may have more of a say in who they send to Washington. And better voter turnout is good for democracy.

LH423



« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
User currently offlineAaron747 From Japan, joined Aug 2003, 7952 posts, RR: 26
Reply 10, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 1967 times:



Quoting Lobster (Reply 8):
The politics in this country are complete bullshit and get worse every year. The American people no longer have a "voice" unless they have millions of dollars to donate and/or have themselves a "special interest group". Politics on the National level is a complete croc of shit and I'm so sick of it. It's nothing but rich, corrupt people who were born into families and bread to become what/how they are today. I'd say that a very small percentage of people on Capital Hill are still true, but not many of them.

That about sums it up. Not a single person responded to my thread about the US chamber of commerce intervening in the current election, so obviously people don't care. When special interests like that serve to circumvent the wishes and expressed opinions of a majority of American people (immigration in the case of the US CoC), everybody ought to be outraged. More pablum for the sheep, anyone?



If you need someone to blame / throw a rock in the air / you'll hit someone guilty
User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21353 posts, RR: 54
Reply 11, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 1960 times:



Quoting Aaron747 (Reply 10):
Not a single person responded to my thread about the US chamber of commerce intervening in the current election, so obviously people don't care.

I considered posting, but the sheer shock of yet another lobby piling up on top of the mountain kept me paralyzed.


User currently offlineBlackbird From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 1946 times:

The reason a three party system could work is if enough people get sick and tired of the Democrats and Republicans, they'll vote third party and they'll take up more and more seats in Congress and the Senate.

(The real problem them is to make another party so when they become corrputed there's one to replace them)

US Chamber of Commerce intervening in the current election? Huh???


Andrea Kent


User currently offlineSKYSERVICE_330 From Canada, joined Sep 2000, 1391 posts, RR: 5
Reply 13, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 1941 times:

If enough people in both parties become tired of the status-quo, then I see no reason why the US can't become a three-party system. However, such a scenario is contingent on their being enough disgruntled people to support a third party, but not enough to cause the demise of either the Dems or the GOP, which I don't see happening anytime soon. There is also the possibility of regional parties, like we have in Canada (Bloc Quebecois, Reform Party), emerging I suppose.

Quoting NeilYYZ (Reply 3):
Mind you, we have about 5 parties, perhaps if we cut it down to just three it would work a bit better.

I will never understand why the Bloc Quebecois is allowed to sit in our national parliament.


User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21353 posts, RR: 54
Reply 14, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 1933 times:



Quoting LH423 (Reply 9):
How does a country like Canada have four major parties in parliament? Granted, one of those (the Bloc Québécois) is found in only one province

If the votes are tallied by region, strong regional parties can withstand the pressure towards a two-party-system.


User currently offlineLH423 From Canada, joined Jul 1999, 6501 posts, RR: 54
Reply 15, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 1905 times:



Quoting Klaus (Reply 14):
If the votes are tallied by region, strong regional parties can withstand the pressure towards a two-party-system.

But that still leaves us with three major parties. Admittedly, however, the NDP only have 30 seats (compared to the Bloc's 49, the Liberal's 96 and the CPC's 126).

Quoting SKYSERVICE_330 (Reply 13):
I will never understand why the Bloc Quebecois is allowed to sit in our national parliament.

 checkmark  How can a party that unofficially is there to remove a huge segment of the country (since by law they can't state the objective as essentially the dissolution of the country) be allowed to sit in parliament. Especially when it was my understanding that the House of Commons is there to represent Canada as a whole. Here, you have a group of lawmakers whose sole purpose for being there is only to represented a small (and shrinking) percentage of the country.

LH423



« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
User currently offlineYellowstone From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 3071 posts, RR: 4
Reply 16, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 1899 times:



Quoting LH423 (Reply 15):
But that still leaves us with three major parties. Admittedly, however, the NDP only have 30 seats (compared to the Bloc's 49, the Liberal's 96 and the CPC's 126).

Canada's just special, I guess. Actually, you guys are cited as a "notable exception" on that Wikipedia page I linked.



Hydrogen is an odorless, colorless gas which, given enough time, turns into people.
User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21353 posts, RR: 54
Reply 17, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 1885 times:



Quoting LH423 (Reply 15):
But that still leaves us with three major parties.

Sure - there are the liberals in Britain as well, but the majority system will always exert pressure towards a two-party setup; Any additonal parties have a very difficult time surviving, especially ones which aren't designed to be majority parties like the greens.

Quoting SKYSERVICE_330 (Reply 13):
I will never understand why the Bloc Quebecois is allowed to sit in our national parliament.

Well, we've got a block(!) of various xenophobic nationalists, racists and sworn enemies of the EU in the European Parliament as well. They're never far from self-destruction, but the intense irony of the situation can certainly be appreciated...!  cool 


User currently offlineLTBEWR From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 12887 posts, RR: 12
Reply 18, posted (6 years 3 months 2 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 1880 times:

In the USA over the last 100 years, so called 3rd or independent parties didn't last as usually one of the two major parties take up and absorb their main positions. Few if any politicans (espeially on the Federal or upper state levels) will not split from their party to be part of another party, as would burn bridges from thier original party. In Presidential elections, significant 3rd party canidates may take votes in critical states to cause a Republican or Democrat to win. In 2000, Ralph Nadar's 3rd party canidacy took the votes of some of the most liberal-progressive side of the Democrats from Gore. In Florida, Nadar's 6000+ votes could have made the difference there, offsetting other factors (bad ballots, ect.) so that Gore could have won there and thus the National election. The 1968 3rd party canadicy of George Wallace took a couple of million votes from white males, especially in the Southeast USA from the Democrats over the Democrats leading National Civil Rights legisgation. While not the only factor for Nixon, the Republican canidate's win, it was a major one and started the shift of white Southern (and elsewhere) voters toward the Republican party.

User currently offlineLH423 From Canada, joined Jul 1999, 6501 posts, RR: 54
Reply 19, posted (6 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 1836 times:



Quoting Klaus (Reply 17):
They're never far from self-destruction, but the intense irony of the situation can certainly be appreciated...!

Sad thing, the Bloc Québécois are the number 3 party in the House of Commons (as far as I know they have no seats in the Senate since the senate is appointed by the Prime Minister and they've never controlled government), well ahead of the NDP, who only a couple of months ago in a by-election got its second seat in the House from Québec in the history of the party.

It was hoped that the Green Party would gain a seat (first time for that party) but that has yet to happen though support for the greens nationally is up.

Anyway, interesting discussion. Despite being American, my knowledge of some of the processes of the US government remain a mystery.

LH423



« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
User currently offlineSrbmod From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (6 years 3 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 1813 times:



Quoting AsstChiefMark (Reply 1):
All they would do is steal elections from "real" politicians.

No, they would help to make elections real, as in some cases, two choices is not much better than someone running unopposed.

The only reason why the two party system has allowed itself to take root is because the two parties legislated it that way. In many states, the ballot access laws are so strict and draconian that some third parties can only run for certain offices in which they have won and maintained the right to run a candidate without going through the hoops the state has put in front of them (Here in Georgia, the Libertarians have the right to run candidates for statewide executive department offices (They gained some of this as the result of the Republicans not fielding candidates for some statewide offices because they knew the incumbent was unbeatable.).

In the South for many years after Reconstruction, the states were one-party states. The Democrats in many of those states essentially legislated the Republicans off of the ballot. Those same measures now keep the third party candidates for many offices off of the ballot.

Here in Georgia, if the Libertarians want to run a candidate for say the state House or Senate, they have to go out and get the signatures of a certain % of the registered voters in the district they want to run in. The same thing applies to third party candidates trying to run for the US House or Senate. Same is also true on the local levels as well (Although many of the elected officials that are a member of a third party are typically county or municipal.).

Making it easier for third parties to gain ballot access for any and all offices would give voters real choices in politics. In some cases, I have written myself in instead of voting for the two candidates on the ballot. Back in 2004, I wrote myself in for County Commission Chairman and County Sheriff as I disliked my choices in both races. Now this time around, it may depend on the results of the primaries since both officials have primary opposition. By allowing other parties access to the process, you might see a lot less write in votes (especially for Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, or Donald Duck, or other fictional characters).


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