Friday, April 25, 2008

A Four-Party America?

For a politician to advocate lower taxes, they must also be pro-life. For a candidate to support affirmative action they must also support environmental regulations on businesses. The fact that the US has only two viable political parties makes it nearly impossible for anyone to deviate too far from the central platform on any issue. In these examples, there is no good reason why supporting on requires supporting the other.

There are actually a number of different strains in American politics. If we had a parliament instead of an executive/legislative balance, they would split into four or more parties within a couple elections. Let's take a look at what these parties actually are:

Fiscal Responsibles:
mostly they vote Republican, but don't like the moralizing or war affinity. Generally oppose any social programs or anything that gives money to the government. For lower taxes most of the time, but a principled FR might support raising taxes to pay off a budget deficit inherited from a previous government.

Christian Wing: the other major sector of the Republicans, more approving of foreign policy 'agendas' and highly demanding on the social front. Various goals include condemning oppression of Christians worldwide, abstinence education, regulation of TV/internet content, and pro-life goals. Economics is not a priority for this party, as social policy was not for the FR.

Civil Rightists: A traditionally Democratic group, they have become even more so under President Bush's various suspensions of assumed rights. Anti-censorship, often interested in fair prison sentences and even drug decriminalization. Mostly opposed to adventures abroad, unless the US makes up only a small part in a multilateral operation. Basically the opposite of the CW; economic policy is not a priority once again.

Equality and Justice: The economic sector of the Democrats. Protectionist and neoliberal at the same time, they like the social programs set up by FDR and Johnson, but want to reform them to fit the current era. Bill Clinton is their most obvious success. Highly concerned with minority issues, they also support extensive foreign policy, along the lines of Bosnia, not Iraq.

These are the four major types of political thought in America, but they've been lassoed together so that a Civil Rightist has to end up supporting the agenda of an Equality&Justice candidate, or vice versa. Meanwhile these categories aren't perfect but the ideas in each do make more sense as a package than our current setup.

So how would a hypothetical four party system work? The parties would have to form coalitions. These could be the same kind that we currently see - CW and FR, CR and E&J. But there are lots of other ways to organize the parties, and the current setup is not self-evidently the best one. A FR+CR coalition would be a libertarian's wet dream. An E&J+CW coalition would be wonderful for compassionate Christians (not Compassionate Conservatives specifically but those who like overseas promotion of American values as well as well-funded public social and education programs).

The point is not that the parties should split like this, but that these are the big strands of American politics. If the US government was organized differently, they might be viable. I think that our executive-headed system makes it difficult for more than two parties to grow very large, at least for more than one election.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

those are very interesting ideas, I'd like to give it a try. we are a mess right now and internally negotiated bills may have us enter a new age. give a little get a little

a liberal independent