The case against minor parties

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    • #373420
      Jim Lane
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      • Total Posts: 711

      This post started as a draft of a reply to a comment by @hasslecat (link) in a thread about Biden.  I decided to make it a separate thread because it’s broader than the 2020 election.

      The triggering comment was:

      Most Americans would be shocked to learn that we once had no real political parties, or that we once had more than two parties.

      We didn’t have “real political parties” in the modern sense, with national conventions and centralized governing committees.  Even while George Washington was still President, however, there developed two competing factions or sects that effectively became political parties by the time of the country’s third presidential election.

      As for “we once had more than two parties,” the United States has never had a true multi-party system.  There were only a few flashes in the pan:

      • In 1856, after the Whigs had collapsed, two parties vied to replace them as the “other” major party to compete against the Democrats.  The American Party (colloquially, the Know-Nothings) followed the Whig strategy of trying to straddle the slavery issue, but hoped to get votes from xenophobia, emphasizing opposition to immigration.  The Republican Party emphasized opposition to the expansion of slavery to new states.  Thus, 1856 was in part a fight for second place, which the Republicans won.  (The popular vote was: Democratic 45%, Republican 33%, Know-Nothing 22%.)  The Know-Nothings effectively vanished.
      • In 1860, the Democratic Party split.  Northern Democrats and Southern Democrats, unable to agree on a national candidate, each nominated their own ticket.  There was also a Constitutional Union Party, making its first and last appearance.  Four candidates won electoral votes.
      • In 1912, the incumbent President, Republican William Howard Taft, was unpopular.  He won only two primaries.  Fortunately for him, the primary system was then in its infancy.  Most of the convention delegates were picked by party bosses, who preferred Taft over the popular choice, Theodore Roosevelt, who had won nine of the fourteen primaries.  Roosevelt then ran in the general election as the candidate of a new Progressive Party.  He finished behind Woodrow Wilson but ahead of Taft.    The Progressive Party dissolved.  In 1916, Roosevelt endorsed the Republican nominee, Charles Evans Hughes.
      • In 1948, Democrats unhappy with their party’s move toward civil rights formed the States’ Rights Democratic Party (colloquially, the Dixiecrats).  Its candidate, Strom Thurmond, finished third in the popular vote and in electoral votes.  The Dixiecrats then either returned to the Democratic Party or, like Thurmond, became Republicans.
      • In 1960 there were unpledged electors on a few states’ ballots.  Fourteen of them were elected, and voted for Harry F. Byrd, but they were not part of a formal political party.
      • In 1968, George Wallace ran as the candidate of the newly formed American Independent Party, finishing third in the popular vote (14%) and the electoral vote.  That party was not a factor in any other election.

      And there you have it.  I think I’ve covered every instance in which candidates of more than two political parties won electoral votes.  (There were four such candidates in 1824, but they were all from the same party, the Democratic-Republicans.)  So it’s misleading to say that we once had more than two parties, as if it were an established system.  We’ve had a two-party system except for a handful of one-time exceptions.  From 1864 through 2016, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have finished in the top two spots, in the popular vote and the electoral vote, in every year except 1912.  That exception was attributable to Roosevelt’s personal popularity rather than to the strength of his new party, which was just his personal vehicle.

      This is a big part of the reason I can’t take the Green Party or the Movement for a People’s Party seriously.  There are powerful institutional factors that support a two-party system.  For example, the civil rights movement didn’t succeed through the vehicle of a new political party.  It succeeded because advocates working within the Democratic Party effected a historic shift, in which the party that had been more accommodating of slavery became the party that implemented many of the civil rights movement’s goals.

      This history doesn’t prove that it’s utterly impossible to establish a new party that will be electorally significant. It does give reason to believe that that project faces enormous obstacles.  Further evidence is found in the failures of both the Libertarian Party and the Green Party to rise out of the low single digits, despite decades of trying.

      Progressives who choose the minor-party route have to deal with those obstacles. Why take on that additional burden?  There are also obstacles to working within the Democratic Party, but people like Bernie and AOC have perceived that the minor-party route is vastly more difficult.

    • #373465
      gordyfl
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 1,357

      I’ve donated to 4 presidential candidates in the general election and those candidates all lost. Do I regret donating to those 4 candidates? Not at all. Do I regret voting for those 9 losers? Nope. I look at it as “one person, one vote”. How others vote is their choice whether they pick the winner or the loser.

      In 2016 I voted for Jill Stein. I liked Dr. Jill Stein. Do I wish more people voted for her? Of course. But there was no way I was going to vote for Hillary or Trump.

       

    • #373480
      djean111
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 5,701

      I suspect Bernie and AOC will find that out if/when Biden “wins”.

      You not taking a third party seriously is only relevant to YOU.   No one here is looking to you or anyone else to help them decide who to vote for, or whether to vote at all.

      Folks here have explained time and time again that at this time they know a third party will not win.  We also know that the Democratic Party has taken a quite open and clear stance against progressives – IMO they like to keep a few in Congress as tiny glimmers of false hope, Pelosi can always block them from doing any real harm to Wall Street and the MIC, but would be happy as fuck to primary them out of town.   Biden, when he is lucid, boasts of “beating the Socialist” and has assured everybody he will not be moving anywhere to the left.  We accept that, and are not playing that particular game, that’s all.

      Hey, according the the MSM, Biden is polling well ahead of Trump!  You should relax!  Many of us feel that we will all lose no matter who wins, we have seen that there is no seat at the table for progressives, and that’s that.

    • #373511
      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 19,446

      .

      It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

      You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton

    • #373541
      bazukhov
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 2,969

      I prefer Demarchy or Sortition where we would have a good chance of having people in charge who know what they’re doing rather than counting on a sort of handyman who knows something about a few things, not much about others, and nothing about many.

      Tell me, great captain, how do the angels sleep when the devil leaves his porch light on? Tom Waites

    • #373548
      eridani
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 7,946

      Not necessarily a bad thing, but what else are they doing to advance their policy goals?  Maybe something, but I rarely see examples of successful activism poster anywhere.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

    • #373565
      djean111
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 5,701

      Or just plain stupid.  Voting for what may be eight more years of Vichy Dem austerity and war is ridiculous.  Especially since the Vichy Dems are pretty much saying Yep.  Austerity and war!  And their candidate has been trying to slash Social Security for pretty much his entire corrupt career.  No sane reason to vote for that.  In fact, Biden’s record and stated intentions and list of cabinet and other positions being floated are more a reason to just go ahead and vote for Trump  Four years of awful or eight years of awful.  THAT is the choice “electoral politics” has given us.

      For me, the choice is opting out of this particular round of electoral politics.   All corrupt and rigged anyway.  Since the Greens won’t win, voting for them is likely on a par with not voting, and nothing can be pulled out of any vote for the blue ass that would make voting for Biden a reasonable choice.  No matter how many precinct captains are roaming the streets.  At least none have come to my door this year.  Thankfully.  The phone calls are irritating enough.   So nope.


      @eridani

    • #373992
      Jim Lane
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 711

      @gordyfl

      Your post exemplifies one strain of the “vote minor party” school of thought.  It recognizes that the vote won’t affect the outcome of the election, but calls for supporting the minor party for other reasons.

      My post was addressed to a different strain.  Although, as @djean111 says, virtually no one thinks that a minor-party candidate will win this year, there are people who advocate such a vote as a way of building toward a hypothetical future victory.  Oversimplifying somewhat, the thesis is that scores of millions of people support progressive policies, that rampant electoral fraud prevents them from giving the Democratic nomination to a progressive candidate, that another party can attract those voters (including those who are currently non-voters), and that this mass support will produce a win in the general election.

      That’s worth addressing, because it’s not a straw-man argument.  Certainly Nick Brana of the MPP believes it.  Heck, he acts as if he thinks the People’s Party (which currently doesn’t even exist) is already the favorite to elect the President in 2024.  Even if we assume that most of that is spin, and he doesn’t really expect to win that quickly, he and other MPP advocates do expect their new party to become a major party.

      To do that, the People’s Party or a surging Green Party would have to become a major party, either alongside the Democratic Party and the Republican Party or in place of one of them.  The latter alternative isn’t plausible.  Neither major party shows any sign of going away anytime soon.  Each is doing much better than the Whig Party was just before it dissolved.  That leaves the alternative of becoming an additional major party in a system with three major parties.  The point of my post was to discount that prospect, based on the unbroken record of failure of such attempts in the past.

      The vast majority of voters in all races focus on the question of who will fill the office.  Nevertheless, there will still be people who vote for minor parties for other reasons.  My prediction: In every Presidential election for at least the next 20 years, there will be a Libertarian Party candidate and a Green Party candidate, but none of them will win so much as a single electoral vote.

    • #373996
      Jim Lane
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 711

      @ohiobarbarian

      The Framers were big on the separation of powers.  It does make it harder for the government to become an oppressor, but it also makes it harder for the government to do good things.  My judgment from the experience of this experiment is that it hasn’t been an improvement.  If I could wave a magic wand, I would switch to a parliamentary system, in which the party or coalition with a legislative majority automatically assumes executive power as well.

      But there are no magic wands.  Even less-drastic changes, like addressing the problem of money in politics, are dauntingly difficult.

      I know you see major change coming as a result of some kind of mass uprising.  IIRC you’ve predicted that either 2020 or 2024 will be the last election under the current system.  To my mind, that’s completely unrealistic.  This isn’t France 1789 or Russia 1917 or anywhere close to it.

      We might see the lesser upheaval of a new constitutional convention under Article V of the current Constitution.  Even in that case, the delegates would be chosen under the current system.  Such a convention would not propose a new system.  Its proposals would be things like a federal balanced-budget amendment.  In fact, such an amendment, which would be a disaster for progressive policies and for good government in general, is a real danger.  Even in the blue states, it might be ratified by state legislators who cynically and selfishly hoped to force incumbent Senators and Representatives into unpopular votes (raise taxes or cut spending) and then succeed them.

      A major systemic change that would make third parties viable is simply not in the cards.

    • #374033
      djean111
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 5,701

      yada yada yada yada shut the fuck up and vote for the blue.   Larded with condescension.

      And if a major systemic change that would make third parties viable is simply not in the cards, then you really should accept that some people will somehow not be swayed by your condescending vote for the blue there is no other choice faux dicta.  You persist in casting this into a “they will NEVER WIN” situation, and we fucking right well know that.  We just see no point in choosing between bowls of excrement.   People here tend to say how they are going to vote.  We know how you are going to vote.  And it looks like Biden/Vichy Dem will get to inflict war and austerity on us, so why not leave it alone, let it go?  Or is your mission to attempt to stamp out third parties?   Newsflash – as long as we have Wall Street choosing our candidates for us, as long as the choices are bowl of crap #1 and bowl of crap #2, there will be people who refuse to make that choice, so there will be third parties.  If you are still trying to sell that Biden/Vichy Dems/the Democratic Party can be pushed to the left from within – good grief.

      And if there is not really major support for progressive policies, then stop whinging about what we few progressives do.  Literally none of your business.  You have no influence over that.  Acceptance would be a good thing.  And if you cannot accept that people will not vote as you tell them to vote, then perhaps you would have a glimmer of understanding why some will never accept the neo-liberal neocon corporate warmongering Democrats and vote for them.  There is nothing there to vote for.  Biden has already assured Wall Street and the MIC that he is Their Guy, forever and ever.  Trying to sugarcoat that to make it palatable is obscene.

      If there was no third party to vote for – I simply would not vote.  Or write in someone who is decent.  I certainly will not vote for someone with as dreadful a record as Biden/Harris have, nor will I vote for a ticket that outright promises war and austerity.    We do not have a democracy, money picks the candidates, I have no responsibility to play along and pretend.

      The vast majority of voters in all races focus on the question of who will fill the office.  Nevertheless, there will still be people who vote for minor parties for other reasons.  My prediction: In every Presidential election for at least the next 20 years, there will be a Libertarian Party candidate and a Green Party candidate, but none of them will win so much as a single electoral vote.

      You should accept that.  And move on.   Not your problem, really.  And no one is keeping that “vast majority of voters” from voting for someone they want to vote for!  Win, win!    Sorry if progressives wanting progressive legislation don’t fit into that sorta vacuous reasoning, we have “other reasons” – sound ominous, but we have explained a jillion times, sorry if you still do not get it.  but there ya go.

      Also want to point out that some have confused “chosen by the Democratic Party, and they are proud of that” with “democracy”.  Quite the opposite, really!

    • #374067
      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 19,446

      @jimlane An Article V Convention? That’s a stronger possibility in your mind than a military coup and maybe revolution? The oligarchy for whom you vote will never allow that.

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. —American Declaration of Independence

      The purpose of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.–French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen

      Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.–Mao

      History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes.–Mark Twain

      Winter is coming and Ragnarok is only months or years behind, and yet you cannot perceive that strong possibility because you carefully keep yourself in the bubble that you call “reality-based.” All it takes is the government losing control of the Army, and if you think that can’t happen here, then you are echoing the thoughts of Lord North, Louis Bourbon, and Nicholas Romanov.

      And even if you’re right, your reward for your Democratic Party loyalty will be to see Kamala Harris go down to defeat before someone much, much worse than Donald Trump. Which will make this nation’s fate only bloodier.

      You don’t want to believe that, either. It doesn’t matter. What happens will happen.

      It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

      You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton

    • #374116
      Jim Lane
      Participant
      • Total Posts: 711

      @ohiobarbarian

      A convention must be convened if called for by two-thirds of the states.  The threshold is currently 34 (it goes to 35 if DC and Puerto Rico become states).  Already 28 states have called for a convention to propose a balanced-budget amendment.  The proponents might get six more states, or they might try to get what they want from the Supreme Court by pointing to various generalized calls for a convention that have been passed in decades gone by and never rescinded (link to AP story on the subject).

      How would the oligarchs feel about this?  You apparently use the phrase “the oligarchs” to encompass everyone from Rand Paul to Barack Obama.  People who are capable of discerning the differences within that group will see that there is some support and some opposition.  The right-wingers love the idea.  A prohibition on deficit spending would force major cuts to the social safety net.

      So, yes, I think an Article V convention is far more likely than a military coup or a violent revolution.  But it won’t be a convention that either you or I would root for.  It won’t propose an amendment to establish a right to health care for all.  It won’t even try to undo Citizens United.  It might try to undo Roe v. Wade but that amendment would be blocked by the 13 bluest states.  The real threat is the balanced-budget amendment, which might actually be ratified.

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