29 October 2008

The Future of the Two Party System: Food for Thought

A number of conservative pundits have claimed that Sarah Palin is the future of the Republican party. That will leave the GOP with a solid constituency centered around core conservative issues like abortion, head-in-the-sand approach to energy policy, prayer in public schools, and anti-gay marriage. They might also retain some hard-core gun enthusiasts. My belief is that in doing so, they are going to chase away the majority of the fiscal conservatives, the more educated of their base, and the slightly right of center moderates and progressives. In effect, owning Sarah Palin's brand of politics will make the GOP a fringe party.

My question is, if the GOP is willing to not just embrace but to own the far right (in effect make the far right its "center"), will the Democratic Party benefit? Will the Dems shift more toward the right? Will moderates and "near right" conservatives shift to the Democratic Party? I think that depends on how flexible the Democrats are willing to be. Are they willing to go more conservative on issues like gun control, limits to abortions, and more cowboy conservative with respect to the military? I think they are willing to be flexible enough to cause a major and lasting shift.

This also seems to open up the field for the emergence of a third party (I'm thinking Greens) to pick up the far left liberals that a more moderate Democratic Party is willing to sacrifice.

Any thoughts?


  1. I think the GOP embrace of Palin will be short-lived. It's totally a novelty/star factor that is already fading. I think reports of a republican schism are a bit early, though we can always hope.

    I think it'd be great to have a strong 3rd party -- as you know -- and 4th and 5th and 18th, but the structural problems of it in the US are such that I think any ventures into 3rd partyism are hard to self-sustain (cf. that wikipedia aritcle I linked to in our original conversation on this). "1st past the post" voting REALLY hampers that. I was going to say, of course that means that the major 2 parties won't support a change to the system, but now that I think about it... there's a slight, SLIGHT chance that if there is a schism, that would lead people like the religious conservatives to support proportional or instant runoff voting... there may be hope yet.

    Problem with the Greens is that there seems to be almost NO town-and-gown coordination/solidarity in the US. In other countries, the progressive students and the working class are natural, if sometimes uneasy allies, with the students marching at the drop of a hat over social issues like the work week, minimum wage, etc. That is the basis of social democrat/Green parties, in my less-than-totally-informed opinion, in many other countries, whereas here, the Greens represent (on average) young, suburban middle-to-upper class white youths (and some of us black and hispanic folk what were raised in white suburbia) with little-to-NO coordination with the working class. That was my personal mission a couple years ago, to try and get the Greens and the African-American/Dems community in Ypsi-Ann Arbor together, but this "degree" thing got in the way...

  2. Well, I tend to think you are right about Palin being a flash in the pan, but it is also possible that she might fracture the far right and take them with her. That would make her faction the real fringe element.I would welcome a more moderate Republican Party, which I think is going to happen one way or another.

    I really don't know what it takes to make a viable third party and I don't know that you've convinced me of its necessity.

    As you are probably aware, students in this country are complacent, overindulged boobs. Oh wait. Did I say that out loud?