There are rumblings again that there may be a move afoot and the environment ripe for a third political party to become viable. Recent polling indicates that the Tea Party is more popular than either the Democrats or the Republicans.
It occurs to me that even three parties are not enough. There needs to be at least four political parties and even that probably will not produce a political home for everyone.
When Ross Perot launched a third party presidential bid in 1992 he split the Republican vote sufficiently to allow Bill Clinton to defeat George “HW” Bush without garnering half the vote. The current wisdom is that the Republican Party is sufficiently fractured to allow such an anomaly to occur again, presumably with the Republican far right fielding a “third party” candidate. Such a situation would seem to be nothing but good news for Democrats.
However, I’m reminded of Will Rogers statement that “he was not a member of an organized political party. He was a Democrat.” The health care reform debate has made perfectly clear that the Democratic Party is still in a state of amusing disarray and chaos, about as capable of creative and effective governing as I am of safely navigating a space ship.
Former Vermont governor, presidential candidate and Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean is the most vocal of the emerging Democratic flame throwers. Dean’s assertion that the health care debate has deteriorated to producing a bill that is little more than an insurance company Christmas present threatens to split the Democratic party in two. Dean’s contention that “reconciliation”, the procedure George Bush used to ram through the last round of tax cuts for upper income Americans, should have been the procedure used to parse the start of health care reform. In fact, Dean was espousing that philosophy early in the debate. In retrospect he has been proven correct.
But herein lies the contention that at least four political parties would create a form of equilibrium. There would or could be a fairly radical side to each of the existing dominant parties leveling out the impact of the “split vote” factor. And then again, who is to say that four parties is the right number. If three or four are possible it would seem “the more the merrier.”
There are countries around the world where it seems family members have their own political party. In Israel and other democracies, it is necessary for the elected prime minister to create a coalition from several parties having elected representation to be able to govern. When the prime minister is unable to create that coalition and brings the government to a screeching inoperative halt, there is a call for a new election and a new government to be formed.
Certainly, two prevailing parties, each fielding a slate of candidates, makes for a neat and symmetrical electoral format. It is easy for pundits, commentators and real journalists to break the country into red states and blue states, but what’s wrong with green and yellow states, too? It is becoming increasingly obvious that the diversity of political opinion in the country is becoming too disparate to be housed under just two political roofs.
I don’t know what the correct number of political parties is, or if there is one. More complex is the issue of what the criterion are for getting on a ballot, or probably more importantly for getting government matching campaign funds.
John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesdays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.