I saw a funny tweet the other day. At least, it was funny to me.
“The two-party system is broken. The two no longer truly represent the people. It’s time for a third party.”
We always want to break large groups of humans into different camps, usually two:
Male v. Female
White v. Black
Obama was a great president v. Obama was the greatest president*
Ford v. Chevy
Pro-choice v. Anti-choice
Nike v. Reebok
Canon v. Nikon
Beer v. Wine
Eagles v. Cowboys
Christian v. anyone else
Whatever the topic, all of humanity can be neatly sliced into two sides. This simplifies conversation, simplifies thinking, draws nice, clear lines. It’s bullshit, we all know it’s bullshit, but we do it so we don’t have to think too much.
In the case of my Twitter (unintended) comedian, he was proposing a party to represent fiscally conservative and socially liberal people. That’s all well and good, but now we need a fourth party for fiscally liberal and socially conservative. But what about fiscal conservatives who are socially liberal, but draw the line on readily available marijuana? Fiscal socialists who are opposed to gay marriage?
Taken to its logical conclusion, every single person would be a unique political party. Otherwise, god forbid, we would all have to choose the party that MOST CLOSELY RESEMBLES our own thinking and beliefs.
And that’s what we have now. Two parties, diametrically opposed. We choose Republican or Democrat, whichever is closer to us, knowing that a “protest vote” for any third party is tantamount to not voting. Only the two parties have any real chance of winning any elections.
Is it perfect? Of course not. Each of the two parties is nothing more than a huge collection of individuals who, all together, hold their noses and vote one way or the other. I don’t imagine that any of us fully agree with what our party stands for or what our elected officials have done, but we vote one party because we know that the other party is absolutely wrong.
What’s the saying? “The perfect is the enemy of the good”?
Let’s go back to splitting things up even finer.
Any third party would, by definition, weaken either the Republicans or Democrats. In 2016, a split between the Hillary camp and the Bernie camp may well have cost the Democrats the White House (and Senate). The Republicans, despite a year-long civil war among a dozen different camps, voted as a homogenous block in the election. Little things like policy and platform didn’t get in the way of party loyalty and the Republicans won.
If a third party rises to take votes away from the Democratic party, then neither will win anything ever again. On the other hand, the Tea Party came up in the 2010 elections but DID NOT split the Republican Party. Whatever took place in the primaries, Republicans and Tea Party presented a unified front in the general elections, and managed to win handily.
But let’s work forward. Let’s introduce a fourth party. A fifth. Let’s ultimately have 50 different political parties. What then?
In the end, these 50 political parties will argue and negotiate and form alliances to consolidate power. They will bring together as many factions as possible, because the largest “single group” will have the most power, the best shot at winning elections. No one little party can possibly win, but a large enough affiliation will definitely win.
You know what we call those large affiliations? The Republican and Democratic Parties.
And that’s the joke.
* nod to Stephen Colbert