If America had a multiparty system, wouldn't moderates rule?

I’ve often argued on this board that a multiparty political system would be better for America than the two-party system we have almost always (in different formations) had, and that our winner-take-all single-member-district electoral system naturally produces. We could have a multiparty system if we adopted proportional representation, instant-runoff voting (or similar alternatives, some polynerds argue over the details there), and electoral fusion.

Now, at this point many moderate/centrist Americans might object, “But wouldn’t that empower the extremists?!” :eek:

Well, yes, it would; but, the center would rule, and more firmly than it does not.

Run this thought experiment: We institute pro-multipartisan reforms, and the main two big-tent political parties respond to that pressure and break up along their natural fault lines. The left wing of the Democrats splits off and merges with the Green Party, and the Working Families Party, etc., to form one big new left-progressive party. The right wing of the GOP, the Tea Party wing, splits off and merges with the Constitution Party and the America First Party to form one big new RW-conservative party. And the remainders of the Democratic and Republican parties merge.

So, now we have a three-party system: The Lefty-Hippie Commie Treehugging Moonbat Party; the Bigoted Pig-Ignorant Troglodyte Right-Wingnut Party; and the Squishy-Spineless Wishy-Washy Centrist Moderate Mugwump Party. (And, these will be the official names.) And we will assume that in a given legislature (Congress, state, city council) each of these has roughly 30% of the seats (the others going to smaller parties that did not merge with others, such as the Libertarians and the Socialists). And we will assume reasonable party discipline and ideological homogeneity in all three, in the sense that most representatives in a given party’s caucus will vote the same way and defend the same positions most of the time.

In this lineup . . . the Mugwumps rule. They are not a majority, but they hold the balance of power by their position. Because there is no majority party, no bill ever gets passed, no thing ever gets done, unless at least two parties support it. And the Moonbats and the Wingnuts will hardly ever agree on anything. Therefore no bill ever will pass unless the Mugwumps support it. They will be in a position to vote with the Moonbats on this issue or the Wingnuts on that issue as it pleases them, and in a position to control all compromise-negotiations from the center. (Remember, we don’t have a parliamentary system, so transparty coalitions do not have to be enduring or general, but can be issue-specific.) Unlike in our present system, where the Dems and the Pubs are always fighting over the center while at the same time being pulled away from it by their far-wings, sending the balance of power wobbling back and forth like crazy, sometimes.

OTOH, and again unlike in our present system, the extremists will always have a real voice, and can’t complain they’re being frozen out. They can stand up and defend their ideas in their own terms on the floor and in committees and on C-SPAN – and sometimes, not often but sometimes, they will succeed in talking the Mugwumps and/or a majority of the public around to their way of thinking, or at least into experimenting with it.

It all makes for a steady course of fully informed moderation, a much more intelligent body politic that always considers all options. A permanently broad, wide Overton Window with a definite center.

Of course, there are many other possible formations into which a post-PR party system might shake out, but they are all center-seeking for the same mechanical reasons.

Most of the world’s democracies post-WWII have PR and multiparty systems, and none has yet gone communist or fascist as a result.

As a liberal, my impression is that when the democrats win they govern based on the agenda of the most conservative democrats and when the republicans win they govern based on the agenda of the most conservative republicans. For whatever reason our politics is to the right of our elections and opinion polls on policy. I don’t think that would change in a multi-party system.

Well, would there be any other changes to how our legislative branch runs based on the multiparty system, or would the processes be exactly the same?

I’m curious how a Mugwump party would be viable or cohesive.

Reps and Dems get most of their fundraising from “the base”. Is there such thing as a moderate base? Is it passionate enough to donate funds to sustain a political party?

Reps and Dems enforce party loyalty through their primaries (and perhaps DNC / RNC funding), using them to purge disloyal members. Would the Mugwumps be able to do this effectively since their whole party is basically based on flip-flopping anyways? My understanding is that moderates don’t usually “engage” until general elections anyways, so Mugwump primaries might be largely non-events anyways.

Also, I think the breakdown would be more like 40-35-21, not 30-30-30. Cite. To get their way, conservatives have to win ~1/3 of the moderates, whereas liberals would have to win over ~9/10 moderates to get their way.

Yes. People like Bloomberg would provide plenty of financial support for such a party.

I don’t know about “people like” Bloomberg, but I would have thought that Bloomberg himself would have aligned nicely with the left-wing, gun-grabbing, tree-hugging, tell-you-how-much-soda-to-drink, and pat-minorities-down-at-every-opportunity party.

As for actual moderates, particularly the obscenely-wealthy ones, what’s preventing them from backing moderate candidates in both parties right now? I personally haven’t witnessed an overwhelming outpouring of financial support for blue-dog democrats or moderate republicans …

Bloomberg if one ignores the trivial social issues which has drawn the ire of conservatives is at heart economically centre-right politician at best, devoted to the interests of Wall Street.

If there’s no majority party, ever, therefore no “majority leader,” some rules would have to change, I suppose. At present the majority party gets to chair all the committees, which is a big deal. I suppose under a multiparty system, each committee would have to elect its own chair, or the chairmanships would be doled out according to some negotiated formula.

How much “economic” policy does a mayor, even of NYC, really determine? And while the social issues may seem “trivial” to you, there are lots of people (including Bloomberg himself) that don’t see them that way: Mayor Mike Bloomberg Will Spend $12 Million to Push Gun Control Through Congress

Here’s a better one (based not on self-ID as “conservative,” etc., but on answers to issue-directed polling questions). The “Mostly Republican” groups total only 20% of the population, and that includes the Main Street Republicans, who IMO would be more likely to go with the Mugwumps than with the Wingnuts.

The answer I always give (sorry, as I have said this before) is that in a multi-party system, the parties would do some down-and-dirty horse-trading, giving away the farm on some issues, in order to win their own narrow agenda. Even a “liberal” environmentalist party, for instance, might be willing to vote for pro-life legislation, so long as the pro-life party was willing to vote with them on some anti-pollution legislation.

No one’s interests would be safe. Everything would be up for a swap.

Hence negotiated outcomes, unlike what we have now, which is 'Fuck you, I want it all."

Hell, I’ve always been more of a fan of the Westminsterian system. When it goes well there’s more direction to government, while the vote-of-confidence issue keeps the party in power from getting too far out in front.


Plenty especially considering the mayor negotiates with unions, manages public services, and so forth.

I mean trivial in the sense of having any long-term policy impact.

meh ruling from a minority is a recipe for watered down do nothing legislation.

Blue Dog Democrats are not moderates. They’re conservatives. On fact, many of them were so conservative that they became among the mist conservative Republicans.

And someday they might go PR too, eventually. PR is at any rate an active issue in the UK and has been for decades (in the U.S., no one even seems to know what PR is). Though that would present the problem that in a parliamentary system you need a majority to form a government, so every government would have to be a two-party-or-more coalition.


I think you’re missing my point, which is that there isn’t going to be much of any financial support for the centrist party. Your counterpoint was “People like Bloomberg would provide plenty of financial support for such a party.” That’s a crazy fantasy without a basis in reality. In the real world, the only thing I know of that Bloomberg has provided “plenty of financial support for” is the defeat of centrists and moderates and the election of radical leftists (on the gun issue).

Compromise, quid pro quo, democracy. Still, nothing gets done unless a majority agrees. And these parties would be more ideologically homogeneous than the ones we have now; every one would have some points on which it would compromise under no circumstances. Even the Mugwumps would have a list of Moonbat and Wingnut agenda items which, it would be clearly understood, the Mugwumps would never support in trade for anything, because they’re just too far out there.

And as a conservative, living in the district of a Blue Dog Democrat, I can tell you that I consider him a moderate, not a conservative, and that’s pretty much the view of all the conservatives I know.


That’s an interesting article. I’m not sure what makes you think it’s “better” than self-ID, but … whatever. You seem to think that the right-wing party will be limited to just ~10% of the electorate. I’m not convinced your article supports that theory (if that’s the argument you’re trying to make).