Is the American two-party system "in terminal decay"?

Andrew O’Hehir writes:

Is he right? Are both parties dying? Is the system dying? And if it dies, what comes next?

My own thinking is that we’ll still have “Democrats” and “Republicans” 50 years from now, but what those parties stand for will have changed, as it has changed many times since 1854. But, is there any possibility that this could lead to a completely new party system? If so, how will that come about?

I think it is more likely there will be a splintering among Republicans than among Democrats, and this year’s election may be the trigger for Republicans splintering.

Just another observation. Bernie Sanders was an independent. But no longer, at least officially. He has embraced being a Democrat in order to run for the presidency. So he at least has decided the party machinery is necessary and beneficial.

I’m not sure what Trump’s background is. Was he “officially” a member of any party back before he started running?

Yes – but Sanders clearly represents a massive previously unrepresented constituency which is now aroused and beginning to realize its strength. Either it’s going to play a role in the Dems similar to the Tea Party’s role in the Pubs, or it’s going to be the basis for a third-party movement.

I don’t think so.

I sometimes wonder if it’s surprisingly simple, there’s the GOP that formed its world view - and their version of the USA in that world view - before the Internet, and there’s the less parochial after.

What that means in terms of politics is an approaching moment when the critical mass of (say) under 30s out powers the dying old white guys …

FWIW, he donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, and he also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns.

Pollsters and political scientists don’t “assume” this. Its factually true. Most independents are reliable one-party voters. This is a pretty well known fact, so I have trouble taking an article seriously that brushes it off.

No, the system isn’t dying. No, both parties aren’t dying either. The Dems seem pretty strong atm in fact. It does seem to wax and wane, with the shift from left wing to right wing going back and forth. Currently the Republicans and their right wing have totally jumped the shark, but it wasn’t that long ago that it was the Dems and the left who had jumped it. I suppose it’s possible that the Republicans could so fragment that a new party arises, but I kind of doubt that will happen.

Certainly I agree that 50 years from now there will almost certainly be a Democratic and Republican party, but that they will almost certainly hold different positions than they do today. The US political landscape seems to be constantly in a state of flux, with shifts in the public’s perceptions and shifts in the stances of the parties. In 50 years neither party will be opposed to, say, gay marriage as that will be beyond the pale, IMHO, but something else will come up that the parties will contend with. They will both still play to their bases during their primaries then run to the center, where ever that center is by then, when it comes to the general election.

I’d sure hope so. I’d love to see extreme arms break off to the right and left, and maybe some “Mugwumps” in the middle. That way, if Repubs want to pursue issues like abortion, school prayer, lower taxes on the rich, etc, they could coordinate with the far right to do that. If Repubs wanted to push environmental stuff, they could try to get a majority with the Greens or Socialists. But for the basic work of running the damn country - you know - basically their frigging job! - the adults in the middle could work together to do just that.

I really do not understand so much of how our election and governing process actually works. The rules seem so byzantine, and so skewed towards the 2 parties, that I have no idea how a 3d party would gain enough of a foothold to get established.

“Likely”, you say? The Republican party structure is falling apart like a house of cards. There is open dissent and desperate attempts to assign and deflect blame as Trump steams on, splintering everything in his path, followed by his loyal gang of dissidents, misfits, and racists. It seems to be heading for open revolt with the party establishment. The Democrats may be having their problems, but no one has ever seen anything like what the Republicans are experiencing. At least Hillary and Bernie can get together and debate without the party establishment and the grown-up voters hiding their faces in their hands.

This will never, ever happen. In order for the center-right Republican party to form a coalition with a far right party, or a centrist party, there would have to actually be elected officials from that far-right party, or centrist party.

But if you’re a far-right candidate, what is the purpose of running as third/fourth/nth party candidate? Why not just run as a Republican, even though you’re more right-wing than most Republicans? Same thing with a left winger. What is the advantage of running on a third party ticket?

There is no advantage. Anyone who is serious about actually winning office will run on a major party ticket, because it brings you a built-in bloc of voters. If you were popular enough to win on a third party, then you’d be even better off running on a major party.

There are two types of parties in the United States. Those that exist to elect candidates to office, and those that exist as performance art or advocacy groups. If you’re a socialist who wants to run for office you don’t run under a socialist party, you run as a democrat. Even if you disagree with most Democrats, even if you’re way off in left field, you’re much better off as a Democrat.

Being a Democrat doesn’t oblige you to vote in any particular way, it doesn’t oblige you to pledge to support any other candidates, it doesn’t oblige you to affirm the party platform. It requires nothing of you. And this is because in the United States the parties are run by the elected officials and exist to serve them. In other countries you might join a party and if they like you they’ll put you forward as a candidate. In this country all you need to run as a Republican or Democrat is to simply declare yourself one. If you win the primary, congratulations, you’re the Republican candidate!

This is how Donald Trump is able to run the campaign he’s running. He doesn’t need permission from Reince Priebus to run as a Republican, despite being anathema to the Republican establishment all he has to do is win primaries.

We had a massive third party wave just a few years ago. It was called the Reform Party. You might have heard of them. And their major success was electing one candidate, Jesse Ventura. But it was completely unable to establish a nationwide presence, and was essentially nothing more than a way for vanity candidates to get a party affiliation. Which is funny, because you can do the exact same thing as a Democrat or Republican, except there’s no campaign organization to help you as a Reform party candidate. Ross Perot got 8% of the vote in 1996, and that was the last time the Reform Party was relevant.

So no, we should not expect to see any sort of third party emerging from the wreckage of the Trump/Cruz debacle. The Republican party belongs to whoever can muster enough votes to control it. If you can get the votes then it doesn’t matter what political ideology you have, and vice versa.

I mean, Trump might run as a third party candidate in 2016 if he gets screwed out of the Republican nomination. Could happen. But it won’t result in the formation of a third party, because all it would do is hand the election to the Democratic candidate, Trump would be running as a pure spoiler to get revenge on the Republican Establishment.

So we’ll see your random one-off third party candidates occasionally win a seat or two. But that doesn’t make a real third party, because you have to have more than one person in office to actually be a political party. Those candidates are actually de facto independents, not third party candidates, because they don’t have the backing of other members of their party who will support them.

And so third party movements will never go anywhere. The real play when there are issues that are unaddressed by either major party is not to form a third party, but to stage a takeover of one of the major parties. The Democrats won’t pay attention to your pet cause? Get elected as a Democrat, campaign for Democrats who sign on to your cause, mobilize the activists and voters until your pet issue is part of the Democratic core. If you can’t do that, then I guess your issue wasn’t that popular anyway.

And it just isn’t true that the Republicans are imploding. Sure, the Presidential race is a disaster. But they control 30 state legislatures, Democrats only 11. The control the Senate and the House. There are 31 Republican governors.

So this might be the breeze that sends the house of cards tumbling down. But the Republicans are in a very strong position, measured by how many elected positions they dominate.

At the federal and state levels, we have a single-member-district, first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system for electing legislators. So if 20% of your state’s voters vote Green, probably the Greens get no seats in the legislature at all, because there are not enough Greens in any one district to form a majority or plurality. That tends to freeze out third parties (and force everyone who wants to participate seriously into one of two “big tent” parties) – tends to; Canada has a similar system and the New Democratic Party has been a strong third party for decades, though it has never won control of the national government; likewise with the Liberal Democrats in Britain. So it’s not impossible.

That might perhaps constitute an argument for proportional representation.

Two party system in America seems like a stable state.

No, having a two-party system in America seems like a stable state; but each party’s nature and politics and demographics can change dramatically over time. (Buckminster Fuller used to do a trick on the lecture circuit: He had a length of cotton rope and a length of hemp and a length of silk spliced together in one cord, tied a loose knot at the cotton end and slid it along to the silk end – is it still the same knot?)

His own money or someone else’s?

I’m not saying these two particular incarnations are stable. Just that 2 parties are stable.

Looks like his own, if I’m reading it right.

Star Trek Transporter debate! :smiley:

So long as only one party can control the executive branch we will continue to have only two major parties. Each party will move left or right to maintain a strong enough voter base to capture the Presidency.

I’d rather a parliamentary system, that other countries have, as coalition control of the executive branch opens up the possibility of viable third parties.

For now we are stuck with Democracy 1.0 The later versions are better in my opinion, but not better by enough we should be opting to rewrite everything to be able to adopt Democracy 2.0 Maybe someday, probably not in my lifetime.