What would US politics be like if...

…by law there was an even amount of democrats and republicans in the Senate and Congress? You don’t need to say it would never happen, because I know that - this is a thought experiment, not a suggestion for what should happen. But if it could happen…

Suppose there was a massive political shift, and the constitution was amended to state that from now on there had to be an even amount of democrats and republicans representing every state (I suppose this would also mean there could be no third-party people elected too) and for whatever reason it was nearly impossible to go back to the old way of doing things. For the senate this would mean that every state was required to elect one democrat and one republican. For congress there would be some redistribution/additions so that every state would have an even amount of congresspeople and that 1/2 of them would be from each party.

What happens then? Which of the following would be most likely?

a. this bring progress to an absolute standstill? If so, for how long after they realized that they weren’t going to be able change the amendment?


b. unions and other lobbyists would do their level best to get people elected that would do their bidding under the guise of them being from the correct party, resulting in an influx of “in name only” republicans and democrats, making a mockery of the intent of the new law?


c. Democrats and republicans would grumble for a while, but ultimately resign themselves to the fact that they would have to work with the other party in order to get things done?


d. Other. Please elaborate if you choose this option.

I’d like to think that C would be the most likely result, but I’m pretty sure it would end up being B, with people pretending to be in a particular party but consistently voting with the other side.

Each party would have absolute control over half of the set of offices. Each party would decide who got to run and thus be elected. Politicians would switch between parties as necessary; buying approval from the party in order to do so. The two parties would act as two factions of a single party and the US would effectively have a communist government.

I agree with CaveMike. Party affiliation would depend on which party had an open seat, rather than any kind of ideology or political beliefs. It would pull both parties to whatever the center of gravity of their current orbits is. IOW, eventually the only difference between them would be the name.

I agree with the first bit, but don’t see how the second follows.

Actually, I think the opposite would happen. It would be like a one-party state – such as the solid Democratic post-reconstruction South – in which the formal party itself became an appendage to actual politics and policy making.

Politicians would form informal coalitions, which would essentially take the place of the formal parties as far as the actual issues go. Sub-factions of the official parties would become the effective parties and they would operate across the formal party lines.

In the end, there would be very little difference from what we have now. It would just be more complicated.

Right. People don’t believe the things they believe because they’re Democrats or Republicans. They’re Democrats or Republicans because they believe the things they believe. So a population that supports tax cuts, rolling back government, and fighting against abortion and the “gay agenda”, is going to vote for somebody who supports tax cuts, rolling back government, and fighting against abortion and the “gay agenda”, whether he has an R or a D after his name.

The two parties would effectively be one party – separate in name only. The parties never need to compete or interact during elections since they have a guaranteed set of seats. This would encourage the parties to collude, eventually becoming one logical party (with two different well-known factions). There are already accusations that the two parties collude particularly to work against 3rd-parties. Without any competition between them, they would have no reason not to collude on everything.

How exactly does the OP envision elections to work? Consider a senate seat is up for election It is a seat reserved by the Democrats so that ballot cannot contain a Republican or a 3rd-party:

Does it have one Democrat candidate? Then it isn’t really a free election. Or does it contain several Democrats like in a primary? In either case, the party controls which candidates are allowed to run. A potential candidate just needs to convince the party bosses to let him run and he is almost guaranteed victory. How does a voter actually influence who is the winner?

This sounds like a communist system except that you have two parties controlling half of the seats instead of a single-party controlling all of them. But even in a single-party system, there are internal factions that compete and compromise. In the system proposed by the OP, these internal factions would be formalized and exposed.

Wouldn’t it be more likely for the parties to split into many different factions? Ie, the “conservative party” might not all toe the line in regards to abortion and the gay agenda but strongly support less government and less taxation?

If that would happen, I’d be all over it.

How would that be any different/better than what we have now? The effective “parties” would just be at a different level than the official parties.

To me it would be better because it’s less centralized government. If I could actually cast my vote for a candidate that I firmly believed in almost all of his ideals instead of voting for the candidate that I only stand behind about half of what he/she is selling. It’s would almost be more like a State government than a central Federal one. And I think you misunderstand the “official” party jive. The “official” party would be the one most popular of the many probable sections of R or D.

More choice is always better than less, in my eyes

No it isn’t. It’s just as centralized as before, except that you’re adding an extra layer of complexity to the party system.

Why do you think you would get this degree of choice? I suspect what would happen is that you would end up with liberals and conservatives joining up with Republicans and Democrats wherever there was an opening, and the liberal Democrats and Republicans would caucus and the conservative Democrats and Republicans would caucus. There would be an unofficial liberal leadership followed by both liberal Democrats and Republicans and an unofficial conservative leadership followed by both conservative Democrats and Republicans. This wouldn’t be very dissimilar to the party system we had prior to the Regan era. You would still have to cast a vote for a candidate you only partially agreed with.

I don’t get what you’re trying to say here. State governments generally operate on the same party system that the federal government does.

No, if the constitution required that all offices be split between Democrats and Republicans, then the Democratic and Republican parties have been granted official status. Those are the official parties.

[qutoe]More choice is always better than less, in my eyes

You’d end up with the same choices as before, but perhaps it would be more difficult to understand them.

The added layer of complexity would only be seen by the politicians though. If Joe Schmo could vote his heart instead of trying to read between the lines on HIS issues, we’d all be better off.

I mention State government because although it is still centralized (2 party), you are much more aware of what will help you (at the State level) than what the Fed’s are trying to do as a whole.

The reality of it would probably end up being a union of sorts between a few of these fractions in order to garner enough support for election. The kicker might be that the people would have more say so in which fractions are supported.

There would be even more lines to read between. Joe Schmo would be faced with substantially more complexity and perhaps less information to resolve it.

I don’t believe that this is true at all. In fact, because of various factors, such as less press coverage of state politics, and lack of sources of detailed information, it can be even more difficult to understand the consequences of voting at a state level. State and local governments are far more opaque and corrupt than the federal government is.

I think you mean “faction.”

And what you are describing is essentially the same as a political party.

How would it be any different from now?

If you can’t see it then you just can’t see it. Right now you either vote D, R or Ind.

As I stated things you’d have factions (fractions could be used just as well) from both parties to get more centralized and probably phase out the 2 political extremes.

You apparently do not know the meaning of the word “communist.”

Communism does not mean rule by a single party, it means communal ownership of the means of production. Although all states that have aspired to communism (none, I think, have ever claimed to have fully achieved it) have been single party states, and it may, arguably, be the case that communism could only ever be achieved or seriously pursued in a single-party, undemocratic state, there have been plenty of single party states that were in no way communistic, either in their reality or their professed ideals. Nazi Germany, Franco’s Spain and Fascist Italy are obvious examples that come to mind. All of their rulers were very explicitly anti-communist (and the Nazis, of course, did their best to destroy the Soviet Union, which did profess communist ideals). Furthermore, I do not see any contradiction in the idea of a state that is ruled by a single party, but is neither communistic or fascistic in terms of its economy and civil liberties (although I can’t think of any good examples offhand, and it may be that such a situation would be inherently unstable in practice).

Yes, but in our system you don’t have to blindly vote for the party. You can vote for the person who best represents your viewpoint, whether that person is a Republican or Democrat. It happens to turn out that in most places, more liberal people tend to be Democrats, so if you’re a liberal it turns out that you mostly vote Democrats, and vice versa for conservatives and Republicans. But that’s not because Democrats are obligated to be liberals, just that liberal candidates choose to run as Democrats and conservative candidates choose to run as Republicans.

Back before the 70s, there was no Republican party in the South. Everyone was a Democrat. That wasn’t because they were liberals, rather they were conservatives and segregationists. And so the Democratic party had two wings, the northern liberal urban wing, and the southern conservative rural wing. Conservative southerners routinely ran and won elections as Democrats. And so the real election wasn’t the general election, because it was a foregone conclusion that the winner would be a Democrat. The real election was the Democratic primary, and the general election was just to ratify the results of the primary.

Now, did this mean that southerners had more choice in elections, because it wasn’t always a race between a Republican and a Democrat? No, of course not. They had less choice, because the race was always between a Democrat and a Democrat.

And if we mandate that some offices must always be filled by a Democrat, and some offices must always be filled by a Republican, that doesn’t give us more choice, it gives us less choice.

Yep, I admit I was misusing it; I was just being lazy. Hopefully my point is still clear. Thanks for clarifying the differences.

I don’t think that word (“communist”) means what you think it means.

ETA: I see that his has already been pointed out.

You’re going to have to make a more detailed case for this rather than someone that you just have to “see.”

Because as it stands, you’re pretty much describing the status quo.

Our current party system is a very weak party system. Parties don’t have control over members except to the extent that members want that to happen. So, what happens is that legislators of like minds do, in fact form cross-party coalitions on a range of issues. The vast majority of legislation goes through Congress with varying coalitions from both parties, not on the basis of party labels.

In fact, one of the reasons that Democrats have been having trouble passing controversial legislation even with significant majorities is that they don’t have control over all their members, who freely form coalitions with Republicans.

How would this happen, exactly? And who are the “political extremes” you refer to and how do you define them?

Only if you think that no one has ever considered these matters before and that there isn’t already a standard terminology for such concepts.