A Tyranny of Political Parties: From Tribes to Insiders & Brands

Monday, April 4, 2016 - 8:56pm

This election cycle is highlighting the collapse of both major political parties – and perhaps of the two-party system.  We need to fix this, or find a new way for We the People to maintain a Government Of the People, By the People, For the People.

When our Nation began, we didn't have any political parties.  Our Constitution makes no mention of parties, and our Founding Fathers warned against parties and “factions.1”  

Since then, however, political parties have become our vehicles for aggregating votes, electing representatives, and wielding power.  Over time the landsape has changed -  from the  Federalists & Democratic-Republicans (Anti-Federalists), to Democrats & Whigs, to emergence of the Republicans.  Today’s Republican Party is far from the "Party of Lincoln," and today’s Democrats are far from the “Party of the People” of the New Deal era. 

And now, this model is failing us.  In Congress, extreme polarization has lead to gridlock – not over ideas, but over keeping the other party from achieving success.  We face daunting problems, yet Congress can get nothing done. 

Where our political parties used to be tribes – allied groups of citizens sharing common values & interests – they have become brands, dominated by entrenched, self-interested “establishments,” garnering votes, money, and power through mass marketing. 

We used to send statesmen and leading citizens to Washington – to work together to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.  Now we send those who are best at pandering & raising money, who then proceed to promote the interests of the rich & powerful, at our expense2

We the People are starting to call “bullshit.:”  Congresses’ Job Approval Rating has fallen to just 11%.Members of Congress tie with car salespeople and telemarketers as the least ethical professions (only lobbyists rank lower).4  Independent voters now dominate the electorate.  Donald Trump’s campaign taps widespread anger, while ignoring the Republican establishment.  Bernie Sanders is rallying a “Political Revolution” among our newest generation of voters.  Where the party establishments call for supporting the ultimate nominees – many Sanders supporters are saying “Bernie or Bust,” or, “I’m voting for Bernie, who just happens to be running as a Democrat.”   Citizens are bypassing elected representatives entirely,  with initiative petitions.

More and more fundraising is bypassing party structures:  Organizations like MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, and direct appeals through social media, are bypassing traditional party channels – making it possible for insurgent candidates to challenge party establishments (for example, Tim Canova’s primary challenge to DNC Chair Debbie Wassermann Shultz).

Meanwhile, the entrenched establishments are responding with monopoly tactics – doing anything they can to retain power – with rapidly declining success.

What comes next is hard to predict, and is largely in our hands.  To this observer, a realignment of current parties seems to be our most likely future.  The most effective path to We the People taking back our Government appears to be an "occupation" of the Democratic Party by progressive & millenial voters - returning it to it's previous status as “The Party of the People”  - from there regaining control of the Presidency & Congress; and, after that, State & Local governments.

Or might we move back to a no-party system, as in the early days of our Nation, and as is still the case for many local elections.

What do you think?  Which way are we heading?  Continued gridlock & decline, a renewed Democratic Party & Majority?  A new party? No parties?  Something else?  What form should our Political Revolution take?  


Some good quotes at https://satyagraha.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/party-strife-founding-fathers/

“When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.” (from Gilens, Martin, and Benjamin I. Page. "Testing theories of American politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens." Perspectives on politics 12.03 (2014): 564-581.)

3 http://www.gallup.com/poll/186581/congress-job-approval-rating-slips.aspx

http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx  (We note, however, that pollsters, are not rated.)