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Charlotte, NC — The current political landscape in the U.S. is fragmented, to say the least. There are deep fissures on the right and left.
Both Democrats and Republicans aren’t parties built around one ideology (Conservatism vs. Liberalism, or Progressivism), but rather are coalitions of different political groupings and single-issue voters-all assembled into very fickle groups that can change micro-loyalties in an instant.
Republicans are deeply divided on such major issues as immigration, foreign policy, financial and economic security. Certainly, they can recognize that serious problems exist with a “one-size-fits-all” sort of legislative answer(s). But at least two big factions within the Republican party are easily identifiable: Nationalists (Donald Trump, Trumpsters, Deplorables) and Conservatives (Mike Pence, Pensters), and these factions can be further broken down into smaller groupings.
For example, Conservatives include paleo-conservatives, neoconservatives, Christian rights, and so on. Conservatives (especially neoconservatives) seem to favor more active foreign policy than Nationalists. (From an involvement standpoint, not a security one)
On the other hand, Nationalists take a harder stance on immigration (especially illegal) than their Conservative counterparts. In addition to Conservatives and Nationalists, there are also two smaller factions that need to be mentioned — communitarians (many of whom are former Democrats) and right-wing libertarians — who hold somewhat opposing views on fiscal policy.
While communitarians take a more favorable view of the welfare state (and, in their vast majority, support social safety net programs), libertarians advocate pro-business policies and fiscal responsibility. Libertarians also favor little to non-interventionism in foreign policy.
Aside from these four (okay, this is a rough description, I get it) ideological groupings, there are many single-policy interest groups that advocate a specific issue (pro-choice) or a group of issues (2nd Amendment gun rights).
All of this makes for a political family tree that is truncated in some areas, and possibly in need of pruning in others.
Although there have been comments concerning the “I’ll be Back!” statement from Mr. Trump, I do not expect that the Republican party will break up into smaller parties in the near future as a result of him forming a break-away party-partially because, in order for this to happen, we would need to reform the entire political system in the United States.
The U.S. is a presidential republic with a strong executive branch, presumably. The way the electoral process works — winner takes all, the dichotomous Electoral College arrangement — strongly favors two parties. According to Duverger’s law, majoritarian systems (aka winner takes all; first past the post) within single-member districts tend to support a two-party system. And any third-party contender, by necessity, has to weaken or split one of the aforementioned two.
Can moderate wings of Republicans and Democrats form a third party/coalition?
Trump notwithstanding, I doubt this is going to happen. Political polarization progresses at a staggering pace, often with the help of media and social media encouragement. In the near future, the political center will be even weaker than it is today. Neither side is interested in reform. The problem is that political polarization SUITS their agendas, as has been alluded to so many times in my observations and rantings.
Would it require the Electoral College to be replaced by a national popular vote?
This would have had to be done a long time ago. Abolishing the Electoral College was on the political agenda in the 1960s and in the 1970s, and most recently in the 2010s. The opinion polls conducted in the 60s showed that BOTH Democrats and Republicans supported this idea, but the reform requires political will-and risk. In 1969 Congress FAILED to pass a constitutional amendment to elect presidents based on the popular vote. The bill died in the Senate, although it has a tendency for its ghost to reappear anytime a side is unhappy with the results.
In fact, it seems that the last 6 or 7 elections have had at least some minor grumbling about replacing the system with one more favorable to the losing side; this is the electoral version or redistricting and gerrymandering to achieve skewed results.
These days, Republicans have more to lose than Democrats. Republican presidential candidates tend to LOSE the popular vote. Republicans will fight tooth and nail to stop any constitutional reform unless their numbers are far closer to even than they have been in the recent past. In fact, they will probably have to rely on claims of fraudulent election results instead of replacing the whole system simply because of incredible media bias.
As was stated in the first “Mx Headroom” episode back in the ‘80s: “Channel 23! What do we do? WE REPORT THE NEWS! And what is news? WHATEVER WE SAY IT IS!”
Does that then mean that abolishing the Electoral College would weaken the existing 2-party system?
If by weaken you mean “remove the reason that it was installed,” yes. Even if there is popular support for a third-party or independent candidate, the Electoral College makes it practically impossible for a third-party candidate to be elected.
Would a president who is independent of the dominant parties strengthen or weaken the executive branch?
All presidents, REGARDLESS of their partisan affiliation, are strongly interested in strengthening the executive branch because they ARE the executive branch. Here’s the rub; the other branches of government are probably NOT going to be ‘in-sync’ with the third-party administration. So the new President will spend an inordinate amount of time fighting back and forth-pretty much to a standstill-with the others for anything that he/she would want to accomplish. Remember, the third party doesn’t jive with the first two; that’s why they are there.
Would that increase or decrease polarization in the US?
Technically it would decrease it-because polarization is typically two sides. Fragmenting would be a better description. The reasons for polarization are not only political but also social. The increasing gap between the rich and the rest of us adds more fuel to the fire, and the constant cries of “they are not paying their fair share” do nothing but distract us.
Be aware: a third party would pretty much remove one of the original two, and almost guarantee the remaining one victory. (Point is that the Democrats should be offering every encouragement for Trump to create another coalition).
The polarizing forces of social issues (abortion, gun control, etc.) may drag us further down the path of no return. I don’t want to sound alarmist but we’ve already passed one important threshold on our path to civil war: when people see internal enemies as more threatening than external ones. And then (according to the rules of war) begin dehumanizing them.
Deplorables. Libtards. We are in trouble.
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