GOP Is the Only Vehicle for Democrat Defeat
[Note: For full disclosure, this is a compilation of my side of a conversation with fellow blogger, Jen Penman (@jpenaz on Twitter) at her blog, “My Life as a Blog,” in May 2009. You can read her post, “Libertarian, yes, positive,” and our conversation at http://jpenaz.blogspot.com/ . I’ve resurrected it in light of the recent Tea Party Convention and continuing calls for a third-party movement. This compilation has been edited for clarity of thought.]
I completely understand dissatisfaction with the Republican Party. I began to feel this same dissatisfaction as I watched the Party squander the gains of the ’94 and the ’00 elections on petty power politics. The Party never effectively educated the public about its agenda. It never took advantage of its time in control of both Congress and the White House to introduce the systemic changes for which many of us worked so hard to bring it to power.
I have always been about principle over Party, but known that we must all work within a right of center coalition. The natural home for this coalition is the Republican Party. Splintering of this coalition leads to our defeat at the hands of our ideological nemeses residing in the Democratic Party. We all have to understand we must hang together, or we will hang alone.
Is there room for dissent against the leftward drift of the GOP we’ve seen since ’94? Absolutely, but dissent needs to be expressed within the party structure to pull it back to the right. The current status of the GOP should be unacceptable to conservatives, libertarians and other people of the right. However, the answer isn’t to abandon the GOP, but to change it.
The job of voters under a republican government is to elect persons who represent our opinions. The job of our representatives is to vote as they’ve pledged they would while seeking office. However, it appears many only seek ways to broaden their appeal for re-election. We need to hold them accountable, and show them they must faithfully represent us, if they wish to stay in office.
Politicians must realize that we are more than willing to replace them if they aren’t fulfilling their obligations. They must understand that we will not automatically vote for them just because they have the correct letter next to their name. Also, there must be primary contests to remove those politicians who do not represent those who have elected them. Even if they ultimately win re-election, it will act to pull them back into the proper direction.
The United States has, and has always had, a two party system. These two parties, which have gone by many different names over time, represent the overwhelming majority of U.S. voters. They do so because they represent the two larger ideological movements, center-left and center-right, in respect to the overall body politic of the time.
There is nothing wrong with being a member of the Libertarian Party or any other “alternative” party, in and of itself. “Alternative” parties are often ways for the dissatisfied to come together outside of the structure of the main parties to build coalitions, which then ultimately act as groups within the larger parties. However, party membership leads to party loyalty, and that’s the problem. It’s the same with all third, or “alternative,” political parties.
“Alternative” political parties are, almost exclusively, ideologically based in the strictest sense. Whether it is the Greens, Communist, Natural Rights, Conservative, Libertarian, et al, they are built around on a very tightly held set of beliefs, which inevitably leads them to be relatively small groups. People voting for these parties have only a marginal effect on elections, but the result can be to the detriment of the larger ideological movement to which each of these parties belongs.
We do not operate under a parliamentary system. It is winner takes all. If an “alternative” party wins ten percent of the vote across the entire electorate, it gets exactly nothing for this achievement. The most likely outcome will be defeat for the candidate which comes second closest to its members’ views. People with deeply held political convictions should bring that passion and drive back into the major parties. They should influence those parties in the direction they want them to go.
No third party will ever gain enough voters to have any positive outcome for its greater ideological movement. The moment it wins a majority of the movement’s voters, it would cease to be a third party, but would continue to split the movement’s votes. The movement would continue to be powerless until its members come together under one party.
Now, I want to clarify a point on which I’ve already touched. Historically, the two major parties have represented the vast majority of American voters. This is because each party is a coalition of voters on their respective sides of the American political spectrum. The political spectrum, as opposed to the ideological one, slides in relation to the political beliefs of the general population. The beliefs of the voters set the scale by which left and right are measured.
As an example, think of the political spectrum as the range of colors broken down from white light. In shorthand the spectrum of light is ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet). Just looking at it, the center color of light is G; however, the actual center, or average light color, of a star’s light depends upon the elements present in the star which are undergoing nuclear fusion. So, the “center” color of a star is the average of all the light colors emitted by the star.
In much the same way, the center of a population’s political beliefs depends upon the people being measured. America has historically had a political center which is to the right of Europe’s. As a people, we want less government than do Europeans. However, this is not an absolute and is not static. It bounces around from one election to the next.
Let’s say in one election all voters show up and vote for one of two parties. The party which attracts not only their half of the spectrum, but just one additional person wins. The next election the losing party is going to try to get back that one voter, and take another one to win. This back and forth would continue as each party tries to take a majority of all voters.
In reality, not all voters participate, and additional parties vie for votes. Both of these subtract from total votes of the two major parties. In the aftermath of recent elections, Republican Party leaders have looked at the numbers and seen only those votes garnered by the Democrats. These voters have become the focus for the next election, forgetting non-voters and alternative party voters. This leads Party officials and campaign advisors to pull the Party to the left seeking these votes.
If you are unhappy with the Republican Party as it exists, and you are unhappy with the direction the Democrats are taking the country, then you must become active in the Republican Party to bring it back to the Right. Growth in alternative parties only allows the apparatchiks within the Republican Party hierarchy to continue drifting left in search of “the center”. In reality the center remains where it was, but voters have been left behind on the Right. These voters must become active in the party machinery, and vote in primaries to remove candidates who undermine the party’s right of center ideological coalition.
Yes, there are ideological differences. We won’t agree all of the time. So, do we combine or divide our resources? No one tightly defined ideology is ever going to win an absolute majority. So, we must work together to move the country in our shared direction, the Right. Just remember what Reagan said, “Someone who agrees with me 80% of the time is my 80% friend, not my 20% enemy.”