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Saturday, December 11, 2010
 The Myth of Bipartisanship

Topic: Commentary

We often hear pundits and the president, talking about bipartisanship as though bipartisanship is an inherently good thing and as though the recent decline in bipartisanship is an indicator of some kind of breakdown of the political system.

There has in-fact been a quantifiable decline in bipartisanship over the past 20 years when compared to the prior 50 years, but the reality is that the bipartisanship of the period from the 1930s through the 1980s was an anomaly caused by the process of ideological re-alignment of the two parties.

The image below shows the degree of difference between the two parties based on votes over time.


source: http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2007/08/the-high-cost-o.html

This next image shows senate voting patterns historically going back to 1857. Follow the link below for more a more detailed look:


source: http://www.duke.edu/~dbs9/senatehistory.html
(Note: I don't agree with the definitions of "left" and "right" in the linked material, its far too simplistic)

People often confuse partisanship with ideology, but these two things are not the same. Partisanship refers specifically to party affiliation, whereas ideology refers to one's political beliefs and motivations. It makes sense for party affiliation to be aligned with ideology, and historically it has been. However, there was a period from the 1930s through the 1980s when there was a high degree of ideological diversity within the political parties, not for any noble reasons and not because there was some kind of growing political consensus taking shape, but because of ideological re-alignments taking place within the parties, largely based on regional shifts in the North and South.

This began, essentially with the rise of wage laborers as a political force and came to prominence with the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt in the early 1900s. Historically American politics has been ideologically divided into two main groups, largely because of the de-facto two party system. That breakdown from the time of the founding up to the beginning of the 20th century was effectively socially conservative economic populism (dominated by farming interests) vs socially progressive economic elitism (dominated by northern merchants and industrialists).

With the rise of industrialization an new class of propertyless worker became significant in numbers, largely in the cities, which were dominated by the Republicans. While the Republicans had traditionally dominated the metropolitan vote, the rise of "wage-laborering" city dwellers gave rise to the need to adopt some level of populist positions to go after that vote. The vote was then split between the interests of farmers, wage laborers, and non-farm business owners. Prior to the last 19th century there were essentially only farmers and non-farm businesses owners, there was no significant population of "wage-laborers", and the rise of wage-laborers in the cities, along with the decline of the number of farmers, setup a battle for this new vote. This created ideological conflict within the Republican party, because now the metropolitan vote wasn't just dominated by the business owner's vote, now the business owners had competition from the wage laborers.

This is what gave rise to the so-called "progressive" movement, the rise of socially progressive economic populism.

Teddy Roosevelt was the first major Republican political figure to come to the side of the wage-laborers and to be a socially progressive economic populist. This began fracturing the Republican party ideologically.

The same thing was happening on the other side as well. The Democrats had traditionally been the economically populist "farmer's party", but with the rise of wage-laborers in the cities, the traditional economic populism of the Democrats found support among the wage-laborers. In addition, many wage-laborers in the cities had recently moved to the cities from farms and came from traditionally Democratic families.

This is what gave rise to the socially progressive metropolitan Northern Democrats, from which FDR sprang. These figures were also socially progressive and economically populist, likewise going after that urban wage-labor vote.

Prior to the Great Depression, however, the parties remained relatively ideologically pure, the Democrats dominating the South and the Republicans dominating the North. But with the Great Depression the solid economic populism of the Democratic party trumped everything, and so blacks from the South who had traditionally voted Republican now voted Democrat out of economic interests, and likewise wage-laborers and small businessmen from the North who had traditionally voted Republican also now voted Democrat out of economic interests. Essentially, everyone who wasn't wealthy, regardless of whether they were socially conservative or socially progressive, voted Democrat.

This mixed the social conservatives and social progressives up into the same party. Now the Democratic Party was a "big tent" on social issues with progressive Northern Democrats voting along with conservative Southern Democrats. However, because FDR was himself a progressive Northern Democrat and because he was in office for 12 years he had a huge impact on the national direction of the party, and it was FDR who sowed the seeds of the Democratic party's transformation from a Southern conservative party to a national progressive party.

From the 1930s through 1970s that transformation was taking place, and as that transformation took place a counter transformation took place on the Republican side, with the Republican party transforming from a Northern progressive party to a Southern conservative party. But both parties retained their ideological roots on economic issues, the Democrats being populists and the Republcians being the party of "big business".

The bipartisanship of the 1930s-1980s was really just a byproduct of this realignment. Due to the fact that it took a few generations for traditionally conservative Democrats to die out or leave the party, what we had from the 1930s to the 1980s were vestiges of the Democrat's conservative past lingering in the party. The same goes on the Republican side, with vestiges of the Republican's progressive past lingering on.

These people still voted along ideological lines. The ideological lines remained just as heavily drawn the whole time, the only difference was that the composition of the parties was changing ideologically.

This is where the difference between cross-party agreement and cross ideological agreement becomes important. We talk about bipartisanship because there is an implication that if legislation can get bipartisan support it must mean that it's not controversial, because "everyone" can agree that it's good. But we can't really compare the bipartisanship of the 1930s-1980s with today, because the parties back then were much more ideologically diverse. What really tells you if legislation is "controversial" or not isn't whether it gets bipartisan support, but whether it has support across the ideological  spectrum, and the truth is that there was just as much division ideologically from the 1930s through to the 1980s as there is now, it's just that the parties weren't as ideologically distinct, because of the period of ideological realignment.

So what does all this mean? It means that going on and on about the bipartisanship of the past is at best largely meaningless, and is generally mis-representative Talking about the bipartisanship of the past implies that there weren't ideological conflicts in the past, which is patently false, there were, and progressive policies had to be fought for along ideological lines. It just so happens that those ideological lines weren't the same as the party lines. There was less conflict between the parties, but there was more conflict within them.

On an additional note, while partisanship is arguably increasing today compared to the past 50 years, both parties could actually be considered more ideologically similar today than they were in the past as well, due largely to the changing balance of power in the American political system. As wealth has become more concentrated among the super-rich, the political power has become more concentrated as well. As a result, both parties are chasing after the same base of power, the interests of the super-rich and the corporations. A major distinction has to be noted. Prior to "The Great Realignment" from the 1930s-1970s American economic populism was rooted in the political power of the farmers. Now, however, having come out of the realignment, that power is gone, there is no longer any base of independent farmers which is politically powerful, since today only 2% of the population are farmers, and most farms are now run by large corporations, making them more like normal corporations than traditional farms in terms of their interests. In addition, the rise of retired seniors has changed the political landscape. The interests of working-class populism now resides among wage-laborers, but wage-laborers are weaker politically than the farmers were, and retired seniors have conflicting interests with working wage-laborers. So unfortunately the forces of economic populism, while still dominate in terms of numbers in America, are politically much weaker. So, despite the return of partisanship, the reality is that the differences between the two parties are smaller today than in the pre-realignment past, with greater fighting over less significant differences and with the differences being more pronounced on less economically impactful social issues.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:23 AM EST | Post Comment | View Comments (23) | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, December 11, 2010 7:28 AM EST

Saturday, December 11, 2010 - 8:19 AM EST

Name: "tiradefaction"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/tiradefaction

Interesting enough, Vermont's Republican party was probably the very last to significantly transition to what most Americans preceive the national Republican party. This was largely because old hold outs to Teddy's style of progressive Republicans still reigned, until they died. After the Vermont Republican leadership turned towards the typical corporatist model (as have the Democrats as well), many switchd to the third party "Progressive Party', which has seats in their state house and senate. Most of their seats are not former Democratic seats, but in fact former Republican seats. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010 - 12:47 PM EST

Name: "Reader"

I found your article very insightful, but that describes your works in general.

However, I still have several questions:

Why is that the only major third party was the Whig Party (proof of this being they're the only third party to have someone as president)?

Why can't any other third party make a difference on the national scale?

As the government is set up now, is it possible for a third party coalition to take control?

If a third party were to gain more influence, in what manner do you think it would happen?  I think that it should be done locally first and as a voting bloc is established that party should continue slowly to larger scales (like cities and states). I think that this should  be done simultaneously in other states.  

 

 

Saturday, December 11, 2010 - 1:08 PM EST

Name: "Tiradefaction"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/tiradefaction

"Reader", a third party is already beginning to gain traction on a local level. Look at the Vermont Progressive Party. They have 5 state house seats, and 2 state senate seats. 

Also, the Whigs were not a third party, they were one of the major two parties during the "Second Party System" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Party_System

However, if you want to find some historic influential third parties, I'd look up the "Non Partisan League" (not actually non partisan), "Populist Party", and the "Farmer Labour Party". Prohibitionist party also probably counts, even if they were very fucking stupid. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010 - 4:25 PM EST

Name: "ProgressiveAudio"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/progressiveaudio

Third parties have made enormous impacts in American history, here's a few examples:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenback_party

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Party_%28United_States%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Party_%28United_States,_1912%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Party_%28United_States,_1924%29

http://depts.washington.edu/labhist/cpproject/curwick.shtml

Here's just presidential elections in the past 100 years (which of course is just one example, focusing on presidential elections ignores gubernatorial, sentorial and house rep elections, federal and state, mayoral, well you get the idea.) where a third party or independent had a big impact:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1912

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1924

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1948

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1968

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1980

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1992

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1996

 Here's an example of when our Congress was multi-party: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/77th_United_States_Congress

 Of course, there's gubernatorial elections that have had impacts from third parties: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_gubernatorial_election,_1998

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois_gubernatorial_election,_2006

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermont_gubernatorial_election,_2008

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maine_gubernatorial_election,_2006

And then there's San Francisco's famous election: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_mayoral_election,_2003

Anyway, I think you get the idea.  With Instant Run-Off voting spreading, you'll be seeing more parties in the mix.

 

Saturday, December 11, 2010 - 4:28 PM EST

Name: "ProgressiveAudio"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/progressiveaudio

The Green Party also had a number of house reps on the state level, in California as early as 1999, and Arknasas in 2005, unfortunately the Democrats scared both of them into switching parties.  Maine also had one, who wasn't scared off by the Democrats, won re-election, and actually twisted the Democrats arms into being more progressive, due to the fact they relied on his support in the House of Representatives:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Eder

Unfortunately he didn't win a third term, and I hope he runs again when Maine finally gets IRV. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010 - 9:27 PM EST

Name: "rationalrevolution"
Home Page: http://www.rationalrevolution.net

To Reader: Well the Whig Party wasn't really a third party, it was a major party at the time. The Whigs are pretty much the predecessors to the Republican party of Lincoln. That line pretty much went from the Federalists to the Whigs to the Republicans, whereas on the other side it went from the Democratic Republicans to the Democrats.

Unfortunately the way that American electoral law is setup it pretty much guarantees that  there will only ever be two major parties. I think the main way a rival third party would come to power in America would be through someone from a third party winning a presidential election. Unfortunately, and the Greens are a perfect example of this, I don't see a major third party ever gaining much power from the grass roots up by developing a base at the local and state level first. 

I think the local and state level will always follow the head of the ticket. Yeah, you can get a few victories here and there, not its not even in the same league as the big two.

I think that the most likely way for a 3rd party candidate to win the presidential election is also for a big name from a major party to defect, like Teddy Roosevelt did in 1912.

For example, if Al Gore ran as a Green Party candidate he would have much better chance at winning and establishing the Green Party as a "real party" with significant influence in Washington, whereas if someone outside the system who has never been a high profile Democrat or Republican ran on a 3rd party ticket, I doubt they would have a chance. Ross Perot of course is the biggest exception to the what I just said, he came out of nowhere and was pretty successful, but out of all of the relatively successful 3rd party candidates, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace, Teddy Roosevelt, etc., Perot is the only such candidate that wasn't a major political figure in one of the 2 main parties prior to running under a 3rd party.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 12:26 AM EST

Name: "Reader"

Thanks, but this bothers me.  

Can we really expect any change?  The system is rigged for two parties, both which have been bought.  From my understanding of how the government is set up, change comes mainly from the top down, and any effort to change that system will be met and drowned by the massive resources of those opposing change.  

I think what I'm asking is what can be done?  It all seems to be so pointless.   

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 12:30 AM EST

Name: "Reader"

by the way, thanks everybody for all the information you gave, it helped.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 7:36 AM EST

Name: "rationalrevolution"
Home Page: http://www.rationalrevolution.net

To Reader: Sadly, you are correct. I think this is why so many people (anyone paying attention) are so upset with Barack Obama. He was sort of seen as the "last best hope" for actually bringing some change about, but he has proven to be a total failure in this regard.

Personally I'm not convinced that any elected official or officials can do much of anything to change the direction of the country at this point. I suspect that even if Ralph Nader were elected president he'd end up impotent to actually do anything. I suspect that the real power in Washington is the money behind the scenes and the elected officials pretty much have their hands tied anyway.

Sorry...

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 8:03 AM EST

Name: "tiradefaction"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/tiradefaction

Depends on what you mean by "change" Reader. Generally speaking, most reforms that have helped people below the upper class have been won by struggles (and I really mean struggles, the kind where people were killed for doing so) from down below, not as "gifts from above". Even FDR's new deal is frought with examples of grassroots pressure if you really examine the history of it. For example, he wanted a much weaker social security system before Francis E. Townsend and the Townsend clubs esentially scared Roosevelt into pressing for a social security system (He was afraid they'd jump ship to Huey Long if he didn't implement such a system) Mind you, he didn't pass what they exactly wanted 100%, but we still wouldn't have had an what we consider social security without it.

In regards to third parties, I'm just going to have to (respectfully) disagree with R.G. (RationalRevolution) here. I'm going to have to agree with Sam Smith here, if third parties want to actually make a difference, they are going to have to change their federocentric nature towards a more state centric nature.  Too much time and resources (Which third parties have scant of) gets wasted running futile presidential campaigns. While gains at the local and state level will not automatically evolve into federal gains, that really shouldn't be the point. The point should to well, gain the representation you want at that state level, and pass the laws/reforms/whatever that you want, at that state legislative level. The reason why third parties have such issues gaining any traction in our system is we have a closed off first past the post electoral system, combined with extremely restrictive ballot access laws (bad enough to get censured by the Helsinki commission). Couple that with the fact that most Federal represenatives think of themselves as their private little despots who don't give a rats ass what their constituents think, and you have the horrible situation our federal congress is in. To really get a situation where more parties than the DemoPublicans actually have any influence in government, you have to press for reforms that would make the system more receptive to them. Things like IRV, PR (Proportional representation), public financing for elections, etc. I think the only way those things can be achieved is implementation on the state level, and the states that have statewide initiatives and referendums on a regular basis the the prime targets for such reform. Organizing on the state legislative level and running referendums on these reforms, if successful, would signficiantly change our political system for the better, well, at least in those states. There really is no hope or mechanism to implement these changes alone at the federal level, but if we lead by example through the states, it may trickle up towards the federal level, as many reforms have often done in our past (for example, some states gave women the right to vote before the federal government did, such as California). A lot of Americans have a misguided notion that state legislatures really mean nothing, when that's very very very far from the truth. State legislators have immense power (in their states). Want a single payer health system? You can do it at a state level, electoral reform? Yup, bring down the cost of higher education? Hell, it's almost always the states that decide their own tuiton levels, so yes. A third party doesn't really even need to win many seats to be influential. Just look at the Vermont Progressive Party, they only have 5 state house seats, and 2 senators, but their pressence alone forces the Democrats there to be more honest, and more progressive. I seriously doubt Shumlin would be so gung ho for Single Payer (or even support it at all) if the Progs agreed to drop out of the 2010 Gubernatorial race in exchange for his support on Single Payer healthcare. Most "Progressive" Democrats don't really understand having a viable progressive third party would only help their causes, rather than hurt it, as they often believe so.

I don't really agree with the whole idea of getting a high "profile" candidate to run on a third party ticket. Only really because it's not a good way to do actual party building. Not only would there not really be much to pick from as "high profile" from the progressive side of politics (Unless you count Dennis Kucinich, which I don't really), but generally it's a one time thing. If you look at Theodore Roosevelt's "Progressive Party" run of 1912, after losing (despite doing very well), he pretty much bolted from the party, supporting the Repubs in the next election. It is worth nothing though, the Progressive Party was doing actual party building before his short live defection, and his impressive showing did result in them winning more legislative seats (both state and federal). If you're looking for another party to have a long term effect, it has to be done through actual party building. And honestly, I don't see any other way to do this outside doing it on a local and state level, moving up over time to the federal level. 

Something else you'll have to understand though, these things will take time, a lot of time actually. You aren't going to get some grand benevolent figure who's going to do all the work for you. These things take years, sometimes decades, and politicians will NOT do the work for you. YOU are going to have to do the work. That is, lobbying, organizing, getting involved in party caucuses (whether Dem, Repub, Green, Libertarian, etc.) starting initiative & referendum petitions (in states that allow I &/or R) and so forth. NO ONE is going to do the work for you. Americans allegedly have this legendary "work ethic", well, let's see it practiced on the political level. This is the problem I had with the "GOBAMA" campaign from the beginning. This belief that once he takes office, he'll do all the work for them, and implement the platform THEY want. Not only did his white papers obviously indicate he'd not implement a progressive strategy, but there's no chance in hell he'd be able to do all this alone to begin with. A good video on this subject was made by "ThePunkPatriot" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvvvJ6Zs7NM (And if you don't watch ThePunkPatriot yet, you really should) I think this belief is what really lead to the massive disappiontment they felt after he began just being the same as well, all presidents before him starting with Reagan. This is why I don't have much faith in "Progressive Democrats", because they seem to really just be waiting for this technocratic leader to come and save them all from dispair, in much the same way a battered wife holds out hope her abusive husband will change his ways, all on his own. 

For more on our electoral system and how they relate to third parties, here's another good video from "ThePunkPatriot" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERwzF81oXfg

Here's a book entirely on the subject of the role third parties have had on progressive reform in the United States (generally details state wide third parties like The Non Partisan League of North Dakota 'not actually not partisan' and the Farmer Labor Party of Minnesota, both of which interesting enough eventually fused with the Democrats) http://www.amazon.com/Beating-Powers-that-Independent-Political/dp/1424103665

Here's an organization devoted to reforming ballot acess laws to be less restrictive to third parties, and pushing for all around reform of our electoral system to be more multi party. They also host debates between third parties and independent candidates. http://www.freeandequal.org/

Here's a blog devoted to news regarding the Green Party http://www.greenpartywatch.org/

Here's a news site dedicated to news regarding candidates outside the two major parties http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/

And here's a site dedicated to writing essays and arguments in favor of a multi party system in the United States http://politeaparty.blogspot.com/

I think you can take it from here...

If you have anymore questions, you can email me at tiradefaction@gmail.com 

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 8:15 AM EST

Name: "tiradefaction"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/tiradefaction

"From my understanding of how the government is set up, change comes mainly from the top down, and any effort to change that system will be met and drowned by the massive resources of those opposing change.  "

I don't really buy that argument, only because it flies in the face of any historic precedent. Most (if not all) "progressive" reforms have happened through the grassroots, and our government isn't any less corporate controlled than it has been in other periods in the past. In fact, in the late 1800s, our political system was even MORE corporate controlled. 

In the 1880s, for example, corporations had even more unrestricted power in the United States than they do now, and the railroad corporations were the richest and most powerful of the lot. The Grange, an organization of farmers, took on the improbable task of breaking railroad monopolies that were forcing farm families into poverty by keeping the cost of shipping farm produce to urban markets artificially high. The short version? The Grange achieved total victory, and the railroad corporations lost the monopoly status that made their fortunes.

The key to understanding the power of citizens' organizations is that representative democracy doesn't respond to the will of individuals; it responds to pressure exerted by groups. Those who organize to put pressure on the system generally get at least some of what they want, and the longer and harder they push, the more of it they get. Those who don't organize, by their lack of organization, make themselves irrelevant to the political process.

Will Americans heed this lesson? It's an open question, but don't argue that it's impossible because you're too lazy to actually do the work to get the reforms or actions you want. 

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 8:04 PM EST

Name: "Reader"

Well argued, but what I wasn't trying to say that the common people should stop putting effort into changing the state of things, I was saying that it would be immensely difficult to do so and that for the time being nearly impossible.  

What you have said about the Grange (and all other progressive movements to follow) is somewhat true,  but not applicable to today.  Even though the Grange put pressure to break the railway monopoly it wasn't actually that effective (or at least from what I know of the Grange).  And you are absolutely right in the idea that it was progressive movements (and hard work) that got the change to eight hour days, minimum wage, regulation of buisness, etc.  However such movements were influenced heavily by socialist ideals.  The stress from The Cold War has pushed the U.S. so far to the right that in today's society it would be nearly impossible to get that type of movement to fly, politically speaking.  

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 8:08 PM EST

Name: "Reader"

A general question: 

If there were to be a progressive movement, how could it be organized to make it a reality?

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 8:19 PM EST

Name: "ProgressiveAudio"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/progressiveaudio

Actually, focusing on the presidential elections is one of the most short sighted and stupid things third party activist could ever do, and unfortunately they do it.  It comes from a lack of understanding of our political systems and a cultural aspect that promotes the "dear leader" and the great heroic leaders that will lead us to salvation.  I mean, if you were going to focus on a federal seat, would you focus on the HR or Senate?  I'll give you an example of why third parties shouldn't focus just on the executive seats: Jesse Ventura.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_gubernatorial_election,_1998) The Reform Party (which soon imploded and became the Independence Party) was able to get Ventura into the debates and well, he was able to win the election!  So they were able to get their agenda and reforms passed right?  Wrong.  (Don't get me wrong, it was a great victory, but they just focused on that) Because they didn't get their party into the legislative branch, Ventura was opposed at every turn from the DFL and Republicans, and they were able to override very easily the vetos he did.  Interestingly to note, due to a congressman dying during his administration, he was able to get his party into the US Congress, if only for a brief time.

The fact is, if you are going to focus on federal elections, which I don't think you should, focus on the legislative branch.  The multi party democracies of Europe and Japan and soforth actually still have two major parties, which typically trade the executive seats every few years, just like the US.  The big difference is their legislative branchs are filled with other parties that make the laws and partially direct the policy of the country, keeping them from becoming flimsy shitty democracies like the US.  Canada only has (minus Quebec) three parties, and the NDP (the third party) has never had the Prime Ministership.  In fact, the predecessor to the party was able to get universal health care in the country by passing it in one province.  

Greens, libertarians, Independence, Constitution, none of these should focus on the presidential elections, for now anyway.  Just look at the Progressive Party, they don't even focus on the federal elections (and take note they are not happy with Bernie Sanders sucking big Democrat cock, they were planning to run against him in 2006) at all and they're the most successful third party.

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The Progressive "bullmoose" Party of 1912 is actually an interesting case that backs up what I say.  Yes it's true Teddy Roosevelt helped form the party and ran in the presidential elections, coming in 2nd place, but what's not told is after he lost, he soon ditched the party and rejoined the Republicans, which is an age old story.  And what's not told alongside that is they won gubernatorial elections (like here in California) before Teddy ran in their ticket and influenced several state governments.  These focuses on the state level led to many reforms that eventually were adopted nationally.  The party did eventually dissovle, but it was sort of revived in Wisconsin in the 20s, and they were even more successful, despite only having presence in one state.  You see, through their party building, they were able to take hold of the entire state, get their federal senators to be party members, and got their Presidential candidate in 1924 to win all the electorial college votes in the state.  Now what did this do?  It lead to the Wisconsin Idea, that was implimented in the state and eventually became a standard in the country.  Direct election of senators, civil rights for minorities, labor union protection, much of this started on the state level in Wisconsin and was so popular it eventually spread federally.  The Wisconsin Progressive Party is actually one of the golden examples of focusing on the state level and getting reforms passed federally.  (Note Wisconsin is also the last place the Socialist Party had a strong presence, they were winning elections until the 60s).

 

A lot of Americans would have a hard time with this, because it flies in the face of a lot of the cultural myths and it also forces them to actually work for the changes and reforms they want, which unfortunately, they don't want to do due to the fucking laziness that's spread like the disease.

 

 

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 8:24 PM EST

Name: "ProgressiveAudio"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/progressiveaudio

Actually, electoral reform is spreading almost entirely on the municipal level, and it's effecting the states.  Maine, New York, those are considering IRV and North Carolina is already using it on a state level now for the Court of Appeals.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 8:38 PM EST

Name: "tiradefaction"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/tiradefaction

"I was saying that it would be immensely difficult to do so and that for the time being nearly impossible.  "

Only because most Americans don't do it anymore. In fact, most Americans don't even practice the most borderline aspect of Democracy, voting, let alone lobbying, political organizing, etc. etc. 

"Even though the Grange put pressure to break the railway monopoly it wasn't actually that effective (or at least from what I know of the Grange)."

Actually they were, in concert with other movements like the Populist party, they were immensely successful.

"The stress from The Cold War has pushed the U.S. so far to the right that in today's society it would be nearly impossible to get that type of movement to fly, politically speaking. "

You're arguing two different points. You've went from arguing that this change comes from the "top down", and thus can't happen now since the powers that be are corporate controlled (as if that were unique to this era), versus that such social The stress from The Cold War has pushed the U.S. so far to the right that in today's society it would be nearly impossible to get that type of movement to fly, politically speaking.   movements can't be born now.

Here's the reality though, "liberal" or "left wing" positions are a lot more popular in the United States than the mainstream media portrays.  A good example of this is the "public option" Vast majority of people who oppose the individual mandate, in fact, support a public option. http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2010/04/14/repeal-public-option/ Also there's a reason Sanders office became overwhelmed with calls, along with being the most followed individual on twitter, when he began to filibuster the "tax cuts for the rich" bill. Fact is, economic populism is still very popular to the American public, as evident by the study that found that "Most American want wealth distribution similar to Sweden" http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/09/poll-wealth-distribution-similar-sweden/ So I can't buy the idea that there wouldn't be much of an potential for an organized base for "Progressive policies", alone from the fact that most of the grassroots that propelled Obama were in fact, progressives themselves. 

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 8:45 PM EST

Name: "tiradefaction"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/tiradefaction

"If there were to be a progressive movement, how could it be organized to make it a reality?"

That's an open question really, with multiple valid answers.

I think it'd be a mix of strategies, third party organizing being one, grassroots lobbying being another, organizing around initiatives & referendums in the states that allow them, media activism, etc., etc.

I don't think there's any one size fits all strategy. 

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 9:08 PM EST

Name: "ProgressiveAudio"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/progressiveaudio

The Grange, Knights of Labor, Populist Party and so forth, were not socialist, or anything like that, they were strictly practical populist, which led them to being susceptible to things like racists and social conservatives (which were typically populist too) but otherwise made them very attractive as they didn't have any real ideological devotion other than populism.  This was a factor in their success.  It wasn't until things like the Progressive Party and Socialist Party that ideology and more strict party platforms began being adopted by populist.

----------------------------------------

Also to add some stuff to what I said before, I believe Social Security arose from the social security cooperative clubs that sprouted around the US during the Great Depression, which influenced the Communist Party of Washington which in turn (I believe, I can be wrong) led to Washington state adopting the first social security system.  Also Louisiana, New York, California and Wisconsin all had massive economic reforms which eventually influenced the federal and got us out of the great depression.

About electoral reform, a book I'd read is 10 Steps to Repair American Democracy from Steven Hill and I'd also check out FairVote and Free and Equal (both ironically started by libertarian right wing people), they're doing great work.

I'd like to add another reason focusing on the presidential election is stupid, is because it's an election process in badly need of reform.  Without instant run-off voting, a popular national vote or a electoral college with proportional representation, you're not going to make a dent into it without some serious, serious connections like Ross Perot.  The reason in the past it was a bit easier was because back then reaching out to people, being active in communities and public coverage was far bigger and even then it was still pretty unfair.  You have to reform the bottom first and spread it to the top.

And it's going to be a fight.  Note that STV was around in many major US cities (NYC, Cincianti) and were introduced to break one party monopolies, but they were all defeated by the 50s (mins Cambridge) and Illinois used a PR system called Cumulative Voting that ensured no party ever had a monopoly of power and that minorities in districts would have representation, they had it for 100 years but eventually the major parties were able to scrap it by 1980.  IRV is really an easier thing to get and why the campaigns are much less effective against it.

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 9:25 PM EST

Name: "ProgressiveAudio"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/progressiveaudio

I had to swamp the comments section, but one last thing to add: in contrast to the example of Jesse Ventura and Minnesota, you can see the example I gave with Maine, where the Green Independent Party got one House Rep. and the House Rep. was able to twist and scare the Democratic party into being more progressive, the same in Vermont and it's what we need to do on the municipal and state level.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 6:49 AM EST

Name: rationalrevolution0
Home Page: http://www.rationalrevolution.net

Well the reality is that there has never been a real insurgency by a 3rd party in all of American history. The change from the Federalists to the Whigs to the Republicans was change in name only, and only occurred due to reorganization of the prior parties.

I agree that the grass roots  efforts are good, and a party like the Green party with at least some local electoral wins is better staged to have an impact in the event of a Green Party candidate winning the presidency than a party with no local electoral win with someone who wins the presidency, but the truth is that the chances of any 3rd party every actually taking real power away from one of the big two is not in the cards. It's never happened in the entire history of the country.

So, in a sense asking whether 3rd parties can be "effective" depends greatly on what you mean by effective, but as to the question of whether a 3rd party can come along and replace either the Democratic or Republican party? I'd say it's essentially impossible. I think the only way that could happen would be with major defections from a major party, like if the Democratic party actually split and several prominent elected officials forms a new party or joined an existing party. For example of the "more liberal" Democrats split to form or join a new party. That's sort of what happened with the formation of the Whigs and the Republicans.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 4:18 PM EST

Name: "tiradefaction"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/tiradefaction

We're kind of on two different levels here R.G., or in other words, we're talking past each other.

You (rightfully) state that there's never been a third party that's risen up and replaced one of the two major parties, and probably never will be (under our current electoral system). The thing is though, I'm not advocating such a position, nor would I find it desirable.

A third party that rose up and suddenly took one of the slots reserved for the "two party system", would just as easily become curropt as the two that currently reside in such slots. What I'd like to see is a multi party "system", or rather, I'd like to see multiple parties elected to legislative offices, even if there's still two dominant parties. The strategy I discussed above in regards to party building is one I'd consider the traditional role of third parties. That is, state and regional third party building for the general purpose of applying pressure to one (or both) of the two major parties. Sean Scallon has written extensively on this aspect of third parties in America, and written a book on the subject http://www.amazon.com/Beating-Powers-that-Independent-Political/dp/1424103665

You're framing the issue as whether a third party can win a presidential election, and what's the most effective way for them to do so, I'm framing it as what's the most effective way for them to win state legislative seats. I believe such a strategy is a lot more worthwhile in regards to any pratical use third parties can offer. A lot of progressive Democrats automatically turn themselves off to the idea of progressive third parties, or are openly hostile to such an idea. I find that to be rather stupid and short sighted to be honest. Third parties offer a lot of promise in terms of reform of the major parties, along with accountability of them. Just imagine this. In my legislature (California), there's a pretty big problem with political gridlock. Long story short, the Dems and Repubs rarely can gain an upper hand against each other, and every budget season becomes a long grueled out process, one that's always months late as well. If a third party, (Say the Greens) just won a few state assembly seats, that entire balance could be changed, and any governing party may very well have to appease such a small, but kingmaker party. This is (sort of) happening in Vermont right now. There's many other scenarios I can consider in regards to small third parties if just with a few electoral wins, could make a difference. This can work with primary challengers as well. The Progressive "Democrats" whenever losing a primary, and when not satisfied with the current winner, could run their own third party challengers to punish the party, or keep them accountable (forcing that winner to concede on some platforms to make sure the prog doesn't run) or etc. Anyway, I personally favor building up state based third parties, and having them grow to the point where they can play "kingmaker" to the two major parties, at least in their respective states. The Vermont Progressive Party is building up with this strategy, and I support it 100% I think the Libertarians and Greens do themselves no favors by being not only federocentric with their electoral strategies, but very presidential centric. 

But I think third parties only play a piece of the overall strategy progs should utilize. States that allow citizens regularly to put initiatives & referendums on the ballot are prime targets to progressive reform, if we organized around such measures. Free & Equal is jumpstarting a refenedum here on Proportional representation, no way it will win on it's first try, but will very likely cause much needed discussion & debate on the issue, and hopefully may the groundwork towards victory in the future on proportional representation. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 9:00 PM EST

Name: "ProgressiveAudio"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/progressiveaudio

R.G., my goal, and many others with "third parties" is not for them to replace the Democrats and Republicans or rule the country, the point is for them to have an effective existence to exert pressure on the major two parties so we can get at least some of what we want, as it is in every other modern democracy.  Japan, UK, Sweden, Switzerland, France, these countries all have two major corporate crappy parties who would act just the same in the US environment, but they're kept at bay and under potential danger from other smaller parties.  I don't care if we never have a green or libertarian or whatever president, as long as they have a real presence in the legislature.  Besides, having the speaker of the house be an independent or third party member would be a bigger victory in my opinion.

The example I kept giving with Maine wasn't given by me because some hard on for the Green Independent Party (though it is a good party), it's simply the best recent example I gave, and it scared the Democrats who fought against the same thing happening in California and Arknasas, and they wish they could fight it in Vermont.  If you need a broader example, look at the Green Party in Scotland, who only have two seats yet the SNP (Scottish version of the Democrats) heavily relies on their support in their coalition so the left wing there has gotten a lot of what they want, simply by getting a party two seats.  This is how it is in most democracies, it's what we need in the US.

Hope this clarified things.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 10:06 PM EST

Name: "ProgressiveAudio"
Home Page: http://www.youtube.com/progressiveaudio

Tiradefaction is right that third parties are just one piece of the puzzle.  There's multiple strategies that need to be done, use of the I/R process on the state level is definitely one of them.  For one, getting the I/R and recall process on the federal level in my opinion would be a bigger victory then just dethroning the republicans and democrats, and taking full advantage of what direct and participatory democracy we do have should be on the agenda of every progressive.  As TF noted above, even if it doesn't pass, it causes a serious discussion.  Plus some of the most progressive reforms have passed through the I/R procress, such as womens suffrage in Oregon and Montana, and many progressive reforms in North Dakota passed from it.  Just look as Massachusetts, where single payer passed in all the local ballots and they're gearing up for a state wide vote on it!

Also, you just have to be involved.  You have to go to town hall, to your schools, to your meeting places of all kinds and actually get involved, especially if youre on the fringes of political opinion.  I'm reminded of this far left communist guy in Canada who had a bunch of friends who just larped Marxisteer stuff online, and when he himself actually got involved in a movement to raise and make more available cash assistance in Ontario, and helped get it passed there, they made fun of him for being part of "the system."  Apathy, exclusion, that shit has to go if anything is to be done.

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