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Party Politics in the American System

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  • Party Politics in the American System

    This is a spin-off of discussion started in the Kamala Harris thread to keep the discussions separate.

    Originally posted by EverKing View Post
    ...I have serious issue with the Two Party system and even talked some about small solutions to help reduce the power of the Big Two but it seems no one wants to consider it. Whether from indoctrination (one way or the other), ignorance (willful or otherwise), or indifference it seems that many people have bought into the rhetoric and poorly applied partisan theory which enables--even encourages--further entrenchment of the Two Party System. One of the most surprising arguments, in my opinion, is actually provided by those educated in political theory and history; that of the idea of the necessity of Parties to produce a quorum in the Government. This argument really only stands in Parliamentary systems where the Party/Faction creates a government of their control and selects their own Head of Government. In the US Constitutional system the Head of Government, as Chief Executive, is held separate from the factions of Legislature and should also, therefore, be independent of said factions--although the Constitution makes no explicit prohibition of Executive partisanship. Ultimately, the way the system exists now only encourages the factions to look after their own interests and further entrench their power through manipulation of the electoral processes.
    Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
    ...I'm fairly happy to live in a country that effectively has 3 federal level parties to choose from. It's complicated, though. Only two of those parties have ever formed the government. My "third" party is me lumping two lesser parties together because it's incredibly unlikely either of them will win. They do play a non-trivial role, however, and people vote for them and don't have to feel they've thrown their vote away. Personally, I believe Canada is way too big and diverse for any one party to do much more than pretend they represent the general good while serving a much smaller constituency.

    As for parliamentary deadlock, yes, it can happen but we're not there yet. Additionally, some of our most enduring, and nation defining, legislation has come from so called minority governments which, since they don't have the numbers to simply impose their agenda, have to sit down at the table with others and hammer out a consensus. Among other things, it's thought the resulting legislation is robust because the politicians who came up with it represent a much wider proportion of the population. For myself, it also sounds like the very definition of a politician's job and much closer to the notion of democracy in action. The "I got 40% of the popular vote, which represents maybe 60% of the eligible electorate, therefore I've got a mandate and am now CEO of the country" bullshit has got to go.

    But small steps. I'm glad you're working to get rid of that lawless lawman.

    P.S. Later note: I totally forget about coalition governments.
    Heresiologist, you touch on the main differentiation between the two systems: that the Parliamentary system is designed so that Party (or coalition) is essential to form a Government with combined Legislative and Executive power; whereas in the American system the Legislature and Executive are discrete and elected independently. From what I've seen the encroachment of partisanship into the American Executive has created an atmosphere where the Legislative factions function primarily as an obstruction to the Executive when the opposition holds the Presidency. Everything becomes about ensuring the party strength for the next election cycle.

    Making the matters worse here we have the issues of the two chambers of the Legislature being able to set their own procedures which enables the parties to develop a process whereby it becomes nearly impossible for any other factions to have equal exposure to the electorate. Our Primary and Caucus system is a great example of how the parties entrench their own position. In many (if not all, I'm not really clear on it) States only people registered to single Party can take part in the Primary and then only to select candidates within the party. This creates the environment where the extremes of each Party become the controlling interests and the large swath of the voting public are left out of the process.

    Finally, we have the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nominal non-partisan non-profit which controls the major venues of Presidential Debates but which is Bi-Partisan in nature, rather than non-partisan with rules in place in reduce access of third parties to the debate stage.

    Sorry if this is a little disjointed--there are so many different aspects to this issue that it becomes difficult to fully encapsulate the problem.

    My question is: does a Parliamentary-like Party System provide more benefit or detriment to the American Federal system? Secondary to this I wonder, since the roots of the Party system lay in the need to provide the broad public easily differentiated identification of candidates at a time when an individual candidates personal stance on issues was difficult or impossible to disseminate to the broad public are Parties themselves even necessary in the modern era of mass-communications and availability of information?
    Last edited by EverKing; 08-13-2020, 08:40 AM.
    "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
    --Thomas a Kempis

  • #2
    Just saw this after I posted in a different thread.

    My impression is that Congress, especially the Senate, is so gridlocked they are happy to let the courts do all the governing. The primary purpose of the Senate is to confirm judges who will govern.

    And we do pretend to have coalition governments in the U.S., it's just they are coalesced under party umbrellas that wind up sublimating the interests of the coalitions. As I said in the other thread, it amazes me that rural evangelicals and Wall Street financiers pretend to share any interests. Part of why this is problematic is it lets fairly disinterested people feel that the Greens and Libertarians don't really matter, because their interests are represented in the traditional two parties. Obviously this isn't the case, but many people think that Rand Paul is a libertarian and a Republican, so the Libertarian Part is superfluous. Maybe it just means Rand Paul isn't the dedicated libertarian he claims to be, especially when he so often engages in party-line voting (which is also a huge part of the problem in the U.S. right now).

    Thanks for starting this thread, EverKing! Didn't mean to hijack it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Doc you are spot on from what I can see. The two key points to address in your comments are:
      Originally posted by Doc View Post
      ...Congress, especially the Senate, is so gridlocked they are happy to let the courts do all the governing. The primary purpose of the Senate is to confirm judges who will govern.
      I think this actually has it roots in the shift of the Senate from being professional statesmen/women representing the broad interests of the their states to being directly elected by The People and so becoming subject the same electoral concerns as the Representatives. This is one of the reasons I am actually in favor of repealing the 17th Amendment and providing a different mechanism to avoid the supposed corruption in Senate selection present at the turn of the 20th.

      Originally posted by Doc View Post
      ...Part of why this is problematic is it lets fairly disinterested people feel that the Greens and Libertarians don't really matter, because their interests are represented in the traditional two parties...
      That is a real and troublesome result of the entrenched strength of the Two Party system. Their own powers are so entrenched the American public has been conditioned to accept their inevitability and any option of alternates then becomes target for derision. Instead, the alternate paths are forced to try to ingratiate themselves with the Big Two and their distinct character becomes lost in the process.

      EDIT: and, obviously, this goes beyond just Green and Libertarian--although they are the two most likely alternates at this time.

      Originally posted by Doc View Post
      Thanks for starting this thread, EverKing! Didn't mean to hijack it.
      No hijacking occurred as far as I'm concerned. The thread is here to openly and fully discuss the issues of our current political climate and how the dominance of the GOP and DNC either helps or hinders the system.
      "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
      --Thomas a Kempis

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by EverKing View Post
        T...
        Sorry if this is a little disjointed--there are so many different aspects to this issue that it becomes difficult to fully encapsulate the problem.
        ...
        No worries. We're discussing complicated political problems from two somewhat related, yet significantly, even deeply, different, traditions.

        Appreciate the food for thought. More later (hopefully).

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Doc View Post
          ... The primary purpose of the Senate is to confirm judges who will govern.
          Has this always been the case? Or is it a more recent development? If the latter, did those founders guys have a relatively consensus position on the purpose or purposes?

          We have a senate, but they are supposed to provide a sober, non-partisan, second look at legislation from the "lower" house of parliament (AKA the Commons). It's supposed to be sober because they're appointed and don't have to worry about elections. Of course, that's the plan but the plan never survives contact with the enemy and we have met the enemy and it is us.

          Originally posted by Doc View Post
          And we do pretend to have coalition governments in the U.S., it's just they are coalesced under party umbrellas that wind up sublimating the interests of the coalitions.
          Huh. We do have coalitions like you describe, but I never thought of it that way. It makes sense now, but a coalition government up here is mostly thought of as a coalition of distinct parties that you see on the ballot.

          We almost had a coalition government in 2008 involving three parties: our liberal centrist kinda/sorta Democrat analog party, the left of centre kinda/sorta but really not really socialist party and a regional party that somehow manages simultaneous conservatism and progressivism. They would have represented much more of the voting population than the conservatives they were seeking to counter.

          I was kind of excited, thinking, wow, it's like they taught us about in school history, could be really interesting. Unfortunately, the conservatives counterattacked with claims that it was illegitimate and such governments can't get anything done and the press, instead of talking about our grand but rare tradition of coalition governments, just sort of went along with it and it fizzled out.

          That was when it hit me that conservatives who claim government can't do anything right seem the most upset about the notion of a government that can't get anything done. Perhaps they don't really believe in the first point. I guess we'll never know.

          Also, coalition govs are distinct from the minority governments that I mentioned. Minority ones have to function like coalitions because they need yea votes from members of another party to pass legislation. They're more fragile because they don't have an official coalition partner or two and therefore the support is less reliable. Coalitions usually involve something like an official treaty, that sets conditions guaranteeing partnership, between the coalition parties.

          With respect to minority governments I sometimes say I'd be happy to have them for the rest of my days because they are afraid to push any agenda that doesn't have a lot of popular support. If they do try to push an unpopular policy, it's likely the other parties will team up, defeat it, and topple the government. And then they are likely to get punished in the ensuing election. On the other hand, if they are defeated pushing a popular policy, it's thought they will be rewarded, and the other parties punished, in the election.

          Oh, I should mention that for the last few years my provincial government has been a coalition of the NDP (the Left of Centre Party I previously mentioned) and the Greens. I'm fairly satisfied with it. Just the fact the Greens are in the government is almost enough for me. Not because I voted for them but because for all too many years they've been getting 5-10% of the vote and getting zero representation.

          Which bring up recent attempts in my province to get rid of first-past-the-post voting and get some form of proportional representation. In one of the referendums we had on it, if it was a political party it would have been the greatest blow out election in our history. Like, no opposition party in the legislature level blow out. But there was something of a poison pill that said every electoral district in the province had to get 60% or more yes votes and two (out of more than 80) only got 59% or so. Then the provincial premier (state governor equivalent), who commanded like 40% of the popular vote, announced there was no mandate for proportional representation.
          Last edited by Heresiologist; 08-14-2020, 01:46 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by EverKing View Post
            ... My question is: does a Parliamentary-like Party System provide more benefit or detriment to the American Federal system? ...
            I'm really not sure.

            But it's often remarked that party discipline is stricter in Canada and it's not unusual for pundits and such to sort of pine for the US's more freewheeling approach. Haven't heard that notion lately, though.

            Canadian parties also all have an official "Party Whip" whose job is, well, party discipline. If it's announced a vote won't be "whipped" it usually means the leader doesn't care about whatever's getting voted on and members can vote however they want.

            Originally posted by EverKing View Post
            ... Secondary to this I wonder, since the roots of the Party system lay in the need to provide the broad public easily differentiated identification of candidates at a time when an individual candidates personal stance on issues was difficult or impossible to disseminate to the broad public are Parties themselves even necessary in the modern era of mass-communications and availability of information?
            It's certainly true that good candidates, especially if they've won election and served their constituents well, can sort of rise above party affiliation. Party platform is still very important, though, and I think a lot of people vote for platform more than person.

            That said, next door to my federal electoral district is that of a lady who was ousted from her party but still won election as an independent. Going it alone without a party machine to back her made that really unlikely, especially since the party she was kicked out of was really gunning for her. It's testament to how much her constituents like her that she was reelected. I have friends who think her career should have been over, but I think she stood up for her principles and would have gladly voted for her.
            Last edited by Heresiologist; 08-14-2020, 01:59 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
              Has this always been the case? Or is it a more recent development? If the latter, did those founders guys have a relatively consensus position on the purpose or purposes?
              Well, in a way, yes but not exclusively. The Senate has always had the task and sole authority of confirmation for both the Supreme Court and the Cabinet (as well as lesser Federal Courts if memory serves). I think was Doc was alluding to was that the Senate now seems to expend more energy on this than on actual legislating.

              Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
              We have a senate, but they are supposed to provide a sober, non-partisan, second look at legislation from the "lower" house of parliament (AKA the Commons). It's supposed to be sober because they're appointed and don't have to worry about elections. Of course, that's the plan but the plan never survives contact with the enemy and we have met the enemy and it is us.
              The way the US Constitution has it--and as intended by the Founding Fathers--that is also how our Senate was intended to function. Each State had authority to appoint (usually via election by the State Legislature) two Senators for six-year terms staggered by two years. The intent was that by doing this, the Senate would be filled with experienced and professional Statesmen (I say statesmen because this obviously pre-dates Women's Suffrage) free from the whims of the masses and free from worry of re-election. This changed in 1913 with the adoption of the 17th Amendment which changed this to direct election by the People.[/QUOTE]

              "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
              --Thomas a Kempis

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
                ...it's often remarked that party discipline is stricter in Canada and it's not unusual for pundits and such to sort of pine for the US's more freewheeling approach. Haven't heard that notion lately, though.

                Canadian parties also all have an official "Party Whip" whose job is, well, party discipline. If it's announced a vote won't be "whipped" it usually means the leader doesn't care about whatever's getting voted on and members can vote however they want.
                Since the George W. Bush administration the "Party-Line" has become paramount here. There are only very rare, usual single, instances of individual Legislatures voting contrary to official Party doctrine.

                As for the Party Whip, I'm not entirely certain how each party controls its members here, in detail, but I do know the Parties have their leaders and administrative bodies who lay out the official line and position on major legislation. Any party member running contrary to that official line is at risk of losing the party endorsement and therefore losing access to all the Party money and power during re-election.

                Personally, I think there continues to be some value in legislative faction but that it should remain within the Legislature. Perhaps it is more a philosophical stance but considering the idea for the Chief Executive is the unbiased application (execution) of the Law, I see no good excuse for a partisan Executive. Let's look at this another way by examining the Constitutional role of the President, which is usually defined in five areas:
                1. Head of State and Government
                2. Chief Executive
                3. Commander in Chief
                4. Chief Diplomat
                5. Chief Legislator
                Concerning these:
                1. There are no Constitutional provisions for Party in the function of the Federal Government; therefore, why should the Head of such a Government be held to a Party?
                2. As previously said, as Chief Executive the POTUS is expected to be unbiased in the execution of Law; therefore, why should the Chief Executive be influenced by Party?
                3. The entire Military apparatus (another issue in and of itself) is non-partisan and operates under the authority of the President within the boundaries of Statute approved by the Legislature; therefore, why should the Commander in Chief of a politically independent military be beholden to Party?
                4. As Chief Diplomat, the POTUS is expected to act according the interests and within the Law of The People and the State--neither of which represent a single monolithic Party: therefore, why should undue influence of Party doctrine dictate diplomacy?
                5. Somewhat misleading, as Chief Legislator the POTUS only has authority to propose/recommend Legislative action and has final Veto power for Bills passed in both Houses--the President does not act as a true Legislator in that the Office does not actually generate Bills for approval nor does it have Voting authority in either chamber (VP acts as President of the Senate and provides an extra vote during deadlock but that is limit of the power); therefore, as the final authority of Legislation, I contend that the Office of POTUS should remain unbiased and free of Party.

                "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                --Thomas a Kempis

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by EverKing View Post
                  Well, in a way, yes but not exclusively. The Senate has always had the task and sole authority of confirmation for both the Supreme Court and the Cabinet (as well as lesser Federal Courts if memory serves). I think was Doc was alluding to was that the Senate now seems to expend more energy on this than on actual legislating.


                  The way the US Constitution has it--and as intended by the Founding Fathers--that is also how our Senate was intended to function. Each State had authority to appoint (usually via election by the State Legislature) two Senators for six-year terms staggered by two years. The intent was that by doing this, the Senate would be filled with experienced and professional Statesmen (I say statesmen because this obviously pre-dates Women's Suffrage) free from the whims of the masses and free from worry of re-election. This changed in 1913 with the adoption of the 17th Amendment which changed this to direct election by the People.
                  [/QUOTE]

                  That was my point. The six year terms were absolutely supposed to remove party politics and electoral consequences from deliberations, leaving the more nakedly political battles to the House. I am not that old, and I remember a time where the Senate prided itself as being above gridlock. They were Senators first, who were proud of governance over politics. But "the greatest deliberative body in history" is far from it, as it has turned almost as partisan, even to the extremes, as the House.

                  I thought Tom DeLay and Newt Gengrich had perverted Congress more than anyone could. I underestimated Mich McConnell. The way to maintain ideological power isn't through the Senate--that is a long-term loser, especially as the electorate shifts demographically. Lifetime judicial appointments will outlast those shifts, but you can only fight that so long. He has cynically corrupted democracy for a 30 year maintenance of outdated ideology that doesn't reflect the majority of the U.S. population at all.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Heresiologist View Post
                    I'm really not sure.

                    But it's often remarked that party discipline is stricter in Canada and it's not unusual for pundits and such to sort of pine for the US's more freewheeling approach. Haven't heard that notion lately, though.

                    Canadian parties also all have an official "Party Whip" whose job is, well, party discipline. If it's announced a vote won't be "whipped" it usually means the leader doesn't care about whatever's getting voted on and members can vote however they want.
                    Congressional whips are supposed to do the same thing. They are essentially arm-twisters. Lately they seem much more thuggish (on both sides) about ideological purity...

                    Also, Canada doesn't have the same right wing media machine that shapes one party nearly completely. Hannity, Limbaugh, and Carlson might as well be Republican whips. They may actually have more power than many in the party machinery.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by EverKing View Post

                      Since the George W. Bush administration the "Party-Line" has become paramount here. There are only very rare, usual single, instances of individual Legislatures voting contrary to official Party doctrine.
                      See my comment on Tom DeLay above... I could add Dennis Hastert to the list as well.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by EverKing View Post

                        I contend that the Office of POTUS should remain unbiased and free of Party.[/LIST]
                        I see your point, and, ideally, I think it would work. I suspect the office would turn out to be like federal judges. They are supposed to be nonpartisan, but no one even pretends anymore that they are not (which is part of the problem in U.S. "governance," of course). If there was some way that a chief executive could actually be not only nonpartisan, but non-political.

                        Just thinking about your points and talking off the top of my head... An ideal situation might be found in cities who have City Managers who really do the day-to-day work of cities, even when the city has a Mayor. An actual chief federal executive could manage most of the executive demands.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Doc View Post

                          I see your point, and, ideally, I think it would work. I suspect the office would turn out to be like federal judges. They are supposed to be nonpartisan, but no one even pretends anymore that they are not (which is part of the problem in U.S. "governance," of course). If there was some way that a chief executive could actually be not only nonpartisan, but non-political.

                          Just thinking about your points and talking off the top of my head... An ideal situation might be found in cities who have City Managers who really do the day-to-day work of cities, even when the city has a Mayor. An actual chief federal executive could manage most of the executive demands.
                          I think removing the political power and money of the Parties from the election cycle for President would have a positive long term effect. Even though a President would still likely be more closely aligned one-way-or-the-other to a Political Party, I think that by removing the power of the parties from the election cycle the President would be able to act more independently. Perhaps even more importantly, the Legislature would be more free to act independently of the President inasmuch as Executive policy and position would no longer be the controlling interest in Party position. Removing the President as a Party figurehead and spokesperson would allow the Parties freedom from cults of personality that tend to build around a President.
                          "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                          --Thomas a Kempis

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Continuing with the line of thought of my previous post: removing partisanship from Presidential selection would also remove the power of the Two Parties to control that selection. Instead of Party Primary or Caucuses for candidate selection we could institute a system of Open Primaries through the States--perhaps with Ranked Choice voting--which would determine the top two candidates for the final election in November. This would, of course, require major campaign finance reform and we would need to limit or remove the ability of purely political entities (Super PACs and the Parties themselves) from direct funding or direct endorsement of a candidate. Financing the primary candidates will be the biggest challenge because of the disparities in fund-access it will naturally introduce but I think smarter minds than mine may find a suitable solution.
                            "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                            --Thomas a Kempis

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by EverKing View Post
                              ... considering the idea for the Chief Executive is the unbiased application (execution) of the Law, I see no good excuse for a partisan Executive. Let's look at this another way by examining the Constitutional role of the President, which is usually defined in five areas:
                              1. Head of State and Government
                              2. Chief Executive
                              3. Commander in Chief
                              4. Chief Diplomat
                              5. Chief Legislator
                              Concerning these:
                              1. There are no Constitutional provisions for Party in the function of the Federal Government; therefore, why should the Head of such a Government be held to a Party?
                              2. As previously said, as Chief Executive the POTUS is expected to be unbiased in the execution of Law; therefore, why should the Chief Executive be influenced by Party?
                              3. The entire Military apparatus (another issue in and of itself) is non-partisan and operates under the authority of the President within the boundaries of Statute approved by the Legislature; therefore, why should the Commander in Chief of a politically independent military be beholden to Party?
                              4. As Chief Diplomat, the POTUS is expected to act according the interests and within the Law of The People and the State--neither of which represent a single monolithic Party: therefore, why should undue influence of Party doctrine dictate diplomacy?
                              5. Somewhat misleading, as Chief Legislator the POTUS only has authority to propose/recommend Legislative action and has final Veto power for Bills passed in both Houses--the President does not act as a true Legislator in that the Office does not actually generate Bills for approval nor does it have Voting authority in either chamber (VP acts as President of the Senate and provides an extra vote during deadlock but that is limit of the power); therefore, as the final authority of Legislation, I contend that the Office of POTUS should remain unbiased and free of Party.
                              This looks like a good place to flog an ancient democratic "solution" that I sometimes reflect on. Long ago I had a political science teacher and at the start of one class he pointed out that since everybody is an equal in a democracy, why don't we select leaders by lottery? Much later I learned that this is called sortition and, of course, the Greeks tried it or, at least, thought about it. If memory serves they figured out that they needed a strong education system for the eligible few.

                              The latest POTUS seems an argument for the idea pretty much anybody could do just as good a job. Therefore sortition.

                              Maybe with a no party affiliation requirement. Or finally bring all those long term non-voters into the system and have them form the eligibility pool. So many possibilities.

                              Comment

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