Random Thoughts

A peculiar proposition

In order to solve the problem of extreme partisanship combined with a lack of representation for what I believe to be a moderate majority in the United States, I humbly propose an interesting solution.

First, I think I should list a few "givens," also known as "assumptions."

One, the Republican Party has a lock on some basic ideas that resonate so strongly with Americans that they are almost unbeatable. These include being basically (but not necessarily rabidly) pro-business, anti-big government, pro-defense, and a few rather tough to define "Mom, apple pie and flag" type issues.

Two, the Republican Party, in order to build a majority twenty years ago, knelt down at the altar of radical religious fundamentalism to pick up a solid voting bloc. Unfortunately, this voting bloc also expect the party they put in power to enact rather draconian (very non-conservative) social measures for them (such as preventing education about sex or science, and injecting a strong religious component into public life).

Three, the "center" of American poitical leanings is moderately conservative, from a worlwide persepective. The United States in the forseeable future is highly unlikely to swing far enough to the left to warrant expectations of any particularly Socialist movements or programs.

Four, the Democratic Party has fallen apart from within, in terms of being able to present a credible opposition to the Republican party. Its leadership and power structure seem incapable of forming a basic platform which will appeal to a large number of people and at the same time differentiate them from the Republicans. The Democrats can;t even run a primary without causing almost fatal damage to all their best candidates.

Lastly, I will take as a breakdown of American political feeling (among those of voting age) the following crude analysis: approximately 5% are actively involved in major party structures. Approximately 60% are socially moderate conservatives. Approximately 20% are socially radicalized (right wing fundamentalists) conservatives. Approximately 10% are moderate to extreme liberals. The remaining 5% will remain undefined. The Republican Party in its current form can consistently generate votes from the radical 20% and half or slightly more of the moderate conservatives. Those moderates, being moderate, split between the parties (and the undeclared) because enough of them are repulsed by the extreme social stand of the religious right, but not enough of them want to leave behind the strength (noted above) of the G.O.P. to create a more moderate majority aligned with the Democrats, where likewise they are repulsed by either some of the extreme liberal components of the party's base, or by the cluelessness of its leaders. The genuine liberals are split between minor parties (including the Green party) and the Democratic party.

(I hope my rough figures here are not too inaccurate. I am essentially making them up based on observation of election results and occasional poll data.)

(One thing to remember is that the spectrum of political inclination in America is skewed to the right relative to the rest of the modern world. I think this is partly due to a historic anti-government sentiment and also to the fact that Americans are by and large very wealthy people - and those with wealth, having a lot to lose, tend towards more conservative policies.)

It is often said that what America needs is a third party movement to break this logjam of ineptitude. The problem with this idea is that most people do not want to leave the relative "safety" (defined as having their vote "count") of their major party affiliation (and I include those who are not registered to one of the major parties, since looking at election results shows that they do still usually vote for either Republicans or Democrats, and not for independent or third party candidates).

So the solution must come from "within" the system, barring some sort of tremendous economic or social upheaval - which, although possible, cannot be predicted with any success.

I have given up on the idea of reforming the Democratic party so that it can stand strongly on several issues that could be considered centrist (liberal from an American perspective). Part of the reason is that, just like the G.O.P., the Democratic party is beholden to their more extreme elements, many of whom are more active in the party and thus set the agenda for primary elections and platform writing. The other part is that they cannot figure out a credible way to "agree" with the Republicans on the core issues that Americans seem to hold dear (as noted above) without seeming to be just trying to copy them - and no one wants to vote for a copy when they can have the real thing.


I propose that all the "rank and file" registered Democrats, and the unaffiliated voters, jump ship and register as Republicans.


This would place approximately 90% of the voters in America in the Republican party, leaving out those who are heavily involved in the Democratic party's organization and structure, and those who are genuinely behind one of the many minor parties.

Does this mean I am asking all those basically moderate voters to accept the extremism that is inherent right now in parts of the Republican platform? No! They will continue to think and act as they already do.

What this will mean, is that out of that 90% or so body of voters in the "new" G.O.P., roughly two thirds, that 60% of American who are moderate but slightly conservative (the "middle" in American politics), will come to dominate the party at primaries, in caucuses, and eventually, in party leadership, platform writing and decision making.

The result would be the likely nomination and election of a moderate president, and more moderate people to Congress (to say nothing of the many state and local elections that would be affected).

Under these conditions, I think it is likely that the "new" party people sometimes think is needed in America, instead of having to somehow be formed to the left of the G.O.P., where it is not truly needed, would form as a splinter party created by disaffected extreme conservatives splitting off to the right of the new, basically moderate party that they used to control.

I think this would leave us with a strong majority party consisting largely of moderates, consisting of that 60% bloc I mentioned earlier; a minority party to the right (perhaps even the extreme right) including mostly the religious and political fundamentalists and being about 30% of the voters, with the remainder scattered out to the left of the new centrist Republican party.

This moderate party could maintain its appeal by co-opting any ideas that begin to gain traction on the right or the left quite easily. What would it stand for? Most likely, the "compassionate conservatism" that was coined by a figure who was neither. Respect for human beings in general. A strong interest in and promotion of a well-regulated but open market economy. A "Defense Department" whose primary focus is to protect the United States from foreign harm, rather than commercially-driven imperialist adventures. It would quite likely seek to promote open democracies in other countries, whether their political leanings were a bit to the left or to the right of ours. It would be "tough" on crime that hurts other people, but moderately progressive where it comes to so-called "victimless" crimes.

Remember that the central majority in American politics are economically conservative, but fairly moderate on social issues. They are not the loud trumpeters of every left wing social cause, but they do prefer to "live and let live." Many polarizing issues in this country today are only that way because of how they are promoted, and if presented differently would probably garner a very different reaction on the public stage.


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© Huw Powell

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