Muftic: Are we watching the end of the two party system
Are we watching the end of the two party system? In 2016 it is dented but not yet dead. What happens after the November 2016 elections is the question. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump owe their rise to hijacking existing party organizations. Neither Sanders nor Trump has a history of party loyalty. This year is a battle between populist anger and the “establishment” personified by political party officials, certain candidates, and lack of Congressional leadership.
The two party system has advantages because it forces internal compromises early in the election cycle. That is not a permanent condition. Parties have in the past broken up, changed directions, and gone separate ways, particularly over the issue of slavery more than 150 years ago.
This year shows profound internal differences within the two parties.
Both parties have passionate members who put differing priorities over other considerations. This begs the question: Will the two parties splinter into a European style multiple party system? Will Democratic Socialists conflicting with traditional “establishment”, civil rights adherents result in Democrats going their separate ways? Will the GOP split up into several pieces of social conservatives, Libertarian small government advocates, defense hawks, and the racist, xenophobic factions?
The Democrats have a better shot at unification than do the Republicans. Their issue differences are not made of contested goals but about how much, which way, and how quickly to get to similar goals.
The GOP has deficit and defense hawks, small federal government advocates, and economic theories that people do best when the investors in business get the tax breaks and favorable legislation. Lately their nearly single minded focus had become advancing social conservatism, from right to life and opposing gay rights. They fiddled with their principles and priorities, while many in their base burned at their failure to help relieve their economic decline.
The GOP has found itself morphing into something else, thanks to Donald Trump’s single minded continued devotion to doing it his way instead of compromising on issues of priorities, tone, and philosophy. Many GOP leaders ignored their disagreements in the name of party unity, hoping he would pivot to appeal to general election voters. His recent attacks on a judge’s Hispanic roots illustrate their impotence to change his course, allowing the GOP to turn the party’s brand name into one harboring racism and a Trump authoritarian kind of leadership that contradicts basic principles in our Constitution, including an independent judiciary, and prohibiting discrimination based on race and religion.
There are structural barriers to party breakups that may force the two party system to stay intact, even given these internal struggles .Existing two parties are entrenched in party rules and control of fund raising lists. Laws vary from state to state that provide degrees of barriers for upstarts to make it on a ballot. Prevailing winner take all allocation state by state of the Electoral College votes shuts out even a close loser.
However, the two party system is not set in concrete or protected by the Constitution and state election laws can always be overturned and changed. If Trump loses the general election, this experiment in populist party hijacking will fail. However, if Donald Trump wins, expect more to copy his tactics and to weaken the two party system even more.
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