Sunday, May 22, 2016

A New Party !

They're talking about a new party again ! Some of the disappointed Sanders voters are going to start a new party ! Feel the excitement !

There has not been a successful new party start up in the United States since the formation of the Republican Party in 1854, 162 years ago. And History is littered with the bones of many an effort. There have been Marxist parties, Socialist parties, populist parties, progressive parties, candidate-based parties, centrist parties, reform parties, revolutionary parties, even the present Green party. And that's just on the center-left side of the spectrum.

Some of those parties, like the Communist Party USA or the Socialist Workers Party are to be sustained presence, not by attracting voters in elections, but by creating a body of professional, or semi-professional, organizers united by a Leninist party structure. But no party, including them, has become an electoral power.

Yet, the dream of new electoral party remains the go-to dream of frustrated progressives whenever their candidate loses. As a threat to Democrats, it has a certain power, but as a sustainable organizational strategy, it is laughable. And its power as a threat is not that the new party might outpoll Democrats, but that it is an organized way to urge people to abstain from the election.

If you step back, it is not surprising that new party formations don't work. Instead of going to where the people are, it is going to where the people are not and waiting for them there.




2 comments:

KJR said...

As a person whose family of left progressives was very politically active in and outside party poltics, I think the talk of a third party tends to be silly because the people who talk about it are usually people not capable of organizing an amateur basketball league that would sustain itself. In most small states, it would be easy to take over the Democratic party if you had a few thousand people willing to put in the time and money. Most of the complainers are too impatient, lazy, purist, and unable to form coalitions. Reminds me of the young men in the New Left in the 60's who liked to posture, boss people around, and even blow up things but couldn't be counted on to show up on time to help re-elect the senator who was the chief opponent of the war in Vietnam.

Pete M said...

It may be different in a parliamentary system, but I think that in our winner-take-all presidential system (focused on the presidency) two parties are inevitable.

Also, I'd like to follow up on KJR's comment above about working within the existing parties. I agree that it seems much more feasible to take over a party then to form a new one. From mid-1930s to the mid-1970s, moderates were strong enough in the Republican party that only one thorough-going conservative (Goldwater was nominated). Conservatives built a network of magazines, think thanks, funding sources etc, and now dominate the party so that even candidates who might have moderate leanings now need to run as hard-right conservatives.

Progressives may feel that they aren't heard in the Democratic party, but in the 1990s/early 2000s the mainstream of the party was significantly to the right of where it is now on crime, trade and foreign intervention. The change hasn't been nearly as dramatic or perhaps as permanent as the GOP's transformation, but that's in part because it doesn't have the same organizational basis.