We need a new third political party

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Today, most Americans accept the two-party system as inevitable. Some even believe that it is somehow written into our Constitution. It is not and, as recent events have clearly demonstrated, it has become a cancer for our national character. It is high time to throw out this fundamentally corrupt and corrupt institution.

Our founders were almost unanimous in their condemnation of political parties, which they frequently called “factions”. John Adams best summed up their feelings:

“There is nothing that I fear as much as a division of the republic into two great parties. . . this, in my humble apprehension, must be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution. “

But the founders also guaranteed the right of association in the Bill of Rights and soon found that people’s natural desire to join a common cause and the practicalities of running campaigns overwhelmed their ideals of individuality. As soon as George Washington left the national political scene, political parties quickly became the dominant element in our politics.

However, the two-party system did not reach its current hold until after the Civil War. Before that, there had been a churning of political parties, with the popularity of various groups increasing and decreasing. The Whig, Republicans, Democrats, National Republicans, Free Soil, anti-Masonic and various factions of the Democratic-Republican parties clashed for dominance.

But gradually, the modern Democratic and Republican parties began to consolidate their power and work together to create the duopoly that exists today through various statutory regimes aimed at excluding other parties. Parties have also increasingly used a variety of methods to discipline or exclude those who deviate from ideological purity.

Frankly, the two-party system served the country reasonably well for most of the 20th century, mainly because, as Lee Drutman points out in his book “Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop,” there was a considerable diversity of view within the two main evenings. But the rise of constituencies, primary elections, social media and 24-hour news channels has amplified the extremes of our body politic.

Even in the aftermath of the Jan.6 attacks on Capitol Hill, the Republican Party appears to remain Donald Trump’s party while its principled leaders who resisted election lies have been censored. It is unacceptable, but we have come to this in part because the two-party system is corrupted by vested interests.

According to Gallup poll, over the past decade, more than 40% of Americans have refused to identify with either political party. This number has recently increased to 50 percent. For those of us in those 40 to 50 percent, we were mostly forced to go to the polls and make the least smelly disgusting choice. We’re sick of doing this – no, we’re sick of doing that.

The biggest obstacle to creating a multi-party system in our country is the brainwashing that the incumbent parties have done to us, that a new one or a third party can never be successful. But we know from our own history that this is not the case – in fact, the current Republican Party started out as a new third party when the Whig Party fell out of favor.

In addition, most democracies in the world today, especially the large western democracies, have multiple parties. This is because the handle that has only two viable parts are outliers.

It’s time for a new American holiday. The one who breaks the left-right dichotomy. The one where people of good faith can come and reason together to find common sense solutions. A place where people can civilly disagree, where someone who disagrees with us is not our enemy or not American. One where practicality is valued over ideology and where compromise is not a bad word.

We look at our grandchildren today and are determined not to leave them a legacy of the current political dysfunction. It takes nothing more than those of us who still believe in civility, reasonable discussion and debate, love for our country rather than love for any party – to be get up!

As an ancient rabbinical saying asked it centuries ago – If not us, then who? If not now – especially after what we saw last year – then when?

Harte is previously the editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and chairman of Harte-Hanks. King is a former mayor of Kemah and a former columnist for the Houston Chronicle.


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