Third Parties and Independents

In states where voters choose a party affiliation when registering, the largest single affiliation is “Independent.” More people register and identify as Independent than as either Democrat or Republican.

The largest “party” cannot participate in Congress without “caucusing” (sitting, meeting, and voting) with one of the two “smaller” parties.

The largest party cannot run candidates in most elections or get on ballots in most states.

The largest party is, in governing terms, irrelevant. The largest party does not participate in self-government in the United States.

This is bizarre.

I have a feeling that most self-identified “independents” really are either Democrats or Republicans on election day. I think that most of them vote for the same party over and over but just don’t want to have the name hung on them,  but I don’t actually know that. If this is not the case, these people’s view of governance is so different from mine that it is not likely that I could comprehend an explanation should they offer one.

I don’t know the details of registration in other states. In my state we don’t state a party preference until primary election day; we ask for a Democratic or Republican ballot to vote in the primary. So maybe some of the Independents are people who would register Green, or Libertarian, or Constitution Party, but they don’t get that choice in their states. So third party affiliation might explain some of the imbalance too. I don’t know.

But whatever the reasoning is, registering Independent is a poor fit with the American system as it has evolved.

There are many Americans who express dissatisfaction with our two party system. If, as I believe, registering as an Independent is an expression of dissatisfaction with our two party system, then more than a third of registered voters are dissatisfied. Fewer than a third are registered Republican; fewer than a third are registered Democrat. That’s our two party system. Over a third are registered Independent. That is dissatisfaction.

It may not be obvious, but every actual real republic, every openly and honestly elected government, is a two party government every day but election day. There is a majority party, and there is a minority party. That’s it. One group of elected officials controls the government. The other group of elected officials tries to keep the group in control from going off the deep end.

That’s it. Two parties. Majority, and minority. I don’t care if there are two names, three names, or twenty named parties. Except on election day there is a governing majority and everybody else.

We hold elections to choose our government. How do you want to be governed? That is the question.

Most of the people I hear talking about third parties – parties in the United States other than the Republican Party or the Democratic Party -seem to have an image in their mind of a governing party. I don’t think anyone really desires to create a party that gets, year after year, 1/10 of 1% of the vote nationwide, and 2% of the vote in their stronghold states. Why bother? No, I think people have a vision of displacing the Democrats (at least of the ones I talk to most want to displace the Democrats) and replacing them with a different second party in a two party system.

Because remember: Majority Party. Minority Party. Show me a legislature on Earth that can’t be defined in those terms, or accept them. Majority parties enact laws. Period.

OK, so what is a political party? If one were to make a serious effort to replace the Democrats what would it take? Tweets? Facebook pages? Voting for Greens? Libertarians? So far none of those approaches have shown any sign of success. They are 1/10 of 1% parties. Their voters are not attempting to elect a government.

I operate on the following principle: to produce results requires action. Laws of thermodynamics: nothing moves until energy is applied to it. So say the desired result is to replace a nationwide political party which has ballot access in 3,142 counties or county equivalents in the United States and is written by name into the rules of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate as well as many state governments. What actions will this take?

First, a political party requires organization. A national political party requires a national organization. Humans cannot even make a grade school co-educational soccer league without creating an organizational structure. It is how we work, we herd creatures. I am confident that when we were pre-human hunter gatherers, even before we evolved into Homo (allegedly) Sapiens, we had organizational structures. Wolves have organizational structures. Coyotes do. Chimpanzees do. So let’s just agree that in order for a group of like-minded people to be a nationwide political party requires a nationwide organizational structure. This new party needs to organize 3,142 county committees. These 3,142 local committees need to work towards a common goal, electing a government. In order to communicate and share efforts they will need a nationwide umbrella organizational structure to collect and pass messages if nothing else. The most logical place to put such a headquarters would be in Washington DC, because  Washington DC is where the national government is. Once again, the stated objective is to create a governing political party.

So far we have 3,142 county offices and one national office. That won’t work. One office can’t communicate with 3,142 offices. Information going up has to be consolidated; information going out has to be distributed.There will have to be one or more intermediate layers of organization. States. Districts.

This is why armies have generals, two layers of colonels, majors, captains, two layers of lieutenants, and and four layers of non-commissioned officers between the civilian command and the troops on the line. One general can’t command a few hundred thousand soldiers directly. And those few hundred thousand soldiers are just one tiny fragment of what the new political party will have to manage, should they become the majority party.

Remember, the United States government is probably the largest organization ever created by humans. If the objective is to create a party to operate this government, that party has to be widespread and organized.

In my lifetime this is not how attempts to create a third party or independent party in the United States have gone. Some small group of people, loosely organized in a few dots on the map, picks a candidate for President. They get their candidate on the ballot in some states. They campaign ferociously, negatively, against the opposition candidate who most nearly agrees with their policies.

This is not an attempt to elect a government. This is not even a serious attempt to elect a President. This is an attempt to pass a miracle.


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