Friday, June 3, 2016

Replacing National Political Parties - By Bruce Walker

The 2016 presidential season may foretell the end of the two major political parties.  Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are not really members of the two parties whose nomination they have run so effectively to win.  Indeed, both reflect as much as anything else frustration and anger against the parties whose nominations they seek.  

The two major political parties are seen by most Americans not as a path to the solution of those difficult issues we face, but rather as a major sickness in our system of government.

Do we need these parties?  Not really.  Party labels allow politicians to mask the reality of policies behind the fog of partisan rhetoric.  This is compounded by the ugly fact that instead of having two national political parties, we really have the Party of Washington (A) and the Party of Washington (B), with all the goodies that come from controlling the White House and Congress providing the real motivation to win national elections.

What are the alternatives to our system of two national political parties?  

State governments could make all elections nonpartisan:  all candidates for congressional and state offices, perhaps even including presidential electors, would run on their own good names and arguments, and no candidate would have a "Republican" or "Democrat" by his name.  Nebraska already has a nonpartisan state legislature, and a number of cities have nonpartisan city councils. 

If enough states did that, then the number of nonpartisan members of Congress would be a majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, and the whole rotten system of party control of committees, with endless opportunities for mischief, would end.  The Speaker of the House would actually represent the House and not the majority party in the House, and such drab offices as "Minority Floor Leader" and "Majority Whip" would vanish.

This reform would also make it simpler to require runoff elections for all state and federal offices so that every senator, congressman, and governor won with a majority of the vote and not simply a plurality.  This change in elections further dilutes the political party system by compelling the two runoff candidates to present themselves not as candidates of a particular party to voters.  (Indeed, today, it is not uncommon for the two runoff candidates to belong to the same party.)

If we keep political parties, then there is nothing that requires that these parties should be national.  Regional parties are common in Europe, and these parties serve a vital purpose in providing a natural counterweight for regions that would otherwise feel subject to an unsympathetic national party leadership. 

Britain, Belgium, Germany, France, and Spain all have significant regional parties whose purpose is largely to protect those regions from overbearing behavior by a national government.  In fact, our nearest neighbor, Canada, has a major party dedicated entirely to the regional cultural interests of Quebec.  

America is really a land of many regions with divergent cultural values and economic interests.  The Constitution was intended to protect those regions through the sovereignty of states, but the crushing of states under the heel of Washington has destroyed that balance.  Regional political parties could do much to restore regional and state power.

What might this mean?  What about a "Rocky Mountain Party" to unite voters in those eight states who support prudent land use and profitable energy production?  This party could send sixteen senators to Washington whose purpose would be to bring sanity to those federal agencies that today treat this region as London once treated colonies.  

Another regional party might be a "Heartland Party" of the Great Plains and Deep South to send senators and congressmen whose purpose was to prevent the imposition from the federal bench of secular humanism on those states that rejected this particular religion.  The "Great Lakes Party" could agitate for fair trade with nations like China and sane environmental rules. 

The effect of regional parties that actually represented regional interests would force attention to be continually focused away from Washington and back toward the fifty states.  These parties could exercise a veto on federal judicial appointments within the region as well, which would provide another practical check on rogue federal power.

We ought to view the chaos in this nominating cycle as an opportunity to replace the old, vested national political parties with political institutions and processes that serve us better.   Washington Party (A) and Washington Party (B)  are broken beyond repair.