The Independent Majority

In a comment on political homelessness and circus tent politics here at Politea, Sam Wilson of Think 3 wondered whether third, fourth or fifth tent politics was sufficient to change the structure of the reigning bipoligarchy, and suggested rather "a no-party state in which each legislator represents a state or district and nothing else." Like all good ideas, this one too seems to be 'in the air,' if you will. Rich Lewis, at the PA Sentinel, reflects on poll numbers showing the rise of an independent majority and concludes:
We’re left to wonder whether the two-party system is not just in a temporary slump, but rather has reached the end of its useful life. And what would come next. Two obvious possibilities arise. First, we could be headed toward a multi-party system where two parties are dominant but can only muster pluralities and are forced to make deals with smaller parties in order to get anything done . . . The other possibility is, basically, a no-party system [emphasis added]. We are on the brink of that now — how else to describe a situation where nearly 40 percent of the people call themselves “independents”? Some might say that these “independents” are a de facto “party” — but the word would seem to require the existence of some sort of organizing philosophy. Do independents have such a philosophy — or do they just slide back and forth as the mood strikes them?
Without the opportunity to vote for an independent or third party candidate in a given election, the independent voter is reduced to a swing voter choosing between the lesser of two evils, and, by this very fact, is not 'independent' of the two-party system in a meaningful way. When they are effectively organized, however, and succeed in getting one of their own onto the ballot, independents do indeed function as a 'de facto party' precisely because they cannot be so easily co-opted by the duopoly machine and may thus become a political force to be reckoned with. Is there a significant difference between a multi-party system and a no-party system in such a context?


Samuel Wilson said...

I don't think we can prevent parties forming the way the original ones did, from blocs of like-minded legislators. To prevent the emergence of another Bipolarchy or any system that effectively shuts out, we'd need changes in election law, particularly regarding the format of the theoretical ballot, that would prevent the "branding" of legislative parties to the detriment of upstart candidates. We would probably also want to change the rules of Congress to eliminate anything pertaining to "majority" and "minority" status.

As for "independents," I'd hope they'd define themselves by their pragmatism rather than by fealty to any party's ideological package. That might make partisan cohesion difficult, but in this case partisanship should be based on regular communications on the grass roots level, not the perpetuation of a brand-name platform or candidate list. An independent party should be defined by the way it chooses candidates, not by an ideological litmus test.

Samuel Wilson said...

My bad: the second sentence above should read "To prevent the emergence of another Bipolarchy or any system that effectively shuts out challengers from outside the system..."

d.eris said...

It will also be defined by the way it networks itself. Independents appear behind in this regard, having neither a party apparatus nor a unifying national figure to support. Yet even this could be exploited to their advantage.