But what if both parties split at the same time? What if we ended up with four parties instead of two? This could avoid the zero-sum nature of attempting only a "third" party. The seeds for the splits are obvious to see, on both sides. Let's take Republicans first ...
The Tea Party movement, while fractious, is a lot stronger than many are willing to admit. A recent poll showed more people self-identifying as Tea Partiers than as Republicans. The problem is, the bigwigs in the Republican Party control the money and the party machine. By "party machine" I speak of all the infrastructure that a national political party enjoys which is so hard for any third-party movement to put together from scratch.
These two groups -- Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans -- are headed on a violent collision course in the primary season next year. Mainstream Republicans know the way the game of politics is played on a national scale, and try to argue for candidates that will have some sort of broad appeal in the electorate, in an effort to retake the independents in the middle. Tea Partiers are concerned with only one thing: purity, above all else.
Over on the left side of the aisle, we have the current situation in the Democratic Party. The Progressives are about an inch away from considering a similar exodus from the party at large. They feel betrayed by Barack Obama, and by the corporate-owned "New Democrat" wing of the Democratic Party.
Progressives also feel that they are the core of the Democratic Party, being stymied by the corporatist fringe within. The building frustration among Progressives could lead to an eventual split, with a caucus of House and Senate Democrats proclaiming a new Progressive Party. If enough of them jumped ship simultaneously, they could form a bigger caucus than the remaining Democrats. And, like the Tea Partiers, they would likely bar entry to their party to anyone seen as insufficiently pure -- no corporate lackeys in Congress need apply.
But what interests me is that the possibility of such splits exists on both sides at the same time. The trite "America is divided and polarized politically as a nation" line that journalists love to trot out is even more true than they have noticed. Because not only are we divided in two, across the unbridgeable gap yawning wider every year between Republicans and Democrats, but on each side of the chasm, cracks are appearing within, between two major subgroups.
Speaking on a personal level, as a politics-watcher, nothing would make my job more interesting than some new players on the field. Speaking as an American, I have no idea whether a four-party system would be any better or worse for the country, or whether it could even work.
But it certainly would be fascinating to watch.
2 days ago