I admit I have been looking enviously at the fluidity of British politics lately. Imagine having an election, being able to vote for a party you actually support and believe in, and having it make a difference. Pretty heady stuff.
The entrenched parties we have is something that I think will hurt us in the long run. I have been working my way through a book on Texas history, and am amazed at the past vibrancy and flexibility of our nation. Americans pretty much moved into, and took over Texas, in about ten years. People moved about, politicians came and went, parties developed, collapsed, renamed themselves, society convulsed, reordered.
Now what have we got. A two party system whose basic premise is (to paraphrase Nick Clegg): "You are not allowed to take a chance on anyone else." That about sums it up.
Which brings me back to the Liberal Democrats of the U.K. Here is a party that is getting hammered by the same electoral "first-past-the-post" system here. And they have managed to shoe-horn themselves into a position to do something about it. Could a new party pull off the same move here?
Systemic differences aside, the basis problem comes down, like so many problems, to money. In America, money is everything. To get campaign money, you have to have power so you can offer something concrete in return for the donation. But you can't get power without money. A few charismatic people may be able to win from time to time, but we have painted ourselves into a corner.
The only opening would be for the politicians themselves to fall out, and to create cracks in the system from the inside. But the incentives to stay within the system are so powerful, it would be highly unlikely for this to occur.