Author’s Note: This post is the second in a series. Part one is linked below; part three is here, conceding errors in the position I attempt to defend below.
Tuesday, I acknowledged I was contemplating a change to my political affiliation, from Independent to Democrat.
My rationale: Because political parties distort the political process, we should make them irrelevant. One way to accomplish that irrelevance is to seek an ultra-super-majority for one major party, to the point that elected officials would be distinguished primarily by principle and (I’d now add) by policy, not by party. In the same post, I suggested that, if required, I would today favor an ultra-super-majority for the Democrats, largely because they seem (at this point in history) more inclusive, more accepting of divergent views.
The reaction to that post, from two right-leaning voices, was swift and simplistic.
On Digg, one critic wrote:
… the managing editor of a site that claims to be for “moderates, centrists, and independents” supports a one-party system. How…Soviet of him.
Really? That’s the best argument this critic could muster?
News Flash #1: The single-party system in the former Soviet Union was not problematic because it was a single-party system; it was problematic because there were no independent, check-and-balance institutions; public officials were selected by minority not elected by majority; and divergent views were not tolerated.
News Flash #2: None of those things — checks-and-balances, elections, divergent views — require political parties. In fact, political parties are often inimical to these cornerstones of a vibrant democracy. Consider:
• Not that long ago, our system of checks-and-balances was compromised when a Republican-controlled legislative branch repeatedly rubber-stamped the policy agenda of a Republican-controlled executive branch, a far cry from the relationship between today’s same-party White House and Congress.
• Even in the U.S., political parties occasionally select candidates and bypass elections; though admittedly, those are primary not general elections. Such was the case (if memory serves me) with Dede Scozzafava in New York’s 23d Congressional District.
• Nor are attempts to squelch divergent views alien to U.S. political parties; reference the NRC’s recent attempt at a purity test for Republican candidates.
Jim Geraghty at National Review Online was the other critic of my Tuesday post. He leveled two charges: First, my confession undermined the legitimacy of this blog’s claim to moderation. Second, I declared the marginalization of a major party “the proper solution” to partisan politics.
If you read back to the original post, I never labeled my proposal “the proper solution.” In fact, I was very careful when drafting that post to label my proposal “one option,” and to caveat what followed with “If I were forced to make that choice, today,” thus indicating (or at least trying to do so) that I was not ready to make this choice; that I was not ready to advocate this “one option” above others. Net: My intent was not to name “the proper solution” but to provoke discussion about ways to achieve what I and others (including George Washington) consider (or in George’s case, considered) the ideal goal: No political parties.
Regarding Geraghty’s other point, questioning this blog’s “moderate” moniker: We’re often accused by conservatives of being too liberal, and by liberals of being too conservative. That leads me to believe we’re doing something right; that we’re at least inside the moderation ballpark; perhaps not always in its dead center, but definitely on the playing field. Furthermore, going back once more to the post that started this brouhaha, recall that I wrote: “even with one major party, there will still be plenty of conservatives and progressives and moderates.” I believe that statement to be true because in a nation as diverse as this one, you simply can’t get to ultra-super-majority status without a coalition of competing philosophies. However, I don’t stop at believing this to be true, I want it to be true.
I want there to be a balanced mix of conservatives and progressives and moderates among our elected officials because I’m convinced we arrive at the best solutions when we have such a mix. What I do not accept, however, is the implied position of folks like Mr. Geraghty, who seem to believe that conservatives can only be found in Republican ranks and that moderates can’t possibly include those who dare contemplate voting all-Democrat.