Do we really have a five-party “system”?

Melvyn Magree

Many commentators write about the “two-party system” as if it were enshrined in the Constitution.  Actually, the writers of the Constitution feared factionalism.  They thought their document would bring about a system of considered deliberation and reasoned arguments.

Unfortunately, factionalism reared its ugly head quite quickly.  John Adams, a signer of the Constitution, and Thomas Jefferson, a non-signer, soon fell into animosity about the direction of government.  They did reconcile their differences in their elder years, but their dispute lingered in the Whig and Democratic parties.

The Whig party went into decline when several Whigs formed the Republican Party, partly because of opposition to the extension of slavery and partly because of support of modernization.  Ironically, one of the Republican slogans was “Free Labor” as opposed to slave labor.

Over time, the parties’ basic tenets changed with changing times.  The Republicans essentially became the party of Big Business and the Democrats became the party of the People.  But these were not fixed ideologies.  The parties adjusted their ideas to the times.  Republicans put forth ideas that favored a “government for the people” and the Democrats put forward ideas that were corporate-friendly or status quo.  Many commentators referred to the two parties as “big tent” parties; that is, all were welcome if they held loosely to a few basic tenets.

Then somewhere in the eighties or maybe even earlier, the Republicans morphed into a hard-nosed, doctrinaire party.  The days of the RINO (Republican in Name Only) began.  Some very stellar Republican politicians who got things done for the greater good were no longer welcome.  The Republicans also drew in many evangelicals who knew exactly what God wanted; just the kind of religious influence that the signers of the Constitution worried about.  The signers were very aware of the differences among denominations and didn’t want to favor one over the other.

The result of all these changes have left many would-be voters, and even regular voters dismayed.  As the parties have hardened in their stances, many people see government as dysfunctional and more partisan than deliberative.  Remember that phrase describing the U.S. Senate as “the greatest deliberative body in the world”?  I’ll agree to the “deliberate” part, “deliberate” grandstanding for minor electoral advantage.

Back to the signers of the Constitution: I think they had in mind a constituency who knew the men they were electing, if not personally, at least by reputation.  Now we know our candidates by the slick literature they send out and the amount of TV exposure they get.  Unfortunately, third parties spend millions smearing the candidates based on private interest, not the public good that the candidates may promote.

My solution to all this mismatch of ideas and actions is either all candidates are independents selected on the merits they project or candidates are loosely organized into parties that reflect their own interest.

My choices for parties would be Libertarian, Business, Evangelical, Charity, and Common Good.

The Libertarian Party would be almost anti-government.  To them, the individual is primary, government just gets in the way of freedom.  Taxes are just stealing money.  Laws are for other people.

The Business Party would be all in support of large corporations with a bit of a sop to small businesses.  Taxes and regulations just get in the way of corporations “returning value” to their shareholders.

The Evangelical Party would be Bible-centric and would pass laws pushing for more religion in government and for how all should behave, both in public and private.

The Charity Party would take up the causes of those groups who they feel are disenfranchised by government or society.  This Party is difficult to criticize because there are many people with problems that they did not create.  On the other hand, many people in a given group have managed without the Charity Party’s help.

Finally, the Common Good Party is my party (if I were to cease being a Party of One).  This is the party that takes seriously “General Welfare” and “Common Defense” in the Constitution.  The Common Good Party is concerned with infrastructure, safety regulations, commercial laws, and many other laws and expenditures that help promote a prosperous society.

The Libertarian Party ignores how much it depends on government.  What if a libertarian had been defrauded.  Would that person depend on a tax-supported court to seek reparation?  Or would the Libertarian have it out with six-guns on the streets of Laredo?

The Business Party is similar to the Libertarian Party with the emphasis on large organizations rather than individuals.  But would a modern corporation survive without public schools to train a large number of people in increasingly complicated skills, without roads to move its goods around, without police and courts to seek redress for those who would harm the corporation?

The Evangelical Party seems to pick and choose what Bible verses to use.  Two that it seems to me that they ignore most are “Be not like the hypocrites who pray in public to be seen by men…” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  One could also say the writers of the Constitution were all to familiar with the picking and choosing done by various sects; that’s why they wanted “no religious test”.

The Charity Party’s hearts are in the right place, but the number of problems is so large that many people can’t put their hearts and souls into all those the Charity Party thinks are important.  Government does need a few members of this party just to keep some of issues on the table.

We probably will never have a single Common Good Party because people never agree on the priorities.  This gets back to the Constitution which didn’t really define “General Welfare”.  We do need to have more people who run for office speak out for the common good rather than promote a private interest.
Mel keeps wishing for a majority government, but he keeps seeing a minority voting.