At What Point is a Third Part Viable

>> Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Confidence in the republican party is at an all time low. The sight of a Senator switching parties after 29 years in office is pretty shocking. So the question is going to start arising, could a new conservative party work in the northeast? Theoretically there should be a point where the democrats are not going to be an option for those who no longer want to be affiliated with the republican party. There could be a point where a sane and moderate conservative party could peal away enough conservatives and conservative dems to give them seats in the house or other state wide office?

Kos' post on the fate of the republican party in the northeast spells out just how bad they are doing there. the republican brand is simply unusable. there have been massive registration shifts with those people formerly in the republican party moving towards independent or decline to state registration. The Republican Party is very much the southerner's party.

With such a low base of support it seems possible that a third party could supplant the republican party as the conservative party in the northeast region. There are several barriers to third parties in this country, 1) the First Past the Post Election System 2) Money and Infrastucture 3) the Co-option of underlying issues by major parties 4) Lack of Ability to Govern with Minority. These challenges do not present as big a problem with replacing the republican party in the Northeast.

The first problem that a new party would need to overcome is the first past the post system of voting where whoever gets the plurality of votes is the winner. This is what usually accounts for the three party problem where the two parties on the conservative or liberal side split the vote and the other side then wins. In the Northeast where the republicans are so low in support it may also be true that they are far enough to the right that a third party could run in the middle and collect enough conservative dem, indy, and moderate republican votes to gain a plurality. The problem of course come in constructing an issue outlook that would attract those voters without coming to close to the major parties. Though it is possible that the new party would simply function on an ad hoc basis as a rejection of the other two parties without coherent issue positions on most topics.

The purity of the hard right republicans might make it easy to take the moderate conservatives by staking out a position in favor or civil unions or gay marriage. As an issue that is one that the hard right will never adopt. Then i think the neo-republic party would have to support the police state or some other position that most dems would not support but would draw blue dogs and combine well with conservatives. The key for a neo-republican party in the northeast is to take in the people who are no-longer conservative enough for the party but dont feel comfortable as democrats. The next problem is attracting the conservative dems who see the potential value in being part of the winning democratic team.

There is a serious issue where voters dont want to vote for losers and issues where the vote doesnt do much. Voters want to be with the winners. If a northeast republican party could not manage to show a possible means of achieving the legislative goals it wouldnt have people willing to vote for it. This might be solved if they can get a senator to represent the new party. Senators have such outsized power that they can serve as brokers in a deal where the hard right southern republicans refuse to assist in any way and are intent on filibustering. The northeast republicans serve, as they really do know, as a coalition partner. the current moderate wing of the senate already operates like a parliamentary system from piece of legislation to legislation.

There are additional questions about infrastructure. The political infrastructure such as campaign activists, fund raisers, and donor lists could be attracted to a new northeast republican party. Most of what we think of as political infrastructure is intellectual capital combined with money. If the Northeast Republicans had some high profile members as a starting foundation they would also have the name recognition required to attract free media attention. this is especially true because broderists and others who ascribe to the bipartisan love theory of politics would be thrilled to promote a third middle way party.

The liklihood of this happening is close to zero. However it is possible. The near extinction of the republican party in the northeast appears to leave a vacuum on the conservative side of the fence and something has to fill it.


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