Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thinking About Parties

I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000.  I was sick of the moderation of the Clinton administration, and wanted to send my message to the Democratic party.  Part of my decision rested in knowing that as a resident of Portland, OR, my protest vote wouldn't really impact what was going to be a largely progressive local electorate; Gore took Oregon.  However, since then, my thinking has changed.  I'm not sure my views have become any more moderate.  But I think they have become more expansive, in that they are more considerate of political - as well as social - realities.

I understand the aggravation with the two parties.  Yet the reality is that they each represent very different ideologies, representative of huge portions of the American electorate.  I don't see how third parties change this.  A parliamentary system might get more representation, but ultimately, to get anything done there will still have to be compromise, and coalitions will have to be whipped.  Each of the two parties could be broken into more ideologically specific groups, but in the end they'd no doubt come together much as individual state senators and congresspersons do.

This raises a larger question though, about compromise and working across party lines.  Having two parties might enforce ideological rigidity.  But I'm not sure.  Contemporary polarization seems as much a function of our cultural and media landscape as anything else.  The less we ourselves become polarized, the less we will elect those who are.  The question then, is how this happens. 

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