Reply To: Two Party (one party) system origin?


Handling this point separately:

Today we seem to have an illusory two-party system where both parties tend to put forward weak, watered down candidates that are mostly pro-statism. They seem to be calculated to as nearly identical as possible on most issues, vocalize strong opposition over a few minor points with which to differentiate themselves, and almost never stick to those few points of difference once elected.

Political scientists in general have a theory, a flawed but still useful one, for why this happens.

Imagine the political spectrum as a line, running from 0 – 100. People (the electorate) have some distribution across this line, but for definitional purposes “50” is the exact middle of the electorate (if the views of the electorate shift, so too does the location of the magic “50” number. That is, the spectrum always remains, as an abstraction, 0-100 with 50 as its middle regardless of beliefs).

Each party’s “bases” are distributed somewhere along this spectrum, we’ll say the average “Donkeycrat” voter is at 25, and the typical “Eliphublican” voter is at 75. We’ll also say that voters – people who have already decided they are going to waste their time going to vote* are, by and large and for the most part,** going to vote for the party whose views are closest to their own.

The logic of this is that a party can gain more votes – and, theoretically, lose none (remember, we’re considering here only voters who have already decided to vote, and to vote for one of the parties with a chance of winning) – by shifting towards the center. If Party D remains at 25 (the center of it’s “base,”) then party E can gain votes by shifting from 75 to, say, 60: they now capture all their old votes, plus some of the people near the middle who would otherwise have voted for D. They are teh winrar! But, hey, not so fast, dood – Party D can play this game, too! They also shift, but they decide to shift moar; they move from 25 all the way to 48! Now they are teh winrar! Only, not so fast…E moves again…

And soon you end up with two parties each trying to crowd the middle as closely as possible, while still throwing red meat to their bases (to keep them interested in voting at all), and each trying to portray the other as “out of the mainstream”/”fringe kooks.”

*Political scientists still have not – and they openly admit this – come up with a satisfactory explanation for why people bother to vote in the first place, since it is such a low-value use of time.

**Spending your vote on a party which is guaranteed to have no chance of winning – any “fringe” party in a two-party system – is, in the sense of winning, irrational. At least according to political scientists. Now people may have rational reasons for voting that way anyhow, some are willing to concede, but these reasons have nothing to do with winning elections and thus determining what policies get implemented, so these votes are “safely ignored” in this model.