Breaking Into The Two-Party System

The United States, thanks to its winner takes all election system, is forever doomed to be in a two-party system. It’s basic game theory. For a 3rd party to become relevant at the national stage, it would have to oust and replace either the Democratic party or the Republican party.

This is no easy feat. The last time a major party was displaced in the American 2-party system was 160 years ago.

The US was first born with the Federalist party and the Republican-Democratic Party. Both parties only lasted about 35 years when they were replaced by the Democratic Party and the National Republican Party (which then merged into the Whig Party after 8 years). The Whig Party only lasted about 20 years until the 1850’s when it fell apart and was replaced by the Republican Party.

The Democrat and Republican parties have dominated the US two-party system ever since.

elephant_donkey_donkeyhoteyIMAGE CREDIT DONKEYHOTEY / FLICKR / CREATIVE COMMONS

But we may have the conditions today where it is possible for a 3rd party to enter the political system and displace one of the big two.

Anti-establishment sentiment is at a peak. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been losing members in droves for 10 straight years. 43%45% of Americans identify as independents – and those numbers came before the primaries started. Today, we likely have more independents than Democrats and Republicans combined.

The approval rating of Congress has been under 30% for 10 years and is currently at 11%.

We’ve now seen 3 anti-establishment movements in the United States in the past 8 years: the Tea Party, then Occupy, and then Black Lives Matter.

In this presidential election season, averaged across the two parties, anti-establishment/outsider candidates (Trump, Cruz and Sanders) received roughly 65% of all pledged delegates.

The Republican Party was just hijacked by Trump and roughly 40% of the party is refusing to rally around him. On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic Party only barely just defeated the Sanders insurgency, with roughly 33% of Sanders voters currently refusing to ultimately vote for Hillary Clinton.

This is not too different from 1848 when abolitionists abandoned both the Whig and Democratic Parties parties and formed the Republican Party.

The conditions are here today for a 3rd party to emerge.

If it is to be successful, it must be a coalition of disaffected voters from across the political spectrum and run competitive candidates in every district nationwide.

It must bring together the Libertarians and Progressives, as well as, the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter and Occupy movements.

At first glance this may sound like a match made in hell, but actually, all these groups can agree on who their real enemies are: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and the mega-rich that control both parties.

So what might this new party’s platform look like?

It would have to have the following 3 core pillars: ending corruption, ending big brother government, and ending the 2-party system. These are all causes that poll extremely well amongst Tea Partiers, Berners, Greens, BLMers, Occupiers, and Libertarians.

More specifically, what this means is ending corporate welfare, the off-shoring of wealth, and tax loopholes for the rich. It means overturning Citizens United and never using Super PACs. It means de-militarizing police forces, ending the drug war, and shutting down government programs used to spy on Americans.

There’s also one more little known cause that should be added to this hypothetical party’s list: proportional party representation.

Each of the sub-groups I’ve named as part of this coalition has an interest in pushing proportional party representation so that it can actually become its own viable political party – electing its own representatives rather than the lesser of two evils.

This wouldn’t have to be a long term alliance. Once they implemented proportional party representation, the party could dissolve, and the various factions could go their separate ways, form their own political parties and actually all gain representatives in a multi-party system. Imagine what Congress might look life if we implemented proportional party representation.

The key is just that people across the political spectrum recognize their shared desires/interests in defeating the Democratic and Republican Parties, destroying corruption, and dismantling big brother government.

So how about it? Are you down take the best of red, white and blue, mix it all up, and #gopurple?

The Rules of Politics Have Changed

The only thing keeping Hillary alive right now is the large faction of Democrats who prefer Bernie’s platform but think Hillary is more electable.

The belief in Hillary’s electability is based in a set of theories about the American electorate that held true from roughly 1968-2006, but have since lost their explanatory power.

The conventional political wisdom says that Americans will always believe themselves to be capitalists waging a Cold War with communism. It says that Reagan ushered in a permanent conservative political era, and that leftist candidates are forever doomed to lose McGovern style. It says that to win the presidency, politicians must appeal to the “center” and get the financial backing of the corrupt, corporate establishment.

This is no longer true. The times have changed.

In the past 15 years, we’ve had the failed Iraq war, the crash of 2008, and the blossoming of the internet; climate change has become an undeniable fact and gay rights and marijuana legalization have become mainstream. These factors, and many more, have contributed to a total re-shaping of the American political landscape.

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The American ideological distribution has polarized. Centrists are rapidly evaporating. And this is in spite of the fact that there are now almost as many independents as Republicans and Democrats combined.

In the past 8 years, we’ve seen 5 massive political movements: Obama in ’08, the Tea Party in ’09, Occupy Wall Street in ’11, Black Lives Matter in ’15, and now Bernie’s movement in ’16. We haven’t seen political movements like this since the 60’s.

What this all points to is a widespread and deep dissatisfaction with centrist, establishment politics. The success of Sanders, Trump and Cruz is evidence of this fact. They offer the two competing explanations for why establishment politics and economics have failed.

The explanation on the right is that Bush, Bush Sr., Reagan and Nixon all weren’t conservative enough. They believe it is all these immigrants, gays, PC-liberals, Muslims, blacks and Mexicans that are destroying America. They believe we need to make America great again by returning to the “good ‘ol days” (aka white-man America). Needless to say, the right is wrong.

The explanation on the left is that the past 40 years have proven the failure of neo-liberal economics and hawkish foreign policies. The belief is that we need to return to European/Roosevelt style economics and diplomacy based foreign policy. Needless to say, the left is right.

Millenials are the first generation to accept this fact. We are Bernie’s internet army. We are the reason Bernie has continued winning, even as the entire mainstream media has only ignored and mocked him.

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Creative commons courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Millenials are really good at collectively spreading Bernie’s message and destroying counter-narratives. Consider that in just 9 months we have succeeded in making democratic socialism a permanent fixture of American politics. We got the DNC to reverse their decision overnight on locking Bernie’s campaign out of the voter databases. And it took us about a week to squash the narrative that Hillary is the choice feminist candidate.

We are currently in the process of dismantling the narrative of Hillary’s African-American firewall. The signs are there: Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cornell West, Erica Garner, and Shaun King have all recently spoken out in favor of Bernie.

Politics is now real time. As media narratives arise, the internet responds to them – and very effectively. The establishment may control TV and newspapers, but millenials control the internet – and that’s why we are winning. We control the comment sections. We have thousands of prominent pro-Bernie social media pages that are generating millions and millions of views every single day.

Howard Dean was heralded in 2004 for revolutionizing politics by using the internet. Obama was similarly hailed as a digital innovator in 2008. Bernie has now broken Obama’s fundraising records. He raised $3M in the 24 hours after Iowa and then $6.4M in the 24 hours after NH. He received more votes in the NH primary than any politician in history.

So let’s be clear, it never was Dean, Obama or Bernie that broke those records and revolutionized politics; it is the internet-left that has repeatedly started these movements. We are the ones changing the rules of politics.

Conventional political wisdom said that Obama, a black man with Hussein as a middle name, couldn’t become president. It said Trump couldn’t win Republican primaries while insulting veterans, making sexist comments about Fox News anchors, and saying racist things about blacks and Mexicans. It said that a Jewish democratic-socialist could never be more than an obscure fringe candidate.

Conventional political wisdom is dead.

In the new political world, Hillary is no longer the safe bet; she is the liability that embodies the failed political past.

It’s one thing to fight against Bernie’s revolution because you don’t believe in the cause. It’s another thing to believe in the cause, but to fight it because you believe in an outdated set of theories about the American electorate.

The rules of politics have changed.

It is time to stop asking “how can Bernie succeed?” and start asking: “how can I help Bernie succeed?”

Bernie Is More Credible and Electable Than Hillary

Now that the media is finally saying it’s time to start taking Bernie Sanders seriously, we’ve seen a flurry of hit pieces from Paul Krugman, Ezra Klein, Paul Starr, and other supposed liberal/progressive champions arguing, ironically, that we still shouldn’t take Bernie seriously.

They say: “Americans will never elect a socialist” — “Bernie won’t get anything done” — “Bernie’s plans are all puppies and rainbows.”

Allow me to debunk this American mythology that liberal and progressive ideas aren’t viable in the U.S.: Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt.

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 Creative commons courtesy of Gage Skidmore

First, let’s be clear, campaign finance reform, tuition free higher education, universal health care, reforming the financial industry, raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, and much, much more are great policies that successfully exist today, in various combinations, in several dozen different countries. Those countries generally have cheaper healthcare, better education, happier citizens, less inequality, less poverty, less crime, and less corruption.

That’s not “puppies and rainbows;” that’s facts and logic. Bernie’s platform isn’t just good policy, it is hands down superior to every other presidential candidate’s platform. This “liberals are naïve dreamers” narrative is part of the age-old Reagan-conservative BS, and its adoption by Democrats is the reason why the corrupt, Democrat establishment still exists today.

Bernie supporters are not naïve. The point of electing Bernie is not to get anything done. It is to stop all the corrupt, corporate, political forces from getting anything more done.

What’s the point of having Hillary “get stuff done” if all she will do is stuff that Republicans and the rich and powerful like?

Anything we want Hillary to do, Bernie can do, too. He has a solid history of working with Republicans to pass legislation.

That aside, with a Republican Congress, the way Bernie or Hillary will get anything done is through executive actions, picking heads of government agencies, and nominating Supreme Court justices. Bernie’s long history of being on the right side many issues, not just social issues, especially compared to Hillary, is proof alone that he will make way better decisions on this front.

And no, Bernie is not out of his league on foreign policy. Have you forgotten what happened in 2002? Bernie didn’t just vote against the war. He understood that the Iraq invasion would strengthen anti-Americanism, de-stabilize the region, find no WMDs, indebt America, and be tragedy for Iraqi civilians and American soldiers. Either Hillary was too clueless to understand any of this, or she was too politically opportunistic to care. Either way, she is a liability as president.

Not to mention, while Obama is viewed as a major improvement around the world, he’s also seen as a major disappointment. Hillary will be more of the same. Bernie represents what the world wanted to see in Obama, and that will translate to improved relations with numerous countries in Europe, Latin America, and the Islamic world.

Bernie Sanders will definitely be a better president than Hillary Clinton.

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 Creative commons courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Now for the electability argument.

You’ve seen the head to head polls: Bernie does better than Hillary against Trump and Cruz by a ~+5 percent margin. Just in case you don’t remember 2008, Obama’s 7 percent margin of victory is what it took for Democrats to win supermajorities in Congress. If we want a credible shot at passing legislation, we need supermajorities.

Stop saying a movement is naïve and impossible. It just happened 8 years ago. If a black guy can lead a movement, so can a democratic socialist. Bernie has already broken Obama’s fundraising records. It’s totally possible.

Movements drive turnout. Voter turnout is just as important, if not more important, than appealing to independents and Republicans.

That being said, Bernie does WAY better with independents. Sure, Americans fear socialism, but socialism is a vague bogeyman of the past that hasn’t had a concrete face in decades. Millennials don’t even remember a Cold War. Clinton is a real face that conservatives have been hating for decades.

I cannot emphasize this enough: Hillary is HATED by Republicans and independents. While Hillary’s Benghazi, e-mail server, and Bill Clinton baggage is largely overblown, sexist, or fiction — she can’t get past it. My problem is Hillary’s Wall Street and Iraq war baggage. Either way, there are more people excited to vote against Hillary than are excited to vote for Hillary. (That being said, if Hillary does win the nomination, I urge all Bernie fans to vote for her.)

You might say Bernie will sink in the polls once Republicans throw the kitchen sink at him, and there’s some truth to this. The thinking goes that Americans aren’t sophisticated voters but instead emotional voters, and that by Republicans pandering to fears of socialism, Bernie will be destroyed.

However, emotional thinking is exactly why Bernie will perform better than Hillary.

The American emotional sentiment right now is anger at establishment politics and economics. Bernie, Trump and Cruz are all riding this wave, and collectively they have more support than all establishment candidates combined. No matter what Nate Silver and all the establishment-wins pundits keep saying, this is anti-establishment season.

Americans want blunt honesty and change. There’s a reason for the crossover between Trump and Bernie supporters. Bernie is respected for having integrity, even by Republicans who think his politics are crazy.

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 Creative commons courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Think about the long-term brand of the Democratic Party. Nominating the quintessential establishment candidate at a time of peak anti-establishment sentiment would be a disaster for the Democratic brand.

Bernie can reasonably say he’s a man of the people: Clinton, Cruz and Trump cannot. With Bernie, Democrats have an opportunity to lock down millennials as a passionate voter base for decades to come. In spite of Pelosi’s conservative rhetoric, do you really think Democrats will be so foolish as to not rally around Bernie once he’s the nominee and riding an even bigger movement than today?

Besides, the demographic calculus, the general American leftward shift, and the Republican radicalization means Democrats will probably win the presidency. So rather than splitting hairs about who is more electable, pick the person who will be the better president. #feelthebern