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A third party in Congress---what exactly would happen?


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What exactly would happen to U.S. politics in the unlikely event that a 3rd party or some sort of independent bloc won, say, a couple dozen seats in the House of Representatives?

Believe it or not, we haven't always had a "two party system". If you look at the House and Senate websites (rather annoying they don't have just one site!) you can see that there were times when there was actually a third party of some presence in those chambers.

It's unlikely, but what would happen if it did? What would congressional politics be like in that event?

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Depends. Suppose the Libertarian Party won 50 seats, at most. They have a different mindset than the two major parties. It might change from one issue to the next, swinging the vote from left to right and right to left one vote after another.

I'm curious to hear what you all think about this. What do you think would happen?

Edited by JamesHackerMP
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I think it would be good for US politics. It would enliven debate, enable the possibility of meaningful legislation passing on certain issues when 2/3 parties agree on it even if the 3rd doesn't, and dis-entrench partisanship a little bit I would think. The politics of countries that have more than 2 parties seems more dynamic and more changeable as compared to the US with its 2 heavily entrenched parties. 

I think it would be great if moderate democrats were in a separate party from the SJW types. I think it would be great if moderate republicans were a separate party from libertarians, and the social conservatives could be their own party too. 

Edited by Bonam
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See, the two-party system worked better before it polarized. I think a third party presence would force the two major parties to depolarize, else they would lose ground to that third party (competition). Even if it were temporary, it might be just what the doctor ordered.

There have been times where there was a strong third party presence in Congress. However, it took 2 months to elect a compromise Speaker once under those conditions, so it would have a down side.

Part of the reason I think that there isn't a third party presence is Americans commit to a self-fulfilling prophecy: "Don't throw your vote away," people say, and it becomes reality.

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Personally I think political parties should be banned, completely. Every representative should have a singular job, to represent their constituents, not to be a part of a party. Issues should be debated on their merits, and representatives should vote on them based on their own opinions and the interests of their constituents. That's how it's supposed to work. Not these monolithic organizations we call parties, which prioritize party power over the country and over constituents, and where the ability of politicians to gain and keep power depends on the party bosses rather than on the people they represent. Parties are evil, they are the antithesis of democracy, they are leeches sucking the lifeblood out of democratic nations. 

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If a third party held the balance of power, Congress might go back to working the way it was intended with the need to compromise in order to get things done. I used to be an admirer of the US system because of that. That admiration dissolved a decade or so ago, not getting things done has become more important.

Edited by Wilber
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In the 1992 presidential elections Ross Perot got 19% of the votes. Do you think he destroyed Bush's chances to be re-elected or did he take votes away from Clinton as well? 

Edited by -TSS-
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On 11/2/2018 at 1:49 AM, Bonam said:

I think it would be good for US politics. It would enliven debate, enable the possibility of meaningful legislation passing on certain issues when 2/3 parties agree on it even if the 3rd doesn't, and dis-entrench partisanship a little bit I would think. The politics of countries that have more than 2 parties seems more dynamic and more changeable as compared to the US with its 2 heavily entrenched parties. 

I think it would be great if moderate democrats were in a separate party from the SJW types. I think it would be great if moderate republicans were a separate party from libertarians, and the social conservatives could be their own party too. 

If more than two parties had elected representatives the USA would be having a similar dilemma as Canada and the UK with the voting-system. As long as there are only two parties you can have single-member electoral districts, the one with most votes wins. However, if there are more than two parties with none of them receiving more than 50% of the votes, the results would be very didproportional to the voter outcome.

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Actually that's not a bad point. We do have third parties in the United States, people do vote for them, but not very many. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy via "don't throw your vote away because they never win" sort of thing. Technically, there is nothing stopping the Libertarians or the Greens (or the Socialist Workers....whatever) from winning an election, they're on the ballot anyway.

The electoral college is partly the reason only two parties typically win seats in Congress and the presidency. People don't like having to wait for the House of Representatives to sort it out to find out who's the next president.

There was an independent in 1968 who swept a bunch of southern states. Had he won a few more, like Maryland or Virginia, George Wallace would have been able to play kingmaker with  his electoral votes. Or, even worse, allow the election to be thrown into the House of Representatives and gum up the works, possibly for weeks at least. Point is, the presidency favors a two party system but there is no reason other offices cannot be won by an independent or a third party.

But you're right: we could have huge blocks of congressmen  who owe their elections to 40% or less of the electorate. It would however, make things interesting, at least.

Edited by JamesHackerMP
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There has been speculation that as the whites in the USA will fall below the 50% mark unless the Republicans somehow reinvent themselves and get rid of the stigma of being a rich old white men's party they may be permanently out of power in the future. Trump could be the last Republican president.

Namely, the voting-behaviour of the black and Hispanic people has remained more or less the same over decades. It is only the whites' votes which swing back and forth. The blacks vote for the Democrats 90-10 and the Hispanics vote for the Democrats 70-30.

Demography is destiny. The Republicans are not going to disappear totally; no doubt they will still be strong at the state-level in many states but they may be permanently out at the federal level.

That could spell the end for the two-party system in the USA as it is impossible that after some time when there has been a Democratic President and Democratic Congress that people wouldn't feel a need for a change. Some new alternative may rise.

ma

t

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5 minutes ago, -TSS- said:

Demography is destiny. The Republicans are not going to disappear totally; no doubt they will still be strong at the state-level in many states but they may be permanently out at the federal level.

 

Really ?    Then how does one explain the GOP domination of state and federal offices since 2010 ?   More "white people" ?

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I think there will always be a party to 

7 minutes ago, -TSS- said:

There has been speculation that as the whites in the USA will fall below the 50% mark unless the Republicans somehow reinvent themselves and get rid of the stigma of being a rich old white men's party they may be permanently out of power in the future. Trump could be the last Republican president.

Namely, the voting-behaviour of the black and Hispanic people has remained more or less the same over decades. It is only the whites' votes which swing back and forth. The blacks vote for the Democrats 90-10 and the Hispanics vote for the Democrats 70-30.

Demography is destiny. The Republicans are not going to disappear totally; no doubt they will still be strong at the state-level in many states but they may be permanently out at the federal level.

That could spell the end for the two-party system in the USA as it is impossible that after some time when there has been a Democratic President and Democratic Congress that people wouldn't feel a need for a change. Some new alternative may rise.

ma

t

I don't ever see a single party system if the country is to remain a democracy. If the Republicans don't re-invent themselves, someone else will come along to represent conservatives.

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36 minutes ago, bush_cheney2004 said:

 

Really ?    Then how does one explain the GOP domination of state and federal offices since 2010 ?   More "white people" ?

Gerrymandering, voter suppression, legalized corruption, and the general incompetence of the Democratic party

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8 minutes ago, TTM said:

Gerrymandering, voter suppression, legalized corruption, and the general incompetence of the Democratic party

 

Agreed....the Republicans were much better at it than the corrupt Democrats.

Democrats are only now regaining some of the state and federal seats they never should have lost in the first place.

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  • 2 months later...
On 11/12/2018 at 6:31 PM, -TSS- said:

There has been speculation that as the whites in the USA will fall below the 50% mark unless the Republicans somehow reinvent themselves and get rid of the stigma of being a rich old white men's party they may be permanently out of power in the future. Trump could be the last Republican president.

Namely, the voting-behaviour of the black and Hispanic people has remained more or less the same over decades. It is only the whites' votes which swing back and forth. The blacks vote for the Democrats 90-10 and the Hispanics vote for the Democrats 70-30.

Demography is destiny. The Republicans are not going to disappear totally; no doubt they will still be strong at the state-level in many states but they may be permanently out at the federal level.

That could spell the end for the two-party system in the USA as it is impossible that after some time when there has been a Democratic President and Democratic Congress that people wouldn't feel a need for a change. Some new alternative may rise.

ma

t

That's a little fatalistic. The parties have changed over time, and they'll continue to do so to hang on--or try to hang on--to power. Your last sentence isn't quite correct. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/12/2018 at 6:31 PM, -TSS- said:

There has been speculation that as the whites in the USA will fall below the 50% mark unless the Republicans somehow reinvent themselves and get rid of the stigma of being a rich old white men's party they may be permanently out of power in the future. Trump could be the last Republican president.

Namely, the voting-behaviour of the black and Hispanic people has remained more or less the same over decades. It is only the whites' votes which swing back and forth. The blacks vote for the Democrats 90-10 and the Hispanics vote for the Democrats 70-30.

Demography is destiny. The Republicans are not going to disappear totally; no doubt they will still be strong at the state-level in many states but they may be permanently out at the federal level.

 

Citizens in democracies tend to vote more or less in line with what they perceive (rightly or wrongly) as their economic best interests. Ethno-cultural bloc voting in immigrant receiving countries had been in decline prior to the rise of identity politics. Studies have noted that the social and economic perspectives of America's most productive recent immigrants, mainly from Asia, who tend to be highly educated and prosperous, fairly closely align with those of the majority (i.e. "white") population. And as more Hispanics prosper, traditional Democratic Party support in that community slowly diminishes as well. America's black population, of course, is another matter. Its collective political consciousness is for good reason dominated by a grievance ideology. But this generates the possibility that in a future America where there is no actual racial majority blacks could still largely be left on the outside looking in. The reality is that identity politics is ultimately a dead end.

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America’s system looks sclerotic now. The rise of alternative parties is inhibited by the rules, particularly those around the ballot:

https://newrepublic.com/article/146884/america-stuck-two-parties

The presidential election can be complicated by multiple candidates siphoning off the vote from the two leading ones, leading to a candidate winning who would not have won in a run-off. The run-off system, practised in many countries, is a better alternative. In the absence of one candidate securing a majority of the vote, the top two candidates progress to a second round or the candidates are ranked by preferential ballot in the first round. 

 

 

Edited by SpankyMcFarland
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/30/2019 at 11:25 AM, SpankyMcFarland said:

America’s system looks sclerotic now. The rise of alternative parties is inhibited by the rules, particularly those around the ballot:

https://newrepublic.com/article/146884/america-stuck-two-parties

The presidential election can be complicated by multiple candidates siphoning off the vote from the two leading ones, leading to a candidate winning who would not have won in a run-off. The run-off system, practised in many countries, is a better alternative. In the absence of one candidate securing a majority of the vote, the top two candidates progress to a second round or the candidates are ranked by preferential ballot in the first round. 

 

 

Intriguing idea and you're probably right. The only problem, however is the lack of duty by American voters. We're notoriously lazy. "You mean I have to vote AGAIN? I just did that last year!"

On 1/31/2019 at 11:56 PM, -TSS- said:

Ross Perot was some sort of a protest-candidate in 1992 and to a lesser extent in 1996. Somewhat telling that a protest-candidate was a multi-millionaire. 

Yes, and interesting he won 19% of the popular vote in 1992; a lot more than a protest candidate usually does.

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Given the way society is going, I suspect the presidential vote will be diluted by multiple other party candidates, making the US more like the DRC than France in this regard. Along with the current effect of the Electoral College, this is probably good news for Republicans and white nationalists In winning elections as a minority of the popular vote.

Edited by SpankyMcFarland
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On 2/16/2019 at 1:12 AM, SpankyMcFarland said:

Given the way society is going, I suspect the presidential vote will be diluted by multiple other party candidates, making the US more like the DRC than France in this regard. Along with the current effect of the Electoral College, this is probably good news for Republicans and white nationalists In winning elections as a minority of the popular vote.

DRC? Democratic Republic of Congo? I don't completely understand your statement above. What would cause Republicans and white nationalists to win elections?

Bernie Sanders could run and probably would poll a minority of popular votes, if we ditched the EC in favor of a direct, national, popular vote.

I've come to the conclusion that, despite our frustration with two-party politics, most Americans are more comfortable with two parties than, say, four or five. In a sense, we make it a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts by always voting for the GOP or the dems. 

Now there's technically nothing to stop anyone from voting for third parties, or for those parties to win. The only thing needed is people to vote for them. But they don't, no matter how much they may say the present system sucks. 

However, we have had third parties win a bunch of seats in Congress, before. And don't forget the presidential election of 1860, where Abraham Lincoln was one of four candidates, and therefore managed to win with a fraction of the popular vote because he won the more populous northeastern part of the country. But I'm not just talking about the presidential elections, I'm talking about Congress, mostly.

THere are places where a Democrat almost never wins, or a Republican almost never wins. It would be in these areas in which a third party--if the residents therein wanted to do so--could replace the normal token opposition party (GOP or Democrats) with one of the third parties. It's mathematically possible. We just don't do it. But the fact that we did many years ago could one day make it a serious consideration.

There are presidential systems, Brazil notably, where there are a bunch of parties in Congress. A run-off system would probably allow for this in the States; but under first-past-the-post it's far less likely, I admit.

Edited by JamesHackerMP
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