Originally posted at The Contrarian Conformist
Bruce Morton is a Snohomish County Republican activist.
In my American Heritage class at BYU, I learned that most other countries in the world use whats called “Proportional Representation” to elect their legislators. Proportional representation is where the voters select political parties and the legislative seats are then assigned proportionally according to the vote. This system tends to produce many different parties, each with distinct political agendas. Executive leadership is then selected as the various parties form coalitions. The coalition that forms a majority becomes the ruling coalition.
In practice, these ruling coalitions are made up of one large party and several small parties. (For example, the UK House of Commons has members from 11 different parties.) The small parties, by virtue of providing the necessary votes to create the majority, often can leverage their position to gain greater influence to promote their particular issue. These small parties can maintain their outsized influence over their coalitions by threatening to leave.
In the USA, though, we have a winner-take-all, single-member district voting system. This system naturally causes there to be two parties, and it’s easy to see why. Small parties will never win. The narrow causes or strict philosophies of these smaller groups will never gain the majority vote. Of course there are exceptions, but almost always the winning politician is from one of the two major parties.
So do coalitions exist in a 2 party system? Yes, but there are some significant differences. First, the coalitions are formed before the election instead of after. Second, and most significantly, the factions in each party are factions of voters, not legislators.
American politicians rarely switch parties, but voters do so all the time. The coalitions that have formed the two major parties in US history have been in continual flux and can shift even from election to election. As new political issues arise, ad-hoc factions can form and then align with the party that chooses to adopt that new faction.
Factions from recent history include: The Tea Party, The Occupy Movement, Environmentalists, Reform Party (Ross Perot), Code Pink, and The Christian Coalition (Pat Robertson).
In general, these factions were formed outside of the two party system. As their voting power became recognized, they were integrated with open arms into one of the major parties.
In 2007 one other political faction came into being. This faction was led by Ron Paul and was formed as part of his presidential campaign. I prefer to call this faction the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. So far, this faction has not been welcomed into the Republican coalition.
I will follow up later on how this can be changed.
Bruce Morton and his wife (Lake Stevens, Washington) have four children. A conservative activist, Bruce didn’t give up or go away after 2008. He is an electrical engineer and holds degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Florida. He spent two years as a missionary in Guatemala. He blogs occasionally at Bruce Morton contrarianconformist.blogspot.com