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    The American left is at a crossroads ? and it's history repeating 
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    Quite an interesting article, words of truth spoken. It seems polarised politics on both sides is coming apart in some ways . . .

    The American left is at a crossroads ? and it's history repeating



    No matter how you look at it, it's clear that politics is changing in America ? the word 'crisis' has become a go-to description for many commentators.

    Spectators have fixated on a war within the Republican Party, triggered by Donald Trump's presidency.

    But as we dwell on Mr Trump and the divided conservatives, a parallel war is being waged on the left ? one with perhaps even more profound implications for the future of the nation.

    The failed presidential bid of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders exposed a rift in the left, and at stake is nothing less than the future direction of the Democratic Party.

    But history shows sitting at an existential crossroads is a familiar position for the left: for two centuries a concoction of ideological and social currents has repeatedly led to its rise and fall.

    The socialist left
    Throughout the 19th century, progressive causes, like the anti-slavery movement that helped trigger the Civil War, were driven by Christian radicals within the Republican Party.

    In the post-Civil War period, the traditional left, inspired by the burgeoning socialist movements of Europe, and writers like Karl Marx and Robert Owens, was focused on the unity of the working class.

    This style of progressive politics was kept in perpetual infancy by the bloody conflicts between unions and industrialists, who were often in league with the US state.



    It was also hindered by the failure of the union movement to establish a labour party ? as had occurred in every other industrialising nation.

    A socialist party, under the charismatic leadership of Eugene Debs, emerged in the early 1900s but had only mild success in an electoral environment hostile to third parties.

    During the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the arteries of commerce were clogged with 5,000 bank failures, the simmering socialist currents within the American left came to boil.

    The businesses that didn't fail entirely retrenched and contracted, leaving 15 million people unemployed.

    A drought saw more than half a million farms lost, and hunger spread across the continent.

    A suffering class of American workers, often under the leadership of the Communist Party and riddled with socialists, was unionised at unprecedented levels.

    The trade union movement exploded, growing from 3 million members in 1933 to 15 million in 1945, demanding better wages and grievance procedures on the job.

    This pressure found its political face in America's longest serving president, Franklin Roosevelt, and his New Deal program.

    It was the beginning of the welfare state
    -read on
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    Bluelighter SheWasLvL18's Avatar
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    It is an interesting read. I'd agree that the Democratic Party/American Left-wing is splintered and not unified.

    I remember in a Political Science course my professor defended the two-party state and I think his ideas in theory make sense, but in practice have not played out.

    His belief was that in a two-party system the party that was not holding the most power would adapt to appeal to a larger group of people, thereby increasing their power. He believed that the two-parties would basically go back in forth in power, a short conservative term followed by a short liberal term. I think it makes sense, but because the parties don't seem to be changing their platforms this system of balance has been broken and I believe that the other problem is what one party considers successful is the opposite of the other and this seems to make compromise even more difficult. Like if liberals measured success by how many new policies were implemented and conservatives by how little changed, clearly it's going to be difficult to get anywhere. (To be clear I don't think they measure success that way)

    It was an interesting defense, though I don't really agree with it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SheWasLvL18 View Post
    It is an interesting read. I'd agree that the Democratic Party/American Left-wing is splintered and not unified.
    Agreed. Dems are fractured internally and the cracks are starting to show. It will be interesting to see how this evolves in coming years. I don't think R's are as fractured, other than the those who want to ride Trump's train and those who wish to distance themselves. For D's I expect it will be heavily split between the old school who will get pushed out and the more socialist minded young bunch coming in.

    Quote Originally Posted by SheWasLvL18 View Post
    His belief was that in a two-party system the party that was not holding the most power would adapt to appeal to a larger group of people, thereby increasing their power. He believed that the two-parties would basically go back in forth in power, a short conservative term followed by a short liberal term. I think it makes sense, but because the parties don't seem to be changing their platforms this system of balance has been broken and I believe that the other problem is what one party considers successful is the opposite of the other and this seems to make compromise even more difficult.
    I agree as well that a two party system should, in theory, drive the competition for leading the public as your professor described, but reality doesn't agree. We've reached a point, and not just recently, where our two parties invest more in undermining opponent candidates and fighting policies the other party successfully implemented than coming up with solutions or offering better ideas to the public. Voters are rallied AGAINST the opposition, as opposed to FOR something better from a given party.

    I am curious how other gov'ts are run these days (AUS, NZ, Europeans) - as two party dominated politics, or multi-party environments (as mentioned in some European countries). And if platforms are self-promoting, or anti-establishment in nature.
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    the ones that have popped up lately to reform the old ways are just getting started and they seem to run off of the same universal democratic belief based off what we have here with new ideas incorporated in.

    so basically i'm waiting for them to work out the kinks. one or two of them seem to be off to a decent start but the rest seem to be struggling due to culture beliefs and the cultures historically speaking being set in their ways (which i never thought was part of what needed to be changed but that's change for you).

    this is one reason i don't like being against what other countries say (constructively) about america nor have i tried to go out of my way not to understand their systems.

    one blue marble, same people, different details.

    nice read swilow
    Last edited by invegauser; 04-12-2018 at 12:48. Reason: not cool
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    Bluelighter atara's Avatar
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    Mixed-member proportional voting doesn't get enough attention as a possible reform to the elections for the House of Representatives:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed-member_proportional

    While there are various ways to fight gerrymandering, MMP renders it totally irrelevant. It's mostly our resistance to legal codification of political parties that prevents it being adopted. The irony is that same resistance has given the parties more power.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheLoveBandit View Post
    Agreed. Dems are fractured internally and the cracks are starting to show. It will be interesting to see how this evolves in coming years. I don't think R's are as fractured, other than the those who want to ride Trump's train and those who wish to distance themselves. For D's I expect it will be heavily split between the old school who will get pushed out and the more socialist minded young bunch coming in.



    I agree as well that a two party system should, in theory, drive the competition for leading the public as your professor described, but reality doesn't agree. We've reached a point, and not just recently, where our two parties invest more in undermining opponent candidates and fighting policies the other party successfully implemented than coming up with solutions or offering better ideas to the public. Voters are rallied AGAINST the opposition, as opposed to FOR something better from a given party.

    I am curious how other gov'ts are run these days (AUS, NZ, Europeans) - as two party dominated politics, or multi-party environments (as mentioned in some European countries). And if platforms are self-promoting, or anti-establishment in nature.
    It's difficult to compare the American system to other countries.

    I mean it can be done of course, but it's easy to overlook things.

    The specific thing I have in mind is party discipline. I've seen so many people try and compare America and Australia (though you can substitute Australia with many other countries using parliamentary westminster based systems) and how at first America seems to be more strictly a 2 party system.

    But that's not the whole story, other countries might have more parties, but it's important to keep in mind that in westminster system, party discipline is much stricter. In other words, the ability for members of a party to vote against the policy of their party is pretty much non existent. Whereas in the US, party members voting against their parties official position is routine. In westminster based parliamentary systems, on the rare occasions party members can vote however they like, it's called a conscience vote. And is permitted only by the permission of the party. Whereas in America there is no name for such a thing because being able to vote against your party line is a freedom representatives have all of the time.

    The reason is pretty straightforward. Low party discipline in America's congressional system can't destabilize the executive. In parliamentary systems it can. Because in parliamentary systems, the executive is essentially a subset of the legislature. Whereas in our system they're entirely independent of each other.

    The point I'm making here, is its very easy to look at other countries and think they have it better for having more than 2 parties represented in their legislature, not realizing that the 2 parties we have in America represent a much greater amount of diversity already than the 2 largest parties in a parliamentary system.

    In short, we don't need third parties as much as parliamentary systems do to maintain diversity in legislative representation.
    Last edited by JessFR; 05-12-2018 at 03:40. Reason: Rewording
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    Bluelighter atara's Avatar
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    the 2 parties we have in America represent a much greater amount of diversity already than the 2 largest parties in a parliamentary system.
    This is true if you only look at the national government. But the two-party system at the federal level carries over into state politics, which causes said politics to become unbalanced.

    For instance San Francisco has had eleven Democratic mayors in a row, and the Democratic "primary" for the mayoral election is essentially the mayoral election. This means that Democratic party donors have untoward influence in city politics -- you can't go against the donors, who rule an undemocratic one-party city.

    Likewise, state legislatures in red states become so overwhelmingly composed of Republicans that the R's start restricting voting rights and gerrymandering Congressional districts. The only option voters have to revolt is to elect a Democrat, who will almost certainly be someone who opposes everything they believe in. So the Republicans have been destroying democratic institutions in the South for decades, and the result may have been that Brian Kemp won the Georgia governorship because of voter suppression.

    The two-party system may not harm ideological diversity in the national legislature too badly, but it's atrocious in many other ways. It must be stopped.

    Unfortunately the actual third parties we have are pretty bad. There are two far-right parties -- Reform Party and Constitution Party -- which aren't helping anything. The Libertarian and Green Parties are okay but most people just don't care for libertarianism or radical environmentalism as ideologies, particularly in a climate where the most pressing issue is to reform PPACA to close the coverage gap. There are other smaller parties, like the Justice Party and the Modern Whig Party, but most people aren't aware of their existence.
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    Quote Originally Posted by atara View Post
    This is true if you only look at the national government. But the two-party system at the federal level carries over into state politics, which causes said politics to become unbalanced.

    For instance San Francisco has had eleven Democratic mayors in a row, and the Democratic "primary" for the mayoral election is essentially the mayoral election. This means that Democratic party donors have untoward influence in city politics -- you can't go against the donors, who rule an undemocratic one-party city.

    Likewise, state legislatures in red states become so overwhelmingly composed of Republicans that the R's start restricting voting rights and gerrymandering Congressional districts. The only option voters have to revolt is to elect a Democrat, who will almost certainly be someone who opposes everything they believe in. So the Republicans have been destroying democratic institutions in the South for decades, and the result may have been that Brian Kemp won the Georgia governorship because of voter suppression.

    The two-party system may not harm ideological diversity in the national legislature too badly, but it's atrocious in many other ways. It must be stopped.

    Unfortunately the actual third parties we have are pretty bad. There are two far-right parties -- Reform Party and Constitution Party -- which aren't helping anything. The Libertarian and Green Parties are okay but most people just don't care for libertarianism or radical environmentalism as ideologies, particularly in a climate where the most pressing issue is to reform PPACA to close the coverage gap. There are other smaller parties, like the Justice Party and the Modern Whig Party, but most people aren't aware of their existence.
    That may all be true, but the point I was making was about comparing national systems between the US and other countries. Things often tend to be quite different at state and local levels even within the same country. Often party politics has even less influence at local levels.

    Besides, I don't see how more than 2 parties would improve the situations you're referring too. The reason we tend to wind up with 2 parties is because parties with closer political views tend to merge together to increase their power, until you only have 2 wildly divided parties. The 2 party system, as well as democracy and capitalism in general, are a loooong way from perfect. But in my opinion I think people have a habit of thinking the grass is always greener on the other side. And not realizing that an imperfect, highly flawed system might still be the best possible system available.

    I'm getting a little off topic here I know, and I recognize you didn't actually suggest any particular different system. It just frustrates me because I think pretty much all the major systems apart from the ones used on the West are significantly worse. Yet it feels like a lot of people totally fail to recognize it. Falling into the trap of believing anything better than how things are now, which I think is about as wrong as you get. I tend to think little is better than what we have now. It's just that people and politics fucking suck.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheLoveBandit View Post
    I am curious how other gov'ts are run these days (AUS, NZ, Europeans) - as two party dominated politics, or multi-party environments (as mentioned in some European countries). And if platforms are self-promoting, or anti-establishment in nature.
    The UK is essentially 2 party now, again (as it alway was, historically). It was gradually becoming 3+ party until about 2010-15. But then the UK left went through a similar kind of rupture to that being experienced by the US left. The part of the UK Labour party more closely aligned with 1980s neoliberalism and large corporations (the 'Clinton' wing) - which had been in control since the mid-80s - lost, and the actual 'left' are slowly taking full control again.

    Labour now promises a more socialist-inspired program and restoration of elements of the post-war/welfarist consensus that led to the comfortable economic prosperity of the 1945-80 period. In that sense I guess you could say it's 'anti-establishment', but then that's also how the right tends to try and characterise itself, though not in quite the same way as Republicans in the US.

    Anyway, that shift away from a faux-centrist neoliberal doctrine has helped reignite UK politics and energise the competitiveness between Labour and the Conservatives. Both have regained votes they were losing to smaller parties on the fringes and from the Liberal Democrats in the center, as people are now presented with some real choices when they go to the polls.
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    This quote from Homo Ludens by Dutch historian Johan Huizinga is hilarious and the fact it's from 1938 is even better.

    Long before the two-party system had reduced itself to two gigantic teams whose political differences were hardly discernible to an outsider, electioneering in America had developed into a kind of national sport.
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    We're just a hop, skip, and a jump away from anarcho-syndachalism then, good to hear.
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