Progress in a Two-Party System? It Just May Happen in a Few Years

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The United States is, was, and most likely will continue to be a two-party system. Changing that would be, to put it mildly, an uphill battle and one unlikely to be won with the Electoral College still in place.

All hope of breaking away from the corporate duopoly that now exists and achieving real progress is not lost, though. In fact, it may be a strong possibility in four or eight years. There is a historical precedent.

Zachary Taylor and the Whigs

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Ever hear of Zachary Taylor? He was the 12th President of the United States. He was elected under the banner of the Whig Party and served a little over a year in office beginning in 1849 until his death in 1850, when his Vice President Millard Fillmore assumed office for the rest of his term.

Never heard of the Whig Party? Not surprising. They were one of the two major US parties, along with the Democrats, that benefited from the two-party system. However, they never elected another President after the end of the Taylor/Fillmore term.

Why? Because Taylor was not a typical Whig candidate. In fact, he crossed with the party he became the standard bearer of on many issues, most notably on slavery. You could say he destroyed the Whig Party despite being successful electorally.

The Democratic Party took over for the next two Presidents until a third party challenger took power. His name was Abraham Lincoln and the third party he represented was an upstart organization called the Republican Party.

The two-party system continued, only one of those parties had now changed.

It’s Happening…Again!

Back in June, Politico wrote a thorough analysis of how Taylor destroyed the Whigs. They also drew a historical parallel between that clash and the current animosity between Donald Trump and the establishment of that once upstart third party, now establishment brand known as the GOP.

A few months ago, a split was just a possibility, but now it looks like it’s happening. Establishment Republicans, including former supporters, have been desertin’ Trump in droves following the Access Hollywood leak. Guess attacking married white women was just a bridge too far for the GOP establishment.

Meanwhile, Trump supporters and the candidate himself have been attacking some of their fellow Republicans almost as much as they have been attacking Hillary Clinton. One Trump supporter even told The Young Turks that GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan is in cahoots with Clinton and was the one who leaked the Trump Tape. Lack of logic notwithstanding, you know that guy votes.

This Election Day, we could potentially see some Republicans going to the polls, choosing GOP House and Senate candidates but leaving President blank, writing someone in or even checking Clinton. At the same time, hardcore Trump supporters could vote to put their guy into the White House but leave the rest of the ballot blank to punish the GOP brass for deserting The Donald.

November 8th could spell electoral disaster for the Republican Party and the wound may be too deep to heal. It’s possible that what would be considered a third party challenge today could be one of the two dominant parties in a two-party system four, eight or twelve years from now, depending on how quickly the GOP collapses electorally and internally.

The Best Outcome for the Two-Party System

If it does go down like this, the most likely thing to happen is the remnants of the Republican establishment will join up with the Democrats. I mean if a Bush can vote for a Clinton, anything is possible. Maybe they’d even resurrect the very old name Democrat – Republican Party, like back in the day.

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They’d be the corporate party, the establishment party, the Wall Street party. They’d have to reach a compromise on hot button social issues, but since the far right base that the GOP had nurtured would have been lost to Trump, I suspect they would end up going left of centre on issues like abortion, marriage equality and trans rights but, as a compromise, swing right on guns.

When it comes to climate change (including pipelines), racism and police violence, campaign finance reform and war, I suspect they would do what the Dems almost always do: talk a good progressive game but in practice, it’s business as usual.

So that’s one of the two parties. The real question would be who would fill the void left by the demise of the GOP. If it turns out to be the Libertarian Party or some new Alt-Right monstrosity, then America is screwed. No more, though, than the country is already. Having to side with the corporate establishment to get some sort of social progress is pretty much the status quo.

However, this would also be a golden opportunity for a truly progressive third party, maybe the Green Party or a new entity formed by BernieCrats, to take over the slot as one of the two main parties. The way around all the impediments to revolution and/or progress within a two-party system may exist within that system. You just need to completely replace one of the two major parties.

 

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