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Crist Runs As An Independent

The Miami Herald is reporting Crist goes it alone in his bid for Senate.

Charlie was too moderate to win a Republican primary, so now we have a three way race: Meek, Crist, and Rubio.

8 comments

1 cookie jill { 04.29.10 at 9:23 am }

A Threesome, eh?

2 Badtux { 04.29.10 at 10:58 am }

So does this mean we’re going to see Governor Meek, since Rubio and Crist will supposedly divide the Republican vote? Or does party loyalty matter more to the Republican rank and file than whether they like Crist? And what does this say for the Republican Party’s treatment of people of color, even Orange-Americans whose color does not exist in nature? Curious penguins want to know!

– Badtux the Curious Penguin
.-= last blog ..And on today in 1939… =-.

3 Bryan { 04.29.10 at 12:08 pm }

They are in the race for the US Senate and it will be a matter of turn-out. Charlie will pull the center, Marco Rubio the right, and Kendrick Meek the left.

It’s 5 months until the election and the IRS is looking at Rubio’s books, so anything can happen, but it will be a very nasty race.

Kendrick has a name recognition problem, but he doesn’t have to get involved in the mudslinging.

4 John B. { 04.29.10 at 12:51 pm }

The worst of this news about Charlie Crist is that it further narrows the Republican Party to an ever-more radical base of nitwits and extremists. Whatever one may think of good-time Charlie, I can’t see this as good news for the two party system. The G.O.P. almost has reached the point where it is nothing but a modern-day version of Strom Thurmond’s “Dixecrat Party.” This is not good.

There may be some value in studying two even older highly partisan parties: the long, painful decline of the Whig Party and the rise of what was often derided as the “Locofoco Party,” a pejorative that more radical post-Jacksonian Democrats in many states gleefully embraced as their own official party name. The analogies are far from perfect, but I can’t help thinking, nevertheless, they may be instructive.

The Whigs (roughly from 1808-1852) were widely reviled by locofocos as later iterations of the Federalist Party, mere effete, over-educated New England snobs. By most opponents, they also were accused of being Royalist in sympathy for favoring federally-funded internal improvements, a federally controlled banking system, paper money, and a federal civil service. Read, in today’s parlance: “bigger government.”

Locofocos were derided by Whigs for being uneducated louts, incompetents, liars, war-mongers, and levelers. In some locales, they were accused of supporting corrupt state banks in an era when bank failures were common — usually brought about through the rapid decline of near-worthless bank-issued script. Read, in today’s parlance: derivatives. In other states, Locofocos vigorously opposed bank-issued script, or paper money, favored only coin currency, opposed state funding of public schools, and held themselves out as the working man’s friend. Except in certain areas of the western frontier, locofocos generally opposed federally funded “improvements” like canals and highways and favored wage earner unions.

From this distance, neither the Whig nor the Democratic Party platforms, influenced as it was by the locofoco faction, seem to have had much coherence or national cohesiveness. Ultimately, both national parties became mere coatracks for partisan bickering and little more.

But what bickering! It makes today’s partisanship seem almost genteel by comparison.

Both parties ultimately became too large a tent, you might say. The Whigs desperately tried to avoid altogether the inescapable argument of slavery in the Western territories and futilely strove for a compromise solution which, from today’s perspective, seems to have been utterly beyond reach. (Read, in today’s parlance, “bipartisanship.” )

The nineteenth century Democrats, as we know, came to an open split in Baltimore over slavery in 1858. The locofoco wing of the Democratic Party split, too, into factions popularly known as Barnburners and Hunkers as well as Northern and Southern Democratic Parties.

Out of the rubble the parties radically realigned. The ultimate survivors were the Republican Party and the Northern Democrats, who expropriated the original non-sectional Democratic Party name. Southern Democrats eventually found a home in that national Democratic Party — until 1966.

I have no idea what lessons, if any, to draw from all of this. I once heard a lecture by a friend who argued that third party successes are so rare in America because winning political parties generally live or die, if history is any guide, only because of an unusually strong personality (e.g. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson), a unitary world view or platform on which a clear majority can agree (e.g. Republican Party in 1858-1860), or a major event (Civil War, Great Depression – the latter, if you grant that FDR effectively created a “new” Democratic Party). More commonly, so the friend argued in his lecture, major parties slowly co-opt key ideas from third party upstarts.

I do not see the modern day Republican Party co-opting any ideas from other parties to form a larger base. I see them only narrowing their existing base, as the old Southern Democratic Party did, by turning over controls to what might be considered the modern-day “locofoco” extremist faction of the party. That way leads to the death of the party or (if you believe their own rhetoric) civil war.

On the other hand, I see the Democratic Party acting, if anything, like the old Whigs: avoiding hard choices in platform and legislation in a vain attempt to be more inclusive. That way leads irrelevance and, eventually replacement.

Freud famously said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Maybe history, sometimes, is just history and has no more meaning for us. I doubt it, but I suppose that, too, is possible.

5 Bryan { 04.29.10 at 2:07 pm }

Parties evolve, and in the case of the current Reps and Dems even swap places. The two party system is not representative of US politics as neither party has a platform that is considered the foundation of the party. They are merely the marketing agency used by ambitious people. The “brands” are meaningless today, and would fail regardless.

The Republicans co-opted several far right groups to win elections, and now those groups have taken over. The Democrats have been taken over by the neo-liberals, who were once called moderate Republicans. There is no party to represent the people from the center to the left. When elections became expensive both parties went with the people who had money, and there are very few of them on the left.

Parties aren’t mentioned in the Constitution and were specifically warned against by several of the “founding fathers”. The death of parties causes me no dread at all. I would have put them down a decade ago to save everyone the pain that has ensued.

6 Badtux { 04.29.10 at 3:07 pm }

The basic problem is the 50%+1 problem. That is, elections are won by whoever has 50%+1 votes. The only way to guarantee 50%+1 is to gather together sufficient minority parties (those that represent 50%+1 people) to agree on a single candidate, then have them vote for that candidate. That is why the United States electoral will always, mathematically, devolve to a two-“party” system, and why the resulting “parties” will end up looking like ideological incoherent conglomerations of what would be separate political parties in a proportional representation system such as used by Israel.

The problem that the Republicans have right now is that they’re driving out much of their party — like Crist — in the name of ideological purity. That can work only if you have no unified opponent capable of gathering 50%+1 of the vote. While some of the Republicans being driven out — like Crist — are running as independents, far more of them are simply changing their voter registration to “Democrat” and joining the Democratic coalition. Indeed, dominating the Democratic coalition. But as long as that Democratic coalition is held together by their distaste for the ideological fail that is the Republican Party, that is what we’ll have.

In short: People wishing for ideological purity from American political parties misunderstand the mathematics that force any viable American political party to become an incoherent coalition of what would be multiple smaller parties. What that implies is that today’s Republican Party is no longer viable outside of certain traditional strongholds, though it may occasionally throw up a candidate capable of stepping beyond his party and winning outside those Republican strongholds (e.g., the Governator in California). How that’s going to play out, I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t appear that the GOP is going to go down with a whimper…

7 Bryan { 04.29.10 at 11:17 pm }

Badtux, all of our local offices are non-partisan and we just hold a run-off election if no one gets a majority. Actually I think that now they fill most offices on the primary date and the top two people face each other in the general election.

Parties aren’t magic and there are a dozen parties in Florida. The Dems and Reps have gamed the system and provided special privileges for the two parties, but they aren’t necessary for anything. After the election party identity doesn’t guarantee a vote for any legislation, even if the party supposedly supports it.

There was a time when party identity meant something, but that time has passed.

8 Badtux { 04.30.10 at 4:01 pm }

Bryan, we tried the “non-partisan primary” in Lousiana, starting in the early 70’s when Edwin Edwards wrote it into the new Constitution in order to insure that, as the left wing candidate, he’d always make it to the final primary even though Louisiana is a fairly centrist state. You’ll notice that Louisiana politicians still identify themselves as “Republican” or “Democrat”, even though there’s no partisan primaries in Louisiana. What ends up happening is that the centrists end up dividing the majority of the vote amongst themselves, leaving the left wing and right wing candidates to meet in the final primary. “Democrat” and “Republican” are words they use to try to gather in centrists to their own coalition, and thus far in the 21st century the Republicans are winning that one.

In other words, in Louisiana the “non-partisan” primary has had the same effect as you’d expect mathematically — i.e., that you end up with two identifiable parties each of which is comprised of a number of what would be smaller parties in a proportional representation system. That’s just how it ends up in a first-past-the-gate electoral system. Now I hear you say “Bloc Quebecois”, i.e., the possibility of a regional party that becomes a viable third party. But Canada has a parliamentary system, not a strong executive system where the executive is elected via a first-past-the-gate electoral system. A regional party like the Bloc Quebecois in the U.S. system just ends up handing the Presidency to Richard Nixon (see: 1968, George Wallace).

The laws of mathematics, like the laws of physics, simply aren’t amenable to ignoring. If you throw a ball up, it comes down, no matter how hard you focus your thoughts on making it stay up. And if it takes 50%+1 votes to guarantee winning office, you’re going to form a coalition of various interests until you get those 50%+1 votes, and this coalition is a political party whether you call it one or not, and because it’s 50%+1, you can have at most two of these coalitions in the long term. The occasional exceptions — 1968, 1992, etc. — just go to show that knowledge of mathematics is not a big priority amongst Americans…

– Badtux the Numbers Penguin