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American Political Parties are not ideological enough

Philly

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Lately it's been fashionable to idolize politicians who showcase their lack of ideology. When Evan Bayh announced he wouldn't run for re-election, he condemned both parties for being too ideological, and the commentators put Bayh up on a pedestal as a shining example of what an elected official should be. The implication is that the most principled and honest politicians are those who refuse to adhere to any ideology.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

While it's true that an extremist commitment to any particular ideology can be a bad thing, complete detachment from ideology is no virtue. As much as the word "ideology" has been dragged through the mud, being ideological really just means having a consistent set of beliefs. Any politician who has no ideology has no principles to guide his/her decisions. In other words, they're just inclined to do whatever benefits them personally at any given time.

Look at what happened with the Health Care legislation. Ideological Democrats wanted to pass legislation based on their principles of reforming the system. Ideological Republicans opposed the legislation because they believe it would be inefficient and overreaching. But neither side had enough votes to win the battle, so the Democrats went to the non-ideological among their ranks to cut a deal. In the US Senate, the non-ideological Democrats would be people like Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Mary Landrieu, among others. What did they want? Kickbacks, pet projects, and amendments to benefit their favorite special interest donors. So a bill passed, and the principled, ideological Republicans who didn't want more government involvement lost. But the principled, ideological Democrats who wanted meaningful reform lost too, because the integrity of their vision was tainted by kickbacks for conniving politicians, and many important aspects of the legislation were watered down to accommodate the special interest lobbies who have non-ideological Senators in their pockets.

If we got rid of the "mavericks" and the "lone wolfs" and the "independent voices", we'd be able to see the true vision of both conservatives and liberals realized through public policy, but as long as we continue to treat those without principles like heroes, that will never happen.
 

samsmart

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Lately it's been fashionable to idolize politicians who showcase their lack of ideology. When Evan Bayh announced he wouldn't run for re-election, he condemned both parties for being too ideological, and the commentators put Bayh up on a pedestal as a shining example of what an elected official should be. The implication is that the most principled and honest politicians are those who refuse to adhere to any ideology.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

While it's true that an extremist commitment to any particular ideology can be a bad thing, complete detachment from ideology is no virtue. As much as the word "ideology" has been dragged through the mud, being ideological really just means having a consistent set of beliefs. Any politician who has no ideology has no principles to guide his/her decisions. In other words, they're just inclined to do whatever benefits them personally at any given time.

Look at what happened with the Health Care legislation. Ideological Democrats wanted to pass legislation based on their principles of reforming the system. Ideological Republicans opposed the legislation because they believe it would be inefficient and overreaching. But neither side had enough votes to win the battle, so the Democrats went to the non-ideological among their ranks to cut a deal. In the US Senate, the non-ideological Democrats would be people like Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Mary Landrieu, among others. What did they want? Kickbacks, pet projects, and amendments to benefit their favorite special interest donors. So a bill passed, and the principled, ideological Republicans who didn't want more government involvement lost. But the principled, ideological Democrats who wanted meaningful reform lost too, because the integrity of their vision was tainted by kickbacks for conniving politicians, and many important aspects of the legislation were watered down to accommodate the special interest lobbies who have non-ideological Senators in their pockets.

If we got rid of the "mavericks" and the "lone wolfs" and the "independent voices", we'd be able to see the true vision of both conservatives and liberals realized through public policy, but as long as we continue to treat those without principles like heroes, that will never happen.

Ummm, no. You obviously don't know anything about the realities of a two-party system. Two-party systems tend to naturally create two very broad parties, the politicians of which tend not to always adhere to the party platform.

This is because of our winner-take-all voting system. Anyone who wins a plurality, but not a majority, of votes gets the office. So to cut down on spoilers, a two-party system naturally emerges that has a broad platform. This is known as Duverger's Law.

So, if you want more politicians to adhere to party platforms, then you should lobby for alternative voting systems, such as Instant Run-off Voting, that allows for the creation of multiple parties and allows them to get elected into office.

After all, there are Republicans who are for gay rights and there are Democrats who are against abortion. If their respective parties tried to get rid of them, those Americans deserve just as much of a chance at representation in their government as voters who follow the party line. That doesn't count those Americans who have ideologies completely different from the GOP and the Democrats, such as Progressives, Libertarians, Socialists, Christian Democrats, Greens, etc. Americans with those ideologies are just as much valid voters as those who are "ideologically pure" Democrats and Republicans, and deserve the opportunity for representation just as much.

So the very nature of our political system demands political parties without ideological purity. If you want more ideological purity in political parties, then lobby for alternative voting systems that allows a plethora of political parties that can represent the interests of the vast number of ideologies in the United States. Until then, two broad parties will have to do.
 

danarhea

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The truth is that ideological purity will kill a party, since moderates are the biggest voting bloc. Whichever party, Democratic or Republican, that closest represents their values, will be the party that gets their votes, and that makes all the difference.
 

Philly

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Ummm, no. You obviously don't know anything about the realities of a two-party system. Two-party systems tend to naturally create two very broad parties, the politicians of which tend not to always adhere to the party platform.

This is because of our winner-take-all voting system. Anyone who wins a plurality, but not a majority, of votes gets the office. So to cut down on spoilers, a two-party system naturally emerges that has a broad platform. This is known as Duverger's Law.

So, if you want more politicians to adhere to party platforms, then you should lobby for alternative voting systems, such as Instant Run-off Voting, that allows for the creation of multiple parties and allows them to get elected into office.

After all, there are Republicans who are for gay rights and there are Democrats who are against abortion. If their respective parties tried to get rid of them, those Americans deserve just as much of a chance at representation in their government as voters who follow the party line. That doesn't count those Americans who have ideologies completely different from the GOP and the Democrats, such as Progressives, Libertarians, Socialists, Christian Democrats, Greens, etc. Americans with those ideologies are just as much valid voters as those who are "ideologically pure" Democrats and Republicans, and deserve the opportunity for representation just as much.

So the very nature of our political system demands political parties without ideological purity. If you want more ideological purity in political parties, then lobby for alternative voting systems that allows a plethora of political parties that can represent the interests of the vast number of ideologies in the United States. Until then, two broad parties will have to do.

I'm for a parliamentary system, but that's neither here nor there. We used to have more ideological parties. Decrease in party power and increase in special interest power have wrecked it. Back in the day if you didn't stand for anything the party stood for, the party bosses threw you out. The rise of primary elections has made this tougher.
 

Deuce

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So is the OP saying we need more extremists on both sides? o_O
 

samsmart

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I'm for a parliamentary system, but that's neither here nor there. We used to have more ideological parties. Decrease in party power and increase in special interest power have wrecked it. Back in the day if you didn't stand for anything the party stood for, the party bosses threw you out. The rise of primary elections has made this tougher.

Even parliamentary systems are subject to Duverger's Law if they use the winner-take-all voting system. And our presidential system can have more numberous parties that allow for the various myriad ideologies we have here in the U.S. if we change to an alternative voting system.

And I don't see why elected officials should be beholden to party bosses instead of directly the people those elected officials represent.
 

Philly

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Even parliamentary systems are subject to Duverger's Law if they use the winner-take-all voting system. And our presidential system can have more numberous parties that allow for the various myriad ideologies we have here in the U.S. if we change to an alternative voting system.

And I don't see why elected officials should be beholden to party bosses instead of directly the people those elected officials represent.

Like I said, when the party bosses lost their power, it was transfered to powerful lobbyists, not the public. Even with primaries, the parties once held more power because they were a major source of campaign funding for candidates. Now they can essentially tell the party leadership to go **** itself and sell out to well-funded special interest groups. Neither system is very pretty in the eyes of the public, but at least the parties have conventions to establish their platform for governing. Back in the day, you didn't have to be 100% in lock step with your party, but if you didn't have a basic alignment with the party platform, the party got rid of you.

Nowadays, party identification is still key to getting elected in most places, but the party establishment has very limited means of keeping their candidates in check. So they register as a Republican or a Democrat, use special interest money to win the nomination, and then do whatever suits them (and their special interest buddies) without regard for the party whose nomination they've taken. I get that in our system, we're going to have two parties that are basically in the center, but one party intends to be Center-Right and the other intends to be Center-Left, and candidates who have no interest in a party's platform really have no business hijacking the Party ID. They obviously want that party ID because it comes with a guaranteed voter base, but if their philosophy for governing is "I vote for whatever *insert special interest group* wants if something relevant to them comes up, and otherwise I do whatever is politically expedient for myself", they should be running as independents so as not to bastardize the legitimate platforms of a real party.
 

Orion

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I have always thought that party ideology is the death of democracy. When I vote for someone to represent me, I want them to represent me and all of the constituents who voted for them. When they vote for an issue in government, I want their vote to be a reflection of their voting district, and not what their party platform or party leaders tell them to vote for. I can understand when a party tends to represent a general demographic... that's pretty normal in western democracies. What I don't like is the whole mentality of the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. In other words, if you don't vote along party lines you are somehow a traitor. I think the traitors are the ones who don't listen to petitions, letter campaigns, and the will of the people.

I am tired of people who tow the party line even though it blatantly ignores the will of the people. I am tired of insanely rich lobbiests getting to override entire constituencies with their wishes. I am tired of the moderates being alienated by extremists in the political system who don't even represent the majority of every day people.

Even though I value democracy, I scorn its shortcomings, and I see a definite decline of its affluence, even here in Canada.
 

Wiseone

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My favorite part is when he says the ideologies in each party didnt have enough votes on their sides to pass or outright defeat the healthcare bill. Thus he openly acknowledges they were in a stalemate and nothing was getting done, and the only way it got passed was for compromising for kickbacks. His solution? End kickbacks by making ideologies stronger, a factor he admits himself deadlocks legislation, so we end kickbacks by ending the legislative process?

I think your cure is worse than the disease.
 

Philly

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My favorite part is when he says the ideologies in each party didnt have enough votes on their sides to pass or outright defeat the healthcare bill. Thus he openly acknowledges they were in a stalemate and nothing was getting done, and the only way it got passed was for compromising for kickbacks. His solution? End kickbacks by making ideologies stronger, a factor he admits himself deadlocks legislation, so we end kickbacks by ending the legislative process?

I think your cure is worse than the disease.

It wasn't ideology that failed, it was our system of governance and our rejection of ideology. We keep applauding people who always do the most self serving thing rather than support policies that actually match any consistent set of principles. Being self serving and intentionally screwing over the people to get bribes from special interest isn't an ideology, which is why the American people love when politicians do that stuff.
 

samsmart

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It wasn't ideology that failed, it was our system of governance and our rejection of ideology. We keep applauding people who always do the most self serving thing rather than support policies that actually match any consistent set of principles. Being self serving and intentionally screwing over the people to get bribes from special interest isn't an ideology, which is why the American people love when politicians do that stuff.

Then let's implement an electoral system that allows for the scores of different ideologies available in the United States.
 

Civil1z@tion

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Just a note, parliamentary systems help parties be more ideological, but the death of ideology can be seen in Europe as well. What we've seen is a shift in the nature of parties across the developed world. Parties used to be based on class relations, so the working class would vote for the left and the middle/upper class for the right with elections being decided by getting out the vote (one, albeit secondary, reason why voter turn out tended to be very high as no party that couldn't get its class base out could survive). However, classes in the Western world have lost their sharp edges and most people view themselves as middle class. This changed the focus from a base-oriented campaigning style (and thus an ideological campaigning and governing style) to a capture the center campaigning (and therefore governing) style. This was most evident on the left as they shifted from constant welfare-state expanders and private industry nationalizers, to the more restrained and moderate left we see today. The US had an easier time shifting to the race-to-the-center style of politics because of the 2-party system denying the remaining ideological voters a way to vent anger while still blocking the other side and the very weak party structure in the US. However, a parliamentary style would not bring back the more ideological days of the past as Europe itself shows.

Oh and one last thing, no ideology didn't fail (though I'd argue pragmatism and centrism hasn't really failed either). In fact, I'd argue the ideological fights succeeded in producing a system which brought us to the rather well off point we're at today. But its become obsolete with the demise of strong class politics. This is natural as the progress of the past inevitably destroys the system that made it and that system is eventually replaced. So too will the modern US weak parties and weak ideology system end up making itself obsolete, but we don't seem to be there yet.
 

samsmart

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Just a note, parliamentary systems help parties be more ideological, but the death of ideology can be seen in Europe as well.

How does parliamentary systems help parties be more ideological? Because systems of government and systems of voting are two different things, and Duverger's Law states that having a winner-take-all voting system naturally causes a two-party system to emerge to reduce third-parties from spoiling elections.
 

Civil1z@tion

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How does parliamentary systems help parties be more ideological? Because systems of government and systems of voting are two different things, and Duverger's Law states that having a winner-take-all voting system naturally causes a two-party system to emerge to reduce third-parties from spoiling elections.

Parliamentary structures help parties be more ideological because they have stronger parties themselves. This allows the leaders of parties to crush dissent that weakens the ideology of a party more easily. In the US, its rather common for representatives and legislatures to defy party leaders on votes, even important ones, while such defiance is far rarer in the British Parliament even though both have FFP voting systems. Of course, PR voting systems do even more in this regard but the need to maintain party discipline just to prevent an early election helps push parties on more ideological lines (even if it doesn't insure that they will stay there).
 

samsmart

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Parliamentary structures help parties be more ideological because they have stronger parties themselves. This allows the leaders of parties to crush dissent that weakens the ideology of a party more easily. In the US, its rather common for representatives and legislatures to defy party leaders on votes, even important ones, while such defiance is far rarer in the British Parliament even though both have FFP voting systems. Of course, PR voting systems do even more in this regard but the need to maintain party discipline just to prevent an early election helps push parties on more ideological lines (even if it doesn't insure that they will stay there).

So what is it about parliamentary systems that allows parties to be more ideological?
 

Civil1z@tion

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Parliamentary systems force parties to be united or else they will bring down their own government and trigger elections (whereas in a system with fixed terms, parties can be more flexible because if they can't get the party behind a significant bill it won't cause a collapse of the government). Thus parliamentary systems force stronger parties. This then leads to what I stated, stronger parties equal more ideologically pure parties.
 

Gardener

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I don't know whether or not I would advocate for political parties that were more ideological per se, but I would prefer that people display a better understanding of the very notion of ideology when it comes to the labels they use. The terms "liberal" and "conservative" have both become divorced from their ideological underpinnings, as far too many people interpret the words to mean "the views expressed by those calling themselves such" instead of " the views in accordance with that particular ideology".
 

Erod

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The truth is that ideological purity will kill a party, since moderates are the biggest voting bloc. Whichever party, Democratic or Republican, that closest represents their values, will be the party that gets their votes, and that makes all the difference.

Yet everytime a Republican runs on pure conservative principles in national elections, they almost always win. The McCains and Doles don't.
 

Tucker Case

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Socially, he was. Although Bush definitely lost his way, too, the last couple of years of his term.

But if someone is running a pure conservative ideological platform, they can't be socially conservative since they are often in direct conflict with each other.

i.e. Using government to push a social agenda of any sort is in direct contradistion to political conservativism.
 

Zyphlin

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So is the OP saying we need more extremists on both sides? o_O

Actually I don't.

I'm not sure I agree with him, but I find it intriguing, and I think Dana is wrong on his assesment as well.

I think what he's saying is we need more staunchly ideological on both sides, not necessarily extreme.

For example a Staunch Conservative on may be against raising taxes in almost every situation and feels that lowering them is generally going to be beneficial. An extreme conservative would be one that feels like we should get rid of almost every tax possible.

A staunch Democrat may be all for legislation restricting gun purchasing, gun carrying, what kind of guns can be bought and how many, etc. An extreme democrat would want to ban the ownership or carrying of any and all guns.

I think what the OP is saying is he wants more people, on both sides of the aisle, that has their principles and are not willing to compromise those principles for the sake of getting something watered down passed or to get something passed admidst a lot of things they don't like. IE no, I'm not going to vote to raise taxes just because you offer me the chance to "Compromise" my vote by lowering your proposal from 9% raise to a 4.5% raise. Or no, I'm not going to vote "yes" to allowing assault weapons to be sold just because you're offering to garauntee 10 votes for my $100k building project back in my home state.

He thinks if there's less people willing to "compromise" on their principles but instead feel that their principles are what's best for the country (on both sides) and thus aren't going to waver on them that we'd be better off, or at least have the chance to be better off, and more importantly would get to see what those various ideologies actually do to our country. It seems he's suggesting in the current climate we do not see a really good version of either of them implimented, but rather this middling middle way that tilts one way or the other and is for the most part inefficient and damaging to itself by not having a clear vision or consistant approach.

To Dana's point, it wouldn't be political suicide in his suggested world, because BOTH sides would be staunchly ideological and steadfast in their principles. In a world like that then instead of "moderating" oneself to attempt to get moderates both sides would be having to actually educate and convince moderates as to why their principles are supposedly better and hope to woo them with things other than the changing oe ones principles. The notion that this would be suicide for either group in that scenario is incorrect, because if BOTH are staunchly ideological then both have an equal starting point at getting moderates.

I would agree, if only ONE party did it and the other party didn't, then it'd be problematic and near suicidal. But I don't believe that would be the case if both started it.

Its an interesting theory honestly, one I don't normally see talked about and in such a way that's actually relatively even handed.
 

Calabrese

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I absolutely disagree.

Although you are correct on healthcare and certain issues, in my opinion both political parties are extremely flawed to the point where I would never vote for a conforming republican or democrat. in my opinion Bush and Obama are both terrible leaders who should have never been elected but because of ideology toward one party or another they have run our country for 10 years.

Weak and petty independents who don't stand for anything and get swayed by special interests obviously hurt the political system, however individuals with strong ideas and good morals may just save this country from the idiotic republican/democrat divide that will inevitably run this country downhill
 

Erod

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I absolutely disagree.

Although you are correct on healthcare and certain issues, in my opinion both political parties are extremely flawed to the point where I would never vote for a conforming republican or democrat. in my opinion Bush and Obama are both terrible leaders who should have never been elected but because of ideology toward one party or another they have run our country for 10 years.

Weak and petty independents who don't stand for anything and get swayed by special interests obviously hurt the political system, however individuals with strong ideas and good morals may just save this country from the idiotic republican/democrat divide that will inevitably run this country downhill

Bold quoted for truth.
 
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