Monday, March 15, 2010

Blogger Debate #3 - Third Party?

It's time for another installment in The Conservative Blogger Debates!

This time, yours truly will be up first. While I'm not convinced I'm an expert on the topic at hand, I do have an opinion. (I know... I have lots of those.) And since - even if I botch it - it won't be the first (OR last) time I make a jackass of myself... Onward!

Today's question is presented by Steve at Motor City Times, who will be moderating along with The Classic Liberal. Reply here & here by Don. With various punditry at That's Right, Mind Numbed Robot.

Some people think, long term, that a true Conservative 3rd party is necessary, because the Republicans have proven only slightly better than Democrats when they were in power. The thinking goes, we are never going to change Washington, so why bother voting in the Republicans.
Other say that we need to refocus the Republicans because if we actually form a 3rd party, we are guaranteeing that the left will win election after election.
The question is what should the focus of Conservatives be going forward, a revitalized Republican party or a true Conservative party?

This question hits close to home for me. Readers of this blog know I've struggled with ideological identity, and that I eventually held my nose and changed my voter registration from Independent to Republican. Why? Because I was tired of choosing between two (usually bad) options presented to me by the established parties, and I wanted a greater say in the eventual candidates so as to have more influence on the eventual winner. Basically, I was choosing option "B", trying to help refocus the Republican Party.

I'm beginning to believe I've been looking at it all wrong.

The Republican Party as an entity has no interest in being refocused on smaller government and basic Constitutional principle. On the contrary, it is deeply invested in continuing along the path of larger government and consolidation of power. A reading of "A Moderate History of the GOP" by fellow blogger TheCL is both enlightening and heartbreaking. The Republican Party has a vested interest in expanding not only the government, but itself.

Even in my own Congressional district, I've come to see how the GOP prioritizes:

...the GOP was able to entice its choice candidate, former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, to take on the two-term incumbent.

I'm so happy for the Republicans that they were able to "entice" a career-long employee of the public sector to try channeling it into politics. How wonderful that they've located a candidate that has a penchant for wasting millions in taxpayer money doing little more than making a political name for herself. Sounds like a politician already, doesn't she?

So... while I registered with the Republicans to try to help change the party, I'm coming to learn they just don't want my help because they don't want to change. Pretty discouraging for a first foray into partisan politics, no?

I spent decades an a registered "Independent", yet I have never once voted for a third party candidate. Why? I was one of those who believed that a third party vote is a wasted vote. So each election, I would almost literally hold my nose while voting for whichever candidate I thought I could tolerate. I've never voted for a candidate I truly loved... not even enough to put a bumper-sticker on my car.

When my oldest child came of age to vote and described his political leanings as "Libertarian" I was so proud. And then I told him that while I understood and could relate, he should not consider wasting his vote on a third party candidate. Unlike me, he was unwilling to choose the least awful of the two major candidates, and instead chose not to vote at all. I see now that I did him, and our country, a disservice with my well-meaning advice.

I'm now coming to believe that the only solution may be a conservative third party. To be honest, I don't much care at this point what they call themselves. Be it the Libertarian Party, The Constitution Party, The TEA Party, or even the We've-Had-Enough-Of-Your-Collective-BS Party... Anything but the two we've been forced to pick between. They're exactly the same anyway. In the words of Will Rogers:

"The more you observe politics, the more you've got to admit that each party is worse than the other."

We need to send a message. We need to demand candidates, of whatever party other than the established two, that will vow to adhere to the Constitution and shrink the ever expanding federal government. No new "contracts" or "Mt. Vernon" nonsense. Each politician must read - and adhere to - the Constitution.

If a few thousand of us (or a few hundred thousand) try this, we'll be written off as "protest votes" that were wasted... Or worse, told we threw the election to the opposition. But if millions of disaffected Americans were to ignore the Party candidates and vote for a true conservative, it would force them to reevaluate their ways.

And maybe we can get a few decent politicians in DC. That's change I can believe in.


Don said...

I have my reply to your article posted at my blog and also at Conservative Hideout 2.0.

Matt said...

Well said scratcher. You argued well, and you referenced one of the moderators! :D

This is one of the most difficult topics to debate. Myself, I have gone back and forth on this issue.

Tom Anderson said...

The argument for a third party, one more ideologically consistent with limited government and a respect for individual rights, is a fool's errand. The reason why the current Republican Party does not fit the bill is that any party in power will necessarily discover the way to stay in power is to return government benefits to the local Congressional district. A simple test of this very proposition occurred in the 1994 Republican landslide in both houses of Congress.

That "revolution" paid some positive dividends, but soon enough a party with power reverted to the default behavior of any party dispensing favors, privileges, and benefits extracted from the American people by force.

What makes advocates of a third party believe another turn around this particular track will lead anywhere but back at the beginning?

The solution I think would work is radically restructuring Congress by returning the Congressional ratio of representative to population of 1 to 30,000, a reform that would yield a House of Representatives consisting of more than 5,000 members.

So large a number of Representatives would virtually eliminate the inherent incentive in the House to grow government and, in fact, incentivize more limited government for three basic reasons:

* With so large a group, they could only meet in a virtual Congress, over the internet, and would never actually meet in Washington, D.C. They would not be attending the parties, the lavish lobbying events, the media bashes that, over time, seduce Congressmen into thinking that more spending will make the media love and approve of them; the only love they will wish to curry is the favor of those 30,000 citizens who would want their taxes reduced and the spending cut

* It will be impractical for lobbyists to buy off enough Congressmen to get legislation passed that violated the general interest

* Along with a restoration of the original ratio of 1:30,000, we need to eliminate Congressional pensions, health care benefits, and reduce salaries, so Congressmen will once again have to earn their living doing real remunerative work in the private sector. Congressional salaries must be set too low, and be thought of primarily as a reimbursement for office expenses in their districts, the hiring of one or two staff members, etc.

Of course, such a Congress would not be able to have huge staffs, so it will be necessary for them to repeal laws that call for any significant delegation of power to the "fourth branch" of government.

Over time, this reform of Congress may be just the wedge that is needed, the main locomotive to achieve all the other things advocates of individual rights and Constitutional government favor.

I'd also like to see a package of Constitutional amendments, not only the Congressional reform, but some other fixes as well, such as repeal of the 16th amendment, redefinition of the "commerce clause", a provision that explicitly protects the sanctity of contracts, and perhaps some other fixes that will re-invigorate the 9th and 10th amendments.

Now and in the next few years may be just the time to strike for gold while the iron is truly hot, the American people are truly engaged and enraged, and, besides, in such a climate, one reform will be as hard to achieve as all of them put together in one package pitched as a fundamental restoration of constitutional and limited government.

Changing the gang of politicians will not save the nation; the best that can be hoped for in that particular game is postponing the inevitable slide to collectivist tyranny, now rather advanced and on the brink of total victory, if Obama's socialized medicine proposal passes.

The time to act like "dime-store" New Dealers is way past, and most Republicans still act as Barry Goldwater described them in 1964.

How many times must we pin our hopes on politicians, when it is the system that needs reform?

Tom Anderson
Defend Rights Now