Is the Party Over?
I don’t like the Republican or Libertarian parties. But I’m also no fan of the Democratic party. In fact, I dislike all political parties and think they should be done away with. And while I’m not naive enough to think that this will happen, it makes me glad to see that the “post partisan” utopia is closer today than it was a year ago.
The reason I think parties will never go away is that they are borne of cooperative activities to address asymmetric power relations. In other words, they create value, and thus they emerge all too easily. The problem is that the value created gets conferred entirely to the party constituents, and additional value is leached from non-constituents. Note that I am not suggesting this is a zero-sum game where no new value gets created, but rather there is collateral damage, especially when it comes to future cooperative opportunities that are precluded. To see what I’m referring to, simply consider a Democrat and a Republican in Congress who agree that abortion should be totally illegal, and consider the chances of them actually teaming up to work on it.
Parties are self-reinforcing once they are established and take on a life and raison d’etre all their own. At some point their own constituents may feel resentful and beholden, but what can they do? It’s become too tough to go it alone. The few independents who have been elected to Congress were either elected as a party member and later became independent, or ran as independent in a later term, or they leverage a party affiliation in the caucuses.
But I am hopeful that the political ecology will look vastly more diverse in the future, with many viable parties, each one holding less power than the current ones, and with a vibrant collection of independents holding seats of power. And I’m confident that this will happen much quicker than most people think. To see why I am hopeful, look at what is happening to the news media ecology and how quickly the power structure is shifting due to information technology and social media.
This seems like a situation where I should put my money where my mouth is, so here’s a prediction. I believe that there will be an independent elected to either the U.S. House or Senate by 2012 who has never run as a candidate for an existing party.