David Ehrens, a faithful reader of this blog, sent me the following comment in an e-mail [for reasons beyond my feeble powers of comprehension, Google will not let him post the comment directly]: “I truly hope others will see it is time to create an alternative to the Democratic Party -- perhaps one that can coordinate and work with the Democrats, but one that will call its own tune and have its own conventions. What say you?”
I have long had a dream of a truly progressive left party [never mind a Socialist Party like the one my grandfather committed his life to in New York City a century ago.] But the structure of American politics, as we all know, works against third parties on the national stage, although there is a long tradition of successful left parties at the state level. Let us think about this for a bit.
First of all, I don’t want to see us run third party presidential candidates. The best we could do is win enough electoral votes to throw the election into the House, and there the Right has a structural advantage. Recall from your high school Civics class [if you are old enough to have had one], that when the president is chosen by the House, because no candidate wins a majority of the electoral votes, the State House delegations vote as units, a procedure that gives small states a huge advantage. I spent a few minutes on Google checking. In 2008, when the Democrats held the Presidency, a super majority in the Senate, and the House, the House delegation breakdown was 25 Democratic, 21 Republican, and 4 split – barely enough to take the Presidency. At the present moment, the breakdown is 33 Republican, 14 Democratic, 3 split. I really do not want to throw the election into the House!
What we need to think about is a fundamental realignment of the electorate. The Republican Party is, I am coming to believe, irrevocably sundered. The natural realignment would be for the Bernie wing to split from the corporatist, elitist wing of the Democratic Party, and woo to its ranks the non-college educated white working class Trump voters, along straight economic interest lines: attack Wall Street, raise the minimum wage, stop sending jobs overseas, and so on.
BUT: This new third party, which would seek to elect members of the House and local office holders and maybe a senator or two, could not be a nativist, xenophobic, racist, misogynist, homophobic party. So the big question [what we oldsters used to call the sixty-four dollar question, before inflation hit] is: Could an anti-elitist inclusive pitch win over the Trumpettes to a socially progressive third party, or is their hatred of everyone not like themselves really baked in?
The numerous reports of voters expressing a preference for “Trump or Sanders” suggests that the answer may be a qualified yes. If so, then European-style coalition politics, at least in the House, might be conceivable, at least if Bernie’s hordes could gain enough traction to elect enough members of the House to bargain with the Democratic Party.
Stranger things have happened.