Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Fall of the Two Party System

The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth is new model for political interest groups. A massive, distributed, single-issue campaign based on the Internet and funded by microdonations has scored a direct hit. I expect that the “Swift Boat model” will begin to play a larger role in politics in the next election cycle. This is the beginning of the end for the two-party system. And this could be great for politics.
As information and capital (the lifeblood of politics) become more distributed, blocs of voters will stop associating with the two major parties. Fiscally conservative Democrats and socially liberal Republicans are on the verge of bolting their parties. Hawkish Democrats are on their own island. Soon these blocs of voters are going to figure out that they can create their own commercials, distribute information, and raise money without needing the “boots on the ground” of the traditional parties. Having a clear policy position on issues is going to be the key to winning in the future. It may be the key to winning now. The treatment of the Kerry campaign proves that making statements one day to keep the base together and the next to attract the swing voter is impossible when everything you say can be posted on the Internet sequentially.
The ability to collect money outside of the traditional avenues of fundraising is changing politics. With the click of a button I can give money to the Swifties, Thune or Daschle in South Dakota, Coors or Salazar in Colorado, all while living in Florida. Weblogs and websites make me care about these things. I believe that party identification will play less and less of a role in the election process.
It would be interesting to see what effect electing five or six of these true Independents to the Senate or thirty to the House could have. The effect I hope it would have would be to raise the bar on what gets through Congress. With five percent of a chamber of Congress unbeholden to a political party, the dynamics could change significantly. One of the benefits of democracy is that it is possible to deadlock the Government. We’ve been passing laws and raising taxes for 216 years. And the trend has always been to higher tax and more regulation. I think a moratorium on that would be good for about 20 years. As Thomas Paine opined, “Government is, at best, a necessary evil.”
This is not destined, but it is a possible future that those of us who oppose passing laws for the sake of passing laws can work towards.