Monday, October 03, 2005

We Need a Balanced Tug-of-War

Although some of my conservative friends think I’m nuts, I am convinced that given our two-party system, it is best for the country when both parties are strong. We need checks and balances. We need strong competitors in the tug-of-war political system established by our Founders.

I know that some argue for a multi-party system like Germany’s – like that works so great (ha, ha) – but that is a topic for another time. I see little chance of discarding the two-party system in the foreseeable future, so let’s think about what is needed to make it work well.

I have to agree with Mark Steyn’s analysis of our current situation here. “American politics seems to have dwindled down to a choice between a big government party and a big permanently-out-of-government party.” “These days one party raises a ton of money from George Soros and the other raises a ton of money from you.” Steyn laments, “The Democrats' approach to government has been Sorosized, the GOP's has been supersized. Some choice.”

The reason for this is that the Democrats have weakened themselves with their decades-long obsession with ideologies reprehensible to middle America. With the President’s poll numbers in the dumps, Democrats have been licking their chops in hopes of a Congressional takeover in ’06. But due to widespread gerrymandering, the cards are stacked against them. Nor do voters seem at all thrilled about turning the reigns over to them, as the idea-free-hate-Bush party polls out as bad as or worse than Republicans.

The experience of American politics over the last six decades shows that when one party is weak, the other party goes nuts on government spending, regardless of which party is which. It is like watching a tug-of-war between 20 brawny and 10 scrawny guys. One side gets trounced regardless of its efforts. We need well matched strength on both sides.

During the eight Clinton years Republicans became strong and forced discretional spending to be held to an overall increase of 8%. During the five W years Democrats have been weak, allowing Republicans to increase discretional spending at a whopping 37% rate, only a small portion of which is related to homeland security. Surely these excesses could eventually prove the Republican’s undoing.

Of course, this theory somewhat presupposes that the right game is being played – that we’re kept within bounds established by the rule sheet of the Constitution. And that only happens when Congress properly exercises its authority to provide constitutionally mandated checks and balances on the judicial branch, something that has been in short supply.

The Founders dreamed of a system that would make for good government. Due to Democratic weakness and legislative dereliction of judicial oversight, we are lopsided right now. The possible solutions are for the Democrats to wake up and make changes as the Republicans did after being out of power for three decades (thanks to strong leadership by the likes of Reagan), or to die off and morph into something new as the Whigs did. Either way, the sooner we get there, the better.


Bradley said...

Many things in our government have grown up to favor a two-party system. As you point out, if one of the parties is weak there is a large gap to overcome replace the weak party with a better one. It has only happened a few times in our nation's history. One possible solution to the problem (and several other problems, including gerrymandering) is preference choice voting. It has been used in party conventions in Utah. I would love to see it more widely adopted. You can read about it at this site dedicated to providing live examples of how preference voting can work for optimal results.

Scott wants a better tug-of-war. I want it to be easier for third party candidates to come in and keep the other parties honest.

Reach Upward said...

Thanks for the link. I think preference voting has its place in certain political races. It is certainly superior to the run-off system used in some states. I also think 3rd party candidates play an important role, even if their chances of winning are slim, because they often force mainstream candidates to consider issues that would otherwise be ignored.

However, I believe I still have a point about the German-type multi-party system. It is demonstrably inferior to our strong two-party system. This excellent article explains why. Still, given our nationally elected winner-takes-all executive, I can see how multi-party representation could still be beneficial in the U.S.

Charley Foster said...

I think it's worse than dereliction of judicial oversight. I think the Congress actively punts political footballs - the hard questions - into the judiciary's yard because the legislature is afraid to handle them. The Congress WANTS the courts to do Congress's job of legislating. It's pathetic.

Reach Upward said...

Charley, thanks for your astute observation. You hit it right on the head. Incidentally, Steve Urquhart says that he is willing to deal with the hard issues as a Senator rather than punting them to the judiciary.

chargeit said...

You can see what happens when it is unbalanced right here in Utah. As a Republican, I'm not advocating for necessarily tons more Democrats, BUT it would be nice to see some moderating, reasonable, common-sense voices with Republicans. Unfortunately, they are increasingly being pushed out and the more vocal, power-hungry people are starting to take more and more control.