How I Became a Political Party Orphan -Making the Case for a True Multi-Party Government

I did not start paying attention to politics until I was 30 years old. In 1990 I graduated from Harvard Business School ready to conquer the world. I believed in equal rights, capitalism, globalism, and free markets. I was the main protagonist of my American Dream, a Colombian-born, legal immigrant, naturalized US citizen, with two engineering degrees, and an MBA proving to the world that in the United States if you set your mind to it you can accomplish it.

For many years I was registered under one of the two main parties of this country. My parents and I differed on our choice of political party but that never came between us. Presidential election after presidential election I voted for the candidate who best supported, in my view, the industry in which my husband and I worked in.

Between 1990 and 2018 my views and interest in politics evolved as I suppose they do for many people. I went from being a career woman to a stay-at-home mom raising two children. I had the privilege of living overseas twice, spending 7 years in Belgium and England. Living abroad helped me to better understand global economics and politics and how the US was just a piece of a bigger puzzle.

In time I realized that if there were a list under each political party’s name representing the different issues each stood for, I would tick off an equal amount of boxes from each side. I would probably be called a “moderate” in either of the political parties. In fact, I would come to the conclusion that neither of the major political parties would be able to adequately represent my beliefs and needs. It felt like I was left by the side of the road, abandoned, and that is when I became a political party orphan.

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In 2007 I registered as an independent voter. We know that while the US government allows candidates of multiple parties to participate in elections, independent candidates do not get nearly the exposure and campaign funding they need, and are ultimately crushed by the candidates of the two dominant parties. Furthermore, depending on what state you live in voters registered as “independents” are not allowed to participate in primaries. Rather than giving my vote to an independent presidential candidate who was unlikely to win, I found myself voting for one of the main political party’s candidate even if my enthusiasm for them was lackluster. I know I am not alone in feeling like the existing parties are not representative of my views. In recent years we have seen the emergence of sub-parties within the two major parties but those groups do not represent my interests either.

We once had our Swedish friend visiting our home. We were enjoying a lively discussion of American vs. Swedish politics and government over dinner. I remember being so surprised when our Swedish friend shared how Sweden had over a dozen political parties. Currently, Sweden has 9 major parties represented in their coalition government. That means that 9 different parties are representing the population of Sweden of 9.9 million people, each party with its own political view. Their government more accurately represents the needs and views of its citizens. In contrast the population of the United States of 325 million is represented by only two major parties forcing its citizens to conform to one of two political views.

The United States needs a true multi-party system like those found in Sweden, The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and New Zealand. In fact if you look up the political system of the countries around the world, most have a multi-party system. In many governments with multi-party systems, no one major party has a chance of gaining power alone, so parties must work with each other to form coalition governments.

Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones, happy with representation by one of the two current major parties. However, your happiness ends when the opposing party wins the White House or the majority of Congress. You spend the next term complaining about who is in office hoping that in the next election your party will win seats in Congress or take back the White House. This is the two-party system that the citizens of this country have grown accustomed to. Historically the two political parties have taken turns running the White House. Below I highlight the parties in the White House since Teddy Roosevelt. I suppose you can call this ebb and flow a collaborative effort, one party rules for a time period and then alternates with the other. This type of government relies on bipartisanship and collaboration to get things done. Often times what happens is that the current administration spends its time and energy undoing what the previous administration accomplished.

  • Republican 1901-1913 12 years
  • Democratic 1913- 1921 8 years
  • Republican 1921- 1933 12 years
  • Democratic 1933- 1953 20 years
  • Republican 1953-1961 8 years
  • Democratic 1961 – 1969 8 years
  • Republican 1969 – 1977 8 years
  • Democratic 1977 – 1981 4 years
  • Republican 1981 – 1993 12 years
  • Democratic 1993 – 2001 8 years
  • Republican 2001 -2009   8 years
  • Democratic 2009 – 2017 8 years
  • Republican 2017 –

Given the lack of bipartisanship in this country today and divisiveness among its citizens, perhaps a multi-party system and a coalition government may better serve the needs of all of its citizens. The experts present a compelling argument supporting a true multi-party system. In fact some feel that our very own democracy is at risk and that a multi-party system may be the only way to save it. However, these same experts are also pragmatic and tell us that for the US to become a true multi-party system we would need a major paradigm shift. For starters, the current electoral college system would need to be replaced. That seems daunting but not entirely impossible. Next, people would need to get rid of partisan pride and become more open-minded towards collaboration. In essence, you would need to find common working ground with your neighbors who have diametrically opposed views to yours. Next, we would need to have super awesome candidates that would be gutsy enough to run as “independents” and not take the path of least resistance by joining a major party. These candidates would need major funding and would have to work very hard to get the word out. Lastly, the media would have to give equal airtime to the independent candidates. That’s a lot to happen but not impossible. I always like to think of our founding fathers deliberating on how to achieve independence from Great Britain. Imagine how daunting that concept must have felt like yet we know it was not impossible to attain.

It makes a lot of sense to have multiple parties representing the broad diversity of views of the 325 million people of the United States, “Taxation with True Representation”.

For months I have hesitated writing anything remotely political due to people’s virulent reactions. I feel strongly that we cannot continue on this path of incivility. Perhaps the time has come for this political party orphan to become a civic activist in an effort to encourage collaboration and positivity.

In closing I highly recommend that you listen to Michael Smerconish. He hosts his daily radio talk show on the SiriusXM’s POTUS channel (124) and presents on CNN on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. The tagline of his radio show is “Refreshingly Independent Politics”. Smerconish, a lawyer by background, brings to his audience a balanced discussion of current events by interviewing guests of diverse backgrounds while taking audience phone calls helping his listeners put these issues in perspective. TC Scornavacchi, Executive Producer and co-host of The Michael Smerconish Program, also brings her smarts and wits to the show making for an entertaining and educational discussion. Smerconish is also a newspaper columnist and author. Here is a link to his website: http://www.smerconish.com

Trivia:

Did you know that when our country was founded and George Washington became our first president in 1789, there were no political parties. It was after Washington’s first term in office that Alexander Hamilton formed the Federalist Party. Then in 1791 Thomas Jefferson formed the Anti-Federalist party or the Democratic-Republicans. Read more: George Washington Views on Political Parties. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/31/george-washingtons-views-political-parties-america/

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3 thoughts on “How I Became a Political Party Orphan -Making the Case for a True Multi-Party Government

  1. Hi Ariadne,
    Valid points in favor of more than two parties. However, while Germany does have more than two parties, it does not necessarily fix all the issues. In fact, it can sometimes make it worse. Not enough votes for one particular party means a possible coalition, which makes some people unhappy again. Also, England and Germany have a parliamentary system. Whatever party gets the most votes gets to elect the leader. Not always ideal either 🙂 More than two parties is not necessarily a fix to our current situation. In Germany, the extreme right wing, fascist party (AfD) has gained access to the German parliament, weakening the two traditionally strong parties (Christian Democrat and Social Democrats). It’s not pretty. And in England, having more than two parties, didn’t stop the Brits from voting for the Brexit. 🙂

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