Bernie Sanders

Design Your Own American Party System!

Play along with Bernie Sanders.


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This morning Bernie Sanders urged his followers not to vote for the Green Party's presidential nominee. Speaking at a breakfast event in Philadelphia, the Vermont senator expressed respect for the Greens but argued that this election was a binary choice, The Washington Post reports.

"If we were in Europe right now, in Germany or elsewhere," Sanders said, "the idea of coalition politics of different parties coming together—you've got a left party, you've got a center-left party, coming together against the center-right party—that's not unusual. That happens every day. We don't have that."

What would this election look like if we did have a parliamentary system? It's an interesting thought experiment, because it's easy to imagine this as a five- or six-way race. You could have Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic Socialists and Hillary Clinton the New Democrats—the left and center-left parties that Sanders mentioned. The Libertarians would have Gary Johnson (or perhaps someone like Rand Paul, since he wouldn't have as strong an incentive to present himself as a Republican). Donald Trump would have the old Perot and Buchanan voters, maybe in an America First Party. And the pre-Trump GOP would have a standard-bearer too, a Jeb Bush or a Ted Cruz. Or maybe the Bush Republicans and the Cruz Republicans would be separate operations. The upshot, in any event, is to imagine what it would be like if our political factions were more modular: Instead of struggling for influence and forming alliances within a party, they could compete for votes as parties themselves and then try to form a governing coalition after the election.

My point isn't to make the case for or against such a system. It's to imagine how those factions would align and disalign if they had that kind of flexibility. How well would each of those parties do, and what governing coalition might some of them form? Would the left and center-left align, as Sanders imagined, or would the New Democrats prefer to form a Bloombergian coalition with the Bush Republicans? Would the Bush Republicans outpoll the America Firsters, or would they be also-rans? Who would the Libertarians form a coalition with—or would they just refuse to join up with anyone else? And where do we put Jim Webb? Create your own scenario and post it in the comments.

NEXT: UPDATED: Is the DNC Hack "Worse Than Watergate"? Only if You're a Democrat or a Gatekeeper Journalist

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  1. I imagine Jim Webb would be an America Firster.

    1. American Fister?

      1. That show was a mess.

  2. Donald Trump would have the old Perot and Buchanan voters

    As an old Perot voter, I take umbrage.

    Sure, he might get some… maybe even more than fitty percent. But remember, Perot spent 97% of his campaign showing us graphs and charts on Social Security. He was a one-trick-pony on governmental fiscal management. A lot of us proto-libertarians were attracted to him because he seemed to have a pragmatic approach to the Federal Fiscal Insanity.

      1. Yes, but it’s too bad he ran at all. He delivered us to Bubba. For that I hate him.

        1. Meh, it took Nixon to go to China, it took a Democrat to reform welfare. Besides, the Monica Lewinsky thing was fun.

    1. Exactly. I tolerated Perot’s anti-NAFTA nonsense because he was actually a fiscal conservative. Trump is an anti-trade big government Democrat.

  3. As of this morning, we might put President Hollande as a Trump supporter.

    1. If they built a wall around France, who would they get to pay for it?

      1. Germany, just like the rest of the EU.

        1. But made with the skulls of ISIS soldiers.

        2. Damn it. Why didn’t that joke occur to me?

          My hat is off to you for that zinger. Well done!

      2. Look in the mirror.

  4. “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 3+ political parties or of 2 different politicians when cronies are going hungry in this country.”
    -B. Sanders

    This suggestion is just foolish on its face, Reason… Grow up..

    1. Your mock quote… my sides!

  5. What would this election look like if we did have a parliamentary system? It’s an interesting thought experiment, because it’s easy to imagine this as a five- or six-way race.

    First, editing snark.

    Second, if we had parliamentary system similar to the one described celebrity would still be the biggest reason for a candidates’ success. The alt-right would be heavily supporting one candidate, and a bunch of similarly race-obsessed based maniacs would be heavily supporting another candidate, and we would end up with a contest between Taylor Swift and Kayne West.

    It’s so simple.

    1. All kidding aside, I think you make a good point there. Infighting would be so much more vicious because the stakes would be lower. If our press looks like dog shit today with all the race baiting, imagine how bad it would be when they actually had to fight in perpetuity to push their politics.

      1. Which would be bad…. why? The only way to limit power is to pit power structures against each other. It’s why sensible people don’t fear a corporate takeover of the world, and why the term “checks and balances” is a watchword for a responsibly structured government.

        1. Just because they would bicker with each other doesn’t mean they wouldn’t find time to pass odious legislation.

        2. Who said it would be necessarily bad? Better representation of the electorate is a big plus in my book. More people might ignore the news due to the perpetual mud-slinging, but that would also be a plus in this country if it got some of them to start thinking for themselves.

          I was just stating that I thought it seemed an obvious outcome that being forced to share power would put the spin machines into overdrive and the rhetoric would be unbearable.

          Would this country elect saner people if the parties broke up on ideological lines? I don’t have the answer to that question.

    2. Ugh. The guy who made a reference to bad editing didn’t edit his own post. smdh.

      1. We understand it’s tough to juggle, tug one out, and post at the same time.

    3. First, editing snark.

      It has been a long day, and my eyes are glazed over, so you will have to tell me what glitch I’m missing here.

      1. These euphemisms…

      2. Nothing. And correct them into lazy to correct my incorrect statement. I shall increase my next donation because of my mistake.

        1. I just go to show we need an edit button?

          1. Jiminy Christmas I’m throwing in the towel.

            1. Wipe off your face first.

    4. But would it be the celebrity of each individual celebrity, or of the party leader?

      1. Darn! I meant would it be the celebrity of each individual legislator, or of the party leader?

  6. I’ve always been a fan of proportional representation. Frankly, it’s a more accurate representation of the voters’ positions. The two criticisms I’ve heard–that it makes it difficult to preserve incumbencies and that it tends towards legislative stagnation–have always struck me as selling points.

    1. Proportion wanting free shit – 97%
      Proportion against – 2%
      Proportion undecided – 1%

      Motion passed – free shit for everyone.

      1. I mean, while I appreciate and sympathize with your cynicism, I don’t think that’s entirely realistic. As with anything else, it comes down to selling the majority of people on you as a person and saying nice things about key issues they care about. I actually do think that there are a fair number of people who, for instance, would vote LP if the LP put forth a charismatic, polished candidate who didn’t run as an an-cap. Picture a Penn Jilette running on a platform of non-interventionism, lower taxes, and rerouting federal funding for agencies like the Dept. of Ed. into grants for private alternative education NGOs. I think someone like that would get your standard libertarians (all but the litmus test variety) and also peel away some fringe Progressives, maybe some “liberal Republicans”.

        1. And the key is you’d be shooting for Congress seats, not the Presidency. Shooting the moon is a losing proposition. Once you start squeaking Libertarians into the US Congress, now you’ve made the possibility of a successful Presidential run a much more feasible proposition.

    2. One of my fav reforms is to elect the top three in each district, and they proxy the number of votes they received. It eliminates the need to reapportion districts for equal representation based on censuses, it throws a monkey wrench into the two party system, and it gives unpopular voices a chance to be heard.

      Let every border parcel owner decide which district he is in at election time.

      And finally, let every voter volunteer for a random chamber, where each district selects one of those random volunteers to be their representative. Here, the main benefit is that the random chamber is utterly out of the control of party hacks and provides a very real popular veto chamber.

  7. “Libertarians would have Gary Johnson (or perhaps someone like Rand Paul, since he wouldn’t have as strong an incentive to present himself as a Republican)”

    What incentive exactly did Paul have to remain in the GOP? He was resoundingly rejected. And rejected for Donald Trump, no less all the others who finished ahead of him like Cruz. Yikes. That’s a libertarian moment?

    He should have resigned and ran for the libertarian nomination. He actually would have had a chance to win…all he had to do was win two or three states and get the election thrown to the House, where it was possible to edge Trump.

    Why did he stay? To keep a job? Not much courage.

    1. You get a participation trophy for that one.

    2. There’s just no pleasing you…

    3. What incentive exactly did Paul have to remain in the GOP? He was resoundingly rejected. And rejected for Donald Trump, no less all the others who finished ahead of him like Cruz. Yikes. That’s a libertarian moment?

      Perhaps that’s why he left.

    4. all he had to do was win two or three states

      Ah, there’s your problem: disconnect from reality.

      1. Or gain a vote from a faithless elector again.

    5. Why did he stay? To keep a job? Not much courage.

      A bizarre accusation. The math of first-past-the-post favors no more than two parties. How much experience someone has in politics does figure into how likely they are to be elected President. It always comes up, even if it isn’t always the deciding factor.

      Do you think Obama gave Clinton a post as Secretary of State out of pity? No, he needed to keep her relevant for the good of the party because she’d be back when term limits forced him out. The coronation was delayed, but never forgotten.

      Why do you make so damned many foolish comments here anyway? Anyone with two brain cells to rub together could work this out, so what’s your excuse for failing at it?

      1. Do you think Obama gave Clinton a post as Secretary of State out of pity? No, he needed to keep her relevant for the good of the party because she’d be back when term limits forced him out.

        Not quite. Barack Obama doesn’t give a shit about the good of the party (Most politicians don’t). He gave her the post to keep her inside his tent pissing out, rather than risk an insurgency for his re-election bid. As soon as the re-election was secured, she was gone (Feb ’13). If it had been to keep her relevant she’d still be in the office well into the second term.

        1. That’s just another facet of the same thing. Keeping the party happy means not getting sabotaged by your own. He must still have political aspirations or is considering a dynasty because his wife’s stumping for Hillary now.

          1. And, if Trump wins, how much of Obama’s “legacy” will remain? We’ll be calling it DonaldCare

    6. Paul stayed because if he didn’t get the nod, he wanted to keep his senate seat and have a chance at having some influence in Congress. He has played nice on occasion with leadership in order to have a chance to have an impact. Unlike kooks like Sanders that spent 30 years in Congress and have jack shit to show for it (thank God).

      1. That’s what I said… He wanted to keep his job. And I hate to break this to you, but none of the major pieces of legislation he proposed passed. Not much influence in his stated profession, no less the political party he decided to stay in.

        1. Just because “none of the major pieces of legislation he proposed passed” doesn’t mean he has no influence. An example: forcing Obama to admit that the President does not have the power to drone American citizens on US soil. (Personally, I wish he had held out for the President doesn’t have the power to drone citizens, anywhere, without a trial, unless Congress has declared war. But oh well).
          To say that Rand Paul hasn’t had an influence in the Senate is just not true.

          1. Fair enough. I still think he missed a big opportunity to not only maybe win, but in the worst case really put forward the libertarian case on the national stage. Big do be it.

            1. *but so be it.

            2. I was very excited about Rand’s chances this year. And then… Trump.
              I’m glad he’s still in the Senate, and didn’t resign to run for president, even though it was playing a little fast and lose with Kentucky law.

      2. Link…..egislator/

        Interesting to note that Sandwrs at least accomplished some, even though he was acting as an independent when he did.

        And you were saying….?

    7. Resoundingly rejected for POTUS among ~200 seeking the nomination (or 17 taken seriously by the media) isn’t much of a rejection, is it? He was resoundingly nominated by Republicans for US senator.

      1. Resoundingly by local Kentuckians. Resoundingly defeated nationally in the GOP.

  8. The sane candidates would split the vote and we’d be left with the crazy in charge! Thank God we avoid that in the United States. #Trump2016

    1. Or treasonous felons! #Shrillary 2016!

  9. Let’s say we have 4 parties instead of two. Further posit that at least 3 of them win a few States such that no Presidential ticket gets a majority of Electoral College votes and there’s no party with an outright majority in either the House or the Senate.

    The House then elects the President. There’d be some horsetrading there, but once the President is elected there’s no such thing as a no-confidence vote. He or she is in for 4 years. But:

    The Speaker of the House would have to cobble together a coalition to get elected Speaker. Doling out Committee Chairmanships and other assignments would be distributed among parties to get that. And he/she WOULD be subject to a no-confidence vote. The Senate would be similar, but it would be more stable as it’s membership takes 6 years to turn over, not 2. A no-confidence vote in the House would paralyze it for a while unless a new Speaker was quickly elected and the expected reshuffling of chairmanships, etc. occurred. But unlike the Westminster system the entire house would decide on the new Speaker, you have new elections every 2 years, like it or not, and the Speaker has no executive power.

    So a viable 3rd party could make life interesting. But it has to win a few States in the Presidential election to really stir things up. It could still make trouble in Congress even if it fails at the Presidential level, though, iff it won enough seats to keep any party from getting a House or Senate majority.

    1. Nice exposition.

    2. Why don’t we just go full parliamentary, where the party with the most seats nominates the PM.

      1. You never go full parliamentary?

      2. Constitutional amendment required. And it’s been a while since I’ve checked the details, but IIRC a constitutional amendment has to either come from congress or something more then a majority (can’t remember how many) of states has to call a constitutional convention to start new amendments.

        So there’s some fairly large logistical challenges, and all the people involved don’t have much incentive.

    3. These euphemisms

    4. Except your assuming that we still have the same method to elect a president. But, see, the electoral college is what makes it a two party system. Because it’s winner take all, there is a built in advantage for “big tent” candidates; to try to get every vote you can you need coalitions. Because these coalitions already exist to elect a president, they naturally work together on other races as well, plus you’re going to want your Congress critters to have influence with the Executive, and being in the same party gives you more access.
      So, the only way to get a parliamentary system is to get rid of the electoral college, or make the Executive so weak that he doesn’t matter.

      1. Or I could have read down, seen your link, and saved myself from writing the above paragraph.

      2. No, the electoral college isn’t what makes it a 2 party system, because look at all the states. They don’t have any electoral colleges, yet they almost all have 2 party systems.

        1. “Because these coalitions already exist to elect a president, they naturally work together on other races as well, ”
          Once a coalition coalesces (to elect a President), then it’s natural for that coalition to work down ticket as well. It percolates down, all the way to the school board.

  10. Here is how I see it:

    The Insulin Resistant Party would put forth a strong argument to align with the Sqauts or GTFO Party using both a carrot (low carb) and stick (slashfic) approach.

    The Peoples Dumbass Front of Shreeking and the Front of the Dumbass Peoples of Tony will form a coalition but it will easily be ineffective as they can’t get their heads out of their ass long enough to find the way to the relevant thread.

    The large minority will be comprised of the Conservatives Who Like Weed and Police Reform and Antagonizing Dumbass Parties Party in an uneasy alignment with the I Have a Small Dick so I Lick Boots Party. This will lead to strife occasionally and the utter destruction and reformation of these parties.

    Pot, Ass Sex, and Mexicans Party stands alone and influences most of the other coalitions.

    But most importantly…The Sentient and Nimble Humans with Cybernetic Implants Party sweeps easily into the executive and rules with an iron yet eloquent, if not entirely comprehensible to our feeble minds, fist.

    1. Where does the Outdoor Power Equipment Party fit into your system?

      1. In DenverJ’s garage.

        1. “I ain’t even got a garage, you can call home and ask my wife!”

  11. All this would do is create 7 parties:

    The Free Shit for Everyone and Mother Gaia Too Authoritarian Party (aka The Green Party)
    The Free Shit for Everyone Authoritarian Party (aka Communists)
    The Free Shit for Most Everyone Authoritarian Party (aka Socialists)
    The Free Shit for Cronies and Rent Seekers Authoritarian Party (aka Democrats)
    The Free Shit for the Right Sort of People and the Military Authoritarian Party (aka Republicans)
    The I Have No Problem with Free Shit So Long as We Amend the Constitution to Allow Free Shit Party (aka the Constitution Party) and….
    There’s No Such Thing As Free Shit Party (aka the Libertarians)

    So, pretty much what we have now.

    1. That’s a lot of shit

  12. Excellent Bergen analysis of recent terror attacks. Some of what he says is controversial, but since it aligns with my personal views, the analysis is brilliant.

    3. As result of the first two problems, there are unprecedented waves of immigration from the Muslim world flooding into the West, in particular to Europe.
    Germany alone has taken a million refugees. European countries simply do not have the ideological framework the United States has in the shape of the “American dream” that has helped to absorb successfully wave after wave of immigration to the States, including Muslim Americans who are well integrated into American society. There is no analogous French dream or German dream.…..index.html

    1. We don’t really have the American Dream anymore either.

      1. Compared to Europe, we’ve kept our pan-welfare state just enough at bay where there’s a remaining sliver of an American Dream. The minute we start paying people to not work in as broad a sense as Europe does, we’ll be Europe and have all the terrorist attacks they do– yes, from “immigrants” which are 2nd generation American citizens, children of refugees etc.

        It’s funny to me, that Europe is seen as a model of egalitarianism, taking in millions of Syrian refugees. Yet plopping them into your country, cutting them a welfare check is a disservice to those people, not a service. Unfortunately that’s so counter-intuitive that it’s difficult if not impossible to argue that point.

        1. I don’t get it, why is turning human beings into pets a bad thing?

      2. Yeah, Dusty Rhodes died over a year ago.

    2. Didn’t the French dream die in 1940 and German dream expire in 1945?

      1. No, the French Dream continued through the entire war.

      2. More like 1815 for the French.

    3. There is too a German Dream.

      Overrunning France (and Poland, and Russia, etc.)

  13. OK, I’ll play along.

    Tricameral legislature. House and Senate setup same as original Constitution. Third chamber would be elected by proportional vote at the national level. Any new legislation must pass all three chambers.

    Two coequal executives, both must sign any law, EO, etc.


    Dictator determined by thunder dome rules. Terms last until the next successful challenge.

  14. Real conservatives would be comfortable joining the Constitution Party permanently.
    Progressives would join either the Green Party or one of the “Workers” Parties. Maybe all that junk would merge up without institutional barriers.
    The Democrats and Republicans would actually merge, since they have a large bulk of members who don’t really have any beliefs or principles other than “gimme gimme gimme”.
    Then you’d have new assholish alt-right party, gag.
    And of course Libertarians would finally get that coveted 5% of the vote.

  15. different parties coming together

    Merkel’s on her 2nd “Grand Coalition” – only the 3rd since WWII. Imagine bi-partisan everything, all the time. Doesn’t that sound great?

    1. Imagine bi-partisan everything, all the time. Doesn’t that sound great?

      +1 Seattle City Council.

    2. This is also the answer to the question Jesse posed: the establishment wings of Team Red and Team Blue would rule together. Forever.

      1. We could call them the Boot Stomping on a Face Party.

        1. Heh – exactly.

  16. This election IS a binary choice: Gary Johnson or Trump-Clinton. I’ll vote for Johnson.

    1. Clintrump

  17. If the USA had a multi-party system, it would look something like this:

    Green Party: pro-environment, leftist, progressive commies
    Democrat Party: pro-corporate, but with European style forced inclusiveness and victim labeling
    Centrist Party: raise taxes to balance the budget, leave social issues to the states
    Republican Party: pro-corporate, Club for Growth, Chamber of Commerce country club types
    Make America Great Again Reform Party: Trump/Buchanan/Wallace anti-elite, America First types
    Constitution Party: the usual right wing loons, bolstered by all the Cruz/Bachmann types

    And the LP, freed from trying to win elections outright, would split into several factions:

    ZAP Party: anarchists who would abolish taxes and have Congress meet for a few weeks every two years to repeal old laws

    Ron Paul Party: pro-Constitution, but with real respect for liberty instead of trying to make America a Christian Nation by force

    True Libertarian Party: the guys who still think they can win by running on a more reasonable, watered down platform

    1. Sign up for your new party affiliation now!

  18. If we’re going to discuss pie in the sky alternatives, drop the parties and move to a phyle based system where each party governs it’s own members and deals with other parties as it would a foreign nation.

    1. Ooh… interesting. Any good sci-fi with this idea?

    2. Ooh, I like this. City-states 2.0. With (perhaps) a loose affiliation of non-aggression pacts and a NATO anti-invasion treaty.

      Ok, simulated this on CIV5, mixed results.

      1. * Simulations did not allow for any real, well, anything. But, somehow, Quebec, Sydney, and Vienna were always there when I was eliminated.

  19. How do you know the USA wouldn’t, instead of having parties that could be located across a spectrum, have a Farmer’s Party, Christian Party, Urban Party, Tradesmen’s Party, Teacher’s Party, Sportsmen’s Party, Hispanic Party, International Party, Motoring Party, etc.? Like World’s Fair instead of poli sci?

  20. Elections are always a binary choice, that’s how you keep the people from having power.

  21. Your state no longer uses districts.

    Congress members are elected “at large” .

    Each voter votes for one rep on the ballot. The top X reps go to Congress. (X is your congressional delegation)

    You vote for one and only one rep, so that partisans can’t vote for X members of their team. Plus if a Team puts too many people on the ballot, they risk splitting their vote.

    If I’m really going to dream, get rid of the Senate and make all sitting governors act as the upper house.

    1. Originally Senators were appointed by the states not elected. And for that matter the vice president was the one who got the second most votes. That is true representation

      1. Originally Senators were appointed by the states not elected.

        Oh I know. I think that’s better than direct election.

  22. Someone should remind Bernie if all elections were binary he would never have been elected to the Senate.

  23. I’m wondering what JW thinks “parliamentary” means. Perhaps he confuses it with proportional representation, a common mistake.

    The Biparty is less a consequence of the separation of the executive from the legislature than of plurality elections. Either preference voting (automatic runoff) or approval voting would help break it up. (If no candidate for President gets 3/4 approval, winner gets shorter term and reduced powers. If no candidate has majority approval, abolish the office already.)

    One neat thing (imho) about either of these is that we might see candidates supporting each other, rather than attacking their natural allies. “If you don’t vote for me, I hope you’ll vote for Alice. If you do vote for me, put Alice next on your list.”

    1. Isn’t proportional representation one form a parliamentary system cam take?

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