11 November 2008

Should PUMAs form a third party?

Last week the proprietor of the now-defunct PUMA blog "Pagan Power" sent an e-mail to all his former commenters proposing that the PUMA movement try to launch a third political party. The following, slightly edited and expanded, is my response:

Where the PUMA movement goes from here is an important question, and I see many different ideas being aired on various sites.

My own feeling is that trying to start a third political party would not be a productive use of our energies. The dominant position of the two established big parties amounts to a stranglehold; it has withstood every effort to undermine it for generations. Greens, Libertarians, the "Constitution" party, Ross Perot -- despite great opportunities that each of those has felt they had at various times, each has utterly failed to make a dent in the actual workings of the political system. It's true that Ralph Nader probably swung the 2000 election to Bush by flipping a few swing states, but did he succeed in actually advancing any of the issues he was supposedly running on? No, all he accomplished was to get himself vilified by the rest of the left for helping Bush win office.

This is the basic problem with third parties under our system -- if you actually manage to get a nontrivial number of votes, all you can achieve is to shift the actual outcome in favor of whichever major party is less sympathetic to your position.

The Democrats and Republicans each have a massive, entrenched apparatus which reaches into every city and county in the nation. It would take decades, and an improbable level of manpower, to build up anything similar for a third party. Far more effective for us to work to get access to those existing machineries of power.

Those movements which have actually succeeded in influencing national politics have been those which, rather than trying to form third parties, aligned themselves with one of the big parties either as a full coalition member or at least as an ally based on common interests. Unions have acquired power as part of the Democratic coalition. The Christian Right similarly owes its political influence to its role as an established player on the Republican side.

As for alliances of common interest, the swing-voter groups like blue-collar workers, "soccer moms", and Hispanics are especially courted because they are open to the advances of either party. Not one of those groups has ever considered trying to start a third political party, something they are much too diffuse and diverse to do anyway (the same could be said of us PUMAs, of course), and I see no reason to think they would have become more influential if they had -- quite the opposite, in fact, since they would have simply been taking themselves "off the table" from the viewpoint of the major parties.

We PUMAs, too, would be most influential as a recognized "swing" constituency. As I've argued elsewhere, the Democratic party is now "lost", at least for a while -- victory has entrenched the Obama cult immovably. The Republicans, by contrast, are now in a more malleable state after their defeat, looking to refine their message and find new groups to which they can appeal. Also, the common struggle against the Obama machine allowed conservatives and PUMAs to get to know each other (even if only in blog comment sections) and discover a degree of mutual respect despite their differences. All this gives us something to work with.

The Republican party is open to a new direction. We can have an influence on what direction they take. That course could have a concrete impact on what actually happens in 2010 and 2012, and what the results in those years will mean. Yet another tiny third party (or rather dozens of them, since many people will have the same idea) will not, based on the precedents of recent history.

That's my take on it, anyway.

1 Comments:

Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

You have a point Mr.Infidel! Any way you slice it...the future political structure will change, as I said about "utilizing tool's", the tool's are all there,it's just a matter of action. Dem's and Rep's are a thing of the past...a relic. Look to see many going independent, but that wont cut it either,because folks will get hip that all that is,is a repackaging of old school. One thing we will have to learn as a society...to let go of thing's like race,gender,culture/religion as we know it and live it now,this keep's pointless fued's going..and no progress. PUMA's might be a worthy start..because right now,on all sides what we have is too many PUTA's...in our population,who dont even get paid for bending over.And are just starting to realize the reality.Why? is Washington so slow to change? Heh, heh,heh...if your getting paid a couple hundred thousand or so in salary and benefit's,have SUV motorcades,$500 leather ass warmers,a tax write off for everything you do, a health plan that makes regular peoples look like a joke...heh,heh,heh...you wouldnt want change either!And see how quick you may be at doing it. I'll shut up now..thank you Sir.

11 November, 2008 04:52  

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