Since the 18th century, America has had two political parties organized to combat one another with only brief breaks in our 240-year history. In many ways, this is human nature; people tend to migrate to one side or the other along an ideological scale and latch onto the major presence that comes closest to exemplifying their desires. There’s also a nefarious reason for the perpetuation of this system that has been present for over a century: maintaining a safe haven for the “Establishment.”
John Adams warned us about the two-party system:
There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
His fear has been manifested in today’s political structure. We now have a false dichotomy where the parties espouse opposition to one another in order to fuel their base support. This opposition is real in many regards, but the fundamental reasons for perpetuation are based around consolidation of power for the federal government. Through conflict, the parties are able to retain power and keep America in constant state of ebbing and flowing from one ideological side to the other. The result is what we see today: an ineffective governmental system that exists primarily to maintain balance. While some may see this balance as beneficial, it’s important to realize that the system is designed for the status quo of big government and a dependent citizenry.
The balance they’re maintaining between the parties at the federal level allows them to preserve an imbalance of power over state governments.
In the Dystopian novel 1984, George Orwell tells of a government that dictates the name of the “permanent” enemy. While there are more heinous and memorable aspects of the novel that hold our attention (who can forget the omnipresence of Big Brother?), a subtle nod to the current American political system can be found in the way they shifted wars between Eurasia and Eastasia. When they were at war with one, it was said they were always at war with that adversary. When war shifted in the opposite direction, the narrative was that they had always been at war with the new enemy and had never been at war with the other.
Our government doesn’t go so far as to change history outright, but they regularly change the narrative to keep the status quo going. Americans need an enemy. Humans need an adversary. When we’re not in a state of war, we tend to manufacturer an enemy. Today, we have a diverse set of enemies depending on which side of the ideological fence someone is on. Some fight global warming or capitalism. Others fight radical Islam or socialism. Keeping an enemy front and center hides the face of the biggest threat to the American people: an oppressive federal government that has two parties lurching left and removing the God-given freedoms that have allowed our nation to thrive.
It’s acceptable, anticipated, and even encouraged by the government for people to fight their political foes. As long as Democrats fight Republicans and Republicans fight Democrats, the people will be much less likely to realize it’s the government itself and the singular Democratic-Republican Party that deserve our greatest attention in opposition.
What we can do
This can all seem hopeless. If the two-party system survives because they have all the power and are unwilling to relinquish it, how can a third party movement work? There hasn’t been a successful third party to rise in a century and a half. What makes the Federalist Party different?
It comes down to recognition and strategy. We recognize the roadblocks ahead. We know that the moment the Establishment sees us coming, they will do what they can to quash us before we become a real threat. Strategically, we must do things differently.
First, we must always strive to take the high road. Shortcuts to success invariably lead to long term failure. We saw an example of this with the Libertarian Party’s presidential campaign in 2016. Instead of taking the high road and identifying the purest proponents of liberty to put on their ticket, they chose a former Republican Governor for name recognition and a liberal Democrat for balance. They thought they could outsmart the Establishment by offering the people more of the same. The result was an embarrassing defeat in the year that they were given the greatest opportunity to make an impact. They had an opportunity to get into the debates and failed. Had they put the right people in the debates, they could have actually won the whole thing. Instead, they embarrassed themselves by trying to take a shortcut.
The second difference in our strategy is to be the best administrators of technology that American politics has ever seen. Unlike the decades past when other third parties formed, we are blessed by forming in a time when we can reach the masses. Thanks to social media, mobile technology, and big data, we’ll be able to put our message in front of millions of people without having to spend millions of dollars. That’s not to say that we don’t see value in yard signs or rallies, but our initial success will come through mastery of the technologies of our time and a cognizance to the rapid evolution we’re seeing in these technologies.
Third, we will not give notice to the other parties until it’s time. For example, when we reach a million members, most would expect us to proclaim the milestone loudly. It wouldn’t just be an outlet to express our pride. It can be a great momentum builder. However, there’s a major trap that we’ve seen other parties fall into in the past. The Establishment doesn’t like threats and declaration of milestones can represent a major threat to their base. When we hit their radar, they will put the full force of their presence towards quickly destroying us. They’ll manufacture narratives. They’ll tell lies. They’ll rally their party’s faithful to destroy us by associating our movement with every awful thing they can muster. The only way to prevent this from happening is to grow aggressively but to keep our victories quiet. In essence, we need to practice humility or risk being slapped down. By the time they realize we’re a threat, we need to be so large that they cannot put an end to us easily. At that point, they’ll need to contend with us and we’re looking forward to that day with glee.
The last part of our strategy that will help us break through the two-party barrier is that we’ll need to learn from mistakes of other parties and movements. The Tea Party in particular stands out as a loose entity which achieved some successes for a few years before losing ground from 2014-2016. They allowed corruption to seep in. Their original righteous motives were co-opted by some to line the pockets of unpatriotic opportunists. They couldn’t fully support the candidates they propped up in the past and many have fallen since, either losing their elections or embracing the Establishment for the sake of self-preservation.
There’s no way for us to know everything that lies ahead. We can only prepare as best we can and stay true to our base. We are soberly aware of the challenges and that should be encouraging to those joining the party. It’s naive to think this won’t be difficult, but it’s false to believe that we can’t make it happen.
A party to end parties
As a final note, we may be the only party in American history that has an end goal of ceasing the party system altogether. We’re forming a political coalition in order to end coalitions. While this may seem contradictory, it’s important to realize that parties were opposed by the majority of our founding fathers. Eventually, they still formed. Without them, in particular the original Federalist Party, the Constitution would never have been ratified.
In a near-perfect world, we would be able to abolish parties completely. Americans should vote based upon the issues that are important to them. We should view the political spectrum from multiple dimensions rather than the binary choice we’re presented with today. As long as we’re encouraged to vote along party lines rather than based upon the issues and capabilities of individual candidates, we’ll never be able to get the right people in office. The best of the best align around ideas, not political affiliation. This more than anything else is why the party system is broken. They don’t judge potential candidates by their leadership abilities as much as by their fundraising skills. They don’t look for the top minds or people with the highest integrity. They look at candidates from a PR perspective – can they win or not? This is why the best Americans rarely find success in politics.
The two-party system that John Adams and many founding fathers feared has become entrenched in American society. It will require bold actions and undying perseverance to break the cycle, but with the help of enough people, we may have what it takes to achieve the unlikely.