This started originally as a comment, but I started bloviating, so I simply decided to post it. Enjoy my ramblings.
First, let me say, welcome to the Proving Ground. Second, I would lie to retract some of my statements regarding nadir that I made when you and I talked on the phone the other night. He certainly did not cause the downfall (too strong?) of this country. For want of a nail the kingdom was lost. Either way, I entirely blame Bru and his flip flopping ways – remember when you and Jonathan Green ganged up on me?
Anyways, I certainly agree with you that a third party system would be nice, but I never see that happening in this country. People have been trying since its inception, and have been failing since then. Not even Teddy Roosevelt could pull out the third party victory. The simple fact of the matter is, in order to bring about any sort of change, you have to operate within the established power structure. The established political parties, while certainly not permanent (Whigs, etc), are the avenues through which change is wrought. The entire political structure of this country (the senate committees based on seniority in the majority and minority party) perpetuates the two party system. When you are looking to get money for your community, who are you going to call – you local socialists or green party? No, they are not able to effectuate any change. Rather, you’re going to call your local Democrat or republican and likely vote for one of them. And, if you are really passionate about that issue, will likely vote for the political party that is in the majority to increase the odds of the individual piece of legislation’s passage.
Traditionally, as a third party rises in popularity, it merely replaces the outgoing party and the two party balance is restored – see the emergence of the republican party and the demise of the Whigs. But, as a practical matter, Americans will support the party that can actually bring about change. Ask some of the Nader supporters whether they would be willing to concede some corporate issues and support Gore, I have a feeling they would change their vote. It’s a simply matter of utility – the two major parties, can overall, accomplish the most things the individual will agree with, while limiting disagreeable issues. It’s simply a matter of how much people are willing to compromise. The Catholic brass, despite agreeing socially with Democrats/liberals, generally will not vote that way because of the abortion/stem cell/pre-birthing issues. And that is why the third party won’t work – you simply get nothing in return, and have to hope that the majority party is somewhat aligned with your beliefs. Unfortunately for Nader supporters, Bush has been the antithesis – big government, big business, conservative socially, and running on fear. I commend him for running, but I don’t think he should expect support simply because he is a third party candidate. I want action, not rhetoric, and that is all Nader has to offer.