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Presidential and Congressional Election dates

 
 
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 12:16 am
I would hazard a guess that the coincidence of the Presidential and Congressional races is what is creating a two-party system. If the Presidential term was changed to 5 years instead of 4 thus making the Presidential race coinciding with Congress every 10 years, would perhaps lead to a much needed multi-party system. Also, the length of the campaign from January to June is much too long thus leading to negativity to knock off the opponent. If it was shortened it might help in not giving too much time for digging into background hidden closets.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 608 • Replies: 16
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 06:23 am
Ummmm... no.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 08:52 am
First, you are implying that a two-party system is a bad thing. This is not at all a given and you certainly haven't done anything to support this. If you try to make this case you are going to have to provide a system that is better.

(Many people prefer proportional representation where even losing parties can have some say... but you aren't suggesting this)

The five year idea won't work. We already have midterm elections of congresspeople with 6 or 2 year terms. Ironically these elections are often more partisan since only the "dedicated" voters show up.

As for the length of elections... you are going to have to say how you plan to shorten them. Electioneering is a matter of free speech.
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talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2008 01:31 am
Mischief is the devil's handiwork for those with idle hands. The negativity seems to comes in the long drawn out campaign. In Britain and Canada, election occurs with a parliamentary non-confidence vote thus these no set time for gathering loot and dirt on the opponent. It is a few weeks affairs and the election is done with. This character assassination seems an outgrowth of the fixed election dates and the months-long campaigns.

The two-party system seems to be more or less similar with very little choice. It is like a 'meat and potato' diet. I like a more varied diet.
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2008 05:27 am
Canada and England both have systems of proportional representation. Is this what you are proposing?

The other difference between the US and these other countries is the First Amendment. Canada and England have fewer protections for free speech and it is much easier to shut people up through the force of law.

I disagree that we have very little choice under our system. This election, the candidates running that had a real chance of winning went from Huckabee, to John Edwards... quite a few different choices. The difference between Obama and McCain, from policy to personality, is immense.

Do you want to make the claim that the country would not be in a very different place right now had Gore won instead of Bush?
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2008 07:10 am
The coincidence of election cycles was an intentional construction of the constitution. No one in 1787 was thinking about "party systems," whether of two parties or any number of parties. One third of the senators elected in the first election served two years, one third served four years, and the balance served six years. Therefore, one third of all senators are up for election in every two year election cycle. All Representatives are up for election in a two year cycle, and the President and Vice President are up for election every other two year cycle.

There were no political parties in 1787, and even the concept of the political party was largely unknown. In some of our early elections, there were as many as six or seven candidates for the office of President from the same party (originally, the only well-organized party was the Democratic-Republican Party, which was Jefferson's party, and is, notionally, the ancestor of the present-day Democratic Party). The political parties only began to emerge, and then fitfully, at the time of the ratification of the constitution. Those who favored ratification were known as the Federalists, and those opposed were lamely referred to as the Anti-Federalists. That sort of thing is never good, a group being defined by what they oppose, rather than for what they support. That is why Jefferson organized the Democratic-Republican Party, which were usually just referred to as the Republicans.

As "big tent" parties go, the Democratic-Republicans were a mess. When James Monroe ran for his second term, no one was willing to oppose him, so, although a couple of electors failed to vote for him, and one voted for John Quincy Adams (who had not stood for election for the office), Monroe was basically unopposed. This was in what was known as "the Era of Good Feelings." A Boston newspaper man coined the phrase, which was predicated upon the apparent end of partisan bickering in the political press. It was, however, an illusion. Washington has been elected twice, virtually unopposed, and had been succeeded by his Vice President, John Adams, and both were seen as Federalists, because both had supported the ratification of the Constitution. But Washington always spoke out publicly against "faction" (what we would call political parties), and John Adams' idea of a good political party was any alignment which provided political support for himself.

The 1800 election had changed all of that, because it was bitterly contested between Jefferson and Burr--who were actually originally intended to run as, respectively, President and Vice President. In a fit of sour grapes when the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, the Federalist voted for Burr, in the attempt to prevent their bitter enemy, Jefferson, from becoming President. Alexander Hamilton threw his support to Jefferson, whom he detested, rather than see Burr, whom he detested even more, become President.

So let me expand for you this little history lesson, by quoting for you the original text of the constitution, in a paragraph of Article II, Section 1:

The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.

It was because of this "first man past the post" system that the election ended up contested between Jefferson and Burr. The Federalists were a dying political party, although it took a while, so their support for Burr was not just a sour grapes act, it was an attempt to salvage the future of the party--and it was not only ineffective, it was doomed at the outset. The XIIth Amendment . . .

The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;--The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;--the person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

. . . was ratified in 1804, now requiring electors to cast a vote for President, and a vote for Vice President.

The attempt to sabotage Jefferson's election as President in 1800 was the last gasp of the Federalists as a significant political party.

But Monroe's seeming popularity in 1820 masked deep political discontents, especially with issue of slavery beginning to push its ugly mug into politics. One elector had voted for John Quincy Adams--because he felt Monroe had done a poor job--even though Adams had not stood for the office, and even though, effectively, the country had one party politics. Your choices were the Democratic-Republican Party, or political impotence. In 1824, four members of the Democratic Republican Party stood for the office of President, and six for the office of Vice President (two of whom were also listed for the office of President). Andrew Jackson won the most votes, and the most electoral votes--but he didn't have a majority of either, so, once again, the election was thrown into the House.

One of the failed candidates was Henry Clay, who had failed both as a Presidential candidate, and as a Vice Presidential candidate. Although a southerner, Clay favored the same tariff policy (don't ask) as Adams, and he absolutely hated Jackson ("I cannot believe that killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies for the various, difficult, and complicated duties of the Chief Magistracy.")--but most important, he was also the Speaker of the House of Representatives. So he stage-managed the election of John Quincy Adams. Jackson was enraged, and even more members of the Democratic-Republican Party were alienated by what they saw as political skulduggery. Jackson swept up southerners uncommitted to any political parties (this was the dawn of "the Age of the Common Man"--which meant pioneers and backwoodsmen, and that to a large extent in those days meant southerners), and the disaffected members of the Democratic-Republicans, and he formed the Democratic Party. He had carefully organized veterans of the Creek War (1813) and of the New Orleans campaign in Tennessee when he ran for governor--many, such as David Crockett, found themselves suddenly given officer's rank in the militia, and were expected to turn out the vote for Jackson. This new system, of organizing a political party from the ground up, from the precinct to the county to the state to the national organization, overwhelmed almost all opposition in the years to come. The Democrats did not face no opposition, they just rarely faced effective opposition. Adams' (J.Q.) defeat in the 1828 (Jackson defeated him by 7 or 8 percentage points, but mopped the floor with him in the electoral college) signaled the birth and the death of the National Republican Party. Adams was equated in the public mind with the detested Federalists (even though he had never actually been a Federalist), who were seen as an elitist group who bent the knee to bankers and merchants, who were busily fleecing the public. The truth matters little in comparison to public perception.

The discontented, though, who had supported Adams did eventually get together to build a political party, and the "National Republicans" became the Republicans. They had learned a lesson, and organized from the ground up as Jackson's Democrats had done. They began taking office locally, and building up good will by "clean" government (they hadn't been around long enough to attract the kind of money which makes corruption attractive--that would have to await the outcome of the Civil War which intervened a few years later) and by opposition to slavery, which was becoming the elephant in the room in national politics. In 1856, John C. Frémont (always willing to fail in a spectacular and public way) lost the Presidential election, but the Republicans swept into power all over the country north of the Ohio River.

The 1860 election squashed the Whigs, the last gasp of a political party independent of the Democrats and the Whigs. A united Democratic Party would have buried Lincoln, but in the 1856 senatorial elections in Illinois (without going into too much detail, Senators were appointed, not elected, so candidate would go and "stump" for the local candidates who would vote for them in the state house) Lincoln had embarrassed Stephen Douglas in the public debates on the issue of slavery. Douglas had been the architect of the Kansas-Nebraska compromise, which was seen as spreading slavery by radical abolitionists--and Kansas and Nebraska bled and burned. But Lincoln forced Douglas into at least appearing to repudiate the institution of slavery. (Douglas had publicly stated that he considered the United States to be a republic founding for the benefit of white men; Lincoln probably believed much the same, but he wasn't stupid enough to say so publicly.) So when the 1860 election rolled around, the Southerners in the Democratic Party withdrew when Douglas won the Party's nomination, and put up the first "Dixiecrat" candidate, John C. Breckenridge. Douglas was beaten in the popular vote by Lincoln by about a half a million votes. Even though he beat Breckenridge by about a half a million votes, Breckenridge's support was solid in the slave states, and he beat Douglas in the electoral college. Lincoln, with just less than 40% of the vote, scooped up almost all of the northern states in which Douglas had his only hope of winning, and took 180 electoral votes, with only 150 needed to win.

One might have thought the Civil War would have killed off the Democrats. One would have to be rather politically naive to take such a view. The two party system is a product both of the political slaughter of the 1860 elections, but also of the "cronyism" of the Democrats and the Republicans. Democrats hate no one so much as the Republicans, and Republicans hate no one so much as the Democrats--except that both of them hate (and fear) a successful third party. The two parties have done all they can to assure that there are only ever two parties. Third party candidates have usually unwittingly doomed their own efforts by trying to build a third party from the top down--like that jackass Ross Perot. It don't work that way--the Republicans were an established and effective political party before Lincoln was elected.

Practical politics almost never has anything to do with constitutions or how the law is written. Comparing the United States to Canada or England is even more absurd, because their systems don't work the same. There are four political parties in the Canadian parliament--the Progressive Conservatives (the "PCs," or Tories, or simply the conservatives), the Liberals (as The Girl always says, just because they're called Liberals doesn't mean they are liberal), the Bloc Québecois and the New Democrats. The Tories are in charge--they don't have a majority, but they got more votes than anyone else in the January, 2006, so they formed a minority government. That means they get to govern as long as they don't lose a critical vote--such as the budget. Originally they intended to rely on the Bloc for the necessary support. Last October, the Bloc published an agenda of five non-negotiable points upon which their support relied. Harper decided to put the Liberal balls in a vice and squeeze. He declared that all votes from that time forward would be confidence votes (although he carefully assured that no bills came up until the budget bill came up, which is always a confidence vote), banking on the unwillingness of the Liberals to fight a Federal election campaign, and so far it has worked. But Stephen Harper (nobody--not his mom and dad, not his wife, not his children--calls him "Steve," except George Bush) is playing with fire, and it will be interesting to see what he does if Stéphane Dion (the Liberal Party leader) suddenly decides he is willing to go to the polls.

In a Westminster-system such as Canada's, there is no separate, elected head-of-state like our President. Harper is the leader of the Tories, because the Tories elected him (it doesn't happen to be at all that simple in this case, but i'll skip the tortured details) to be their leader. He can only be Prime Minister because he is also elected to hold a seat in the House of Commons. Kind of the same as if we had no President, and our Speaker of the House ran the government. Comparing the United States to Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, or any of the others of the dozens of countries with the Westminster system is a glaring case of apples to oranges.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2008 07:13 am
By the way, E_brown doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. In Canada and England, members of parliament (and of the various legislative assemblies in the Canadian provinces) stand for election in specific districts (called "ridings" in Canada), they do not have "proportional representation." They have the same free speech rights as we do, except perhaps in cases in which the government can allege national security interests, which isn't really that much different than it is here. Canada doesn't have a Bill of Rights, but it does have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. England has Parliament, and that's bad enough all by itself.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 31 Mar, 2008 07:22 am
The reason that there aren't billion dollar election campaigns in the Westminster system is inherent in the system. So, for example, Paul Martin's Liberal government lost a confidence vote at the end of November, 2005, and the Federal election as held in January, 2006, less than two months later. Even when the election is held on the scheduled date (no government can sit longer than five years without an election), both countries have laws limiting the term of public campaigning. One can claim that this is limit on free speech rights, but in the United States, campaign spending limits are a limit on free speech, which the Supremes have determined serves a greater democratic interest than unfettered free speech. There is no significant difference in free speech rights between the United States on the one hand, and England and Canada on the other. Read the yellow press in England some time, it's appalling.
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talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Apr, 2008 11:18 pm
ebrown_p:

It is conflict that creates parties and brings out the differences which is good so that problems are in the open and discussed. A coalition open tent party suppresses the problem(s) to win votes and hopes the problem(s) goes away instead of addressing it/them. As pointed out by Setanta it was conflict Andrew Jackson had that created the Democratic Party. Party politics is a fact of life. Independent politicians elected who do not co-ordinate are left out as the group(s) with similar ideas or beliefs will pass legislation.

Setanta:

The fact that the Constitution was created even before party politics became a reality does not mean that the coinciding congressional and presidential election dates do not affect the outcome. The proximity like magnetism do have a magnetic effect simply because of the money and outpouring of supporters and lobbies. It is like a one-stop shopping center for political action. I am sure the separation of election dates will do wonders for the formation of a multi-party system. House - 3 years; Senate - 7 years; and President - 5 years.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Apr, 2008 07:46 am
I think your solution would affect nothing. So what is the current system, in your opinion, causes problems. Coincidence is not cause, and what you are referring to is mere coincidence. In fact, if Congressional and Presidential terms did not coincide, the likely outcome would be that wealthy and corporate donors would be able to pour even more money into election campaigns.
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talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Apr, 2008 04:05 am
I think it is a small step but now that the Democrats will be on top may discourage all talk of multi-party system. They need to take back much of the power given to corporations by the Republicans during their control of Congress over the decades. Rebuild the financial pillars by separating insurance, banking, stock and bond brokerage, etc. Break the media control by forcing corporations and conglomerates to sell holdings in more than one medium such as news print, radio, TV. Fund PBS with public money. Bring about proportional representation in the electoral process. I believe in the free market system and by forbidding organizing industry-wide unions, disallowing partial ownership by businesses of other businesses. Forcing corporations to identify themselves with 'Div. of Ford' or such like designation. This way there won't be any conglomerates avoiding unionization in their workplace. One union, one company. Look into interlocking directorate in corporations and forbid CEOs and directors becoming directors in other companies. These are things I can think off the top of my head.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Apr, 2008 07:36 am
Your confidence that the Democratic Party favors the interests of the people over the interests of corporations (read, large campaign funding donors) is touching, if rather naïve.
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rabel22
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Apr, 2008 07:40 am
Setanta
Finally, something we can agree on.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Apr, 2008 08:56 am
Re: Presidential and Congressional Election dates
talk72000 wrote:
I would hazard a guess that the coincidence of the Presidential and Congressional races is what is creating a two-party system. If the Presidential term was changed to 5 years instead of 4 thus making the Presidential race coinciding with Congress every 10 years, would perhaps lead to a much needed multi-party system.

As I have pointed out before:
    there are three main props to the two-party system in the US: single-member congressional constituencies elected on a plurality basis; the nationwide election for a single chief executive; and the electoral college. These together largely explain why the US has, with brief exceptions, always had two major national parties contending for power.
The UK and Canada, for instance, have single-member constituencies elected on a plurality basis, but they don't have a nationwide election for a single chief executive. France has a nationwide election for a single chief executive, but it doesn't have single-member constituencies elected on a plurality basis (instead, its members are elected in a runoff system). And, of course, nobody else has an electoral college. So countries like Canada, the UK, and France have multiple parties, while the US has two.

The brief experiences that the US has had with multiple parties show that these multi-party systems are unstable, and quickly return to the equilibrium of a two-party system. In the 1850s, with the disintegration of the Whig Party, a number of factions contested for its place. The Whigs ran their last presidential candidate in 1852, but by 1856 it was already pretty clear that the newly formed Republican Party would be the only national political party to rival the Democrats (the American Party, better known as the Know-Nothings, made a play for major-party status in the early 1850s, but it split over the issue of slavery and rapidly disappeared). Likewise, in the 1880s and '90s, the Peoples Party (aka the Populists) had strong regional support in the plains states and the south, but it was never able to crack the duopoly of the Democrats and Republicans, and it was more or less absorbed into the Democratic Party at the end of the 1890s.

Most other third-party movements have been little more than factions supporting a presidential candidate (e.g. the Bull Moose Party in 1912, the Reform Party in 1996) or splinter groups from the established parties (e.g. the Progressive Party and the Dixiecrats in 1948). When the leader leaves the scene or the inter-party disputes are settled, these minor parties usually disappear or are reduced to a tiny shell of pathetic dead-enders (like, e.g., the American Party, which represents the legacy of George Wallace's 1968 presidential run).

In sum, the coincidence of presidential and congressional elections has very little to do with the establishment of the two-party system in the US. Staggering the elections would have no effect, as that would do nothing to undercut the main props of the two-party system: single-member congressional constituencies elected on a plurality basis; the nationwide election of a single chief executive; and the electoral college.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Apr, 2008 09:28 am
Would anyone like to provide evidence in support of the idea that a "multi-party" system is better than a "two-party" system?

This idea seems to be an article of faith.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Apr, 2008 10:06 am
In Canada, currently, the government is a Tory minority government. That means that the conservatives got more votes than any other party, and therefore form the government (all ministers, including the prime minister, hold seats in the Commons, which means they have to have been elected in one of the national ridings). But they didn't have an absolute majority--they didn't get 50% or more of the vote. That means that they have to rely upon a coalition partner, or (and this is extremely rare), they have to successfully intimidate the major opposing party.

In this case, the major opposing party is the Liberal Party (and to repeat myself, The Girl always points out that just because they're called the Liberal Party doesn't mean that they are liberal). The two other parties in the Commons are the NDP (the New Democratic Party--New Democrats are unashamed socialists) and the Bloc Québecois. Initially, the Tories and Stephen Harper intended to rely upon the support of the Bloc (there was no way in Hell they were going to cozy up to the NDP, and now way in Hell the New Democrats would ever support a Tory government). Last autumn, the Bloc published an agenda of five non-negotiable demands for their support. The Tories didn't want to play, so Harper decided to play tough. Between the Election in January, 2006, and the announcement of the Bloc's non-negotiable demands, the Liberal Party had elected a new leader, Stéphane Dion. The election campaign for the Liberal Party leadership was very acrimonious, and Dion won more because of his management of parliamentary tactics than because anyone could claim he was widely known and highly popular with the Canadian people.

So Harper's tactic was to announce that every vote thereafter would be a confidence vote--any bill that came up, the government itself would call a confidence vote if the bill did not pass. If the government fails a vote of no-confidence, they have to call an election. Well, Harper, of course, avoided allowing any bill to come up for a vote until the budget came up at the beginning of 2008, but he has managed to pull off the most difficult of parliamentary tactics--he has bullied the Liberal Party into voting for Tory bills, including the budget. Dion and the Liberals aren't ready to fight an election campaign, for all of their loud, tough talk, so they vote for the Tory measures.

I actually consider that a salutary situation. It reveals the extent to which the policies of the Tories are not that odious to the Liberals, who are able to hold their noses and vote for a conservative budget in order to avoid an election campaign which they are not confident they can win. But there are more subtleties than that in play. When the Bloc came out with their non-negotiable demands, Harper was forced to take the tough-guy route. If the Bloc, the Liberals and the NDP vote together, the government will fall, it's guaranteed. But Harper has the problem that the very notion that Québec has separatist sentiments is odious to many, probably most, conservatives in Canada. Harper allying himself to the Bloc was a ticking time bomb. If the Liberals ever get their act together, to the extent that they are willing to fight an election campaign, Harper will have no way out, unless he backs down from his "every vote a confidence vote" policy, which will also not endear him to conservatives, who have enjoyed the tough talk. More than that, cracks are appearing in the dominance of national politics by the two parties--Liberal and Progressive Conservative. In a recent by-election (a seat in the Commons was vacated by the death of the incumbent, and a new election was required in that riding to replace him) in Québec, the seat was won by a New Democrat. That is almost unheard-of. Most Federal seats go to the Bloc, some few go to the Liberals, and clever Liberal leaders like Trudeau and Chrétien have been able to get a majority government by successfully campaigning for Liberal members in Québec. Conservative MPs from Québec are rare as hen's teeth--but New Democrat MPs in Québec are just unknown.

Apart from just making politics a good deal more interesting, the realities of coalition government, or even the possibility of coalition government can profoundly affect the policies of the national parties. Tommy Douglas was the first socialist premiere in North America when his CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation) government won the provincial election in Saskatchewan in 1944--and they buried all the other parties, winning more than 90% of the seats. (I'm sure you've never heard of Tommy Douglas, so maybe it would help is you thought of him as Donald Sutherland's father-in-law, and Kiefer Sutherland's grandfather.) Douglas and the CCF remained in power for 17 years. They passed a bill of rights for Saskatchewan, the first in Canada. They introduced medicare in Saskatchewan, in spite of a doctor's strike. They unionized the civil service, and guaranteed rural electrification by taking over the electric companies. The Tories were eventually able to torpedo the CCF by branding them communists, but Douglas and other leftist leaders quickly created the New Democratic Party, and Tommy Douglas became the leader of the Federal NDP in Ottawa, and presided over the adoption of a national medicare program for Canada.

The Canadian Family Plan (the first "welfare" system in North America) and provincial medicare programs were adopted across Canada by Tory and Liberal governments anxious to steal the thunder of the CCF and the NDP. In many cases, the threat to their electoral success has lead the two major parties to adopt programs outside their ideological policies because of the self-evident popularity of the programs--Tommy Douglas' medicare program in Saskatchewan is merely the most visible example. It was a Tory government, the government of Brian Mulroney, which introduced the GST, the national sales tax, to forestall a revolt by the NDP and the Bloc, which would not have toppled the government, but might have badly hurt them in eventual elections (if a government survives for five years, it must call a new election).

Coalition government can create much stranger bedfellows than you'll ever see in American politics. It can also raise the power of the popular will over the ideological policies of established political parties.

However, i agree (mostly) with Joe's explanation of why we have a "two party system," so i don't look for a viable third or fourth party any time soon. Additionally, most attempts to erect a third party come from the top down. That will just not work. Both the Jacksonian Democratic Party and the Republican Party were created from the ground up, and won in local and state elections before they ever took over the White House.
0 Replies
 
talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 7 Apr, 2008 07:28 pm
Of course in the UK and Canada the Upper Chambers are defunct. In the UK it is the House of Lords which has been stripped of their right to block bills from the House of Commons. The Lords were not elected as they inherited their seats. The UK is too small to have regional representation since the north is Scotland and the west consist of the Welsh. Ireland is a different country and Northern Ireland is trouble. In Canada, the Senate members are appointed and for all purposes is a pasture for deserving Canadians who are friends of the Liberals or Tories. Regional problems seem to be handled by parties as the Liberals mainly represent Ontario and Quebec, Tories Alberta and British Columbia. The Bloc represents Quebec and the New Democratic Party, or NDP, represents Labor. Both Liberals and Tories are middle of the road but the Liberals are center-left while the Tories are center-right.

Multi-parties seem unstable but they avoid disasters like George W. Bush.
0 Replies
 
 

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