If one party collapses altogether, as is possible for the Democrats, will the other fission into two in order to fit our two-party paradigm?
Emphasis mine. Frederick Turner's Tech Central Station column neatly summarizes the intersections of several axes of political thought but this line, the next to last sentence, does not ring true to the editorial star chamber at WUTT!
Pardon us, especially you happy few conservative readers of this here blog, but the Democrat party is in very little risk of collapse.
The kind of people who hold power in the Democrat party (not necessarily the rank-and-file, mind you) have learned one lesson very well in the last few decades: they can get what they want, or what their narrowly-defined constituencies demand, if they remain loyal to each other. Their party has no unifying principles, only people dedicated to reelecting themselves and each other while offering lip-service to the Hard-Working Middle-Class American TaxpayerTM (and increasingly, Our Brave Men And Women In UniformTM).
A political party with at first nine people seeking its nomination for the Presidency does not appear to be a party in decline. The qualities and origins of those people is another matter. They will openly bicker, but about the details of what it will cost in political capital for one candidate to drop out and lend his support to another. Like the aphorism about the propositioned woman who recoils in disgust, "not for a million dollars!" the propositioner is encouraged because now it is just a matter of negotiating a price. (Re)electable Democrats accept that everyone has his price, the difficulty is finding it without embarrassment and being able to pay the quid to get the quo.
The GOP, on the other hand, is in serious risk of splintering, on the matter of principle, rather, President Bush's apparent lack of loyalty to GOP principles. For example, some Republicans are choosing to support Kerry, motivated by anger at the guest-worker proposal, hoping that a Democrat President will gridlock against a GOP Congress and no serious public policy damage would result. He lost some faithful with the steel tariff, some because of his support for renewing the assault weapon ban, a lot to the Medicare prescription drug expasion.
"Principled" conservatives, as Turner observes, will put public policy issues above price, or as he put it, "separate and insulate higher values from the marketplace." Instead of replying "not for a million dollars," they'd say "never," and mean it.
George W Bush, the natural delegator, is clearly less loyal to principles, and more loyal to people---the people he installed on his Cabinet, the dream team probably handpicked for him. For delegation to work, he has to be loyal to them, and demand the same loyalty from them, regardless of whether they adhere to traditional GOP positions.
In case you haven't noticed in other endeavors, a team assembled from "best-of-breed" members who otherwise have little to do with each other, doesn't work together very well or for very long.
Holding such teams together requires extra effort in the loyalty-to-people department, with heavy helpings of PR, market research, running interference, talking points, ass-chewings and -coverings, and at worst "choosing to spend more time with his family." Among the GOP, maintaining a cohesive team in a real breathing government looks like managing a team of high-performance salesmen---competitive, self-made, ambitious, internally disciplined, externally polished, publicly cordial to each other and happy to golf together, but each one barely concealing a weird streak, and bound to privately get on at least two other salesmen's nerves.
In contrast, the Democrats' bickering is out in the open, blatant, pandering, counting feathers and coups. The behavior on display in the primaries is not enough to disgust and alienate their base, because that base is deeply in hock to the Democrat party for their livelihoods. They'll find a way to prevaricate, circumlocute, metadiscuss, change the subject, and so on because they are, well, loyal to their next meal.
The GOP leans on a pretense of holding together by common principles. Those principles are not internally consistent enough, and the rift is growing, as Virginia Postrel observes and Frederick Turner agrees. Without this hobgoblin of little minds, the GOP instead relies on personal loyalty just to keep itself together and retain power. Absent Lee Atwater's Big Tent, valuing loyalty over principle does not work for the GOP except in tight circles formed in:
- industry (outsiders hold these with suspicion---Cheney blah blah blah Halliburton!),
- a prior administration,
- professional or academic associations, either innocuous or underground (Kurt Vonnegut was a Rotarian!) or
- multiple terms of horsetrading in Congress (conditions not favorable for developing or selecting men of principle).
The only other substitute for well-policed common principles is patience---take half a loaf now, let the other half rise while the ideological direction of the Supreme Court is altered by a few key appointments, for example, and tolerate some of the morally objectionable consequences of the last few decades until public opinion comes around (note Turner's observation of libertarianism, "in the end fairness will emerge"). Moralists, versus pragmatists (another libertarian writer uses the term "consequentialists"), are not, in our experience, patient.
The Libertarian Party suffers more from an overrepresentation of moralists, and a resulting internal lack of patience, than from a lack of adherence to principle among its members. They insist perhaps too much on principle to succeed at electing anyone, indeed they can be each others' worst enemies (who was it that warned, "Libertarians: do not drink Libertarian blood!"?). Some loyalty to people would benefit them, which is not natural for the G-d-damned independent types whom the LP normally attracts.
Despite President Bush's very good performance in the armed conflict, the GOP will collapse first. Sorry. That doesn't mean that John F-ing Kerry will be the next President, rather, Bush's party will be bruised and shaken in reelecting him, and have a difficult time choosing his successor and electing him or her. The Democrat party is much better at absorbing the shock of such internal struggles, in fact they endure it every four years. Nader was chump change as a spoiler for the left, compared to Perot and Buchanan on the right.