When a Two Party System Loses a Party

A two-party political system is only one party away from becoming a single-party system.  Now a single-party political system doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  North Korea, China, and Iraq all have a single party.  The Soviet Union had but one political party.  I’m fairly certain that the Taliban is the only party in Afghanistan today.  Cuba has just one system – the list goes on.

Our last Primary Election did a pretty good job of showing a party on the way out – the Dems had no candidates within the county.  Now one of the things about one-party systems is that they have a tendency to outlaw the opposition.  That’s kind of authoritarian. 

Machiavelli described the forms of government:

I must at the beginning observe that some of the writers on politics distinguished 3 kinds of government, the monarchical, the aristocratic and the democratic; and maintain that the legislators of a people must choose from these three the one that seems most suitable.  Other authors, wiser according to the opinion of many, count six kinds of government, three of which are very bad, and three good in themselves, but so liable to be corrupted that they become absolutely bad.  The three good ones are those we just named, the three bad ones result from the degradation of the other three, and each of them resembles its corresponding original, so that the transition from one to the other is very easy.

Thus monarchy becomes tyranny, aristocracy degenerates into oligarchy, and the popular government lapses readily into licentiousness.  So that a legislator who gives to a state which he founds, either of these 3 forms of government, constitutes it but for a brief time; for no precautions can prevent either one of the three that are reputed good, from degenerating into its opposite kind; so great are in these the attractions and resemblances between the good and the evil.” 

Niccolo Machiavell, The Discourses

Old Niccolo didn’t directly address how a two-party system can lapse into a single-party system, nor did he explain that the tyranny of a majority is more pervasive than the tyranny of a minority.  Personally, I regard Section 7 (MCA 13-10-211-7) as a part of the law that exists to preserve a two-party system.  If Section 7 is omitted, Lincoln County lapses, degenerates, into a single-party system.

If Section 7 says what I think it says, a few dozen people, organized with telephone trees (well, figure internet – that way the list of folks to write in  can be printed).  The filing fees make running as a protest candidate an expensive gesture – and while filing fees are demanded of write-in candidates, if no one has paid the filing fee, Section 7 kicks in, and write-in candidates who haven’t paid the fees can count.  A dozen people willing to run as write-in candidates, and 40 or 50 people writing them in, and we can recover the 2 party system.                         

Time was when the political system included Rockefeller Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats – both groups who were closer to each other, and to the middle of the spectrum, than what we see today.  Moving the middle out – as with the blank ballot in the Democratic primary – creates a vacuum where the more extreme, the true believers, wind up controlling the local party committees.  If I read Section 7 right, we have a tool that, with a small amount of organization, can help keep the two party system surviving.

2 thoughts on “When a Two Party System Loses a Party”

  1. I think the 2-party system may still be alive. We will just need to rename things. If I’ve been reading things correctly, Dems are registering as Republicans. Thus RINOS and real Republicans. So if all those folks get elected we will actually have a Democratic majority….again. That has not gone well these past 2 years. As in all those countries you mentioned the far left is working to tear down our 2-party/sometimes multi-party sytem into one party. They currently call themselves Democrats and truth be told, it looks, historically, as if Dems have been working on a Socialist agenda for decades. The Republicans have wanted a corporate majority but are splitting into those vs more conservative, constitutional types. I guess a few honest Democrats (I’ve been more comfy voting as a Dem in years past but longer for now) are still around. But they aren’t voting or working for us as honest Dems so….. However, if Section 7 can be actually used, that might be a helpful way to avoid both parties merging into one as it seems they are hell bent on doing.


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