A Three Party System, with Two Parties in One

party of no

Yesterday, E.J. Dione published A bigger challenge to Democrats than socialists: Their liberal Republicans. Perhaps, like me, you found the phrase “their liberal Republicans,” read out of context, to be confusing. But if you actually read the article, you’ll see that he’s referring to the same phenomenon I have described, using other language—namely, our divide into a right wing Party of No, a progressive party, and a business oriented party of social moderates and fiscal conservatives.

You could call this third group “centrists”—and I am sure they would revel in the term—but I, for one, think it’s misleading. Instead, let’s just call them the business oriented, fiscally conservative, socially moderate party. But whatever name you use, pretty much every elected official in this group has a D after her or his name.

Dione has two main points, and I think they hit the nail on the head. One is that the Party of No has simply taken itself out of any rational political dialog. It’s like that time when you were a little kid, and the boys from your neighborhood wanted to play a friendly game of touch football with the team from the other side of the tracks. But, whatever they may have said about wanting to plan football,  the roughnecks from the tough neighborhood didn’t want to play football. They wanted to play a game of beat-up-the-nice-kids.

Before I get to Dione’s second point, let me make an additional observation from 30,000 feet. The business oriented, social moderates are the smallest of the three effective parties, but they are large enough to decide which of the other two parties wins on any given issue.

Dione’s final point, then, is that the Democrats—especially in the House of Representatives—face a situation where they are compelled to work out, on an intra-party basis, answers to the burning issues of the day, like health care and climate change.  With the Party of No having taken itself out of the game, any real answers must come out of a dialog between the progressives and the fiscally conservative social moderates, all calling themselves Democrats.

This is proving to be awkward.

But they had damn well better learn how to do it.

And once they do learn intra-party compromise, they will be well equipped to tell the folks from the Party of No to go take a long walk off a short pier.