A Proper Third Party

In Monty Python’s election sketch, the renowned British comedy team explored the binary nature of modern politics, staging a comic election in which a ‘sensible’ party composed of regular politicians competed in an election race against a ‘silly’ party comprised primarily of clowns. Needless to say, comedic hijinks ensued.

Although our own presidential candidates have names far more sensible than “Tarquin-Fin-Tin-Lim-Bim-Wim-Bim-Bus-Stop-F’tang-F’tang-Olé-Biscuit-Barrel,” the modern political spectrum is regressing into a state that a satirical sketch describes unnervingly accurately. The world of American politics is being increasingly dominated by a polarized sentiment. Indeed, virtually no voices are heard that are not those of the members of the ‘silly’ or ‘sensible’ parties (although both parties are now tending towards the silly side of things).

In effect, the average American voter body has stratified into two layers in bitter contest with no middle ground or hope for compromise. As the gap between the parties widens, the members of each party are forced to assume increasingly more radical viewpoints in order to stay afloat. Those who adopt more moderate policies risk being swamped by the partisanism running rampant, and the cycle self-perpetuates in an unfortunate way.

Retreived from https://necessaryandpropergovt.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/pew-polarization-increases-comparison-by-political-engagement.png

This effect, however, may lead to an interesting possibility: a yawning chasm exists directly over the moderate center — a chasm that represents the majority of American voters. If one could add a third party (one with actual power and decent influence), one could exploit a voter base larger that either of the opposing parties currently in place.

The problem with the addition of a third party lies in the entrenchment of the original establishment. The existing political structures are completely controlled by the partisan system that we are finding flaw with. In order for a third party to gain any actual gravitas, therefore, it needs to be forcibly injected into the political structure. One cannot simply say “Here we are — we are a third party,” one needs to seize power through the existing system — potentially as a candidate of the party in current control — and then unmask oneself after securing positions such as the supreme court and the senate majority for members of your party masquerading as another. In other words, duplicity is a must for the proper insertion of a third party into a concretely bipartisan system. One has to, to stretch the analogy, fill cracks in the concrete with water before attempting to break it into useable chunks. It reflects poorly on the state of affairs in American government that the addition of non-establishment opinion requires such duplicity, but perhaps that is the downfall of one-dimensional systems in general.

Retreived from https://kapitalisten.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/cartoon-third-political-party.jpg

The other great problem with a third opinion in a political climate centered around only two opposite views of government (Ultimate Freedom versus Ultimate Order) is that there is no structure in place in either the bureaucratic or the social spheres to deal with any opinion that cannot be quantified in the existing spectrum. The average American voter probably wouldn’t be able to cope, and here we come to an interesting suggestion. What if the spectrum remained the same, but entered the second dimension?

If one created a system that described on one axis the current spectrum (Liberal versus Conservative), one could add another axis (Outlandish versus Sensible). The current political climate could work with such an alternative; the original political gradient remains in place, while the party system could break into seven separate entities — A Left Outlandish composed of the ridiculously liberal, a Left Sensible replete with forward-thinkers, a Moderate Outlandish obsessed with compromise, a Moderate Sensible focusing on the case-by-case, a Right Sensible full of establishment proponents, a Right Outlandish made of totalitarians, and in the center a Moderate Centrist focusing on striking a balance. With two parties for each flavor of political charge, such a government could better represent its constituents without being swamped by party ideals. With three parties in the middle, the aforementioned chasm could be neatly gathered up and put away into three separate systems.

And now we come to the final problem: how to make America accept such a system. To put a long argument short, it can’t. There is simply too much political baggage left over from a system that has basically degraded beyond repair. This reflection, therefore, is probably more applicable to a fresh democracy, as the problems that I am attempting to solve with this little gedankenexperiment are problems that cannot be solved by it.



  1. I definitely agree that the time is right for a third party to enter American politics. And beyond your graphs about nationwide polarization, I’ve seen this in real life too — I’ve definitely met people who I believe are really moderates but who are being forced one way or the other as the parties move away from each other. However, I’m not sure I agree that the third party must be added through duplicity — wouldn’t that forever taint the image of that party and possibly make it hard for it to compromise and work with the party it exploited, at least in the first few years?


  2. Great article. I agree with you that we need a third, or potentially fourth party option to diversify our political scene; two parties just hasn’t been cutting it for some time now.

    I agree with your diagnosis of why this problem has arisen. “In effect, the average American voter body has stratified into two layers in bitter contest with no middle ground or hope for compromise. As the gap between the parties widens, the members of each party are forced to assume increasingly more radical viewpoints in order to stay afloat.”

    However, I disagree with your means of implementing this new third party. I think a forcible injection will turn strong-willed Americans away from fully participating. I think how to proceed from here is an interesting question, without a readily available answer, but I think there’s a solution out there that we need to find.

    Great work!


    • I’m quite interested in the fact that both your response and Kate’s raise concerns about the reaction to a forced addition involving a duplicitous framework. I’d like to examine that sentiment in depth.


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