Lee Drutman WaPo oped (adapted from his new report, “More Parties, Better Parties: The Case for Pro-Parties Democracy Reform.”)
It’s presidential campaign season, so pick your panic: The No Labels organization threatens to run a centrist such as Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) as a third-party candidate, most likely only helping Donald Trump win. Philosopher Cornel West threatens to reenact the hopeless crusade of 2016 third-party candidate Jill Stein. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is threatening to use the open primary process to seize control of the Democratic Party the way the QAnon/MAGA crowd has taken over the GOP.
On their own, each of these efforts is a mix of quixotic and destructive. Collectively, they reflect the clear and present inadequacy of our two-party system to manage mounting frustration and anger with our dysfunctional politics. In our knife’s-edge system, just the slightest disturbance caused by foolhardy but well-funded vanity could make the whole thing fracture into chaos.
There’s a better way to represent the country’s diversity and offer more citizens a hopeful, engaging vision for the future: create more parties.
But real, vibrant, healthy parties. Not top-down one-shot presidential candidacies, built only on the passing winds of celebrity and whims of wealthy donors. Not parties whose completely open primaries leave them vulnerable to populist outsiders. We need parties that do the hard work of candidate-vetting and gatekeeping and organizing and coalition-building that political parties are uniquely able to do; parties that organize from the bottom up, giving disaffected voters a voice, a collective identity and a long-term institution for building real power.