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For example, there has never been a stable third party in the U.S. And the two parties are quite close to each other on most issues--noise on blogs and editorial pages notwithstanding. Perhaps that's because you can poll the electorate and figure out what positions will win the most votes, and both parties do the same polls and get the same results. So the parties split at a point in the center that represents the average of what people think, and as voter opinions change over time that center point changes.
In PR systems, since each small party can get a handful of votes in government, the incentive is to have lots of parties. So after the election, you have this secondary scrambling around that can bring together complete misfits as coalition partners. This system reduces the control of the voting public, because no matter how you vote, the government will in the end be set up by a back room agreement between coalition party big shots.
It seems to me that the former is perhaps better, because at least the voters have a direct say in which philosophy will win--by moving that center point one way or the other.
Oh, and if the Brits used PR the Tories would never be in government, which sounds like a recommendation to me. I could live with Lib Dem - Labour coalitions.
(a) The liberals generally dominate the Dem Party, but there are centrist who so far have been unsuccessful in taking the power away;
(b) The conservatives generally dominate the Rep Party, but there are centrist who so far have been unsuccessful in taking the power away;
2. (a) Some libertarians abandon the Libertarian Party and join the Republicans to change the party
(b) Some Greens abandon the Green party and join the Democrats to change the party
3. Or if they stay in the party, the Lib or the Green swing the results in close elections.
So there are different ways to influence the politics, but its much harder for the small parties in the USA than in Europe.
Winner-takes-all system is prohibitive in that respect.
4. There is also a problem of gerrymandering which is another topic, but very important in the US politics. For example, in 2004, none of the seats in the California congressional (federal), and California State Senate and California State Assembly changed hands. The Dems and the Rep got together in a backroom deal and designed their own safe districts, and each party gets elected in its own safe seat without any competition. Sad. Travesty. Tragic. Comical.
Also note that despite the desire of some of us for a truly liberal Democratic party, the fact is that the Dems don't support a whole range of things that are supported by conservatives in other countries, like Canada. Stuff like single payer health, strong environmental policies (remember Kyoto was rejected 99:1 in the Senate), secular politics, etc., that are routine in Europe are not even under consideration here. America is simply not on the same page as Europe in many ways: What's the "center" here is off in the weeds in Europe, and vice versa.
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