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Can a democracy exist without competing parties?

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I don't think that a democracy can exist without competing parties. First of the idea of democracy spurned by people who opposed to the conventional tyranny by noble status. There has to be some king of opposing parties to reflect as many citizens' opinions as possible since it is quite impossible that everyone advocates same policy. By having competing positions, we can prevent the government to become arbitrary. One example can be found in China, where there is only one political party. The government is known for its stringent policies that sometimes seem to be infringing fundamental human rights. The reason such regulations are feasible is because it doesn't have opposing parties.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

No!

The point is to have as much conflicting ideas as possible, debate on them to see which ones withstand scrutinization. Today, no one has time or even care about that, which is why it's easy for the ruling parties to take away your democratic rights.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

In recent years I'm coming more to the opinion that at least three sizable parties are crucial for a democracy to function. A one party system is not a democracy as people with views different to those of the governing party are not being represented. The U.S. is currently a good example of the problem of a two party system, where trying to undermine your opponent is often a more effective tactic than trying to strengthen your own position. At worst, this can lead to a cycle where each party spends its time in power trying to undo the actions of the previous government and no one moves forward.

A strong third party lessens the likelihood of one party having a strong majority. This means that lawmakers need to be more pragmatic and open to working with colleagues in other parties to get anything passed. I personally feel that this kind of compromise, while not ideal for any one person, is better for a country as a whole and more representative of the entire population (although the UK Tory - Lib Dem coalition of 2010 shows how this doesn't always work).

5 ( +5 / -0 )

These days, I'm thinking the more pertinent question is "Can a democracy exist?"

2 ( +5 / -3 )

These days, I'm thinking the more pertinent question is "Can a democracy exist?"

'Can a democracy exist'? That question is being answered by the far right around the globe pushing to weaken democracies, saying greater authoritarianism is needed to replace them.

Far right organizations are working even harder these days to do what they can to undermine the remaining bits of states built on democratic principles.

They have their own media rivaling what they call 'liberal' media and have been effective at using using social media to further their cause.

The model many in the global far right want copied is Putin's Russia where Potemkin Village-ish elections are held to give the appearance of one aspect of democracy, but with an understanding ensured that the 'Supreme Leader' - and his oligarchs - remain in charge.

Trump/Barr and their faction of the US 'elite' are pushing to give the executive greater powers as they inch the US closer to a system of authoritarian capitalism. Like Russia has.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

There has never been a democracy that didn't have competing parties, its just the nature of that form of government.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Yes, of course. The pure democracy of ancient Athens had no political parties. The problem with the rise of political parties in modern representative democracies is that we no longer have a truly independent representative. We are instead forced to choose the least worst package of pre-assembled policy positions laid out in a party manifesto. The inherent tribalism and inflexibility of political parties is why we have the polarisation we see today. Parties effectively disenfranchise voters who are not members of a party or have no say in crafting the various manifestos being voted on. Special interests are also easily able to manipulate and corrupt politics by piggybacking their unpopular agenda on an otherwise popular manifesto. The criticism of party politics are well known and long standing.

Representative democracy without political parties where every representative must be independent would be the functional equivalent of having a personal chef. Democracy with political parties is the equivalent of ordering the #2 at the drive-thru and being told 'no' when you ask if you can switch the fries for onion rings.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Representative democracy without political parties where every representative must be independent would be the functional equivalent of having a personal chef.

When has that ever worked like that in real life?

There is a reason that every democracy has parties and its because if you've got a legislative body with 300 or 400 members (or whatever) all of whom are completely independent of one another rather than organized into parties they'll never get any actual legislation passed. Its just not a feasible way of organizing the legislative process.

Special interests are also easily able to manipulate and corrupt politics by piggybacking their unpopular agenda on an otherwise popular manifesto. The criticism of party politics are well known and long standing.

If you think its easy for special interests to hijack political parties, its way easier for them to hijack individual politicians.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@rainyday

When has that ever worked like that in real life?

It works every time an independent representative gets elected, and in whole legislatures where all representatives are required by law to be non-partisan, such as in Nebraska. These representatives need to be much more sensitive to the wishes of their voters.

There is a reason that every democracy has parties and its because if you've got a legislative body with 300 or 400 members (or whatever) all of whom are completely independent of one another rather than organized into parties they'll never get any actual legislation passed. Its just not a feasible way of organizing the legislative process

First, why would you expect gridlock? There would still be elections where policy positions would be debated. If the majority of the public support policy X and elect politicians who agree to implement the will of their constituents, why would policy X not be passed? Who would stop it? Yes, there would still be many divisions along geographic, religious, racial, or socio-economic lines, but you would remove the reflexive opposition to any good policies proposed by a rival political party.

Second, think about how fundamentally anti-democratic the premise of your argument is. You're saying that we shouldn't risk a system where nothing gets passed due to disagreement. Well, if everyone genuinely disagrees, why should anything be passed? How is whipping party representatives to vote against the wishes of their constituents for the sake of getting something passed democratic? It's actually the exact opposite of democracy.

If you think its easy for special interests to hijack political parties, its way easier for them to hijack individual politicians.

That may be true, but hijacking one or a handful of politicians will not usually be enough to get what you want.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The underlying question here is Is Japan a democracy? And I have to say the answer is No to both questions.

Japan is a one party dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. There are many countries that follow this model, but they should not be considered democracies or be treated as such.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Democracy is eroded on a daily basis. And quite often, it is applauded, this wrecking of representation and rights.

I hope that the people can and will govern and not be afraid of increasingly authoritarian governments. That they will rise up and make a change. But, in darker moments, I feel that this is a natural conclusion to rampant greed, power and a lack of education and rational thinking. Critical analysis, of course, is subjective but it doesn't have to be stupid.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

It works every time an independent representative gets elected, and in whole legislatures where all representatives are required by law to be non-partisan, such as in Nebraska. These representatives need to be much more sensitive to the wishes of their voters.

Note that the Nebraska legislature is only formally non-partisan. In reality 48 out of its 49 members identify as either Democrat or Republican and are endorsed by the state's parties.

First, why would you expect gridlock? There would still be elections where policy positions would be debated. If the majority of the public support policy X and elect politicians who agree to implement the will of their constituents, why would policy X not be passed? Who would stop it?

Yeah, but in reality elections aren't held for every single policy. Rather they are held for candidates who run on a platform which contains many policy objectives. Since no one politician alone has the ability to implement any of these, they have to form coalitions with other politicians with similar platforms in order to accomplish their objectives. Political parties are just the organizational form that these coalitions take, even in a system like Nebraska's where you don't formally have party representation in the legislature they still have a de facto form of it because otherwise the legislature just wouldn't work.

Second, think about how fundamentally anti-democratic the premise of your argument is. You're saying that we shouldn't risk a system where nothing gets passed due to disagreement.

I didn't say that. I said the system wouldn't be able to pass legislation without parties, not because of disagreement but because politicians need to organize themselves into coalitions in order to get legislation passed. You have tons of disagreement about policy in a system with parties too you know - you think the Democrats and Republicans don't have disagreements?

Well, if everyone genuinely disagrees, why should anything be passed?

If everyone disagrees genuinely, then yeah stuff shouldn't be passed. I mean, I get that parties do whip their members to sometimes vote for stuff that they otherwise wouldn't, but something similar would happen in a system without parties too. In order for politicians to get some parts of their agenda enacted they have to engage in horse trading with other politicians, which inevitably is going to involve sometimes voting for stuff you disagree with in order to get other people to support your stuff in return. This is how it would have to work in a system without parties too, any politician wanting to get any of their agenda passed would have to negotiate with other politicians to get their support, in return for which they would give support to stuff they otherwise wouldn't. This would result in a system very similar to one with parties over time as these politicians formed little coalitions amongst each other.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

YES!

The assumption that parties need to exist is erroneous. Parties are a hazard to democracy as the politicians start to represent their party and their careers not the people they are purportedly elected to represent. Remove the party structure and control of the representative and make them more answerable to their electorate.

Of course with modern electronic communications you do not actually need representatives, you could ask the people, the Demos, and have a true democracy for the first time since ancient Athens!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@rainyday

I don't actually disagree with much of what you've written. In the same way that corporations tend to converge towards monopolies in pursuit of greater economic efficiency, so too will politicians converge towards forming political parties. But that doesn't mean political parties are essential or even beneficial for democracy.

There would obviously be coalitions and horse trading in a non-partisan system. The difference would just be that these temporary arrangements would not be formalised into permanent political parties which could tribalise the electorate for generations.

My biggest concern with political parties is that their disproportionate influence on the system actually ends up distorting public opinion rather than reflecting the democratic will of the voters. Most people will simply buy into the entire pre-packaged set of ideas promoted by a political party without even considering whether each individual policy makes sense for them. This is very dangerous and corrosive for democracy in my opinion.

Note that the Nebraska legislature is only formally non-partisan. In reality 48 out of its 49 members identify as either Democrat or Republican and are endorsed by the state's parties.

True, but that's because the two-party system completely dominates every other aspect of American politics. Nebraska is the last and only state legislature to maintain this system of official non-partisanship.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

No.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

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