Some say the U.S. constitution is “gamed” in such a way that we can only have two political parties. Today those are the Democrats and the Republicans. People who oppose third parties say it would be too hard to build a viable third party. However, it’s useful to look at the history of the demise of the Whig Party and its replacement by one of the third parties of the time.
The two major parties in the U.S. from about the early 1830s to the mid 1850s were the Democrats and the Whigs. Around that time, abolitionists and other opponents of the expansion of slavery were angry with both major parties for not standing up strongly enough against slavery. Antislavery third parties at the time, including the Free Soil party, battled the two major parties.
The Whigs pretty much collapsed in the election of 1852, when many disaffected Whigs stayed home on election day. After that, the Whig party split off into coalitions including a large number of Northern Whigs, the Free Soil Party, and other antislavery groups to form the Republican party. A primary reason the Whig Party collapsed was that it failed to respond to the public’s concern about the spread of slavery.
Today the Democratic Party fails to respond to the public’s concern and ongoing outcry about a number of important issues. The public today wants Democratic leadership to support and provide for Medicare for All, a healthcare system similar to what every other first world nation gives its people.
The public today also asks the Democratic Party leadership to strongly back a living minimum wage policy, wants Democratic leaders to oppose perpetual war, wants the Democratic leadership to regulate Wall Street, protect the environment and help enact a more progressive system of taxation wherein the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.
Today’s Democratic Party does not work for the people. The reason is that that the Democratic leadership serves the corporations that donate millions of dollars to their campaigns at the expense of the people.
Corporate Democrats won’t give the public Medicare for All or affordable prescription drugs, because they serve the health care corporations and drug companies that profit from keeping health care expensive. They vote to keep constant regime change wars going because they serve the weapons industry which profits from war.
They won’t regulate Wall Street or enact a progressive tax system because they take money from the very oligarchs they ought to be regulating. They won’t help save the environment because they take millions of dollars from the corporations that are polluting the environment. As well-known journalist Bill Greider once wrote: “The Democratic Party has become a mail-drop for corporate money.”
Many of us see through the often-asked question, “How are we going to pay for Medicare for All and other social programs?” The obvious answer is that we can pay for public health care, etc., by making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes and by reducing the bloated military budget and allocating some of those same tax dollars to health care instead of funneling billions to the rich and to excessive defense spending.
Many Americans today realize that neither major party is really a party of the people. Today’s Democratic Party bears no resemblance to the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt and other earlier progressives. It has morphed into an exclusively corporate party, almost identical to the Republicans.
When people say a third party is impossible, they should be reminded of what happened to the Whigs. Today’s corporate Democrats are as tone deaf to the public’s cries for health care, economic justice, environmental protection, etc., as the Whigs were to the public’s voices regarding ending the expansion of slavery. The issues are different, but the failure of powerful party leaders to listen to the reasonable demands of the public is the same. The corporate Democrats should (and can easily) go the way of the Whigs. The public just has to know it’s possible and to move toward building a strong progressive party.
Carla Binion is an Intrepid Report contributing writer.