Why One Party Rule Won’t Work
The problem with my proposal for a new centrist Democratic Party

By Douglas Rushkoff. Published in Medium on 6 February 2022

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Yesterday, I wrote up a thought experiment for how the Democratic Party could attempt to preserve the legislative process after Republicans’ officially determined their own more centrist members had committed “sabotage,” and defended the Capitol riots as “legitimate public discourse.” I deleted it because I think people were taking my proposal a bit too seriously.

My fantasy was that by accepting Republicans who still respect basic rule of law into the Democratic party, the new “Democrats” could achieve a super majority. Then, the party could split into two caucuses — a progressive and a conservative one — debate issues, arrive at compromises, and then vote unanimously enough on the outcomes to thwart filibuster attempts from the remaining authoritarian Republicans. In other words, the Democratic Party as we know it would be dissolved, and become what was formerly known as the two party system.

I liked the idea as a strategy to preserve basic electoral politics and rule of law, when it looks to me like we are soon to face a ruling majority in the legislature who will not reflect anything close to the popular will, will not tolerate any dissent, and who will continue to openly condone violence in the name of its One True Leader. What if, now shunned as traitors by their own party, Cheney, Romney, and Kinzinger became Democrats?

Unfortunately, there are probably too many problems with this strategy for it to work. First, I got a lot of feedback from social justice activists who feel the progress they have made in the current Democratic party was hard won. While I have never looked to the party as a bastion of progressive values on diversity and inclusion, it certainly reflects those values better than it did a century ago (even if the gains made under Lyndon Johnson are being lost). The surrender of even a compromised institution in the name of creating another one feels like being “thrown under the bus” in the name of preserving democracy.

Second, a single party — even if it’s devised to be a two-caucus entity — could still fall into the trap of authoritarianism or totalitarianism itself. Even if it’s a party, like I’m imagining, that holds both AOC and Liz Cheney, it could still take on the problems of a one-party state.

Finally, I’m not sure how many moderate Republicans could hold their seats if they ran as Democrats, or how many voters would understand that it doesn’t really mean they are what we used to think of as Democrats.

So if this doesn’t work, what can? I suppose conservative and centrist politicians who don’t agree with Democrats but still wish to preserve the electoral process, rule of law, and the right of dissent must form a new party. If successful, it would necessarily be in the extreme minority — and then put the Republicans in a minority as well. They would be hated for this. But they could also end up becoming a Manchin-like group, with the power to block legislation, create majorities or even muster super-majorities for whichever side of an issue they support. Rather than diminishing their influence, such centrists would become the lynchpins in any debate.

I dunno…I’m clutching at straws here. Looking for a path forward that preserves democratic process. What would you do?