I look at the current US electoral situation: 330 million people, and Donald and Hillary are what the system has spat forth. What ought to have been a four-party election (Democrats/Republicans/Sanderians/Trumpfs) instead became a two-party slate so ghastly that the metaphor most commonly used to describe the situation is that of a burning dumpster. ….
I wonder if … what we’re witnessing is merely the painful birth of a three- or four-party US political system — something most mature democracies already have, and something the US ought to have seriously adopted decades ago were it not for the country’s battered-wife relationship with its dual-party system that dates back to the late 18th century.
“Douglas Coupland on why America’s two-party system is no longer fit for purpose“, Financial Times Magazine, 22 October 2016 (metered paywall).
This plea for a four-party political system is attractive, but there is one small problem that receives little attention from Coupland. Each of the four parties would be quite small. A coalition of two or more parties would very likely be necessary to form a stable government, with support from a majority of the electorate. To me, the solution is obvious. Between them, the rump Democrats and rump Republicans could easily attract more than half of all votes in a general election. Moreover, the ideology of the two parties would be very similar (centre-left and centre-right) once the two parties shed supporters of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
A rump Democrat/rump Republican coalition is not an unrealistic expectation. There are many precedents in Europe of stable governments formed by coalitions of parties from the moderate centre. In West Germany, for example, the centre-right Christian Democats partnered with the centre-left Christian Social Union to oversee the country’s postwar economic miracle. Something similar happened in Austria, where a “grand coalition” of conservatives (ÖVP) and socialists (SPÖ) shared power from 1945 to 1966, and again from 1988 to 2000. For more examples, some of which were less successful, see this recent article (metered paywall) in the Financial Times.
Canadian novelist and artist Douglas Coupland (born 1961) is single and lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia. Coupland’s first novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (St. Martin’s Press, 1991) popularized terms such as “McJob” and “Generation X”. His 14th novel, Worst. Person. Ever, was published by Random House in 2013.