Here is a mental exercise for you: It’s something I came up with in a debate about the two party system and my line was that such a system is the logical outcome of our system of government and that to change the party system you must change the political structure.
We have a group of 5 people deciding the proper fee for land use. To enact a law they must get at least 3 to agree to the price.
Person a insists it must be $1
Person b insists $2
Person c says $3
Person d says $4
Person e says $5
Each is unaligned or affiliated with the others. How do you set the policy?
—— Think on it… and here is the answer. —–
Three parties need to reach compromise in order to hold sway. The parties at the extremes $1 and $5 know they cannot hold sway because only one other member is closer or as close to their desired price as any other. They must compromise their price and their closest preferred price is $2 and $4 respectively so they quickly align themselves with that person.
Now we have two nearly aligned camps, a $2 camp with two players and a $4 camp with two players. Leaving the lone $3 member. This is then resolved one of two ways. If $3 sort of prefers a high or low price he will naturally fall into a given camp, otherwise the two camps will woo mr $3 by adjusting their price a little up or down, just a tad more than the other team is willing, or they will trade him some unrelated future favor for this vote.
And then you have two coalitions, one holding a slight majority, and one holding a slight minority. And this example applies pretty well to nearly any political question you care to name and even more so to the aggregate of American politics. Because our system is one of majority vote rules, we have a system that evenly divides the electorate into two broad camps who’s consensus position is somewhere in the middle of the overall camp and decidedly not in the exact middle compromise position.
—– But wait there’s more —–
Suppose that Mr $3 saw the writing on the wall and is a “moderate” wanting above all to have the most moderate position possible. He knows how this game plays out and he quickly grabs $4 and $5 and makes a pitch to them. “Don’t let those extremists get their way, come join me in the bipartisan middle!”
There are two problems for captain moderation.
Firstly: Under the High low split 4 and 2 have a shot at getting exactly what they want, as where in the middle neither of them has any chance of that. This means unless mr Mod is willing to state openly he favors high or low, they have no reason to believe they can’t win out and so it makes sense that they hold out.
Secondly: 1 and 5 are crafty and know they both can loose to the middle so they play on 4 and 2’s general bias for high and low respectively. “You can either side with us High minded folk, or form a coalition with one of those low minded types, who would you rather be on board with? Follow your feelings 4, choose the High minded path! We could lose if 3 is a dirty lowbie at heart, but we will remain true to our convictions!”
3 remains rational, reasonable and a big loser in the majority game.