Posted 8 years ago on Jan. 10, 2012, 7:45 p.m. EST by zymergy
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
Part I of this thread is found at http://occupywallst.org/forum/when-are-parties-useful-part-i/
Obviously, there is at least one answer to my title question, for we do have two very popular and influential political parties. And since the Republic’s founding, pretty much only two. Is this because most Americans see themselves as either and only Liberal or conservative? Certainly they can register mostly as either Democratic or Republican respectively to reflect their orientation. Nothing new here. But is this true?
The U.S. census Bureau reports that for the 2008 election, of the 206,000,000 citizens over the age of 18 years, 146,000,000 reported being registered to vote (~71%), and 131,000,000 reported voting (~64%). (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/socdemo/voting/). On this page look at the Report for 2008.
It would be nice to know how those in the above numbers registered, and how they voted relative to their registration, but the Census Bureau is not the one to ask or answer these questions.
According to ProCon (http://2008election.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=1570) at the time of the 2008 election there were 39,000,000 registered Democrats and 31,000,000 registered Republicans. Other minor parties claimed a combined registration of about 1,000,000. ProCon further reports that in the 2008 election, Obama received 67,000,000 votes while McCain received 58.000,000 votes. Apparently a total of 125,000,000 votes were cast for the office of the President, a difference of -6,000,000 from the Census Bureau numbers (these 6 million votes may have gone to third party candidates). At any rate, there were only 71,000,000 registered party members in the 2008 election, hardly enough to elect either Obama or McCain given the proportions of registered people who actually voted. Who were the other 54,000,000+ voters? According to USA Today there were 24,000,000 registered independent voters in the 2008 election (42 million Democrats and 30 million Republicans for a total of 96 million voters) (http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/story/2011-12-22/voters-political-parties/52171688/1), but I have not seen these numbers elsewhere, and we still have 30,000,000 voters for whom we cannot account! Someone else should go over these numbers.
If the 54 million voters above were not registered as party members, then they certainly constitute (unwillingly perhaps) a very large pool of potential political power. But selecting “no party affiliation” on their voter registration form does not guarantee that the independent voter thinks and acts independently, any more than we could assume that a party affiliated voter does not think and act independently. These independent voters see the same TV ads and news clips as everybody else.
So, when are parties useful? Perhaps when it is time to celebrate something, like raising a lot of campaign contributions, and when voting along party lines and thereby paying back favors, as Congress tends to do.