The Quest to End Two-Party Rule: Part 4
“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” ― Michael Porter, What Is Strategy?
In a prior blog, I suggested that there were three aspects that we should be considering as we engage in our quest to end two-party political rule: 1) an elaboration on the nature of The Opportunity (Part 2) that lies before us, 2) an identification of The Barriers (Part 3) to change that stand in our way, and 3) a list of potential Strategies that might be considered as we develop plans for successfully bringing about change. In this final installment …
It may not surprise you that this final installment has been a challenge. I thought that perhaps I could propose a few clever ideas to put forward for consideration. But finding a chink in the duopoly’s armor is difficult. As discussed in a prior blog (The Barriers), what stands in our way are a combination of intense inertia, apathy, and structural impediments long baked into our elections statutes and even the media’s coverage of politics.
There are some on-going efforts that obviously should continue. The Texans for Voter Choice coalition plans to continue their work to relax statutory barriers to ballot access for independent candidates and alternative parties. And, of course, the Libertarian and Green Parties have managed to largely retain minor-party ballot access (though the Greens failed to maintain their access for 2018), therefore providing at least a modicum of alternative choice.
But as a recent article in the Economist points out, Americans are much more likely to change their religious denomination than their political party. And except for a few high-profile candidates (e.g., Ross Perot), alternatives to the duopoly are basically ignored – both by voters and by the media.
For there to be a significant change in voting patterns and media coverage, both voters and media outlets will likely need to see something significant to begin to occur. Somehow, and in some way, the task ahead should be to find ways to garner enough voter and media attention to establish a toehold from which to build future success.
A modest toehold might be enough. Imagine if alternatives to duopoly candidates regularly garnered 10-20% of votes or 10-20% of serious voter and media attention. This continuing level of attention would maintain duopoly alternatives as a part of our regular political discourse.
Diffusion of Innovation Theory suggests how innovations generally propagate through a population. Adoption of new ideas does not happen simultaneously, but rather progresses through different categories of the population (see figure below).
“Innovators” are those who have already signed on. They’re already listening to and even promoting alternative parties and/or independent candidates. Little needs to be done to address this population, other than to keep them on board.
Getting to the 10-20% range, though, will require bringing on what Diffusion of Innovation Theory calls “Early Adopters”, those who are aware of the need for change and are willing to embrace it given the opportunity. They’re comfortable with new ideas and are often opinion leaders. They’re swayable.
The first question, of course is, who exactly are the Early Adopters? And secondly, how can they be convinced to regularly and actively engage in non-duopoly politics? They’re certainly not to be found among the Democratic or Republican faithful or their respective political classes. These populations are too invested in the status quo. Although there might be exceptions, members of this population are unlikely to jump ship.
It’s not at all clear (at least to me) who the Early Adopters are. Perhaps they’re discouraged non-voters. Perhaps they’re some portion of those who are increasingly disassociated from the duopoly parties. Perhaps they’re reporters for major news outlets that are looking for ways to expand the political conversation. Perhaps they’re news executives looking for niche markets.
What is clear, though, is that the Early Adopters must be able to visualize some reward for their efforts. They must be able to see that stepping outside of duopoly politics will make a difference – even short of winning elections. This is our challenge. Ideas anyone?
Dripping Springs, TX
Mark serves on the LIV Advisory Committee. Read his bio here.