Do two mass parties really represent anybody besides the rich and corporations? We should really have maybe five major national parties – narrowish center, narrowish right, narrowish left, harder right, and harder left, corresponding respectively to today’s Blue Dog Democrats and reasonable Republicans together, corporate Republicans, left-of-center (i.e., most) Democrats, Evangelical and fascist Republicans and their fellow-travelers on the far-right loony fringe (Constitution Party, Taxpayers’ Party, etc.) together, and “liberal”/progressive Democrats and their fellow-travelers (Greens, Democratic Socialists, [relatively-]moderate Socialists [like Bernie Sanders], etc.) together. The Libertarian Party ideally doesn’t fit on this spectrum, so they might remain/become a respectable second-tier party.
Of course, we can’t divide the current Presidency among more than one party, so this might lead to a more divided Congress, and greater presidential tyranny than we even have today (I mean since November!).
In any event, we won’t get real multipartisanship without Proportional Representation. I think the new New Zealand system is best: keep the single-member districts, and add at-large seats so that parties are represented according to their proportion of the national vote, with a reasonable “threshold” to gain any seats at all in the “lower” House. (Parties would be well-advised to assign their “extra” members regionally for better constituent service, so this wouldn’t be totally without local or regional contact.) This could even be done by States, since the Constitution doesn’t require that all Reps come from Districts, just that each State has so many Reps. I think if we adopted PR, you’d see the Greens rise on the left, and a “god, Flag, and [no] fags” party on the right, and we’d be well on our way…God help us.
But like I say, this makes most sense in a parliamentary government, or what’s called Responsible Government – the successor to Representative Government in most of the world’s democracies…what *we* might call an Accountable Executive.
Most multiparty democracies aren’t as relatively politically unstable as Italy and Israel. Come to think of it, for all their reputed instability, those two don’t do too badly either: Italy has social democracy no matter who’s in charge from week to week (As Bill Maher might say, “I *kid* Italy!”), and Israel has acquired an empire twice its proper size on land legally belonging to four other countries, not to mention millions of “cleansed” indigenous inhabitants! What usually happens in the event of one party not getting a majority is some kind of coalition government, where two or more parties agree a plan of policies and sharing of government offices/cabinet seats. Fr. Andrew Greeley argues that America’s mass parties *are* coalitions. Well, that may have been the case in the “good ole” days of the Chicago/Cook County Democratic “machine,” but today, nationally, they only pretend to be coalitions – more often than not it’s the rich and corporations in charge of both parties. Both parties have inflicted “free trade” on the world, both parties have ignored Global Warming for a generation, both parties spend more time raising funds than making law – wait, that can be a good thing…. Sure, each one when it gets the chance throws “red meat” to its “base” – a flag-burning amendment on the right, a minimum-wage raise on the left. But when push comes to shove, we all know who does the pushing and shoving, no matter whose names are over the doors.
Which is why, hand-in-hand with this, should go full, exclusive public campaign financing.