Tags: The | Death | Party | Discipline

The Death of Party Discipline

Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM

Vermont’s always-unpredictable junior Senator, Jim Jeffords, makes a living going against the grain and confusing political experts. He has already come our strongly against the Bush Tax Cut – and disagrees strongly with the Bush environmental approach.

Rhode Island’s newly elected Lincoln Chafee, son of the late Senator John Chafee, is cut from the same cloth. He, too, has made political hay at home by opposing Bush.

As of today the speculation up on Capitol Hill is that these two may dump the GOP and become Independents. That would make the Senate lineup: 50 Democrats, 48 Republican, and 2 Independent. Thus Tom Daschle would become Senate Majority leader and the Democrats would control all the committee chairmanships.

If this happens it will be because

In the "old days” of politics, candidates for public office came hat-in-hand to their party leaders and asked not just to be nominated, but also for campaign funds. The local, state and national party leaders determined the "winnability” of these candidates. And they also were judged for their ‘party loyalty.’ In other words, these party leaders wanted to know if they helped elect a candidate could they then count on his vote on a crucial bill?

Then Watergate changed everything.

The 1975 campaign reforms, which limited federal candidates to receiving only $1000 per campaign also, reduced how much direct money a political party could contribute directly to a candidate.

Plus, the stigma of being a Republican in the immediate post-Watergate period also encouraged new candidates to suddenly proclaim their "independence.”

Suddenly Republican candidates for Congress were downplaying their party affiliation and instead bragging about their "independence.”

This is the environment in which Jim Jeffords was elected to the House in the late 1970’s. And it dominates American politics today in both parties. Being a party loyalist is seen as "bad.” But being unpredictable – even at times purposively disloyal – is seen as an asset.

The result is a government virtually out of control.

Capitol Hill is now 535 individuals – few bound by loyalty – who only care about their own careers and their own reelections.

Party leaders have few tools to keep these Congressmen and Senators under control. They can no longer dispense campaign funds to the degree they did in the past. Thus you get a Jeffords or a Chafee or a McCain actually

After a while we have to ask, "Why are people like this even in the Republican Party if all they want to do is beat up on it?”

John McCain’s ‘McCain-Feingold’ Campaign Bill will go even one step farther down the road toward stripping our political parties of their power to control their members. This is

Party discipline is the backbone of a two-party system.

It is no coincidence that, as the two parties have been weakened by these laws over the past 25 years, public confidence in our political system has plummeted. That is because the American people see mayhem, confusion, massive egos and uncontrollable ambition dominating American politics.

And they do not see results that matter to them.

Only a return to party discipline can ever make our system work again.

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Vermont's always-unpredictable junior Senator, Jim Jeffords, makes a living going against the grain and confusing political experts. He has already come our strongly against the Bush Tax Cut - and disagrees strongly with the Bush environmental approach. Rhode Island's...
The,Death,Party,Discipline
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2001-00-21
Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM
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