Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Lesson From Europe for the Democrats, But Will They Learn?

One should pay attention to politics outside the U. S. occasionally, for there are some lessons to be learned.

Third parties in Germany and England have recently come into coalition governments.  In Germany the Free Democratic party, a center right group that could be considered a version of the low tax, low spending wing of the Republican party in the U. S.  has been in a coalition ruling government.  In England the Liberal Democrats, a center left party has joined the Conservatives in forming a government.

Each of the parties were significant, but small parts of the overall political structure, and each believed that by joining a coalition government they would get their place in the sun and become a major party.  Each was wrong.  In Germany the Free Democrats have had electoral disasters in state elections, and in Britain the Liberal Democrats have sunk in the polls like a Division I team losing to a Division II team.  The question is why?

The answer is that each party gave up its independence and many of its core values  to accept a role in the government, and voters have a limit as to how much hypocrisy they will accept.  In England the situation is particularly perverse.  The Lib Dems extracted as a price for joining the government a referendum on changing the electoral process from winner take all to a second choice system where if your first choice is not in the running your second choice becomes the vote.  Their partners in the Government, agreed to referendum, but did not agree to support the change, and so now you have the spectacle of the two coalition partners on opposite sides of a very major issue. 

Needless to say, it does not look like it will end well for the Lib Dems.  The lesson for Democrats.  Stick to your values, voters may disagree but you will get their respect.  Change your values to get votes, you lose the respect and you don’t get the votes.

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