Binary Party Affiliation Choices — We Need Something Better


Why are you a [Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, … pick your poison]?

Version 2One of the ten long term trends John Naisbitt identified in his 1982 book Megatrends that is being heralded now as being “right on” was “[a] society [
that] is changing from a narrow ‘either/or’ perspective with a limited range of personal choices to one of ‘free-wheeling’ multiple options”. One realm in which this prediction has not moved as rapidly to reality as it has in many areas is the political arena.

Although third party options were available at the time Naisbitt’s book was written, the fact is that no third-party candidate has ever won a U.S. presidential election. The strongest showing for a third-party candidate came in 1912, when former President Teddy Roosevelt left the Republican Party. He ended up coming in second, with 27.4 percent of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes. It’s generally agreed that Roosevelt’s 1912 candidacy took votes away from the Republican candidate, incumbent President William Howard Taft, allowing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win with just 41.8 percent of the popular vote. Many say third-party candidate Ralph Nader played a “spoiler” role in the 2000 election. Running to the left of Democrat Al Gore, Nader received 97,488 popular votes in Florida, a state Republican George W. Bush won by just 537 votes. If most of the Nader supporters had voted for Gore instead, Gore would have won Florida’s 25 electoral votes, and he would have been elected president instead of Bush [1].

So the bottom line is that a vote for a third-party [or write-in] candidate has historically been a vote for the incumbent-party candidate. However, if a major paradigm shift is in fact underway now, as I believe it is, the current polls can be misleading. I believe that trying to apply past statistics to this election is a useless process.

At this writing, the Republican and Democrat candidates are virtually tied — polls show that either party’s candidate’s lead is within the statistical margin of error. Support for all alternative candidates, collectively, accounts for about 10% of the people polled [2]. If the alternative-candidate support is pulling from both major-party candidates equally, the race is still a toss-up; if it is pulling more from one than the other [particularly if prevalently so in the so-called “swing states”], that segment alone can determine the outcome of this election. The interesting thing about a paradigm shift is that nobody, even “experts”, can accurately predict where within this range actual election-day votes will fall.

A major problem at this time is that the campaigns of the organized political parties, all of which are largely tied to the Current [I would say, Old] Paradigm, are not equipped to operate under the New Paradigm that is rapidly [exponentially] unfolding. In polls, people are asked whether they are Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican, for or against a particular issue, etc. — binary, either/or, current/old paradigm choices. It would be great if people could indicate where they are on a far left to far right scale on each of, say, ten specific issues, with their answers resulting in mapping to a specific point on a left-to-right spectrum. Such a system would be even better if each person could then form his/her own “custom-tailored party”, or CTP — i.e., connect [through emails and/or texts and/or web/app interaction designed by that “custom-tailored party”, or probably more efficiently through existing social media like FaceBook, Twitter, etc.] with everybody who is within some plus or minus “band” around his/her position on the left-to-right spectrum.

In this CTP system, it might also be advisable to allow each person to place a weight on each issue. This weight could be 1, 2 or 3, with 2 meaning average weight for that person, 1 meaning less important / critical than his/her average and 3 meaning more important / critical than his/her average.

As an example of how this would work, I designed a prototype model to do the computations for ten issues [3], and I entered my selections for each issue. On a 5-left to 5-right scale, and using a weight of 2 on all issues, my point on the left-right spectrum is 2.4 right. For perspective, the most enthusiastic Bernie Sanders supporters in this election would probably find themselves at least between 4 and 5 left, maybe all the way to 5 left. Most people who identify very closely with the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party would probably find themselves at least between 4 and 5 right, maybe all the way to 5 right.

So to use Naisbitt’s terminology, how would this new multiple-option system be better than the current either-or system? Our current government has become dysfunctional because of party polarization [see the Dysfunctional Government page in the The Situation Today section of this web site]. Lawmakers in both of the major parties tend to flock together and vote along party lines. This is why Republicans can’t move legislation that can easily pass the House through the Senate and on to the President — the Senate minority can, in effect, ensure that bills the Democratic party opposes never even get voted on in the Senate. In the rare cases where a bill is opposed by most Democrats but manages to get through the Senate, the President can veto it — and the odds are heavily against a veto override because whatever bipartisan support it had would not likely have included the number of Democrats that would be needed for an override.

This new CTP system would have both short term and long term advantages over the current dysfunctional system. Under this system, elected officials’ “bases” [died-in-the-wool, no-matter-what supporters] would no longer be as easily identifiable, making it much more difficult for them to pander to these “bases”. Also, “blocks” [groups that tend to vote heavily in favor of one party or the other] like Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, LGBTs, Labor Unions, Evangelical Christians, Rural, Urban, etc., would probably not be as monolithic in their voting patterns, because the people in these “blocks” would feel less need to formally affiliate with organizations that ostensibly represent their interests and concerns.

In the short term, this system would require elected officials to pay closer attention to a wide range of CTPs rather than assuming that their traditional party “bases” and the “blocks” that traditionally vote for their parties are securely in their camps.

Longer term, this CTP system would greatly diminish the power and influence of traditional parties, possibly even ultimately rendering them completely obsolete. Perhaps even more importantly, it would set the stage for ensuring that better slates of candidates make it into races in the first place — because money and “connections” would play a much smaller role in a person’s decision to run for office. This, in turn, would result in a dramatic increase in the ability of elected officials to find common ground on which compromises could be negotiated.

I am actually trying to find ways to develop and implement an app / web site that can provide exactly this capability, with the goal of ultimately using existing social media as at least part of if not the main communication mechanism within CTPs. If this effort is successful, readers of this blog will be among the people given the opportunity to participate in the development process. Meanwhile, I would welcome any feedback anyone would like to offer on the concept.

If the app / web site then gains some traction and becomes widely used, it could become a key component of the New Paradigm developing at this time. If I am unable to actually bring this about, it is my sincere hope that by introducing the concept, I am making a meaningful contribution to the development of a better future system than the current dysfunctional one.


  1. Source for the historical summary in this paragraph:
  2. Source:
  3. The 10 issues were: Abortion, Marriage, Defense, Education, Social Security, Medicare, the ACA, Budget, Law Enforcement, and Capital Punishment. An example of far-left / far-right extremes [using Abortion]: 5 left, “Abortions should be available on demand for any reason and at any point in a pregnancy, and government funding should be available to any woman who wants one but cannot afford it”; 5 right, “Abortions should be illegal with one exception: when a choice must be made between the life of the unborn child and the life of the mother”.

[Note … If you haven’t read my Introduction To blog post and the Home Page of, I strongly urge you to do so. This and all subsequent posts will make more sense to readers familiar with that introductory information.]


Charles M. Jones

Author: Charles M. Jones, PE, CPA

[retired — neither license active]

3 thoughts on “Binary Party Affiliation Choices — We Need Something Better”

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