I am of the firm belief that party politics sucks. It’s not of any benefit to people or the democracy. These are some reasons why independent candidate politics should be encouraged.
I write this considering UK politics, but I think it could easily apply elsewhere too.
Party Representatives are not Representative
The whole concept of politics is a compromise. It aims to find the best solution that appeases the most people in a country, state or town. The most representative way of doing politics would be to just get everyone to vote on every law or action in a referendum.
That’s a terrible idea, for multiple reasons that I won’t go in to. Just considering the most obvious: It would be a logistical nightmare to have a referendum for everything. Instead, we elect representatives, to make these choices on our behalf.
We’re supposed to elect representatives based on our needs and beliefs. However, if we elect a politician who is a member of a political party, then we have a problem: In current UK politics, elected members are whipped, that is to say.
A whip can have some benefits, such as requiring a member to actually attend a vote, but they also have a somewhat dubious side in that they can require a member to vote along party lines.
This is bad, as not only does it prevent the politician from acting how they truly believe (thus undermining their effectiveness as a politician), they are prevented from acting in the best interests of the constituency (should the views of the party go counter to that of one specific area).
If the concept of independent politicians was more mainstream, then constituencies could have a better shot at electing a representative based on what is important to them at a local level, and this would give more importance to issues that hit close to home, rather than having to compromise first with a party.
Counterargument: Parties make for easier Policy
A counterargument is that parties make it easier to organise what policy the government should be making.
I agree with this, but I think it misses the point of politics. Government should always be about compromise, and every voice should be heard. If politicians grouped together they would have incentive to align their policies, and this goes back to the problem of whips mentioned earlier. Alignment in this fashion also encourages politicians to polarise and act against each other instead of with each other.
Instead of grouping by party, a better solution would be for politicians to be part of multiple working committees based on their views in each different areas. Having each elected representative voice and organise by their own policies (a group of con- and pro-liberal drug policy, a group of pro- and con- workers rights issues) would take a bit more time and organisation, but it would ultimately allow for more beneficial discussion.
Party politics weakens the amount of thinking that needs to be done during an election. For many, instead of considering all the options, several things can lead to people making uninformed choices on election day:
- Resistance to change can result in people simply re-electing a representative based on whatever party they’ve always voted for in the past
- The “Red Team vs Yellow Team vs Blue Team” mentality is very polarising can lead to people refusing to consider the ideas put forward by opponents purely because of past actions of a particular party
- The press play a big role in making a game of the fighting between parties, which weakens the concept of individual representatives.
If there were no parties, then on election day, people could vote for a local person. An individual who they could closely scrutinise, but also feel more closely represented by. This stronger tie would also lead to a better sense of being represented by the Government.
Counterargument: Choice is hard
One issue that may arise in a no party situation is it may become more difficult to discern who to vote for. Without clear parties and policies, it might be difficult to read through pamphlets and websites and to see the choices available.
If there was an overnight change to kill off the parties, this would be true. But in time, I think it would become less of an issue. With no parties, and no figureheads, the press would have to instead consider individual candidates and their merits, which would aid people in making a choice.
Simply looking at the candidates on offer would become easier with practice. Once the mindset of team based mentalities and the like wears off, I do think people would look at all candidates more openly, and voters would actually consider alternatives they might not considered before.
Parties encourage the race to be PM
It doesn’t take a long look at any of the news to see how much of a game politicians are playing. The big reason for this is that by making big waves, and thus a name and public appearance for themselves, politicians have a better shot at boosting their career. It’s all about getting the big job – becoming the Prime Minister.
The job of PM didn’t use to be as important (previously just acting as an intermediary to the King or Queen of the time) but recently the job has evolved in to being in charge of the whole country.
The PM also changed in the sense that now the PM is chosen based on which party has power. This isn’t particularly great, as it precludes the possibility of independent candidates ever becoming PM.
Get rid of parties and the top job can become on based on individual merit, and any politicians that want to play The Game have incentive to help their local area and make a name that way instead of making a fuss and rising the party ranks.
Counterargument: The PM must be a Figurehead
One could say that if there were no parties, then the job of PM change somewhat. The PM needs to organise parliament to facilitate decision making. The PM, in an independent situation, should be appointed by the head of state.
But if the PM isn’t in charge, then there’s no-one left, right? Who will make split second emergency decisions and overall organisational choices?
We in the UK already have a head of state – the ruling Royal Family. This would be an easy solution. The monarch organises parliament initially, and then lets them just get on with their job of making choices about the laws. They can act as a figurehead in discussions where an individual representative would not be suitable. They could be the one to make emergency decisions should the need arise.
For those not satisfied with choices being made by an un-elected monarch there is a solution: A President.
That word might ring sour with some, but I think in a no-party independent scenario it could function very well. Instead of having to follow specific party rules and appeasing particular party supporters, candidates could be elected specifically according to individual merit.
If combined with a multi-round run-off style election that could lead to good candidates being chosen. Any game-playing by politicians would need to be done at the benefit of many, rather than making a stir within the party to get press.
One could always claim that “no press is bad press”, and undesirable political game players could still be elected as president, but in an independent scenario there would be no hiding behind the banner of a political party, and I think that would go a long way towards weeding out worse candidates based on their individual ideas.
Counterargument: Too Much Choice
One final argument for any kind of election (local, national, presidential) with no parties, and with many independents, there would be too much choice.
I disagree completely. There are certain countries with election day ballots of a ridiculous size, and I don’t think that is in any way a bad thing. It might turn making a decision into a more difficult task, but by having more choice there is more of a likelihood that your final decision will match exactly what you want from your candidate.
Combine this with a proportional representation system instead of a basic most votes wins, and you can ensure democracy works to its fullest.