From the US to the UK, new political winds

By MARK PENN
Published May 6, 2010

Thursday’s elections in Britain could be a harbinger of what is likely to come to America in the not-too-distant future: new movements and even parties that shake up the political system. Cleggmania shows that even the most tradition-bound electoral systems are facing the pressures of rapid change made possible by modern communications. These movements may not win out of the gate, but they will become significant political factors.

While the Constitution established three branches of government, the system of political parties grew up outside of that, securing itself through what were at first formidable local infrastructures and later with skillful redistricting, ballot-access laws and contribution limits that worked to preserve the status quo. In the 1940s, this really was a red or blue country, with about 85 percent of voters identifying as Republican or Democratic. Today, about 40 percent of Americans are political nomads, wandering from party to party in search of a permanent home. They peer at more than 100 varieties of coffee drinks at Starbucks and wonder why they have only two bipolar choices in politics.

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