One of the so-called 'features' of the US political system is that it has a 'stable' two party assemblage. That is to say the system of open politics in the US, in which there are no government established parties, boils down to a two party system over time. I remember that in social studies courses this was posited as a 'good thing' as it led to a general 'middle of the road' sort of government that would 'get things done' and be 'stable'. That attitude grew out of the Cold War which had a Superpower confrontation between rival Nation assemblages (USSR/Warsaw Pact and the US/NATO) that required non-traditionally high levels of government spending in the form of the the Defense Department having to keep a large standing military organization ready to strike back at any incoming Soviet attack. A 'stable' government was to be cherished, then, as an all-out nuclear assault would have led to a massive redistribution of atoms from that of civilian population centers into vaporized and irradiated atoms floating in the air. So if any political ideology got in place that put the 'balance of power' at risk it was seen as a very, very bad thing.
Thus we got: two parties now and forever!
The way the two party system did this was also posited as a 'good thing'. Whenever a new political movement came into being that threatened to actually get enough people to register as a political party (and what is up with that, anyways? I thought we were free to form our own parties without having to register them anywhere) or even just get close, one of the two parties would adopt some verbiage and programmatic planks from then new arrivals so as to cut short the founding of a new party. By putting party 'muscle' behind these minoritarian agenda planks, the two party system would be 'safe' from major 'changes'. Of course the political party apparatus endorsed this as it tended to concentrate political power into the hands of the few (that is the party elites) and cut off the oxygen supply to upstarts looking to get into the political action. To that end elected officials from the two parties enacted laws that put population minimums on registering a political party (ahhh... makes sense, no?) and then sought to undermine, undercut and marginalize any new political movement by co-opting key positions of the new movement.
On the flip side if you firmly believed in the concepts you were backing as the key positions of a political movement and a larger entity endorsed those and you really, and for true, wanted to see those things you backed 'get done' then you looked at the motley assemblage of the party 'backing' those ideas and saw all the other special interests that YOU would have to support if YOU supported the party in question (and it was one or the other of the parties, now, wasn't it?). And if the party that was trying to co-opt your political movement had planks from other minority organizations that had become embedded into the party structure, your choice was to swallow your pride and your ethics and vote for the party, or to continue on the journey without major party support. Also you tended to find that a large number of your friends in the nascent organization decided it was easier to co-opt their values to get one or two good things done than to stick to the actual underlying philosophy of whatever it was being pushed (that is if you were lucky enough to have one).
The two parties couldn't get this done without the willing help of their organizations to get changes into the political system via way of Amendments, as well. Luckily the two parties had established themselves in the Statehouses as well as in Congress and that pretty much wrapped up 'getting things done' for changing the Constitution. I go over this in a previous article, The 10 years that changed America. Via a process of marginalizing new entrants to the political scene, co-opting agendas and programs, and then shifting the system to loosen the grip of local politics at the federal level, you got a system where political apathy becomes the norm. 'Activists', recognizing a good system they can game, then pop up touting one agenda or another so as to willingly get co-opted into a hodge-podge of special interests that became the two political parties.
But 'stability' was kept, right?
If you looked from the outside you would see some semblance of 'stability' yes, and that was the only front that mattered when nuclear holocaust was just minutes away. On the inside of the United States, however, there were major changes taking place to the internal political structure as it had not transitioned from the 19th century 'throw the bums out' mindset and had changed to a 'throw the bums back in again' mindset. Here is what that looks like in a graph set I've used a few times now:
Up to the late 1890's the turnover in Congress was approximately 70%. That is to say 30% were re-elected. That flips over completely in the Progressive era and is rarely reached thereafter with 1904, 1912-1916, 1922, 1934 being the exception to the 70% getting thrown back in idea that became entrenched in the political system. The idea of a 'stable' political system via incumbent return is a 20th century Progressive-era phenomena, not one rooted in the Cold War nor in our history. While there have been two parties throughout almost all of the time the US has been around, the actual representation capability shifted at very high rates via elections. So long as there was turn-over in the political class seeking election, representation was maintained and politics became vital. When representation does not shift at high rates (and the society was growing, mind you, both in size and diversity) there is political stagnation and party entrenchment.
The reason this is 'positivist', that is that it seeks to add positive powers to the federal government, is that the concept of programs had also changed from the 19th century from one of abiding by State powers (they were the signatories to the Constitution, after all, and held the keys to the government they agreed to) to one of marginalizing State powers. I go over this concept in When change is not progress and the process of shifting that focus from State-based entities to one of central regulatory authority of the federal government is both subtle and radical at the same time. The concept of using program-based agenda items to win elections via the redistribution of money and power took hold in the early part of the Progressive era with Anti-Trust regulations that sought to 'break up the trusts' that were concentrating power and money in the American economy. Of course busting those trusts still left the power and money in the same hands, but the company names and means through which to do so had changed: it was now necessary to start co-opting political parties to secure wealth and power. Thus the Federal Reserve was born as an organization created by the largest banks in the US to protect themselves from Anti-Trust regulations and to start grasping at the political power that guided the Nation. Too bad the only thing they know how to do is devalue currency, huh?
Nice how that works, isn't it? You regulate something and then they throw their power and money into lobbying so as to start writing the regulations. It becomes real hard to tell the difference between the politicians, the regulators, the regulated and where, exactly, any piece of legislation actually comes from because the actors all shuttle between those jobs. Usually on your dime. Then comes lovely ideas of being 'nice' and establishing a 'retirement age' so as to get the older, more productive and higher wage earning workers out of the economy and pay for that system by taxing the younger, less well off, and trying to raise a family working class. Government can't 'invest' so it runs Ponzi Schemes, instead, up until the money gets radically inflated by their banking friends trying to gather value at the National level... but at least everyone will be broke, your money without value and no one cared for because it isn't worth working! Then we are all equally slaves to the system!
That is what passed for 'stability' on the inside of the US circa 1970 up to the end of the Cold War when the 'impossible' happened and the USSR vanished in a puff of smoke and having a legislature that was equally in bed with industrialists and organized crime. At least they had the brains to include the criminals, directly, and get some useful capability from them. Don't mind the new color of red from the non-cooperative ones who got in the way. Not that something like that is coming to the US of A where 'Activists' push agendas that industry gets behind so as to expand government and create crony jobs that benefits the industries in question so they can pay a pittance to the 'Activists' as a leaving on the bedside table one they are done using them. No THAT would never come to the US of A, don't mind the labor union bosses meeting constantly with the President to maintain their illegal stake in companies that were 'rescued'! That's not 'criminal' that is just redistributing the wealth and shafting the average taxpayer.
At least the average taxpayer is well armed, and getting better armed by the minute. It would be a crying shame if the Dept. of Justice violated international law by funneling arms to transnational crime syndicates to destabilize our neighbor to the south and use that as a justification to vilify the small businessman who runs a gun shop. Why that could NEVER happen HERE.
It isn't like there are vocal 'special interests' in bed with politicians, industrialists and banking organizations that are seeking to devalue the dollar and then extract a massive tithe for doing so via official means and by implementing huge bureaucratic organizations that will be filled up with 'Activists' and lobbyists, and burden the entire system with their overhead while reducing productivity to a pittance. I mean that is so STABLE, isn't it?
Just accept the ratcheting up of government programs and never, ever, utilize the quaint 18th century idea that they should ever, just once, be re-authorized on a regular basis, say every 5 years or so. That is just so... actually it sounds pretty insightful as a way to limit government, come to think of it. Someday maybe we will have that in America...
And that is the problem with the positivist viewpoint of government always doing more via political co-opting of small political movements: it stifles larger movements and entrenches the special interests who are sucking at the taxpayer's hard earned money at every turn. When I started this blog I suggested that the federal government needed a RESET button (not to be confused with the overload button handed to the Russians by Hillary Clinton). The positivist view of government administering rights and liberty is one that enshrines government as the keeper of those same rights and liberties... not you. But without you there would be no government. Thus the actual holder of all rights and liberties is the individual, not government. That is what I have been going over and continue to go over: the fundamentals.
If you don't know the fundamentals, then you are lost and without a compass.
Too bad there are these idiots in the expedition throwing the compasses away, huh?
And what you get when your fellow citizens lack a moral compass isn't pleasant nor civilized. They start to think people should be ruled because they see their hideous reflection all about them... instead of realizing that it isn't their fellow citizens that are the problem, but that person in the mirror who has become a savage. Now comes the time to remind these people that being a citizen means that you seek common governance equal for all, no carve-outs, no special interests and no special rights for anyone. Savages won't like that and getting them to be civilized can often be quite messy because that means they must govern themselves, first, and that is always and ever a painful thing to do.