American politics is essentially captive to the two major political parties and have been for centuries now. The Democratic Party is largely seen as representative of liberals just as Republicans are seen as synonymous with conservatism. Libertarianism tends to be grouped with Republicans despite having the Libertarian Party and progressivism with Democrats despite having the Socialist Party. But despite the ideological identification of each political party, each one lacks the consistency to be a genuine representation of their respective ideology.
Democrats saw the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders last year, a progressive politician and admirer of socialism. Despite him arguably being a better representation of liberalism, the party nominated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for President. This occurred despite Clinton being a polar opposite of what many liberals favor. She was close to Wall Street, supported the invasion of Iraq, and is otherwise a career politician aligned with a deeply entrenched establishment.
Senator Sanders was attacked by mainstream Democrats not on an ideological level, but because he wasn’t a real Democrat or was doing damage to the brand.
What happened to principles?
The same occurs within the other mainstream party, the Republican Party. Despite being associated with conservatism, the party itself is hardly conservative. While many conservatives favor limited government and fiscal responsibility, numerous party leaders have failed to scale back the runaway spending or size of government. In fact, Republican leaders have often pushed to expand the size of government while favoring increased spending.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was hardly a constitutionalist and Senator John McCain is a devout defender of the surveillance state, but both were nominated for President by the Republican Party in recent memory. Individuals such as former Congressman Ron Paul and Senator Ted Cruz were attacked during their respective candidacies for continuing on when the battle was seen as lost, because it was damaging to the party brand.
Is the battle for conservatism or for political supremacy?
Although the Libertarian Party makes clear its ideological association within its name, it hardly lives up to principle. Just last year, the Libertarian ticket was two former Republican Governors who seemed to be more of a party gimmick than an ideological standard. The marketing campaign was aimed at being an alternate to the two major parties, instead of actually being libertarian. Worse, down the stretch both candidates became Hillary Clinton apologists. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld would frequently be singing praises of Clinton while defending her.
The problem with Hillary Clinton is her lack of principle. Given her positions in favor of war and big government, she’s hardly a libertarian So why were libertarians defending her? She’s not even a conservative and not even really liberal.
Clinton is just the embodiment of the political machine. She has no political allegiance and only has her own personal goals in mind. This is true of most politicians who rise to positions of power, Republican or Democrat or otherwise.
If change is to occur within America, it will be through civic action and outside groups. Political parties will never amount to anything more than mere vehicles for career politicians who put their own personal goals before principle. This is not to say that one should not participate within any given political party, because they can be useful to advancing goals. Ron Paul and Senator Rand Paul both used the Republican Party as a podium for the message of liberty, as have Congressmen Justin Amash and Thomas Massie.
The individual parties however will never become a revolution themselves. Expecting great things out of any political parties only sets one up for disappointment and failure.