Diversity in political parties

The nation benefits from diversity within the Democratic and Republican parties.

by Ronald Dixon

Given the recent feud between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, two prominent members of the Republican Party, I’ve found that a discussion is needed on the acceptance of diversity within political parties.

In this example, we have Paul, a prominent libertarian, and Christie, a popular Republican, throwing barbs in an attempt to establish the direction of the GOP. Christie argued that the “strain of libertarianism” in both parties — but particularly from Republicans like Paul — is a “dangerous thought.” Nevertheless, Paul continues to push his ideology within the framework of the Republican Party.

This begs the question, though: Can libertarians adopt the Republican Party, and, more broadly, can political parties accommodate minor parties?

Take Ron Paul for example. He gained prominence in the 1980s as a Republican congressman from Texas, and failed when he tried to run as a Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1988. Conversely, as a Republican primary contender during the 2008 and 2012 primaries, he gained a significant share of the vote, including high 16 and 27 percent showings, respectively, in Minnesota GOP caucuses.

Of course, libertarians are not the only non-traditional Republicans to have taken advantage of party membership. Tea Party Republicans, such as Michele Bachmann, Allen West and Steve King, garnered popularity through their dual association with the Tea Party and the GOP.

The same can be said for the left. They have progressives, such as Alan Grayson, Keith Ellison and the Blue Dog or conservative Democrats.

Nevertheless, all of these politicians benefited from their associations with a major party.

Through broad coalitions of politicians fitting under two large umbrellas come the senses of moderation, compromise and diversity. This process forces party members to compromise, whereby reducing extremism and gridlock. Diversity also attracts a multitude of different voter bases.

From a practical and historical perspective, diversity in major parties enhances the political system, and it should be encouraged.