Weak parties = More partisanship

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: Weak parties = More partisanship - I’ll Tell You What: Never tweet - Cruz clear favorite in new Q Poll - Trump keeps up spy claims despite Gowdy assurances - La, la, la, di, de, da

They say that states are the “laboratories of democracy,” and when it comes to elections, California is going full Victor Frankenstein

The news today that the number of registered independents in California has surpassed the number of registered Republicans was met with some smug satisfaction by a few members of the Blue Team. Here is obvious evidence that the Golden State is a one-party state in ways that not even Rhode Island or Alabama could muster. 

These preliminary data are subject to official reversal by California secretary of state, but the larger message is irrefutable: The value of partisan affiliation is dropping like a rock in America’s most populous state. 

That should come as no surprise since there has been a push for more than a decade to get away from the partisanship that many in California and across the country say is to blame for poor government and an inability to address pressing issues. 

The most aggressive step taken by California was to end partisan primaries. Since 2012 voters of all registrations participate in the state’s June primary elections with the top two finishers, regardless of affiliation, meeting up for a runoff in November. 

This was the brain child of moderates, both Republican and Democrat, who observed that the primary system as constituted in most of the country provides too great an incentive for extremism. By essentially eliminating primaries, California reformers reasoned, they would eliminate the extremism that primaries produce. 

This would be something like saying that you only find out about having cavities when you go to the dentist so you stop going to the dentist all together. Problem solved. 

Partisan affiliation for most of American history was a function of class, ethnicity and geography. You were a Democrat or Republican because everyone you knew was one, just like your father and grandfather and great grandfather… There were liberal rock-ribbed Republicans in the Northeast and conservative yellow dog Democrats in the Deep South. 

But the rise of a truly national media in the form of talk radio, cable news and, most of all, the internet, has facilitated what political scientist Mo Fiorina says is a better “sorted” electorate. The conservative Republican base has driven out liberals while the liberal Democratic base has driven out conservatives, and those who harbor dissenting views but still remain have strong incentives to remain quiet.

So many voters feel alienated these days not because the parties have become more polarized but because the parties have become so homogenous. People have tangled oftentimes seemingly contradictory views and seldom fit into narrow ideological silos. And as the parties have become more ideological it has deepened the sense of alienation for many.

Parties were less ideological 50 years ago and tended to reflect coalitions of regional factions that could cobble together politically competitive efforts. Now parties are more ideological since the old cultural bonds that kept people in their political lanes have substantially broken down. If anybody tell you that “all politics is local,” tell them to look at the ads politicians are running in 2018 midterms. 

In this well-sorted space, there is greater incentive for ideological extremism. Incumbent members of Congress who would have once run for re-election on their own records and value to the district now race to the right or left to accommodate the demands of activist voters keyed up on immigration or impeachment or whatever is causing the deepest electric thrum to vibrate through the electorate. 

Partisan primaries may reveal those trends, but they are hardly the cause of them, as Californians are beginning to find out. 

It is not hard to imagine that within the next decade the number of unaffiliated voters will also grow beyond the number of Democrats. Without the incentive of primary participation who wants to join a political party? Neither brand is particularly popular – for good reason – and partisanship in general has a bad reputation. 

So what does that future look like? Probably more chaotic but even more factious. When these red and blue dinosaurs die off, they will not be replaced by new megafauna but rather a profusion of small scavengers. 

Over here are the Democratic socialists. Over there are the white nationalists. Up yonder is La Raza. Down there are the Libertarians.

Many Americans have long yearned for a “third party.” They came awfully close in 1992 with Ross Perot’s aggressive pragmatism and flipcharts, and the desire for something that seems like a compromise between conservatives and liberals hasn’t abated. But the problem is you don’t get one more party. You get 10 more or 20 more. 

Once we decide that we want “something else” than the two mainstream offerings it throws wide the doors to the kind of narrow-interest politics that bedevil many other nations.

Imagine the California primary of 2028 in which the top two finishers in a crowded field each claim less than a fifth of the vote and in November voters are left to choose between two candidates who got there by being ablest to energize the loudest, crankiest subset of supporters. Folks would be begging for authoritarian oligarchs after a few cycles of that. 

There are lots of things that could be done to make America’s two-party system better.

The combination of misguided but well-intentioned campaign finance reforms that weakened national parties and a Supreme Court decision that empowered unaccountable outside groups has been particularly damaging. There may be some solutions there. And certainly the improved ability of partisans through voter data to draw ever more tortured congressional districts needs some consideration, too.

But whatever the solution for ways in which weak parties are unequal to our moment of strong partisanship it seems unlikely to us that the best remedy is to weaken them even further.

“…there will be no less reason to fear that the pestilential breath of faction may poison the fountains of justice [if the Supreme Court had been made subordinate to the legislative branch].” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 81

Tennessee State Museum: “In the spring of 1806, Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson had a series of disagreements. … One argument concerned a horse race scheduled between Jackson’s horse Truxton and a horse owned by [Dickinson’s father in law]. …Dickinson publicly said insulting things about Jackson’s wife Rachel. …  Finally Dickinson wrote a statement that was published in a Nashville newspaper calling Jackson a coward… Jackson wrote a letter challenging Dickinson to a duel. … [On this date 212 years ago] the two men and their seconds met in Kentucky for the duel (Dueling was outlawed in Tennessee). … Dickinson shot first, hitting Jackson in the chest. However, Jackson wore a coat that was too big for him. This may have upset Dickinson’s aim and the bullet missed Jackson’s heart. Then, though in great pain, Jackson carefully aimed and fired at Dickinson. The bullet hit Dickinson in the abdomen, and he eventually died from blood loss. … Jackson was highly criticized for dueling and for killing Dickinson. However he never apologized for the act.”

Flag on the play? -
 Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
40.8 percent 
Average disapproval: 
54.2 percent 
Net Score:
 -13.4 points
Change from one week ago: 
down 0.6 points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; CBS News: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 44% approve - 51% disapprove; IBD: 38% approve - 56% disapprove; Pew Research Center: 42% approve - 54% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
41.8 percent
Democratic average: 48.4 percent
Democrats plus 6.6 points
Change from one week ago: 
no change 
[Average includes: CNN: 47% Dems - 44% GOP; CBS News: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; Pew Research Center: 48% Dems - 43% GOP; Monmouth University: 49% Dems - 41% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 48% Dems - 40% GOP.]

This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss what it takes to go from having a successful television show on a Monday to being unemployed on a Tuesday. Plus, the President makes a trip to the Volunteer State, a shakeup in Missouri and Founding Fathers trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

Quinnipiac University: “With a big boost from men, Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz leads U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, his Democratic challenger, 50 - 39 percent in the Texas Senate race, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today. This compares to the results of an April 18 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University, showing the race too close to call with Sen. Cruz at 47 percent and O'Rourke at 44 percent. Today, Cruz leads 57 - 35 percent among men, up from 51 - 40 percent April 18. Women go 44 percent for Cruz and 42 percent for O'Rourke, compared to last month when women went 47 percent for O'Rourke and 43 percent for Cruz. … Independent voters are divided with 43 percent for O'Rourke and 41 percent for Cruz. Texas voters approve 52 - 39 percent of the job Cruz is doing and give him a 49 - 38 percent favorability rating. O'Rourke gets a 30 - 19 percent favorability rating, while 50 percent of voters don't know enough about him to form an opinion of him.”

GOP bears down on immigration ads while Dems prefer health care -
 USA Today: “House Republican candidates are blanketing the airwaves with TV ads embracing a hard line on immigration — a dramatic shift from the midterm elections in 2014, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from Kantar Media. Republicans have aired more than 14,000 campaign ads touting a tough Trump-style immigration platform this year. The barrage underscores why House GOP leaders worry that passing a legislative fix for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, referred to as DREAMers, would put GOP candidates at risk heading into the fall election. … Democrats bombard voters with ads that promise to protect Obamacare, shore up Social Security and expand Medicare, according to the data from Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG).”

Trump focuses outreach on big donors - Politico: “President Donald Trump is plunging into the big-donor game, planning an appearance at a six-figure-a-head fundraiser benefiting his allied super PAC. Trump is expected to address America First Action’s leadership summit, according to the super PAC’s president, Brian Walsh. The president is slated to speak on the second night of the two-day conference, to be held June 18-19 at Trump International Hotel in Washington. Getting in won’t come cheap. Donors will need to pony up at least $100,000 to attend; VIP status will be at least $250,000. While the president has lent his support to the group and appeared at benefit dinners for America First Action’s backers, he has yet to appear at a fundraiser for it. Under federal law, Trump can only ask for donations of up to $5,000 for any super PAC, though he can appear at the event. The super PAC will begin sending out invitations to major GOP donors on Wednesday.”

Phoenix mayor resigns to run for Congress - 
Fox News: “Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, an anti-Trump Democrat who has held the post in Arizona's capital city for more than six years, stepped down Tuesday to focus on a run for Congress. Stanton first announced in October that he intended to run for the U.S. House seat currently occupied by departing Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Republican Jeff Flake. Under Arizona's ‘resign to run’ law, Stanton had to resign from the mayorship by the end of May in order to maintain his federal candidacy. Wednesday is the filing deadline for the race in Arizona's 9th Congressional District, which is centered in Tempe and includes parts of nearby communities, including Phoenix. The primaries are scheduled for Aug. 28, and the general election will be Nov. 6. Stanton is expected to face at least two other Democrats, while as many as five Republicans are expected to run. Independent candidates and those representing smaller parties also will run.”


The Hill: “President Trump’s mind hasn’t been changed by a top Republican’s assessment the FBI acted appropriately in using a confidential source in the Russia probe, the White House said Wednesday. ‘Clearly, there’s still cause for concern that still needs to be looked at,’ White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. Sanders was responding to Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-S.C.) comments that ‘the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do’ by having a confidential source speak with Trump campaign associates who were suspected of having contacts with Russians during the 2016 election.  His statements rebutted the president’s unsubstantiated claim that the Obama administration embedded a spy in the Trump campaign in order to boost Democrats.”

Trump pushed Sessions to reverse recusal - NYT: “[President Trump’s] grievance was with Mr. Sessions: The president objected to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump, who had told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry, berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request. Mr. Sessions refused. The confrontation, which has not been previously reported, is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as are the president’s public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign. Mr. Trump dwelled on the recusal for months, according to confidants and current and former administration officials who described his behavior toward the attorney general. The special counsel’s interest demonstrates Mr. Sessions’s overlooked role as a key witness in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself. It also suggests that the obstruction investigation is broader than it is widely understood to be…”

Trump said to have bragged to donors about secret strikes in Syria Politico

McCarthy polishes conservative bona fides with budget clawback bid - The Hill

‘The polls are all right’ FiveThirtyEight

President’s daughter bows out on press call after questions about her business deals 
CBS News

President’s son-in-law gets star turn with White House guest Kim Kardashian - Vanity Fair

Bitcoin boosting House candidate takes heat on campaign finance rules - Politico

“You woulda been thrown out at first if I was playing, buddy.” – A friendly taunt from Rep. Steve Scalise to Rep. Trent Kelly as Scalise attended his first practice with the GOP’s congressional baseball team since the one where he was nearly killed by a gunman last year. It’s part of an engrossing profile on Scalise and the race for House speaker.

“I've done stand-up comedy myself.  I once made a joke about my mother that she found so offensive she didn't speak to me for a week.  If anyone knows about crossing lines in the pursuit of a joke, it would be me. But there's a HUGE difference between the lazy, all-encompassing bin of ‘political correctness’ and lines which should not be crossed.  Making a joke about a long-maligned ethnic group at a time of increasing racial polarization would seem to be one of those common-sense times, and having a bipolar mental illness is not a sufficient excuse. ABC is in the business of risk.  They cut her loose because her show was too risky based on their business model.  I liked her reboot, and I missed the Connors.  But if you think they caved merely due to ‘political correctness,’ then you have truly jumped the shark. That's too bad.” – Patrick S. Duffy, Los Angeles

[Ed. note: Oh dear, Mr. Duffy! I’m afraid I didn’t make myself clear enough here. The “new political correctness” we were talking about on Tuesday wasn’t the decision to scrap Roseanne Barr’s television show. The new political correctness we were discussing was the one in which people would defend a bigot or even change their taste in art for the sake of political tribalism. Conservatives complained for decades about P.C. and the enforcement of speech codes, etc. They had a point since we ought not be policing the free exchange of ideas or banning speech just to protect people’s feelings. But there is an increasingly strong impulse on the populist right these days to submit to the blunt judgement of the tribe when it comes to these matters. I hope most Americans will decline to engage passionately on the subject of what one television network did with one show, but many will simply on the grounds of tribal grievance. I have already seen plenty of “I’m not defending her, but….” Egads. How much proof does Barr have to provide that she’s far beyond the bounds of decency before people shun her? The new political correctness is different in many ways, but like the old, demands that you substitute the judgement of others for your own.]      

“Chris: Your Monday assessment of the ‘new political correctness’ in the light of Roseanne's latest outrageousness is razor sharp and diamond clear.  I was cheering to myself at several points in the analysis. ‘If you are fool enough to allow strangers to dictate your likes or dislikes in music, movies, books and television there’s not much we can tell you...’ Amen.” – Jack Lavelle, Phoenix

[Ed. note: We quote George Orwell here quite often and I think the occasion demands it again: “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” Thinking for oneself is HARD. Surrendering your will to the demands of the mob is easy. And now that mobs are easy to form and work in the close quarters of social media it’s getting harder to retain your own judgement, ethics and worldview. But it is certainly worth the fight!] 

“Stick shifts, be they three on a tree or four on the floor should stay, at least until ‘they’ can figure out how to automate a gas fill. Every day, millions fill their tanks the same way their grands and greats did over a century ago! Now that is something to complain about. It’s fun to drive with a clutch (look it up). Puttin’ on gas? Not so much.” – Bob Wood, Bismarck, N.D.

[Ed. note: You should know, Mr. Wood, that Brianna intervened on your behalf to include this reaction to Tuesday’s Time Out about the enduring popularity of manual transmission. Your doggerel delighted her.]  

Share your color commentary:
 Email us at 
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.


NY Post: “Sing us a song, Long Island Rail Road riders! In a very un-New York like show of unity on a commuter train, an entire LIRR car busted out singing ‘Piano Man,’ video posted to Twitter shows. The 10-second clip shows nearly everyone on the car singing in unison while smiling and swaying. The song is written by Long Island native son Billy Joel, who is also known for ‘New York State of Mind.’ Pro-tennis playerJules Elbaba said she was riding on the Huntington-bound train at about ‘9 o’clock on a Saturday’ when she struck up a conversation with a guy in a Billy Joel tribute band. She asked him to sing a few bars and then joined in. Seconds later, the whole car was belting it out. ‘Before I knew it, the whole car was singing,’ said the 23-year-old from Oyster Bay. Elbaba posted the video on Twitter with an uplifting caption, wishing that LIRR riders could always get along so well.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.