Several trends were apparent in the results of the EU parliamentary elections that took place from last Thursday through Sunday across 28 European countries. Right-wing populists surged, though not quite as much as some had predicted. Support for the established center-left and center-right continued to sag. Green parties did very well and appear to be surpassing social-democratic parties on the left.
These and many other conclusions became clear as soon as the votes were counted because the parliamentary systems that prevail in Europe encourage the proliferation of parties, with public opinion reflected in the relative strength and weakness of each. In countries like the United States, where the electoral system strongly favors the creation and perpetuation of just two competitive parties at the national level, things look very different. In such systems, strong differences in opinion get subsumed into the parties, with each of them containing multiple jostling groups and agendas, and the tensions and clashes among them usually taking place largely out of sight, behind the scenes.
But what if such differences were forced into the open in the way they are in multi-party systems? How would American politics look if the major factions that make up the Republican and Democratic parties became independent parties? And what do we learn about character of the tensions within the existing parties by envisioning them as conglomerations of restive factions?