The British parliamentary elections brought a lot of attention in the past few weeks due to the fact that, for the first time, the candidates for Prime Minister debated, an idea adopted from the American Presidential elections belatedly, but now there will be no chance to back off from such debates in the future!
It was also noted that the Liberal Democrats, the small third party represented in the House of Commons, was perceived as running a competitive race, and its candidate for Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, came across as charismatic and appealing in a way not typical for British politics. Of course, in reality, the hype for the Liberal Democrats was much greater than the result, as there was disappointment in the actual performance in relation to seats gained.
Also, the Conservative party, angling to regain control of government for the first time in thirteen years, ran a campaign promoting a more centrist view, and showing interest and concern for social reforms that could appeal to middle class voters. David Cameron, its candidate for Prime Minister, ran a masterful race of moderate centrist conservatism, and although the Conservative Party did not gain a majority of the House of Commons, it came out as the number one party in seats, and will be working to gain support of enough Liberal Democrats to form a government. The whole idea of a third party having a crucial role in formation of what has basically been a two party system forever is a stunning development!
The lessons for America is that even with all of the expectations that may exist for a third party, it will, invariably, disappoint in actual result, as shown in Great Britain today and in America many times in the past!
The closest situation in America that may remind one of the pivotal role, despite disappointment in seats gained in Parliament, of the Liberal Democrats in Britain would be the all time greatest and most influential third party in American history, the Bull Moose Progressives of 1912, who ran Theodore Roosevelt for President, ended up second in popular and electoral votes, won the most states (6) ever of a third party, and threw the election to Woodrow Wilson, the second lowest percentage winner of the Presidency in American history! Otherwise, third parties have been great disappointments, although at times affecting election results in minor, rather than major, ways!
The lesson for the Republican party is that the Conservatives only ended up first because of their moderation and centrism, but the indications are that the GOP will NOT learn from the British example, and will continue to veer to the far right, and likely lose most of the American people in the process! Regaining of political power, historically, has been by the moderate, centrist route!
The Conservatives in Britain came to the realization that they could not win by copying Margaret Thatcher! The Republicans need to realize that they cannot win by copying Ronald Reagan! The past is the past, and to win, they must look to reality of where most people are when they vote–the moderate center!