One party, two factions?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 March, 2004, 12:00am

This is a mischievous suggestion, with China in mind.

When I was a boy in America in the 1950s, the state of Louisiana had a peculiar political system - a de facto one-party state ruled by the Democrats.

Ever since the Civil War, the Republican Party had been an anathema, a situation that did not change until Richard Nixon's southern strategy of the late 1960s.

Although no Republican could be elected to anything in the state, Louisiana still had a type of two-party system. The Democrats were divided between the followers of Huey and Russell Long (populist/socialists) and their bitter opponents (capitalist/conservatives).

There were, in fact, more real differences of opinion between the Long and Anti-Long Democrats in Louisiana than between the Republicans and Democrats in, say, New York. Does this sound familiar? Furthermore, the one-party, two-factions system offered one great advantage.

Both factions knew that no matter who won an election, nobody was going to go to jail. Whatever their differences, Democrats did not arrest fellow Democrats. That would only give aid and comfort to their blood enemy, the national Republican Party. And so a rough but workable version of multi-party democracy flourished in Louisiana.

Is there a moral here for Hong Kong and China? Perhaps Hong Kong democrats should be urging their best and brightest youngsters to join the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.