> It would be nice to see a total abolition of parties
Abolishing the formal definition of parties wouldnt help, because like-minded people would still team up and form de facto parties, so nothing substantial would change.
> People should vote for other people, not for parties.
In Germany, you have both. There are two votes, the first one is for people, the "direct candidates". The second is for the whole party, which again is represented by a list of candidates determined by in-party elections.
In the US, party affiliation is listed on ballots. Removing that affiliation might start subconsciously breaking people off from thinking every member of the DNC and RNC are running on some unchanging monolith platform of the party.
In a certain fashion, yes. Parties have helped to bring ideas and concepts to life. In a world where it is hard for people to communicate easily, often and in real time, they are probably the best tool available. A big problem of parties is that you always have to buy the whole package. What if you favor a rather conservative standpoint in one area but a more progressive one in another. There is no way you can have that. This is one issue addressed by the "Liquid Democracy" concept for example.
More parties can certainly make for more extreme politics. If you look at parliamentary countries with low thresholds, you see politics like Israel's. You have three major parties (Labor, Kadima, and Likud), and a host of minor parties with a few seats. In order to form a government, one of the major parties will often have to ally with an extremist minority party much further to the left or right. In order to secure that coalition, the major party will have to make policy/portfolio concessions to the extremists.
More parties can mean more extremes in parliament, and more coalitions that depends on making concessions to extremists.
It may be more democratic in theory, but in practice it does not push politics toward the center, but instead enables the extremist fringe.
Actually, people should vote on ideas, not people. Which is
why I support more flexible concepts of decision making, such
as the Liquid Democracy model the German PP uses internally.
We're ultimately going to converge against a leaderless system,
without parties, politicians and all that other nonsense. Technology
will eventually enable functioning anarchy, and we're just seeing
the start of it.
Actually, people should vote on ideas, not people.
Problem there is that there is no such thing as a person who holds every single one of your views. By voting for the guy who, say, believes the internet should be hands off, you could also be voting for a guy who believes something like abortion is eeeeeevil, or that fiat money is bad, or that minorities should be marginalized, what have you.
Hence the voting for people, since you have to choose which of the pluses and minuses are more important to you.
But that is exactly my point. Choosing a single representative for all your
believes, be it a person or party, is stupid, for the reasons you presented.
That's why we should vote on ideas. Technology can and will enable this, and we should
try to embrace that. Sure, the powers that be might not like being made
obsolete through technological advancements, so we've got more than
just a few battles ahead of us, but I'm positive we can pull through. You
ultimately can't fight progress, and that's a good thing.
: Best current example: The copyright industry and their increasingly
desperate death throes.
Some elections in the U.S. are nonpartisan, meaning that no parties are recognized by the electoral officials, or listed on the ballot. For example, the Nebraska state legislature is nonpartisan, and so are a number of cities' mayors, Houston being the largest.
That doesn't keep people from de-facto running as party representatives, though. They can't put their party affiliation on the ballot, but they can say in their speeches which of the national parties they prefer, and parties can issue press releases explaining which of the candidates they support. So it tends towards a two-party, first-past-the-post situation.
It's first past the post voting that discourages niche candidates / affiliations. When you only have a single non-transferable vote, it's wasted if you place it on a niche candidate that doesn't get enough votes. So you're more likely to cast your vote for one of the top two or three mainstream positions - or rather, what you think is mainstream, what you think everyone else is thinking, influenced by visibility from media spending etc.
If you have a proportional system, where you can more truly state your preferences yet have your vote count even if your first preference doesn't succeed, you end up with more diversity. Downsides include greater tendency for coalition governments and potentially less clear mandates for decisive governments.