Would you support a third party option? If so, under what conditions? An approach that may make the Independent Center a viable political construct must take four chief steps — as soon as possible — to prepare for the next national election. By Richard Hermann
Two years ago, I wrote a column advocating a strong third party in American politics. Judging by the barrage of criticism that column generated, I guess I was a bit premature. What do you think of the idea now?
Government as we know it — and used to idealize it — no longer works. The debt ceiling fiasco is the capstone for those who think that the splendid structures fashioned by the founding fathers (through compromise) might have outlived their usefulness. The small and inexperienced minds now in power and the many unqualified and self-selected contenders who want to replace them are proof positive — if any is needed — that a system that consistently produces mediocrity cannot fly.
The idea of representative government is to send people to Washington, D.C., to solve national problems. This worthy intent of the founders is of no interest to the current crop of ideological inmates who run the asylum. The only possible way to salvage what this cast of characters has wrought and clean up their mess is to replace as many of them as possible with a powerful, pragmatic, non-ideological group of practical problem-solvers not wedded to narrow-minded foolishness.
The Democrats' “big tent” is dwindling. The party includes a lot of leftist ideologues and a collection of conservative “blue dogs.” Unfortunately, the moderates are in decline. The Republicans have moved so far to the right that its former big tent of years past is now a pup tent.
So how can we build a viable center? This seems possible, given the fact that registered Independents now far outnumber registered Democrats or Republicans. However, in reality it is very difficult. The history of third-party candidates is one of consistent and predictable failure, with only a handful of minor “moral victories” over more than two centuries.
An approach that may make the Independent Center (IC) a viable political construct must take four steps — as soon as possible — to prepare for the next national election:
First, the many aspiring IC organizations that have recently emerged need to get together, unify and coordinate their efforts.
Second, their first order of business needs to be ballot access, the restrictions on which were put in place by the two existing parties to keep everyone else out. The IC needs to move on this asap, because it will take a long time and be challenged at every step by the Dems and GOP.
Third, a great presidential ticket must be identified and announced. This can be very compelling, especially when pitted against an incumbent who does not understand how to use the powers of the presidency and who permits his zealous opponents to set every agenda, and a Republican field that looks like the weakest ever. Since Jean-Luc Picard and Mr. Spock of the Starships Enterprise (NCC-1701 and 1701-D and E) do not exist (J-L was French and Spock was Vulcan, so eligibility would be also be a problem), think Buffett-Gates or something similar.
Fourth, the IC needs to recruit Senate and House candidates with practical ideas for solving our problems, not fixed and ignorant ideological positions. They need to be recruited early, so that fundraising can begin soon.
In 1992, when Ross Perot launched his Reform Party candidacy, he was ahead in the polls when he suddenly dropped out of the race because he was upset that his family was being “unfairly” attacked by Texas Republicans. That reckless act destroyed his chances. When he re-entered the contest a few weeks later, he was a distant third and had to build support all over again. Despite his erratic campaign and a clueless vice-presidential candidate who made Dan Quayle appear as if he had a measurable IQ, Perot still got 19 percent of the vote and probably threw the election to Bill Clinton.
Nevertheless, Perot’s candidacy served notice that what was impossible for 200 years might now be possible. We get the government we deserve, but nobody deserves this.
Email Richard Hermann care of Messenger Post Media at firstname.lastname@example.org.