Does America Need a....Third Party?

Mark Tapscott at the DC Examiner sees that continual haunting political phantom---a new third party!--appearing dimly in the mist of high polled congressional dissatisfaction. He seems to think that a "building the border fence" party is just what we need, though. An excerpt:

It's taken roughly six months for the Democratic congressional majority elected last November to dissipate the public support that put it in power. The latest Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey finds just 27 percent of those polled approve of the way Congress is doing its work.

......the public has concluded from the smoke and mirrors games being played by the Democrats on earmarks and other ethics reform issues that nothing much has changed since the election. There is thus a growing perception of Washington as a Tweedle-dee/Tweedle-dum kind of place in which the two political parties are merely two sides of the same coin.

This is the single most significant fact about the political landscape - a growing public disgust with both major political parties.....But the more important question then is where does this public disgust lead.....

.....the Tweedle-dee/Tweedle-dum impasse has to be broken as the public's disgust becomes focused on a leader or leaders who offer concrete actions and reforms, like actually building the border fence. Perhaps an insurgent presidential campaign such as former Sen. Fred Thompson appears to be preparing will be sufficient to capture this public focus.

But I doubt that one presidential campaign will be sufficient. The public appears to have concluded both major political parties and their respective leaders in Washington are simply hopelessly out of touch......In other words, the moment may be approaching for an independent, trans-partisan political party, a citizens party if you will, to assume the initiative.

From Dec. 2002, my reason review of a book, The Tyranny of the Two-Party System, by Lisa Jane Disch, calling for "fusion tickets" as a potential way in and up for third parties.

From February of this year, my discussion of the silliness of the "Unity 08" attempt to gin up a "trans-partisan" party.

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  • BTS||

    Huzzah, it's the return the Know-Nothings! I only hope we still get to refer to them by such a descriptive epithet.

  • ||

    That's right, BTS, because the two major parties sure are filled with visionary thinkers and honest hardworking selfless public servants.

    Geez, what a frigging tool you are!

  • thoreau||

    "trans-partisan" party.

    The jokes just write themselves.

  • ||

    Anyone that has ever worked for a third party soon realizes that one of the largest barriers to success is all of the roadblocks put up by the incumbent parties through campaign financing law and ballot access.

  • ||

    1 party sucks, the other party sucks... but put them together on a unity ticket? AWESOME.

  • ||

    This sounds like nothing more than Ross Perot/Reform with new window dressing.

    Multi-party systems tend to work only in parliamentary systems where the governing coalition is assembled after the election rather than before it, as with our omnibus "big tent" parties. And even then, multi-party systems tend to thrive mostly in countries with strong regional, ethnic or sectarian distinctions. Parliamentary countries like the UK, Japan, France and Germany almost always end up defaulting to two main parties surrounded by a host of minor ones.

  • Scooby||

    America needs a second party. After we get that we can worry about the third party.

  • tomWright||

    (yawn) wake me when it happens. After almost 3 decades of offAndOn activism with the LP, I am skeptical of claims that a third party renaisance is looming.

    As marcvs notes above, the structural barriers put in place by the two ruling parties at the beginning of the twentieth century prevent thrid parties from doing what the republicans did in the 1860's and what various populist and socialist parties almost did in the 1900/10/20's.

    Until the structure of the various federal, state and lower legislatures are specifically changed to permit proportional representation of some sort, third parties are essentially soap boxes for the disenfranchised to gain some sort of attention outside of the sound-proofed halls of the established power brokers.

    In other words, it will be a long time coming.

  • ||

    The two-party system is cemented in place by the partisan primary system. In my state, for example, I have to pick a party in the primary and vote for just members of that party. If I vote for people in different parties in different races because, oh, I don't know, I want to pick the best possible person, not just the best person in a given party, my entire ballot is invalidated. This primary system results in polarization of candidates, with Republicans skewing to the far right and Democrats to the far left as a result of the primary winnowing, while politicians with crossover appeal, such as libertarians, get squeezed out before the general election unless they doom themselves to low single digit votes by running as, say, a Libertarian Party candidate.

    The best way to build a third party would be open primaries, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party advanced to the general election.

  • ||

    The best way to build a third party would be open primaries, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party advanced to the general election.

    I think almost the exact opposite. One of the principal forces empowering the two party system is the co-opting of the primary system into yet another state election.

    Having open primaries takes the whole process one step further, makes a mockery of the word "primary", and further destroys any chance of a third party's being heard.

    If you want a two-stage election where the top two vote getters face a run-off, then recommend that. Just don't call the first election a primary.

  • ||

    The reason we only have two parties is that the majority of citizens only want two parties.

  • ||

    In my state, for example, I have to pick a party in the primary and vote for just members of that party. If I vote for people in different parties in different races because, oh, I don't know, I want to pick the best possible person, not just the best person in a given party, my entire ballot is invalidated

    That's because the point of the primary is for members of a party to vote on the candidate to represent their party. It wouldn't make sense to allow people who were not Democrats to have a say in who the Democrats nominate (and same for Republicans).

  • ||

    The reason we only have two parties is that the majority of citizens only want two parties.

    I'd go so far as to say that the majority of citizens really only want one party. It's just that all of the other citizens are so sadly wrong-headed about which one that should be.

  • ||

    Polls asking about "Democrats in Congress" or "Democratic Congressional Leadership" score 10-20 points higher than polls asking about "Congress."

    Even now, after the passage of the Iraq appropriations bill without timelines, the Democratic Leadership/Democrats in Congress get close to 50% approval.

  • BTS||

    Oooh, Guy in the back, I suddenly feel like Weigel, what with catching flak from the commenters.

  • ||

    Dan T. says: "That's because the point of the primary is for members of a party to vote on the candidate to represent their party. It wouldn't make sense to allow people who were not Democrats to have a say in who the Democrats nominate (and same for Republicans)."

    To paraphrase you: "The point of the current primary system is to entrench the status quo in place." That's fine if you would only consider voting for Republicans, or only for Democrats, even if given a choice. It sucks if you have a philosophy not skewed to the welfare state / warfare state dichotomy. This system guarantees polarization.

    The point of the primary system I'm proposing is to winnow the field down to just two candidates, while allowing people or candidates who don't fit cleanly into either political party to vote for the person they think is best. This system guarantees a lot more choices for voters.

  • ||

    joe-

    Polls asking about "Democrats in Congress" or "Democratic Congressional Leadership" score 10-20 points higher than polls asking about "Congress."

    Meanwhile, here in the real world, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently polled at only 19% "favorables"...




  • MJ||

    "This primary system results in polarization of candidates, with Republicans skewing to the far right and Democrats to the far left as a result of the primary winnowing, while politicians with crossover appeal, such as libertarians, get squeezed out before the general election unless they doom themselves to low single digit votes by running as, say, a Libertarian Party candidate."

    So you want a system where the major party candidates have even more incentive to appeal to the mushy middle of the electorate? What you are proposing will give us politcians who are even more alike in their rhetoric than they are now.

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