America will have a new choice in 2008, and like so many good things it's coming to you via Sam Waterston. Thanks to him and the organization for which he's a celebrity front man, Unity08, Americans weary of Democratic and Republican rule might soon get the change they crave: joint Republican and Democratic rule.
Unity08 is an Internet-based party that hopes to nominate a presidential ticket split between the major parties, or possibly an independent plus a Republican or Democrat. It can thus provide an electoral vehicle for a couple of sad-sack politicians who couldn't make it through the primaries, i.e., give Americans the intelligent, centrist choice they want, although, by the logic of Unity08's existence, they have never voted for it. Why haven't they? According to the Unity08 worldview, because big money and the primary system drive candidates to shore up radical bases in order to win nominations. (Big money's interest in opposing centrism is left unexplained.)
Unity08's "centrism" apparently involves shifting away from the merely "important" issues that attract the parties' much-demonized "bases," which are ruining everything with their stubborn insistence on voting for candidates they like, and getting to the "crucial" ones: "Global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washington's lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all…."
These issues are presented with no clue as to what government should be doing about them—except the belief that one Democrat and one Republican, free of the taint of Big Money, will come up with something. Unity08 itself, by the way, is set up as a 527 group that can get as much big money as anyone cares to give it. That's OK, its leaders assure us: They really need it and will do only good things with it.
The new party is surfing a rising wave of schoolmarmish disapproval of how we've just ruined our lovely democratic republic with the things we vote for. Newt Gingrich, for example, has launched "American Solutions for Winning the Future," which supports on "a nonpartisan basis…anybody of any background who wants to use science, who wants to use the power of productivity, who wants to revitalize American virtues that work." Time to dust off the 501(c)3 applications, boys, it's a bold new age of can-do, no-nonsense bullshit! Face facts, America: Most politicians, blinded by partisanship and tainted by campaign cash, are afraid to admit that what works works and to use science and productivity for American betterment.
Meanwhile, former Clintonite Lanny Davis has an op-ed piece in The Washington Post arguing that the 2006 elections showed that people are "tired of the partisan gridlock in Washington." (So tired, apparently, that they voted for more of it.) Davis concludes that the major-party candidates must form a pact whereby it's guaranteed that we'll have a president from one party and a vice president from the other. Such a "bipartisan administration," he says, is "essential for enacting new taxes." Bipartisanship, see, goes above the petty interests of particular parties, instead dedicated to the larger good of…expanding the government.
CNN's Bill Schneider has said that Unity08 "intends to stay in business just long enough to bring the two parties back to the middle." But the middle is where they've always been: together, for war, both on drugs and in Iraq (until the overseas one started going obviously wrong); for ruinous expansions of entitlement programs and greater federal control of education (even if they disagree on the details); for subsidizing one kind of energy or another; for PATRIOT Acts; for the whole absurd spending and control machine built up over decades by presidents and Congresses of both parties.
The Unity08 types won't win, but boosters of centrist, bipartisan government are already getting what they want.
Senior Editor Brian Doherty is the author of Radicals for Capitalism (PublicAffairs).