Look, I understand why Howard Fineman would write a column speculating on "the third force" in politics and possible third party bids by Michael Bloomberg or Al Gore, backed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. They're easy stories to churn out and they get beaucoups web hits. Fineman can't drum up a column like last week's "Obama's staff used the wrong fax machine" scoop because, this week, no one is slipping documents into his hotel room. This week he noticed that Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't do much glad-handling at the GOP debate. Thus:
If I were a GOP strategist – or a Democratic one – I would be worried by Arnold's body language. He and other major independent actors on the political scene – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vice President Al Gore, chief among them – comprise a Third Force that could upset two-party politics as we know it in the 2008 presidential race.
Indeed, although there is no formal alliance, Schwarzenegger, Bloomberg and Gore have formed a mutual admiration society that has huge potential implications for 2008. They have come to share similar visions on the urgency of the global warming and health care crises, and a similar impatience with politics as usual.
Yes, and their visions are… the mainstream views of the Democratic party, which one of them belongs to and another (Bloomberg) used to belong to. More Fineman:
Since the days of George Wallace in the 1960s and John Anderson in 1980, it's gotten easier and easier to get on the ballot as a minor party or independent candidate. At this point, the trail is well-blazed, and an easy one to walk for someone with the will and the wallet of the New York media mogul.
OK, this is completely untrue. It has gotten harder to make the ballot in all 50 states, as some states—Florida, Maine—made it easier and some—Texas—have made it much, much harder. Ask any LP organizer about this, or ask a Green who tried to get Nader on the ballot in 2000 then tried to get him or the official Green candidate on in 2004. This isn't even the silliest thing Fineman writes:
If you hear that Lieberman and Hagel are getting together to hash out a common position on Iraq – not an easy thing to achieve, to be sure – then you know something is up.
That sounded familiar. And sure enough, after a little digging in my archives I found a May 1967 column by Fineman's father, Proinsias Fineman*:
If you hear that Gene McCarthy and George Wallace are getting together to hash out a common position on school busing – not an easy thing to achieve, to be sure – then you know something is up.
Get it? McCarthy and Wallace had nothing in common on this issue, just as Lieberman/Hagel have nothing whatsoever in common on Iraq. All they have in common is that they're mavericks in their own parties. And campaign reporters who are (rightfully) bored by the campaign thus far love mavericks, and they want them to "shake up" the election, so they staple together every maverick politician to create a story that isn't actually happening.
*This is a joke, by the way.