At first, Jim VandeHei's third-party fantasy may seem like just another dull #NoLabels manifesto. But don't be fooled: Something strange is moving under the skin of the Politico co-founder's article in The Wall Street Journal today. Before the essay's over, that strangeness will break through to the surface—the op-ed equivalent of the chestbursting scene in Alien.
The piece starts out quietly enough, with a patronizing introduction meant to establish the author's bona fides for explaining what Americans really want. While he has "spent the past two decades in the Washington, D.C., bubble," you see, VandeHei has "also spent a lot of time in my hometown of Oshkosh, Wis., and my adopted hometown of Lincoln, Maine, two blue-collar towns in the heart of Normal America." Several banalities follow. The establishment needs "disruption," we're told, but not Donald Trump's vulgarity or Bernie Sanders' socialism. The ideal third-party candidate "has to come from outside the political system." That candidate should "be authentic." You've heard all this before.
Then things start getting weird:
Exploit the fear factor. The candidate should be from the military or immediately announce someone with modern-warfare expertise or experience as running mate. People are scared. Terrorism is today's World War and Americans want a theory for dealing with it. President Obama has established an intriguing precedent of using drone technology and intelligence to assassinate terrorists before they strike. A third-party candidate could build on death-by-drones by outlining the type of modern weapons, troops and war powers needed to keep America safe. And make plain when he or she will use said power. Do it with very muscular language—there is no market for nuance in the terror debate.
So…the candidate must talk plainly about exactly how he will kill people? I suppose that's preferable to doing it behind closed doors, but I'm not sure voters are demandi—
Social media allows us to tweet our every thought, snap our every mood and Facebook our every fantasy, but it hasn't done much to create shared purpose. We have breathtaking technology to find a ride or a date with the swipe of a screen. Those same innovators could help create a "National App" to match every kid who needs a mentor with a mentor, every person who wants to volunteer with someone or some group in need; every veteran with people and companies who want to reward his or her service with thanks, help or a job.
A "National App"? WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? We already have a great online service that can connect people with volunteer groups or help veterans find a job. It's called "Google." I don't think this op-ed could get any more bizar—
Right now, millions of young people are turned on by a 74-old-year socialist scolding Wall Street; millions of others by a reality-TV star with a 1950s view of women. Why not recruit Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg to head a third-party movement?
Hang on. Let me try to put all this together. YOU THINK VOTERS ARE YEARNING FOR MARK ZUCKERBERG TO TELL THEM HOW HE'D KILL TERRORISTS. Because you spend time in Oshkosh and Lincoln, where hard-working Norman Rockwell Americans sit around the general store demanding a National App. Tell me: What do you call this act?
I will even throw out a possible name for the movement: The Innovation Party.
Let this be a cautionary tale. Never eat the brown acid at a TED Talk.