Thursday, February 28, 2008

time for a 3rd party in this year's presidential run?

Doug Schoen in U.S. News and World Report on the probability of a (reasonable) successful third party run for President this time...

When it comes to major national issues such as slavery, Prohibition, the federal deficit, and civil rights, as well as energy policy and the environment, third parties have long served as an important outlet for moving political debates forward. As we've repeatedly seen in American history, even when a third-party candidate loses, sometimes his ideas win....

We tend to think of elections as zero-sum games—and usually for good reason. But when it comes to a third-party candidate, a genuine opportunity exists for an independent to dictate the issues that come to the fore, not only on the campaign trail but also after the election is over and governing begins.

The American people have become convinced that government in its current form is simply not working....We are presented with partisan rhetoric and attack politics instead. And the American people are yearning for, even demanding, an end to the divisiveness and the development of policies that produce real results, not just sound bites.

There is a segment of the electorate that I have called the Restless and Anxious Moderates, or the rams, who I believe will decide the election. They include most of the independents and a fair number of Democrats and Republicans as well. These voters are practical and nonideological and unabashedly results-oriented. They eschew partisanship and want the parties to come together to confront the difficult challenges America is facing. Indeed, it is my argument that the rams could become the Restless and Anxious Majority if a credible third-party candidate emerges. The RAMs make up roughly 35 to 40 percent of the American electorate. RAMs are ordinary, average Americans. They go online, they watch the news, and they are interested, but they are not the political activists of the blogosphere or the evangelical right. They are centrist, middle-aged, middle-class, practical people who believe in consensus solutions to problems. When they look at politics in Washington, they are aghast....

History has shown repeatedly that third-party movements have their greatest influence when three basic conditions are met. First, when voters are dissatisfied with the state of the country. Second, when the two major political parties are unpopular and when the electorate is polarized. Third, when voters are experiencing the stress and dislocation of economic uncertainty. Make no mistake: We have arrived at a historic moment.

The greatest challenge facing a third-party candidate is creating a strategy that will lead to victory in November. It will depend initially on the candidate's ability to mobilize millions of Americans on his or her behalf. But there are now methods and tools to channel that discontent that did not exist in prior elections. The Internet has created a more level playing field when it comes to grass-roots organizing and fundraising....

Schoen goes on to point to potential candidates: Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Jack Welch, Tom Brokaw, and Lou Dobbs. I can only imagine Bloomberg and Dobbs in general-- and given McCain's presence, this time I can only imagine Dobbs.


At February 29, 2008 at 2:03 PM , Blogger Keith said...

Democracy is a funny thing. You vote for a candidate (and party) that most closely represents your views, and then others call for them to put aside those very issues for the sake of working in a bi-partisan manner. The problem with this is, when the 2 major parties agree to something, BOTH constituents are left disappointed. The biggest problem with Republicans is that they quit being conservative. When they got in power they became more like the Democrats. The results were bigger government, and more pork-barrel projects. If the Republicans wish to win again, they need to return to conservative roots and then back it up.
My fear of a nationwide third party is that it would tend to pluck followers from one party more then the other. This would leave the other party in power. In the case of Republicans, they fear libertarian candidates (yes, I support you!), and the democrats fear someone like Nader. Perhaps the answer isn't three parties, but four with a run-off election among the two highest vote getters if no majority is reached.

At February 29, 2008 at 2:43 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

The only counterexample is a candidate (or a party) who appeals to elements that would typically support Dems and those who support Reps.

We saw this with Perot's broad appeal. And I think my Congressional campaign offers the same op-- with things that make me attractive to both sides.


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