Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wanted: a third party?

By Don Klein

I was never an advocate of a third party in the United States. I remember the hopeless attempts of Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrats and Henry Wallace’s Progressive parties during the Harry Truman days. I also recall vividly the failed attempt of Ross Perot’s third party just two decades ago. None were very appealing, but all resulted in a Democrat winning the presidency.

I am beginning to wonder if it is time for another third party endeavor given the dysfunction we labor under in today’s Washington. If nutty Perot could corral about 20 percent of the vote in the last decade of the 20th Century would it be possible for a viable third party candidate to do much better today? I would guess maybe 30 percent of the vote or more – or is that just wishful thinking?

Today’s political affiliations are miserable. The country used to be divided between Republicans and Democrats and the two parties worked together for the benefit of the nation as a whole. Today neither combative party seems to hold more than 30 percent support of the body politic and the largest growing group of voters are in the independent category.

Independents seem to be multiplying like rabbits in heat as disenchanted members of both parties are finding no satisfaction among their political leaders. Grass roots Republicans do not like the fact that their traditional party has been hijacked by a bunch of ne’er do well dilettantes carrying the stubborn banner of the Tea Party.

The Democrats are not happy either. They elected Barack Obama to make changes in the disastrous policies born during two terms of the Bush presidency and discovered that he was mostly talk and not a very effective doer. He compromised away much of the good he managed to accomplish in health reform and new financial regulations and to the dismay of his adherents, extended too much of the bad from the previous administration.

The latest disheartening effect was his capitulation to the GOP on raising  the debt ceiling almost entirely under their terms. “We got 98 percent of what we wanted,” said a victorious Speaker of the House John Boehner after the debacle. Obama’s strategy of harmony does not work in Washington and he seems to be the only Democrat who doesn’t recognize that brutal fact.

If a third party can draw at least 30 percent of the vote in 2012 it could possibly win the White House. If not, it would certainly scare the pants off the other two parties that the public is ready to take drastic steps if they don’t start considering the needs of ordinary people over the greed of the wealthy.

At present Washington is inhabited by G-men – and I don’t mean agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When I say G-Men I mean the “greedy” Republicans personified by Boehner and Eric Cantor and the “gutless” Democrats embodied by Obama and Harry Reid.

The result of this dichotomy of power is that the little guys and gals of the country are not being served. Or to put it succinctly, they are being screwed. The wealthy are being cared for, so are the poor, but the middle class is being hung out to dry by a callous Congress and a gun shy president. Many Americans have had it. Democrats no longer have any faith in Obama’s ability to lead and many others have given up on the GOP as well.

A third party could be the answer. The question arises though, who will lead this new crusade to take back the country from such absurd political wannabies as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry or the punchless Democrats. My personal favorites are Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. But neither of them would abandon the Democrats.

Perhaps an independent like New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg could be convinced to make the run. Historically he has been a Republican and a Democrat during different points in his career. He is a smart man and could prove to be a national asset.

He has a number of serious shortcomings, though. Besides being short in stature and having a squeaky voice (important elements in modern day television candidacies)
he is a New Yorker, which will not go well in parts of the heartland, and he is Jewish, which could be a negative factor in a country that has never  nominated a non-Christian for president.

There must be others that are not well known and that, too, can be a problem. One thing is certain, however, if there is to be a third party challenge next year there is no time to loose. There must be action soon, very soon. Actually a third party is likely a dead issue for the next election, but the country cannot continue along current lines.

I’d hate to experience the troubles the Brits are having these days with a very unhappy constituency. I fear such a violent outbreak could occur here if the government doesn’t act for the people soon. We cannot continue to giveaway the country to the wealthy. We cannot continue as a corporatocracy.

We fought fascism and won. Later we fought communism and won. Now we have to fight corporate gluttony or the US goes down the drain. No one in Washington is willing to take on that battle today, so maybe a new force in the form of a third party will be the answer.