Friday, June 02, 2006


Time for a (Third) Party?

Peggy Noonan says America may be ready for a third party.

Mark Tapscott observes how fast the Republican Party rose to ascendancy between 1854 and Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860, and suggests that, with the Internet and various electronic means of community building, today’s third party could grow even more quickly.

John Podhoretz at The Corner says, “beware the Siren Song” of a third party (at least as it applies to potential opponents of Hillary Clinton for the Presidency in 2008).

As a constituent who must suffer through the moderate and center leaning portrayal currently consuming New York’s Junior Senator, I certainly would rue this consequence expanded to punish all Americans in such dangerous times.

A President-elect Hillary Rodham with suitable “Warface” doesn’t make that possibility any more appealing. Contrary to the feverish imaginings of the anti-war left, war against terror – even terror as executed so incapably by Saddam Hussein – is not an “elective war,” unnecessary. Nor did we exist in a state of “non-war” with Saddam for the 12 years of UN sanctions and No Fly Zones.

My guess? Hillary starts a “little war” like Grenada, Panama, or even Bosnia (think Darfur?) in her first term, to burnish her bullish-on-national-security credentials. Bet the Democrats will find a way to contrast her actions with Bush’s pre-emptive, unilateral, “rush to war” in Iraq, and utter no synonyms for elective war. But I digress.

Podhoretz states that “The notion of a vital and successful third party is a pipe dream.”

I suppose he’s right about what a third party vote in ’08 for President would mean:

If people cannot stomach voting Republican and need to cast a protest vote, that is their right. But nobody should be under any illusions about what it means. It means Democratic rule.

I fear he’s right. And I for one don’t want to take the chance that we will end up with a Commander in Chief that thinks National Security the stuff of sound-bites and posturing. God knows we had enough of that with the first President Clinton.

Strange it would be indeed if Hillary would benefit from the same good fortune of a significant third party candidate, allowing her to assume the Presidency with a mere plurality (vice majority) of votes, as did her husband.

So I suggest a modest alternative, something on the order of an alternate approach for an alternative, politically.

The major source of disaffection on both sides is described, correctly in my view, as the complete disconnect of political elites from the citizenry. This reflects itself in runaway government spending, an absolute tone-deafness about immigration enforcement, and what continues to be an institutionalized, lobbyist-enforced corruption.

Why does the Republican Party in Congress so resemble the Democrats now in Opposition, or their departed stalwarts from their days in the Majority? They grew just as dependent on political contribution and cronyism as their predecessors (if they didn’t start out on that path intentionally). They were beguiled and then corrupted by entrenched incumbency.

So let that be the basis of the third party. If who sits atop the Executive is too important, work to break up and shatter the two party apparatus in the House or Senate. Use public outrage over immigration and pork barrel spending – even when it’s directed locally – fuel some upsets in Congress.

Look at what 14 Senators could do to change the discussion and sidelined the so called “nuclear option” of ending filibusters on Judicial appointments. How many third party Senators would we need? How much leverage in the House before neither party is guaranteed a majority of votes?

It has to start somewhere. Too many of us have learned that avoiding the threat of a third party is only a guarantee that two out-of-touch parties will retain power. And continue to elevate their personal gain, priorities, and privilege above the interests of the American public.

Would it hold? Would it grow or prosper? I don’t know that we need it to.

A couple of terms with a vibrant third party -- acting as a wedge between unresponsive main party candidates – might be able to bring our extra-legal immigration policy under control and eliminate years worth of pork barrel spending.

And maybe, just maybe, the hot breath of a surging third party might help bring the Elephant and the Donkey to their senses.

A Third PartyOther comments at Hot Air, Blue Crab Boulevard, and Right Wing News.

UPDATE: Joe Katzman at Winds of Change reacted to Noonan's piece much as I did. Per Joe, Noonan "has serious criticisms for both parties, and my sense is that she's more in tune with the sense on the ground than the folks in Washington are."

I think he's right.

I also have been responding in comments to a post at No Left Turns. I objected to poster Julie Ponzi's rather illogical reasoning against Noonan's views.

I posted this commentary first:
Julie, Your arguments would be unpursuasive if they were fully articulated -- which they aren’t here, unfortunately. Peggy’s point was something altogether different than whether "the election of more Democrats is a solution?" That’s precisely the point.

As the Republican party strays farther and farther from what have been its historic roots and positions, those who hold those positions most dear should ask themselves if this party should retain their allegiance. That absolutely does not mean turning to Democrats, whose positions are worse. I wouldn’t argue for a Third Party for Presidential elections, but I see lots of advantages for discussing other options for Congressional elections.

Your argument that there are a Constitutional basis for the current two party system is illogical as you present it and contradicted by history. (You say "constitutional," and in the next breath call it "extra-constitutional. History records many periods with multiple extant political parties, and the two today have not existed always.) Multiple parties can just as easily focus "our minds on the issues of that Constitution." Yes, some fringe parties seem to advocate an abolition of or change to constitution or government forms, but that doesn’t logically mean a third party will ALWAYS (or even often) advocate such change.
In response, Julie rebutted with:
The multiple parties that have existed in the past have always eventually settled down into two, more or less, competing interpretations of the Constitution. When a political party dies, their competing party is the one that takes over unless and until a new one emerges. It is easier to fix our party than to start a new one and the consequences for the country are less dire. For my part, (though both would inestimably bad things) I would rather lose the White House in ’08 than lose Congress in ’06. Third party threats will help only to achieve both of these things. We have not yet reached Whigdom and besides, we don’t have a ridiculous name like "Whig" either.
Which prompted me to respond (again):
Having weighed in here, I want to say I remain unpursuaded by Juli’s rebuttal.

"The multiple parties that have existed in the past have always eventually settled down into two, more or less, competing interpretations of the Constitution."

I would argue that the differences between Dems and GOP have almost nothing to do with the Constitution (outside of occasional, insincere histrionics). I still do not buy in to your thesis, nor do I see evidence for it. Social policy, National Security, lots of divides, Constitutional I don’t see...

For my part, (though both would inestimably bad things) I would rather lose the White House in ’08 than lose Congress in ’06.

I take the exact opposite view. The President is the Commander and Chief, and controls our military in GWOT. Thus critical to keep in serious hands. On the other hand, I would argue that traditional Republican positions were more effectively advanced with a divided Congress and/or divide between Executive and Congress, party wise. [NOTE: I'm thinking Welfare reform, Contract with America items, Balanced Budget, among other achievements.]

(With perhaps Judicial appointments being borderline, as the gang of 14 avoidance of the "nuclear option" has been part of getting us two conservatives on the court.)

I’m beginning to think divided government gets us more oversight and restraint.
I really am struck by how little I've reflected on these points, or come to this conclusion previously, yet am very swayed in this direction now.

I think that's a warning in itself, for someone who is adamantly against the unseriousness and dangerous partisan advantage taking in the face of grave National Security threats of the Democrats. Up till now, the Republican Party has been my only home. But that doesn't make me happy, or not receptive to other, more locally diverse options. (Forget about the Republican Party in New York, my home state. They might as well be Democrats, and have destroyed their own party in this state.)

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]