by Thomas Lindaman
With the recent Democrat victories in Election 2006, political analysts and commentators are talking about what the Democrats did right or what the Republicans did wrong. Along with that, they're trying to predict what the new Congress will do or not do.
Lost amid this chatter is a real threat to the two-party approach to American politics. I'm not talking about terrorism, factionalism, or the possibility of seeing Ted Kennedy running a Senate committee dealing with anything more complex than what wine goes with pancakes. (Word is Kennedy's position is that no wine goes with pancakes, but scotch goes with everything.) I'm referring to the possibility of a third party arising from the ashes of this election.
I know what you're saying. I know because I have your computer rooms bugged. Anyway, what you're saying is, "You're just saying that because you're a former Libertarian and want a third party to rise to prominence when we know they won't." You're mostly right, but right now is as good a time for a third party to rise as any since we saw Ross Perot and the Reform Party appear on our radar in 1992.
First, I think many commentators are missing the real message coming out of Election 2006. It wasn't an anti-Bush or anti-Republican sentiment by any stretch of the imagination. If it were, the Democrats wouldn't be holding onto such a slim margin in both houses of Congress and there would be a lot more Republicans submitting resumes on Monster.com.
In reality, what the voters were saying is that they want representatives who actually listen to them and weren't abusing power for personal means. The Democrats did a better job in making that argument than the Republicans did, especially when the former worked hard to connect all Republicans to Bush, even if the only thing they did was wave at him across Pennsylvania Avenue. But that in and of itself isn't an indication that voters prefer Democrat ideas to Republican ideas. After all, 8 out of 9 states voted for a gay marriage ban, which is not something Democrats support.
Also, we cannot overlook the fact that Congress's approval ratings are lower than a snake's codpiece. Or a cod's snakepiece for that matter. That tells me the public isn't convinced either party is worth much when it comes to ruling with integrity. Well, gee, maybe it has something to do with the fact that they're politicians! When you have an electorate that disgusted with politicians, it's fertile ground for third parties to make something happen.
Then, there's the Lieberman Factor. No, Joe's not going to do a Fox News show. It's how I describe what Connecticut voters saw firsthand. After Lieberman was ousted from the Democratic nomination for Senate by Ned "Property of George Soros" Lamont, he started a third party. Although Republicans disagreed with much of what Lieberman stands for, they put those differences aside because they supported Lieberman's position on the war on terrorism. There were even some Democrats who broke with their party to vote for Lieberman, after Democrats branded him as a traitor to the party. What that tells me is that there are Democrats and Republicans willing to look outside of their parties and vote for candidates they think will get the job done. That signals trouble for the Donkey and the Elephant.
And it's not just Lieberman's election that shows where the people's heads are at. Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, ran for the U. S. Senate as an Independent to replace Jim Jeffords…and he won. What does it tell you when a socialist can win an election over two established parties? It tells me two things: 1) the people aren't tied down by party loyalty, and 2) whatever it is that Vermont adds to the country, I don't need it that badly if they're electing socialists to the Senate.
Now comes the hard part: getting a third party to jump into the mix. The Reform Party is pretty much dead. The Libertarians are on the verge of becoming irrelevant because they've never really caught fire with the public because people think they're kooks. The U. S. Constitution Party has the same problem as the Libertarian, except most people don't know who they are. Put simply, there is a credibility issue that any third party has to address to be viable.
Having said that, I do believe a third party can be viable in the 2008 elections if it can get its act together now and start making themselves known. A party that is socially moderate to liberal and fiscally conservative would draw the moderate to conservative Democrats and moderate to liberal Republicans away from their respective parties and can take a firm command of the middle ground. The political environment right now is as good as it was in 1992 for the Reform Party, so it's entirely possible that lightning could strike twice. But I do have to make one tiny demand of any party that wants to stake their claim to the middle ground.
For the love of God, please stay away from crazy Texas millionaires with a penchant for charts, okay?
Thomas Lindaman is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.