Against the Two-Party Wrecking Crew

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Democrats and Republicans appear to be growing more and more concerned about the possibility of a third party or Independent insurgency this year. They’re going on the attack. On any given day, you can find an angry partisan screed berating any and all Americans who might consider alternatives to the major party machines for our political heresy. Michael Goodwin, a contributor to Fox News and columnist for the New York Post, recently compared third party supporters to swarms of insects. “They’re political locusts, noisy and bothersome as they emerge like clockwork from their hidey holes. We’re talking “third partiers,”” he writes.

It makes one wonder. If “third partiers” are “locusts” what does that make two-partiers such as Mr. Goodwin? Whether they are lice, or gnats or frogs or pestilence itself, the reader can decide. Whatever the case may be in that regard, we should be so lucky to have droves of independently-minded Americans flocking to the polls in support of alternatives to the legacy parties. Unfortunately, it is the Republican-Democrat two-party system, and the partisans of the failed status quo, that are the true plague of our nation’s politics.

Indeed, Americans already shun them like the plague. Approval of the Republican-Democrat Congress barely reaches into the double digits. It is likely that an outright majority of Americans will refuse to identify themselves with either of the major parties at some point in the near future. A large plurality already do. A vast majority consistently state that they are open to third party alternatives in public opinion surveys. A Washington Post/ABC News poll from January found that 68% of those polled said they would at least consider voting for a third party candidate for president in 2012, including 22% who said they would definitely vote for a third party candidate who represented their views.

Of course, the conventional wisdom is that a third party or Independent candidate “can’t win,” as the partisans of the major parties never tire of telling us. However, to significantly alter the character of our politics, they don’t have to. To break through the mainstream political filter would itself be a major victory for any alternative candidate. It would change the tenor of the national debate virtually overnight and open up avenues of political dialogue that have been closed down by the myopic partisans of the two-party state.

This possibility appears to be gaining appeal among beltway insiders who have come out in support of the upstart political organization Americans Elect. In Roll Call, Morton Kondracke writes:

“All third-party candidates in the past have failed to win, of course, but some have moved — or scared — the major parties into addressing issues they were otherwise avoiding. And that’s the great benefit that a credible AE candidate could perform in 2012. This year, it’s not one issue that needs addressing — it’s a whole series of problems that Republicans and Democrats can’t or won’t solve because they are so ideologically divided.”

Thomas Friedman writes at the New York Times:

“the national debate would benefit from the entrance of a substantial independent candidate — like the straight-talking, socially moderate and fiscally conservative Bloomberg — who could challenge, and maybe even improve, both major-party presidential candidates by speaking honestly about what is needed to restore the foundations of America’s global leadership before we implode.”

Matt Miller writes at the Washington Post:

“American presidential campaigns are now a dueling series of pseudo-events, misleading arguments and symbols managed by candidates in order to gain power by attracting the support of 50 percent-plus-one of those citizens who bother to vote. . . . The right kind of independent candidacy presents an enormous opportunity to improve the quality of public opinion — and thus the prospect for honestly meeting our challenges thereafter. But this will happen only if the right kind of candidate seizes the chance.”

It is time to take control of the national dialogue from the hands of the two-party wrecking crew. Haven’t they done enough damage already?