Independent candidates have not traditionally fared well in American politics. Ralph Nader and Ross Perot come to mind when we talk about those who managed to make a dent, and it’s stories like theirs that motivate others to attempt what has thus far been impossible — gaining a foothold in the American political system.
Despite allegations that ours was never intended to be a two-party government, federal endorsement all but guarantees that candidates running under the Democratic or Republican banner will receive funding and therefore attention. But could 2018 mark a turning point?
Divided, Seeking A Center
Americans are at odds with one another. Pundits and news outlets have made that resoundingly clear, but the vocal far right and far left are not as thick in numbers as they would like us to believe.
It is a disparity in the way we visit the polls that is allowing extremist views to occupy the media spotlight. That and the desire to win the battle for ratings.
Relative to the more removed issues we are failing to solve because of partisan politics, uniting behind a new idea shouldn't be that difficult. The Democratic and Republican Parties have changed so much in the last 12 years that there are more than enough informed people who feel alienated to form a viable third party.
Many expect that party to be a centrist party. It's a fragile idea because centrist sentiment alone will not form a party. Centrist ideas, however, might be critical for a return to order in our political conversation.
Congress has been accused of throwing all forms of ethics to the wind, choosing to dive headlong into a game of political football with President Trump's unpredictable policy decisions at the center.
Can A New Party Form from Chaos?
This type of environment, however, still leaves the door open for factions to form. When a single individual’s vote carries the weight that it does in our closely contested Congress, the best way to leverage that power might be to team up with other like-minded individuals.
And it’s not just in Congress where the rumblings of a new order are being felt.
Despite Donald Trump’s awkwardness as commander-in-chief, the concept of someone from “outside the establishment” being president still sits well with many Americans. This has led to suggestions of anyone from Oprah Winfrey to The Rock running for president.
It’s possible that these sorts of celebrity candidates would receive federal backing, but it’s also quite possible they won’t.
Even more classically groomed politicians, like Bernie Sanders, could campaign under a banner different from the party they typically associate with. After the unfair way in which the Democratic Party treated Sanders in 2016, when many believed the Vermont senator stood a better chance against Trump than rival Hillary Clinton, you couldn't blame him for starting his own show.
What is important to realize is that for 2018 to make history, a third party doesn’t have to win, it just has to survive. In American history, there have always been two parties, but they have not been the ones we have today. With the GOP and Democratic parties each showing signs of splintering, what we could see is a glimpse of tomorrow’s dominant political party.
What will it bring for the nation? No one can see the future, but for now it would be a breath of fresh air.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Centrist Project's blog, and has been modified slightly for publication on IVN.