Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A new national party? Or not...

Peggy Noonan writes a provocative column today suggesting the political climate is ripe for an alternative to the Democrat/Republican monopoly that is currently treading water in the nation's capitol. (Geez, I could get a metaphor alert from James Taranto for that lede...)
There is a widespread sense in America -- a conviction, actually -- that we are not safe in the age of terror. That the port, the local power plant, even the local school, are not protected. Is Washington worried about this? Not so you'd notice. They're only worried about seeming unconcerned.

More to the point, people see the Republicans as incapable of managing the monster they've helped create -- this big Homeland Security/Intelligence apparatus that is like some huge buffed guy at the gym who looks strong but can't even put on his T-shirt without help because he's so muscle-bound. As for the Democrats, who co-created Homeland Security, no one -- no one -- thinks they would be more managerially competent. Nor does anyone expect the Democrats to be more visionary as to what needs to be done. The best they can hope is the Democrats competently serve their interest groups and let the benefits trickle down.

Right now the Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem, from the outside, to be an elite colluding against the voter. They're in agreement: immigration should not be controlled but increased, spending will increase, etc.

Are there some dramatic differences? Yes. But both parties act as if they see them not as important questions (gay marriage, for instance) but as wedge issues. Which is, actually, abusive of people on both sides of the question. If it's a serious issue, face it. Don't play with it.

I don't see any potential party, or potential candidate, on the scene right now who can harness the disaffection of growing portions of the electorate. But a new group or entity that could define the problem correctly -- that sees the big divide not as something between the parties but between America's ruling elite and its people -- would be making long strides in putting third party ideas in play in America again.
But coming right back at Noonan is John Podhoretz, writing on NRO's The Corner:
In my book, Can She Be Stopped?, I specifically warn Republicans and conservatives about the temptation to listen to the "siren song of schism" -- the notion that they would be better off casting a protest or third-party vote in 2008. Such a vote, no matter how principled it might seem, would have only one result, and that is to elect Hillary Clinton. It is a default vote for Hillary Clinton. I wrote those words in October 2005, but I did not anticipate the degree to which they might be true only weeks after the publication of my book in 2006. Today, Peggy Noonan offers the first sustained version of the siren song of schism almost to the note.

Even though she suggests those who might join a third party would come from both sides of the aisle, any cold-eyed observer of political trends would have to look at the correlation of forces at the moment and determine that there is no earthly reason why a resurgent Democratic Party, a party that managed to drum up 59 million votes for John Kerry of all people in 2004, would actually lose votes and voters between now and then — especially since it has the ability to blame all the woes of the world on the GOP. The notion of a vital and successful third party is a pipe dream. We've existed with the two parties we have through the Civil War, major depressions in the 1890s and 1930s, world wars, Vietnam and the civil-rights era. They will be with us for a long time still.

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 think Noonan makes some great points, but on the whole I agree with Podhoretz. And I would argue that it applies to 2006 as well.


  • At 6/01/2006 3:03 PM, Blogger Michael Smith said…


    I doubt whether a third party can really take root, but I’ve been thinking that the internet may allow for other “microcampaigns” like my own. (www.smithforpresident.com)

    I imagine dozens, maybe hundreds, of candidates showing up at the nominating conventions, each with a delegate or two. Wouldn’t the chaos be entertaining? Perhaps some real debate on issues.


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