The Third Party Fantasy – NYTimes.com

16 May

TnT’s not a Douthat fan, but he has some interesting remarks about the failure of Americans Elect to gain traction:

Successful third parties need dynamic, high profile leaders, and ideally deep-pocketed ones as well. But instead of a Bloomberg, the Americans Elect ballot had ex-Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer; instead of a Bayh or a Snowe, they had Laurence Kotlikoff, an economist at Boston University. Kotlikoff has impressive policy proposals and Roemer has an entertaining Twitter feed, but neither is exactly the potential general election spoiler who could keep David Axelrod awake at night.

But the fault also lay with the project’s essential theory of what kind of third party contender disillusioned voters are pining to elect. From the (inarguable) premise that the public is wearied by the failures of the political and economic establishment, it leaped to the (preposterous) conclusion that the country is crying out for a presidential candidate who mostly represents the interests and values of exactly that same establishment.

Like the afore mentioned New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a wealthy  centrist technocrat. To the contrary

 the most successful third party surges, from the William Jennings Bryan-era Populists down to Ross Perot’s 19 percent, usually arise from precisely the opposite impulse – a “plague on both your houses” populism that highlights issues and anxieties that the leaders of the two major parties have decided to ignore.

Such a populism has flowered over the last two years, but it’s mostly appeared on the right and left-wing fringes of the two parties rather than in the space between them — in the Tea Party’s backlash against bailouts and spending and in the Occupy Wall Street revolt against Wall Street’s political influence.

It’s possible to imagine a gifted political figure emerging to fuse elements from the Tea Party and O.W.S. critiques into a plausible third party challenge to politics as usual. But such a candidate would look nothing like Michael Bloomberg or any other high-minded Davos/Brookings type of technocrat. Instead, he or she would be more disreputable, more eccentric, and probably more demagogic as well. Such a candidacy (Pat Buchanan meets Ralph Nader) wouldn’t have to actually govern the country; instead, its purpose would be to jolt the two parties out of their usual habits and arguments and to persuade one or both of them to adopt some of its ideas.

via The Third Party Fantasy – NYTimes.com.

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One Response to “The Third Party Fantasy – NYTimes.com”

  1. Charlie Keil May 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    It’s true that Americans Elect or any third (and/or fourth) party effort to make a difference in the 2012 election will have to: 1) wake up AND engage some of the over 100 million eligible Americans who no longer vote; 2) deserve and win the loyalty of anti-imperialist, anti-debt, Ron Paul youth; 3) convince independents and skeptical activists in teaparty and occupy that uniting just long enough to shift electoral politics is the only peaceful path to decentralized local transitions.

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