A provocative post from Walter Russell Mead, titled: “Will We See A Successful Third Party in Our Lifetimes?” notes:
Third parties regularly fail in American life, but the hunger for an alternative to the two existing parties points to one of our core beliefs here at VM: the profound transformation reshaping America demands new ideas and new approaches that go well beyond the alternatives being offered by either party today. The Democrats are trapped by their nostalgia for a blue social model that cannot thrive under current conditions, and the GOP seems more eager to bash bad Democratic ideas than to develop serious proposals that would meet the needs of our times.
In the meantime, voter dissatisfaction with both parties grows. Third party or no, the Democrats and Republicans are going to have to significantly adapt to changing economic, cultural, and political realities in the coming years.
Commenting on the article, Glen Reynolds at Instapundit writes:
I’ll be interested to see if we’ll have an anti-corporate, populist strain of primary challengers appear in the Democratic Party, as it has in the Republican Party.
What changes are possible? The Democrat Party has shifted so far left there no longer appears to be anything approaching a moderate left, at least not on the national level. In fabled days of yore, there was considerable overlap with the center in both parties. There truly was such a thing as a conservative democrat willing to put aside party when the good of the country or the very concept of liberty was at issue. The concern of conservative democrats for the sanctity of the Constitution was, perhaps, no less than that of most Republicans. No more. Today’s “conservative” democrat is yesterday’s hard-core democrat, perhaps even leaning a bit left of that.
As the recent fiscal debacle has revealed, Democrats are more than delighted to stand up and advocate violating the Constitution and the law. There is, for many of them, particularly their leaders–think Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid–no longer any such concept as the truth, only whatever lie best serves the desires of a party that is, more and more virtually indistinguishable from socialists, even communists.
I’m going too far? Consider that one of the hallmarks of Communism is the worship of a maximum leader. By its cult of personality shall ye know it. There was Newsweek editor Evan Thomas lauding his god, David Brooks of the New York Times impressed by predictive pants creases, and of course, the NYT photo of Obama superimposed over a cross, just in time for Easter. Still not convinced? Google “Obama halo photos” if you can’t imagine what I’m getting at; there are hundreds.
The Republican party has not-despite the lies of the left and the media (I know, one-in-the-same)–in any significant way, shifted more to the right. On the contrary, it is struggling mightily to remain the status quo party, the part comfortable with big government and all of its perks, while occasionally being forced to make some noises about unsustainable spending and traditional American values by those annoying Tea Party Republicans that actually advocate–and are willing to vote for–smaller government, the Constitution, and American exceptionalism.
Of course, there have always been liberal Republicans. Upon occasion some of them defect to the Democrat party, but the opposite is rare indeed. On any issue, at any time, there are many Republicans willing to vote with the Democrats. The unanimity of Republicans in opposing Obamacare is remarkable largely because of its rarity.
Democrats demand and work, long-term, toward the fundamental transformation of America into a socialist, redistributive utopia, never stopping to truly acknowledge that when everyone is on the dole, no one is working to pay for it, and that Margaret Thatcher was right: the trouble with socialism is you really do run out of other people’s money. That such goals destroy a self-sufficient, vital culture, enlarge and empower government at the expense of individual liberty and destroy and ignore the Constitution are, for them, features, not bugs.
Republicans think short-term, trying to maintain majorities and the status quo, whining about why they can’t stop the fundamental transformation occurring under their elevated noses (“we only control 1/3 of the government, only one co-equal branch, and the branch that holds the purse strings! Waaaaah!”). Speaker of the House John Boehner is the poster child for ineffective, weak-kneed Republicanism. The speakership is a powerful position, but Mr. Boehner treats it as Barack Obama does in representing the United States to foreign governments: with utter fecklessness and resignation.
Mead is incorrect in that while bashing Democrat ideas, Republicans do come up with many ideas for solving the nation’s problems, some of them quite good. However, as a party, Republicans are far more interested in maintaining the status quo and the personal perks–including their continuance in office and being free of the destructive requirements of Obamacare–that go with it than banding together to preserve America.
That’s why when someone like Ted Cruz comes along and lights a fire under Americans, he stands out. He’s a smart, traditional conservative who represents what the party once stood for–in reality, not just rhetoric–but these days can barely be bothered to speak about.
Our system of government makes it difficult for a third party to get any traction. Parlimentary systems work best for this approach. However, there is one possibility that might work, but only when things go beyond potentially desperate, to absolutely desperate.
An independent party that splits the difference between social issues by essentially keeping hands off–there will always be a terrible temptation to meddle here–and focusing on restoring the Constitution, as Mark Levin has recently written, and rational, business and growth-friendly economic policies can attract rational people from both parties. Surely, it will attract more former Republicans than Democrats, because its drawing power will be the power of individual liberty, small government, logic, what works and rationality over emotion and what feels good.
The problem remains that Democrats will generally retain about 35-40% of the vote, and there will always be a sclerotic Republican party that will hang onto perhaps 30% of the vote. The only way a third, Constitution-focused party can win is to manage in the neighborhood of 35-40% of the vote. Attaining and maintaining that goal for several election cycles could tip the balance and render the Republicans forever a splinter party.
Unfortunately, people have short memories, and Democrats have had decades of conditioning the American people to be a nation of taker rather than makers. Should such a movement succeed and restore prosperity and economic and world security based on the Pax Americana, a great many Americans will be, once again, tempted to return to the past that promised much, but led us to the brink of ruin.
What, gentle readers, do you think?