Need for Centrist Third Party Grows
The increasing ascendancy of Tea Party activists and extreme right-wingers in the Republican Party reinforces America’s need for a centrist third party. Recent events have proven that there is no room in the GOP for moderates, or even moderate conservatives, with Senator Olympia Snowe retiring and Dick Lugar going down to defeat in the Indiana Republican primary. The extremists do not want those they describe as RINOs (Republicans in name only) to be part of the party. The idea of a “big tent” that would be all inclusive for the Republican Party has collapsed. And those pundits who predicted that Tea Party influence would diminish over time should dream on.
In fact, even conservative conservatives, like Bob Bennett of Utah, are not extreme enough for the activists who now control the GOP. The unwillingness of the new Republicans to compromise with Democrats on virtually every issue will make governing in Washington even more difficult in the future. And thus far, every member of the group of House Republicans elected in 2010, known for their obstructionism, has won his or her primary in 2012. (http://politi.co/Jq46tS)
It’s true that Lugar’s loss was due to a concurrence of factors, including his not having a home in Indiana, his age, a lackluster campaign, and his being out of touch with his constituents. But the major impetus for his defeat came from the Tea Party, outside conservative Super PACs, and right-wing organizations like the Club for Growth which demands a no tax pledge from all politicians. His opponents were unhappy with Lugar’s willingness to reach across the aisle to legislate at times and his votes for some Obama appointees. They were particularly upset with his support for the auto bailout, TARP and the START Treaty. Lugar’s concession statement is a testament to what is wrong with American politics. (http://wapo.st/LPBUTc)
Another indication of how the Republican Party has changed for the worse is the recent exit of two apparent “up and coming” members of the party, Nathan Fletcher and Anthony Adams, in California. Both left to become independents, Fletcher running for mayor of San Diego and Adams for Congress. Their departure from the party was bemoaned in an OpEd piece in the LA Times a few days ago by former Republican governor Arnold Schwarznegger who criticized the direction of the party and lamented the fact that it was no longer inclusive. (http://lat.ms/JVpXJL)
On the East Coast, Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent and previous Democrat from Connecticut, is also retiring, having found legislating in the current environment unrewarding and Sisyphean. And in Maine, Angus King is running as an independent for the Senatorial seat being abandoned by Olympia Snowe. King, who previously served two terms as governor, is immensely popular in Maine and is likely to be elected to the Senate. Because it’s possible the Senate may be fairly evenly divided after the 2012 election, King could hold the balance of power, determining which party is considered the majority and receives the all important committee chairmanships.
It’s time, however, for men like King, Fletcher, Adams and Lieberman to look at the big picture in this country and join together to form an independent, centrist third party. This alternative to the rigid partisanship of the current political parties, that makes compromise and governing a nearly impossible task, is vitally needed for America to go forward. Organizing a national third party, finding a roster of candidates and getting on the state ballots will be a formidable undertaking. But there are numerous citizens and politicians unhappy with the nation’s political environment who might be willing to participate. Perhaps even some of the centrist Democrats and moderate Republicans who have left politics might be inclined to climb aboard. And centrist groups like Americans Elect and No Labels might be convinced to change their objectives and support a third party if people like King and Lieberman provided some of the leadership.
As Robert Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream of things that never were and say why not?” Why can’t America have a centrist third party to bring common sense back to Washington?
A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.