New York Times Sunday Dialogue: Does America Need a New Centrist Political Party?
Has America’s political system now become so broken with two major political parties that indulge in politics, polemics and legislate almost by rote that the country desperately needs a new centrist party?
The idea has come up over the years and analysts — speaking from the conventional wisdom — have usually labeled it a pipe dream. But the idea is becoming more popular than ever as many Americans see two parties dominated by partisans who seem to view every debate and action as political professional wrestling and a power struggle to win one for their side and rub the other side’s face in it.
Plus, many moderates have vanished from Congress (RINOS are now almost officially extinct in the Republican Party), there are fewer centrists to hold the balance and influence outcomes, and the way most media is set up is to showcase right and left and forget about or not bother with the political center. (How many cable shows do you see where they have right, left and center or do most only set up a right and left or D and R so they can yell at each other and moderate can sit there with a smugly satisified look and say: “This was great! We’ll have to have you back..”?)
The New York Times is hosting a serious dialogue at the idea of a centrist political party. The catalyist is a letter the paper asked Robert A. Levine, author of the superb, serious book Resurrecting Democracy and a TMV Guest Voice Columnist, to write a letter that could set the stage for the Sunday Dialogue.
We don’t normally run a letter in full, but in this case it’ll help TMV readers go to the link to read the ongoing dialogue. Here’s his letter:
Why does America have only two political options? Every day, the news from Washington showcases the inability of our two political parties to govern effectively.
Rigid partisanship has repeatedly hindered or prevented Republicans and Democrats from reaching compromise solutions on vital legislation, provoking a crisis of confidence in our political and economic system. And elected officials beholden to lobbyists and special interests allow their priorities to supersede those of ordinary citizens.
The economy is stagnant, unemployment remains high, and budget deficits and the national debt keep climbing. Yet no answers are forthcoming from our representatives in Washington. The continuing dysfunction reinforces the need for a third party of the center as an alternative to the current parties.
Using the Internet and social networks to organize and raise money from small donors, this new centrist party could be independent of the special interests and able to work for the benefit of all Americans. Its hallmarks would be ethical conduct, transparency and pragmatism. Instead of being constrained by ideology, it would be guided by common sense and practicality in its search for solutions.
A centrist third party could prosper in today’s political environment and end the stalemate in Washington. There is a large body of moderate Republicans, disaffected Democrats and dissatisfied independents looking for the kind of political home that this party could provide. Unhappiness with the political options now available to Americans will sooner or later translate into a groundswell for alternatives.
ROBERT A. LEVINE
Westport, Conn., Dec. 23, 2011
The writer is a neurologist and the author of “Resurrecting Democracy: A Citizen’s Call for a Centrist Third Party.”
P.S. I encourage all TMV readers to join the dialogue at the Times or start one here in comments. I’ll be reviewing Robert A. Levine’s book later today. It is MUST READING and a MUST OWN for centrists, independents, moderates — and frankly anyone who wants to read a highly readable serious book packed with research, background and ideas on fixes to our political system. I took it on the road with me during my recent 3 1/2 month road trip.