Sunday, October 03, 2010


Tom Friedman is predicting that a centrist, responsible, Friedmanesque third party is going to rise up by 2012:

Barring a transformation of the Democratic and Republican Parties, there is going to be a serious third party candidate in 2012, with a serious political movement behind him or her -- one definitely big enough to impact the election’s outcome.

... I know of at least two serious groups, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, developing "third parties" to challenge our stagnating two-party duopoly that has been presiding over our nation's steady incremental decline.

DougJ at Balloon Juice responds:

It's easy to make fun of the scare quotes around "third parties" and the fact that no one is willing to go on the record as being involved with these capers, but what strikes me is the idea that serious people on the coasts can up and form their own viable political party, like it was a theater troupe or a vegan co-op.

The latter point is well taken, but if anyone can just up and do this (although probably not do it with any measure of success), it's probably the guy (and my guess is that it's basically just one guy) Friedman is thinking of on the East Coast -- gazillionaire Mike Bloomberg.

The reason "third parties" is in quotes is that Bloomberg probably isn't planning to form a party so much as a one-man PAC of sorts to fund centrists, quite possibly including a 2012 presidential candidate.

The rub, of course, is that being touched by the gold-plated hand of Bloomberg doesn't seem to help much: less than a month ago, Politico ran an article about Bloomberg's attempt to spread his influence, and already two of the endorsees mentioned in the article -- Delaware Senate candidate Mike Castle and D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty -- have suffered humiliating defeats. Oops!

Well, this third-party daydreaming is always absurd. Here's what Friedman wants (and I bet he and Bloomie have chatted about this political bucket list and nodded in agreement):

We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.

Oh, is that all?

Didn't we have a second party talking about virtually that entire list in 2008 -- y'know, the Democrats? We were willing to elect a president who said he wanted to do a lot of this stuff, but the corporations and right-wingers who have a veto over everything that happens in America blocked most of it (or the White House preemptively surrendered to avoid even greater pummeling than it got). Oh, and "corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs"? We could have those anytime we want, except that the right, not the left, will say we have to go even further right. The left can't put up any effective resistance.

If Tom Friedman knows how a centrist third party, even one run by a guy who's richer than God, can wave a magic wand and make Fox News/fat cat propaganda and demagoguery just go away, or at least render it unable to drive (and ultimately monopolize) the debate, I wish he'd explain a subsequent column.

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