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Do We Need A Centrist Third Party?

by Trick Nixon (Principles: None) - 8 month ago

The government shutdown is just the latest evidence that our two party system is failing. A centrist third part is the best way to restore a functioning democracy.

In 2016, Michael Bloomberg the former Mayor of New York, considered running for President as a centrist third-party candidate. He was particularly concerned that if the Democrats nominated Bernie Sanders, it would leave America with a choice between two extremes. However, once it became clear that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic candidate, Bloomberg realized that his running would only take votes from Clinton and allow Donald Trump to win. He therefore decided to step aside and support Clinton.

Bloomberg’s logic with respect to national elections is impeccable. Many Democrats, for example, still blame Ralph Nader for taking enough votes from Al Gore in 2000 to give George Bush the Presidency. Republicans, on the other hand, believe that George HW Bush would have been reelected in 1992 had Ross Perot not run.  Equally compelling, however, is the fact that neither Nader nor Perot came close to winning. The odds, in national elections, are stacked too high against outsiders.

The same, however, cannot be said for congressional elections. Senator Angus King of Maine, for example, was elected as an Independent. It is also true that many Democrats elected in conservative states and Republicans elected in more liberal states often vote against their own party. In many ways, they too are Independent, except in name.

The current governement shutdown, replete with its inane partisan posturing, is the latest evidence that we need more true independents in Congress. Democrats are currently being driven left by their base and Republicans have long since surrendered to their right-wing extremists. Thus, everything done by Congress is seen in partisan terms with one side "winning" and the other side "losing. Of course, the real losers are the American people.    

A centrist third party would change everything. If just 10% of Congress were from that party, they would effectively control both houses. When Republicans presented positions generally favored by most Americans, the centrists would side with them. When Democrats were being the most reasonable, the centrists would vote with them.  To court the votes of the centrists, both parties would need to appeal to all of America rather than just pandering to their bases. This would break the log-jam and allow beneficial legislation to pass. 

A strong centrist party would also change the political calculations of incumbents. Currently, about 80% of those in Congress represent districts or states that are considered "safe" for their party. Their biggest concern, therefore is facing a primary challenge from their party's extreme. Thus, incumbents are driven to the extreme.  If, however, they knew that a centrist awaited them in the general election, they would need to balance their primary concerns with the worry that they would lose a safe seat to a centrist in the general election.

For many years, we have been hearing a call for term limits as the way to get politicians to serve the people. Personally, I fail to see how removing the threat of being defeated by voters will cause any politician to be more sensitive to the needs of the people. More likely, term limits will simply cause the politician to take the steps necessary to set themselves up for a high paying job for when they leave Congress. 

Electing third party centrists requires a lot from voters. But it is time and energy well spent if we are to return to a functioning democracy. 

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