Thursday, April 28, 2005

Third Party Possibilities

In Monday's Los Angeles Times, Ron Brownstein had an interesting column in which he suggested that the current partisan polarization in the country and the resulting failure to address pressing problems facing the American public presents an opening for an independent candidacy in 2008, if not an opportunity for the development of a third party.

Ordinarily, I'd say that the chances of either happening are non-existent. Mounting a national campaign, or even a statewide one, requires a vast organization and candidates not linked to a major party lack such organizations. But there's another element to Brownstein's argument that has to make one pause before pooh-poohing the rise of a third party (or an independent candidacy). That element is the Internet. The Dean campaign - not to mention organizations like - showed that a campaign's infrastructure can be built quickly and relatively cheaply.

I'm still skeptical. The space for such a movement, as Brownstein points out, is in the middle. But folks in the middle aren't highly motivated to get active in politics because (a) they are moderates who, by definition, tend not to be activists; this is in part because (b) the kind of rhetoric that best activates people is ideologically charged and because (c) most independent voters (though by know means all) don't follow politics closely. Still, it's worth keeping an eye on developments in this direction.

One aspect of Brownstein's column addresses the strategies of the two major parties in mobilizing voters. Joe Trippi, the brains behind Dean's Internet "revolution," argues that the Bush 2004 campaign proved that you can win by focusing on your base, rather than appealing to swing voters. I think Bush did both, simultaneously. Furthermore, in an era when your party is dominant (as Republicans are now), mobilizing the base may be more successful than when you aren't dominant. There are just more Republican voters (not identifiers, but voters) out there right now than there are Democratic voters. I'm not arguing for a DLC-type move to the center for the Democrats, just that this is a little more complicated than it appears (and far more complicated than Simon Rosenberg makes it sound when he says the strategy of appealing to the center has now "been rejected for all time"!).

Incidentally, Trippi visits Franklin & Marshall today and I've got the good fortune to have 45 minutes with him for an interview. I'll post on our conversation tomorrow.


At 8:43 PM, Blogger gt said...

I think we know from Perot, Ventura, George Washington, that a charismatic rich and famous person with an issue could mobilize the middle.
I agree with you the internet reduces costs of entry. Canada, Japan, UK, Mexico show us that change and realignment can happen very quickly.
Is it likely, in 2008? Oh not very.
By 2012, the rate of change will have spead up to the point where things are more different than the same, and past 2012 the future is just unknowably different, based on singularity effects.


Post a Comment

<< Home