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Magical third-party thinking

The fact that anyone thinks Evan Bayh is going to swoop in, capture the presidency and heal politics is just evidence that not enough people have read Mark Schmitt's essay on third-party fantasies.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 17, 2010; 7:12 AM ET
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Not to mention the idea, surely disproved by Obama's presidency if not sooner, that what we really need is a different, better president who can fix all the problems in Washington.

Posted by: MosBen | February 17, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

agreed. No third party has a chance be it progressives on the left or Tea partiers on the right. The others are too entrenched in the current system and getting moreso by the day. Sure you get fragments here or there in pockets of the country but never nearly enough to make policy decisions on a national scale.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 17, 2010 7:56 AM | Report abuse

He doesn't have to win to have an impact. Has anyone ever heard of a guy named Ross Perot? He captured populist discontent and directed it toward deficit reduction -- pushing candidate Clinton to paint himself (and follow through) as a fiscal conservative.

And, oh by the way, Perot actually got Republicans mad at Bush for the tax pledge to vote for him for deficit reduction. So maybe the tea-party folks are not too far out in right field to be won over.

Posted by: marc12 | February 17, 2010 8:13 AM | Report abuse

A politician with executive experience and a reputation for independent policy-making (whether it's merited or not) could easily step into the vacuum in 2012. A vast personal fortune helps. See Bloomberg, Michael.

Posted by: scarlota | February 17, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

All the talk of Bayh for President just amounts to echo chamber nonsense. I like Bayh, and disagree with a lot of the criticism of him, but he has NO charisma IMHO. And he doesn't have a billion dollars to compensate for that.

Posted by: gocowboys | February 17, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Chuck Lane: still a fool.

Posted by: Chris_O | February 17, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Very interesting! The allure of being the one(s) to bring about such change is irrestiatable not to mention the good it could really bring. To the nay-sayers and skeptics of a new party; it is just a matter of time. The current state-of-affairs is very unpopular. There are many instances of such change in our human past; even some few in American history. And it need not be a "3rd" party but an "alternative" party displacing perhaps the current Dems who while having some good ideas, have squandered their recent advantage.

Posted by: BertEisenstein | February 17, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Third parties exist to allow voters to register dissatisfaction with the two main parties and to punish them if they go astray from their base (as progressives will punish Obama and the Dems this year by staying home).

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 17, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I think a viable third party is going to emerge from one of the two sides, probably the Republicans. The Republican platform has the most inherent contradictions with the deep religiosity combined with fiscal conservatism. As we saw with Bush II, the fiscal conservative wing of both parties is getting toasted by irresponsible tax cutting and spending. At least the Democrats try to raise taxes on minority groups when they raise spending.

Unfortunately, the nascent Tea Party movement has been co-opted by the religious wing, including many profligate spenders, and thus won't succeed in shearing the Republicans in two, unless the Tea Party explicitly takes a religion neutral stance. If there were a true party of austerity that combined Tea Party anger at government spending with Blue Dog Democrats style libertarianism, and Silicon Valley style liberal capitalism, there would be a chance of success.

However, it's hard to get money for an anti-spending party. All of the special interests want their government handouts. It's going to take a Greece like situation to force our hand, and it won't be pretty.

Posted by: staticvars | February 17, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

But that's the thing, the two main parties are too well funded and organized to let a significant portion of their base stray. There may be moments of discontent, whether the swelling of the Greens in 2000 or the Tea Party today, but the Ds and Rs just respond by recourting them, changing their policy priorities and rebranding.

Moreover, there's nothing inherently better about having multiple parties. The liberal politicians running as Dems today would be the liberal politicians running as Greens tomorrow if that became a viable political party with money to fund campaigns. And just like today, they'd vote with the Dems most of the time with a few votes of concience when they disagree. Having all the liberal Dems (or conservative Republicans) block themselves off into their own party isn't going to change anything as long as Democrat Ben Nelson is the 60th vote needed to break a filibuster.

Posted by: MosBen | February 17, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Shorter me: If you got the money out of politics and eliminated the filubuster and holds in the Senate, the system would work well without third parties.

Posted by: MosBen | February 17, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

This has nothing to do with thinking Bayh has a chance and everything to do with painting Obama as too far to the left, even when he won't DO anything the left actually wants.

Posted by: adamiani | February 17, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Ranked choice or "instant run-off" voting would be an excellent innovation for the U.S.. It allows more viability for 3rd/4th parties, even if remain dominant, and no one "wastes" their vote.

Posted by: Pokeyboy | February 17, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Pokeyboy, even though I'm not onboard with third parties, ranked voting is just a good idea and it makes no sense that we don't do it.

Posted by: MosBen | February 17, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

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