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Third party follies

By Greg Sargent

The other day, Michael Bloomberg -- whose potential third-party presidential run continues to generate nonstop chatter -- made the highly dubious and gramatically-challenged claim that "a third-party candidate could run the government easier than a partisan political President."

Matthew Yglesias points out that this is nonsense:

I bet a third party president would initially impress people with his bold truth-telling and lack of need to cater to old bulls on the Hill. But it would swiftly become apparent that the constitution hasn't been repealed, that the only bills that pass are the ones members of congress will vote for, and that members of congress all belong to parties. The only way you'd be able to get anything done would be to find a way to work within the party system somehow.

The point is that most of the stuff people like to decry about American politics -- the venality, the small-minded partisanship, the bickering, the corrupt deals -- happens in Congress. Wishing for a different president doesn't address any of it.

The other thing to consider here is that running for president requires you to take actual positions that pigeonhole you ideologically as having more in common with one party than the other. Bloomberg, though he ran as a Republican and is now an independent, basically agrees with Obama's major policy initiatives. He has been supportive of both the stimulus and health reform. He's pro-choice, extremely gung-ho on gun control, and strongly in favor of action on the environment.

The dream of a third-party candidacy is predicated on the idea that voters are so fed up with partisan bickering and government dysfunction that they'll throw their hands up and take a flyer on a third-party alternative with a proven track record. But as Yglesias notes, a third party president would run headlong into the same intractable Congressional realities of Congress as any other president. During the campaign it wouldn't take long until Bloomberg's positions on issues revealed him to be more or less ideologically in sync with the national Democratic party. He would not represent an ideological alternative to Obama in any meaningful sense.

Such a move could fool enough moderate and independent voters to work, one supposes, but that doesn't mean the whole idea isn't completely ridiculous.


UPDATE, 1:48 p.m.: To be clearer, I, like many others, don't think a Bloomberg third party run has a prayer of working. By the way, it's also worth noting that when he ran for mayor as a Republican he had already given hundreds of thousands of dollars to national Dems and switched parties because it was the only way he could avoid a Dem primary and get elected Mayor. Bloomberg's switch away from Dems was always only about practical politics and not because he has any meaningful ideological differences with them.

By Greg Sargent  | November 9, 2010; 1:32 PM ET
Categories:  2012, Independents  
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Comments

"Such a move could fool enough moderate and independent voters to work, one supposes, but that doesn't mean the whole idea isn't completely ridiculous."

Nope. A Bloomberg run wouldn't win the Whitehouse, it would just take votes away from the Democrat. It would make it way more likely that Obama would lose, and our next president would be a Republican. If that's what Bloomberg wants to do . . . more power to him. It's going to be a waste of his time and money, however. He's not going to win a 3rd party bid for the presidency.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 9, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Word is that Bloomberg is going to primary Obama.


.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 9, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Bloomberg understands that he has to run as a major party candidate.

Bloomberg has hired many pollsters to see if he would have a chance with the Republican primary electorate - and the decision has been made that Bloomberg has a much better chance if he primaries Obama.


The polls indicate that Obama would not survive such a primary challenge - because Bloomberg would carry key states.


.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 9, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

@OrangeRainForest: "Word is that Bloomberg is going to primary Obama."

From who? Who is that the word from? Bloomberg certainly hasn't said it, has anybody in his inner circle? Bloomberg was a Republican and would almost certainly run as an Independent so he doesn't have to go through the typical primary process.

Here's hoping Bloomberg goes the Perot route, and runs because of "the volunteers". ;)

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 9, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

A "No Free Lunch" Party, committed to curbing spending AND raising taxes until the federal "budget" could actually be called a budget without smirking, committed to enforcing fair trade policies that do not bend us over to be the world's consumer, committed to encouraging ever less dependence on foreign fossil fuel imports, committed to ID cards for Americans and to a legal immigration program based on skills needed rather than on "family reunification", with no lip service to the creationist anti-science groups, might pick up some moderate votes.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 9, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Kevin

You said you were going to me on ignore.

Please do.


I have sources.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 9, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

A "No Free Lunch" Party, committed to curbing spending AND raising taxes until the federal "budget" could actually be called a budget without smirking, committed to enforcing fair trade policies that do not bend us over to be the world's consumer, committed to encouraging ever less dependence on foreign fossil fuel imports, committed to ID cards for Americans and to a legal immigration program based on skills needed rather than on "family reunification", with no lip service to the creationist anti-science groups, might pick up some moderate votes.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 9, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

@OrangeForces: "Kevin. You said you were going to me on ignore. Please do. I have sources."

Do tell. Sources for what?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 9, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

My understanding is Bloomberg wouldn't run unless the GOP did something really stupid, like nominating Sarah Palin as their candidate.

Personally, I would love a viable third party, but I doubt it will happen.

As to Bloomberg's chances in a general election I'd put them at slim to none. He has the money to run, if he wants to, but he lacks charisma and a national organization to help him GOTV.

Posted by: nisleib | November 9, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm up for much (but not all) of the No Free Lunch party.

Oooohhhhh, careful, Kevin--he's got sources! Are they the same ones that told Christine O'Donnell about China's secret plan for turning America Communist? Or are they the ones that told you that O'Donnell and Angle were going to win last Tuesday?

Posted by: Michigoose | November 9, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

@Michigoose: "Or are they the ones that told you that O'Donnell and Angle were going to win last Tuesday?"

Yeah, how'd that turn out? ;)

I was really hoping for a McClung victory, though. Or the ouster of a real lion, like Barney Frank. No such luck, however.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 9, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I have sources...

*****

Yep, he does. When he adjusts his tinfoil hat just right (so only a quarter of his circumcision scars are visible) his sources speak directly into his brain. That is how he knows that Obama will resign, that global warming is a conspiracy between the worlds scientific community and Marvin the Martian (the alien from Bugs Bunny.)

Kevin - You've been so wonderful in helping us ignore this troglodyte, for your sanity maybe you should try using the troll blocker too?

Posted by: nisleib | November 9, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

"Kevin - You've been so wonderful in helping us ignore this troglodyte, for your sanity maybe you should try using the troll blocker too?"

Okay, fine. Done. Anyone here think that a Bloomberg run doesn't end up siphoning a significant amount of votes away from Obama?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 9, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Have people already forgotten about the Reform Party? It wasn't that long ago. It was supposed to be pretty much all the things that are being talked about now - pragmatic, businesslike, able to cut through the political noise and get things done. What it turned out to be was just a rag-tag of personality cults without focus or direction. It died a well-deserved death, like every other third party movement.

(Well except the Greens, who continue on their quest to deny election to moderate Democratic candidates, most recently seen in the Illinois senate race, where the Green vote would have tipped the balance to the Dem.)

Posted by: Virginia7 | November 9, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

If nominating Gov. Palin is the only way to get Mayor Bloomberg to primary little Barry (or run for President as an Independent), that's a PLUS in my opinion.

Posted by: JakeD2 | November 9, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Kevin,

I agree that a Bloomberg run would take far more votes from Obama than from any likely GOP nominee with the possible exception of Mitt Romney. Romney is an interesting case -- while he has tried to sell the voters on his conversion to socially conservative views, I think most voters still read him as a moderate "business" Republican.

Posted by: bearclaw1 | November 9, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

PALIN-BACHMANN 2012!!!

Posted by: JakeD2 | November 9, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

(Well except the Greens, who continue on their quest to deny election to moderate Democratic candidates, most recently seen in the Illinois senate race, where the Green vote would have tipped the balance to the Dem.)

You assume they would have voted. You have to earn a vote and not voting is a perfectly valid choice. If I'm a green and the Democrat isn't good enough for me, I stay home before I endorse that D. That D is not entitled to my vote because it might mean an R win.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | November 9, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"That D is not entitled to my vote because it might mean an R win."

A proposition of which we just saw ample proof, and now we'll live with the consequences.

Posted by: Virginia7 | November 9, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Virginia7:

AMEN!

Posted by: JakeD2 | November 9, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

As a conservative a third party has a few attractions. When the republicans strayed from a fiscally responsible course the only alternative was to hold my nose and vote for the spender or not vote at all. I am convinced that Sherrod Brown is a Senator not because he's such an intelligent, thoughtful guy, but because he's not Mike DeWine.

but I also understand the problem that a third party has in our system. Getting things done would be tough of that I have no doubt.

I'd love for Bloomberg to run. He could be on the "food justice" party insuring that the nanny state told the citizens what they may or may not put in their mouths. I can't imagine a huge groundswell of support for salt or transfats and he's got a fortune to waste on a campaign so, yeah, go for it.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | November 9, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I still believe Obama will shake the 2012 election up - Biden to Sec. of State and Clinton as his VP. I know Woodward has already mentioned it, which makes me suspect on that alone. However, it would be a master stroke, especially since the GOP in the House will rumble, bumble and stumble their way for the next two years.
Bloomberg can be Sec. of Defense.

Posted by: filmnoia | November 9, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Now that the election's over, how did Gianoulious or however you spell his name, get the nomination as well as support? If McConnell and or Angle were not qualified to hold office in the illustrious Senate (snicker) how was he? Dude was a mob banker. I can understand Chicagoans supporting him I suppose, corrupt machine and all, but the guy got support from those on Daily Kos. Does anybody here not think he was hip deep in the mob?

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | November 9, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

"A proposition of which we just saw ample proof, and now we'll live with the consequences."

I don't want to mischaracterize your point, but you seem to see that as the greens' fault. I would place the blame on the D candidate.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | November 9, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I have a Marist poll dtd 10/20 which shows he'd probably throw NY to a Republican. Seems NYers not interested in a run by him:

"New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to adamantly deny rumors that he will run for president in 2012. According to the latest Marist Poll of New York City, Bloomberg’s decision is probably a good one as far as New York City voters are concerned. Nearly two-thirds of the New York City electorate — 64% — do not want Bloomberg to run in the next presidential election while 26% say he should enter the contest. 10% are unsure."

A candidate should have home state support before a run. Up to moneybags though....if he wants to elect a Republican, not much anyone can do about it.

Posted by: carolerae48 | November 9, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Kevin_Willis:

I note that you aren't insisting that Ben McGrath (see "claim" link above) or anyone else reveal their sources.

Posted by: JakeD2 | November 9, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Troll bear, Kevin


Why would Bloomberg spent millions of dollars just to throw the election to a Republican???

That makes no sense. Bloomberg would run to win.

The only route is through the democratic primaries. A pro-choice Republican with Bloomberg's record has little chance in the Republican primaries.


There is no reason to believe that for Bloomberg that is not the most reasonable course of action.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 9, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Troll

You can look it up - but Gianoulis won a primary to get the nomination. That was last February I believe.

That was before his family's bank got taken over by the Feds.


Gianoulis ran as a friend of Obama.

Gianoulis also held some state-wide office, like State Treasurer.

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 9, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Reality check: We have a two-party system and that is not going to change during any of our lifetimes. One party represents a powerful minority motivated to preserve its power. The other represents a mushy majority. The R's benefit from low voter turnout, and thus try to suppress voting at every opportunity.

Not voting, or voting third party, are NOT valid choices unless you want Republicans in control. If you stay home or vote Green, you might just as well click the R, because you have made your choice for Republican power. That's reality, baby.

Posted by: Virginia7 | November 9, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't see Bloomberg running, unless he was quite certain of winning.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | November 9, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

@Virginia7: "One party represents a powerful minority motivated to preserve its power. The other represents a mushy majority. The R's benefit from low voter turnout, and thus try to suppress voting at every opportunity."

If true, then doesn't that tend to argue that folks who vote for Republicans are engaged and involved and excited about the political process, while the "mush majority" is unengaged, uninterested, and unaware? Ergo: the more folks are engaged in the political process, the more likely they are to vote for Republicans. And the less engaged and knowledgable about politics, the more likely they are to vote for Democrats?

Otherwise, it would be in the GOP's interest to get the rubes to the polls to demonstrate their ignorance and lack of political engagement by pulling the lever for the Republicans.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 9, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

filmnoia, I think you mean Bloomberg can be Secretary of the Treasury or Commerce.

Posted by: JefffromHuntington | November 9, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

"Not voting, or voting third party, are NOT valid choices unless you want Republicans in control. If you stay home or vote Green, you might just as well click the R, because you have made your choice for Republican power. That's reality, baby."

So everyone who either voted R, third-party, or stayed home is at fault. Not the Democrats, who were perfectly capable of courting those green votes. Voters, who are engaged and will turn out if they have a reason to. Running a "but the Republicans!!" campaign isn't good enough.

I'd hardly a green, but there's a host of reasons why declining to endorse a D makes sense. For example, perhaps losing the a senate seat is worth punishing Obama for taking Bush's war and escalating it. Or his granting oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | November 9, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

@OrangeForces

Obama asked the IL Atty Gen to run and she refused. He had no interest in Alexi running as he knew abt his baggage. Something that you evidently haven't figured out abt Obama is he really doesn't care abt "friends from Chicago".....he only cares abt winning, period. He ran independent of the Chicago machine for IL State Senate b/c of the makeup of the district he lived in. They normally pick new candidates with no ties to the Machine. He's never been close to Daley or the machine whether you believe he is or not. I lived there at the time. The Machine always resented him in his early yrs.

Posted by: carolerae48 | November 9, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

@NoVAHockey

As long as your satisfied with Republican rule, you'll be fine. Protest vote forever.

Posted by: carolerae48 | November 9, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Greg

nisleib | November 9, 2010 2:01 PM |

is a personal attack

Please ban him

Posted by: OrangeForces | November 9, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

All, new poll finds public exactly divided on the coming House GOP probes of Obama:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/11/the_acrimony_and_partisanship.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | November 9, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"filmnoia, I think you mean Bloomberg can be Secretary of the Treasury or Commerce."

No, that's not what I meant. Managerial ability is what's needed at the Pentagon, not necessarily prior military experience.
Bloomberg would be just fine there, imo.

Posted by: filmnoia | November 9, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

It would give Obama an excuse, a la Carter's newest explination for 1980

Posted by: dummypants | November 9, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Why is Joke still here?

Posted by: Observer691 | November 9, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

If a candidate like Bloomberg, Powell or Petraeus was elected as an independent and had wide popularity with a cross section of the country, it does make sense to me that such a candidate could have greater success in building a working coalition across party lines...on issues such as immigration policy, financial and tax policy, energy and entitlement reform. These types of individuals are thought of as problem solvers, not wedded to ideology and not as politically radioactive.

Posted by: wswest | November 9, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

He had better stay where he is, because if he's banking on the independent vote, then he'll be up ****'s creek, without an oar. Like God knows where he got the notion that he has a lock on the independent vote, or any vote for that matter, so he might do himself well in keeping his chatter locked up in his Manhattan apartment.

Posted by: hared | November 9, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

The bulk of the electorate is in the middle, either moderate republicans or conservative democrats. If Bloomberg is serious about running for President, he should use his billions to support the creation of a third party and enlist other maverick Republicans/Democrats to join him. A party needs money to build a national organization and recognizable leaders who can recruit other like minded politicians who care more about governing than getting reelected. There are a number of Republicans and Democrats who are being targeted by the right and left of their respective parties who would readily join Bloomberg if he committed his billions.

Posted by: derwin424 | November 9, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Bloomberg gets floated as a presidential candidate to offset his lame-duck status in New York: He may not be able to run for another term as mayor, the reasoning goes, but people will still be afraid of him because he could become president of the United States.

A Bloomberg candidacy only carries weight because the guy has billions to burn. And just so you know, Greg, when Bloomberg switched to being a Republican, his contributions shifted to Republicans. During his first term alone, Bloomberg gave nearly $300,000 to Republican Party campaigns and candidates. His money still favors Republicans, so no one in New York really buys his "independent" schtick.

Posted by: concerned61 | November 9, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Bloomberg is a gun control nut and a free trader ("free traitor" is more accurate). He has ZERO chance of being elected dog catcher anywhere outside of the Northeast. An independent that might have a chance is Donald Trump. He is, at least, for putting a stop to the worst excesses of free trade and ending job outsourcing. His proposal for a flat 25 tariff on all CHinese and Indian imports is a good starting point for discussing his candidacy, too. I suspect that Obama's goose is cooked, with a Republican controlled House making cooking the books difficult, that more widespread news about the real unemployment, inflation, and other economic numbers. Most of the Republican leadership has exactly the same economic and foreign policies as Obama, which are precisely what we voted against last week. ANd, comments since then have made it clear that these fools still don't get it. So.... a genuinely independent populist could actually win the Presidency. I know I'd vote for an all American Napoleon right now if he would end free trade. I suspect, y the time 2012 rolls around, the vast majority of voters will feel the same.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | November 9, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

The parliamentary system, as in Britain, encourages multiple parties and coalitions that must work together, as they are doing in Britain now, or the government will fall and there will be new elections.
Far more workable than than what we have, but it will never happen here because it is almost impossible to amend our constitution. Wonderful as it was in 1789,
it is showing its age. Thomas Jefferson favored a new constitution convention every generation. If that were possible we could fix many things long overdue including corporate domination of election funding.

Posted by: CalKen | November 9, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

You do not have to take positions during Presidential campaign which reveal your ideological leanings -- you need only be vaguely charming.

But once you are in office you have to take actual positions and your ideological leanings become apparent. So Bloomberg reads as a Democrat and Obama reads as a liberal Republicans.

So, who wins the primary?

Posted by: Respectthe9thAmendment | November 9, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Bloomberg's desire for an over-reaching nanny state makes him unelectable. A guy who wants to tell you how much salt to put on your food is not going to get elected in today's environment.

Posted by: bobmoses | November 9, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

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