Robert A. Levine 4-15-15
Republican candidates for president in 2016 are coming out of the woodwork and Hillary’s announcement that she is running makes it unlikely that any additional Democrats will pop up as candidates in the near future. From the look of things, America is going to be stuck with either an ultra-conservative approved by the Republican base, or Hillary. Isn’t it time for the nation to be given additional choices. Aren’t there other people out there who might do a better job? An ideal candidate for president might be some well- known moderate politician who defected from either the Republican or Democratic Parties to run on a new centrist third party ticket. But an entire centrist party is needed at every level of government to provide non-partisan choices for voters.
Though periodically, there is talk about a centrist third party possibly being formed, in recent years all the talking has come to naught. The last time America had a serious challenger running for president on a third party ticket was Ross Perot in 1992 and though it appeared he had a chance of winning at the start of his campaign, he self-destructed.
A recent independent survey by a research organization (NORC) at the University of Chicago revealed that Americans’ confidence in all three branches of government was at or near record lows. (Surprise!!!) Lack of support and confidence in the presidency, the Supreme Court, and Congress was evident in voters of both parties and independents. For instance, only 7 percent of Democrats, 5 percent of independents, and 3 percent of Republicans had a great deal of confidence in Congress. This statistic was particularly stunning since both Houses of Congress are currently controlled by the Republicans.
Probably a more important survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and released April 7, 2015, utilized 25,000 interviews administered by the Center in 2014. The surprising data that emerged showed that 39 percent of respondents identified themselves as independents, 32 percent as Democrats, and only 23 percent as Republicans. This was the highest percentage of independents ever noted in over seventy-five years of public opinion polling.
The increasing number of Americans who refuse to affiliate with either party is a major change, with the growth of independents particularly impressive over the past ten years. In 2004, 30 percent of Americans self-labeled themselves as Democrats, 30 percent as independents, and 29 percent as Republicans. The percentage of independents has grown nine points in the last decade, while those identifying themselves as Republicans has fallen by six points.
For those who are politically unsophisticated, this survey may appear to be preposterous since the Republicans swept the recent elections and now dominate both Houses of Congress. But what this means is that more Republicans are politically active and willing to vote and support their candidates than the Democrats. And many independents may not vote at all since there is no party and very few candidates to represent their views. This is why now is such an ideal time for a centrist third party to be formed to challenge the Republicans and Democrats, not only for the presidency, but for the Senate and House, governorships and state legislative positions. A centrist third party at all levels is needed to represent the plurality of independent citizens who are lacking representation in America.
What we can expect from the Republicans and Democrats from now until Election Day 2016 is overwhelmingly negative campaigning. There will be charges and countercharges of one against the other, asserting illegal, unethical, and even criminal actions at the forefront of the attacks. There will be occasional proposals about policy and how the government should change, but these will be submerged under the barrage of negative ads and sound bites. And money from billionaires and the extremely affluent will pour into Super PACs and campaign chests to reinforce the advertising, much of done it anonymously. Is this what America wants? Is this what America needs? Will this increase the 60 percent of Americans who go to the polls every four years when there are presidential elections?
A centrist third party that emphasizes ideas to reduce inequality and boost the middle class is what America needs, a party of justice and fairness willing to compromise and negotiate to get things done in Washington and the statehouses. There is not much time left to establish such a party and make it viable before the next election, but it can be done if a few organizational wizards are willing to make it their priority. Seed money might come from some affluent men and women who understand that America’s democracy is in trouble. And more money will pour into the party in small amounts over the Internet when social media brings all Americans up to speed about what is happening. The Republicans and Democrats only care about destroying their opponents and building themselves up. Now is the time for a centrist third party to enter the political fray and show how government can be run competently, and with assistance and ideas from all the political players who are willing to participate. Partisanship, stalemate, gridlock, and inefficiency are words that need to be removed from America’s political lexicon and replaced with cooperation, comity, assistance, and effectiveness as the parties work together for the good of the nation.