Creating a Third Party of the Center

Creating A Third Party of the Center

Robert A. Levine

            “It must be realized that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more uncertain of success, or more dangerous to manage than the establishment of a new order of government; for he who introduces it makes enemies of all those who derived advantage from the old order.”

            Niccolo Machiavelli- The Prince [i]

            The time has come for a seismic shake-up of America’s political system. The nation’s current political parties are corrupt and self-serving, tethered to lobbyists, special interests and their own partisan bases, and unable to govern productively. To bring about change, a permanent third party of the center is necessary to recalibrate the political equation and start the country on the road to reform. This party must not be dependent on PAC financing but derive direct funding from its supporters. The Republican Party is already splitting three ways, with supporters of Trump, true conservatives and moderates. Trumpists have even considered forming their own third party. The Democrats are split between leftists and moderates.                       

The idea of a permanent third party for America is not new, the reasons that argue for its creation having existed for many decades. Indeed, there have been a number of unsuccessful attempts at gestation, resulting in stillbirths or early demises in infancy. Currently, disillusionment with the government and dismay about the ability of the established political parties to fix matters remain at a high level. Unless the nation is able to accomplish a meaningful revision in the way it is governed, the United States is destined to decline. To effect the required metamorphosis, a permanent third party is needed that values moderation, pragmatism and compromise.

Though revolutionary changes in political systems and mass social movements are usually initiated by the left or the right, this revolution should arise from the center, a protest against America’s two entrenched parties. John Avlon in his book Independent Nation remarked- “Centrism frees voters from the false dichotomies that dominate American politics by offering them a third choice between the rigid extremes of the left and right, a commonsense path that acknowledges the inevitability of change while never straying far from fundamental American values or founding principles… Centrism is the most effective means for achieving the classic mission of politics: the peaceful reconciliation of competing interests. Extremists and ideological purists on either side of the political aisle condemn compromise. But inflexibility either creates deadlock or dooms a cause to irrelevance.” 

A Pew Poll in May of 2019 had 38 percent of Americans identifying as politically independent. An NBC News poll in 2013 had 51 percent of Americans considering themselves as moderates, independents or centrists. Most surveys have the percentage of independents between these two numbers. But voters are accustomed to voting for either Democrats or Republicans and starting a new centrist party that is competitive will not be easy. With the current parties holding a duopoly of power, state and federal laws place barriers in the path of any upstart that might challenge their control. And aside from the legal obstacles, there are also emotional impediments that must be overcome in America’s citizenry to allow a new third party to gain traction. But a new permanent third party of the center can be viable, with the opportunity to realize its goals and win both local and national elections. There are new tools and transformative technologies available for an interloper to level the playing field with the two established behemoths, even though their deep pockets are constantly being refilled by the lobbyists and special interests.

The main asset this new entity will have in its favor is the dissatisfaction of Americans with the political climate. There is a vast body of citizens in America who do not participate in the political process or vote in elections because they feel their votes are inconsequential. Some of these men and women can form the base of a new party, along with independents and centrist Republicans and Democrats who hold their noses when they go to the polls, casting ballots because they feel it is their obligation as citizens. These people might flock to the banner of a political organization that pledged to run incorruptible candidates and would try to end the ideological bickering that has precluded action on so much necessary legislation. To be successful in this insurrection, the new party must persuade Americans that it is a real alternative to Republicans and Democrats, will have staying power and will not fold after one election cycle. It must be able to convince average citizens that it is worthwhile for them to cast their ballots for an untested political upstart that has a vision for a new way of governing. And if it is able to gain credibility among the electorate, it will make centrist politicians who are on the fence more willing to commit themselves to this intriguing new player.

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New People, New Parties, New Infrastructure

New People, New Parties, New Infrastructure

                        Robert A. Levine

America is in crisis and undergoing a steep de­cline. Covid has taken the lives of half a million people and battered the economy. Budget deficits and national debt are climbing. The nation’s infrastructure is old and crumbling while much of Europe and Asia enjoy modern highways and bridges, bullet trains connecting their main cities, gleaming new airports, and broadband connections to all sectors of their population. If America is to compete in this world and maintain its position at the top, its citizens will have to acknowl­edge the need for sacrifice and pain, will have to accept higher taxes on the wealthy and more spending on infrastructure. Americans will have to study harder and work longer, knowing that their struggles will allow democracy to flourish and that their chil­dren and grandchildren will reap the rewards. 

In past times, Americans were willing to sacrifice for the good of the nation and the generations that would follow. Sacrifice is again needed. But we need something more. The two-party system has not been working as the parties collude to maintain their hold on power, reinforcing the need for a permanent third party. This could come from the right but is needed from the center with the extreme left and extremists on the right kept at bay. The moderate Democrats and centrist Republicans should join together to give citizens a better option when they cast their ballots.

In America’s formative years, professional politicians were not involved in the creation of its defining documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, nor responsible for governing. These duties were managed admirably by public-spirited citizens: farmers, lawyers, and businessmen, physicians), who wanted to participate in the noble experiment of democracy. Perhaps what America needs now are fewer career politicians and more ordinary citizens like our Founding Fathers to become en­gaged in the processes of government and democracy. When lobbyists and special interests subvert this rela­tionship and the people’s desires are ignored, the system is failing. New parties and new participants are needed.

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What Does Trump Truly Believe

What Does Trump Believe?

                        Robert A. Levine, M.D.

The question that needed to be answered which the impeachment proceedings did not do, was whether Trump truly believed that he won the election, notwithstanding all the evidence to the contrary. If he actually believed this fantasy he should not have been impeached on the basis of his being mentally incompetent. A person shown to be crazy cannot stand trial of any sort, given his or her lack of understanding.

On the other hand, if Trump realized that he lost the election and was claiming otherwise to arouse his base, generate support and financial resources, then he was indeed a candidate for impeachment, having used the bully pulpit of the presidency to spread this outrageous lie that inspired treasonous actions. And Trump himself was guilty of treason along with the people who stormed the capital on his behalf.

In either case, Trump is unfit to run for office again. Either he is crazy or guilty of treason in claiming that he won the presidential election. Both of these states should keep him from any position of responsibility in the government or otherwise. Unfortunately, as mentioned, the impeachment hearing did not provide an answer as to Trump’s state of mind in claiming that he won the election.

The Democrats and Republicans assumed that Trump was mentally competent and aware that he lost the election. But how do we know this for certain. Before Trump’s impeachment, he should have had a thorough examination by a panel of psychiatrists to determine whether he truly believed he won the election or that he is claiming that he won for his own political ends.

The determination of his mental state is of utmost importance and his impeachment trial should have been delayed until a psychiatric evaluation was complete. Given its importance, a panel of top psychiatrists should be involved in the mental evaluation of Trump rather than a single psychiatrist.

Of course it is possible that Trump could deceive even a multitude of psychiatrists for certain reasons, either acting consciously or unconsciously. However, would Trump want his supporters to consider him insane or a traitor?

It is somewhat surprising that the House impeachment managers did not address this dilemma and ask for a psychiatric evaluation prior to starting the impeachment proceedings. It is quite possible that Trump would have refused psychiatric consultation, insisting that he was fully mentally competent. If that is the case, then it would appear that he knows that he lost the election and was trying to overturn the results by fomenting an insurrection. In other words, he would have to be considered a traitor.

There may be reasons in Trump’s mind on both sides of the equation to either claim that he was the winner or express the realization that he lost.  The nation deserves to know Trump’s state of mind on the issue of whether he won or lost the presidential election. Prior to any further criminal or civil proceedings regarding Trump’s incitement of the capitol insurrection, Trump should have a psychiatric evaluation to assess whether or not he is mentally competent.

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Does Trump Have God on His Side?

Does Trump Have God on His Side?

        Robert A. Levine

The Evangelicals love him. The conspiracy theorists believe he was sent by God to fight the devil. He has appointed conservatives at all levels of the federal judiciary.  Notwithstanding his occasional lies and sexual missteps, he must be a messenger from God. Does it matter that he never attends church and does not read the Bible? Does it matter that he is sexually promiscuous and has cheated on his wives multiple times? Does it matter that he doesn't care about the poor and in fact only cares about himself and his immediate family? Does it matter that he incited an insurrection against the legal government of the United States. He is Trump and that should be justification enough for everything he does.


The Deep Chasm in American Politics

The Deep Chasm in American Politics

                        Robert A. Levine

The current political divide in America is greater than at any time since the Civil War. In the presidential election of November 2020, Joe Biden received over 81 million votes with Trump accumulating over 74 million. Since the election however, Trump has insisted that he won by a landslide and that Biden stole the election from him. There were over sixty court rulings that declared Trump’s claims invalid, including two unanimously by the Supreme Court where he had appointed three of the nine members.

Trump also went to various state legislatures where the state’s citizens had favored Biden, trying to get the legislatures to overturn the results. No success anywhere. Trump begged and threatened Georgia’s attorney general to find eleven thousand plus votes for him so that he would win Georgia. But the Attorney General Brad Raffensperger insisted that the vote count was correct and could not be changed.

Bill Barr, the Federal Attorney General before he resigned, told Trump as well that the results of the election were right and could not be overturned. When Barr resigned, the acting Attorney General at the Department of Justice also refused to honor Trump’s requests to disqualify enough of Biden’s votes to make Trump the winner. And Vice President Pence declared to Trump that he could not change the vote totals when they were confirmed at the Capitol.

Yet with all the officials who told Trump that he lost the election, both Republicans and Democrats, he would not accept the outcome, insisting that the election was stolen. This led Trump to call his supporters to Washington and to have them march on the Capitol to prevent the voting totals from being confirmed. Tens of thousands of his base including militant white supremacists followed Trump’s instructions. They trashed the Capitol building in an insurrection, searching for members of Congress and Senators who they could kill because they would not make Trump president and looking to hang Mike Pence.

Perhaps it is not surprising that Trump’s most intense acolytes would come to Washington and follow his orders to break into the Capitol and hunt down his opponents. What is surprising is that Trump received 74 million votes in the election and even after he lost, most of his supporters believed that the election was stolen from him. The vast majority of these are not rational citizens, but members of a tribal cult, willing to accept anything that Trump says or does.

Not only are Trump supporters divided from the Democrats, but they are angry at establishment Republicans who they feel did not fight vigorously enough for Trump to remain president. And they want to primary the House members who voted with the Democrats to impeach Trump. These Trump acolytes are uninformed about the true results of the election and are willing to follow Trump wherever he leads, even if it means the end of democracy and the beginning of fascism in America. How do you change the minds of cultists who are uninformed and accept and obey their leader wherever he takes them? Unfortunately, democracy and freedom means nothing to them. They do not understand what Trump is offering.

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Uninformed Government Officials

Uninformed Government Officials

            Robert A. Levine

For years, I have believed the problems of democracy, especially in America were due to uninformed voters. These voters who knew little about the workings of government or what the positions of the candidates were on various issues, would elect officials who were often incompetent or venal. In addition, many of these officials who attained victory at the polls were also uninformed about how government functioned, basic civics, many political issues, history, geography and economics. And these people who were lacking in knowledge about the government and economics, were making and passing the laws that regulated American lives in a complex world.

I have written a book about democracy’s shortcomings (The Uninformed Voter) which was the result of voluminous research on American history and politics. However, I must say that uninformed or corrupt government officials, though elected by uninformed citizens, bear equal responsibility with voters for democracy’s failings. People without political or historical knowledge run for office because they realize that uninformed voters will not hold them to task and that they can get elected by telling voters what they want to hear, whether true or not. Trump is a prime example of a person who lacked the necessary information to govern appropriately, but had a high SQ (social quotient) and was able to connect well with uninformed voters to get himself elected.

We can examine Trump and his cohort later, but a newly elected senator, Tommy Tuberville, is another illustration of an individual who lacks basic knowledge of history and politics attaining high office. Prior to his Senate bid, Tuberville was a successful football coach at Auburn University and did not claim to have any special political expertise when seeking the Senate seat from Alabama on the Republican ticket.

However, in an interview on CNN recently, he revealed his ignorance regarding the Constitution, the structure of government and modern history. First of all, he wanted to change the date of the inauguration to make it safer, not aware that the 20th of January is prescribed as Inauguration Day in the Constitution. Secondly, he named the three branches of the federal government as the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Presidency, forgetting the judicial branch and that the legislative branch consisted of both the House and the Senate. Thirdly, he declared that World Wat II was fought to free Europe of socialism, apparently forgetting about the Nazis in Europe as America’s enemy during World War II. Is he really a senator?

Trump became president totally unprepared for the job with little knowledge of government structure or function, uninformed about the Constitution and the limits it imposes, and with scant information of American history. He picked advisors who were yes men as he did not like to be contradicted or to be reminded how ignorant he was. Throughout his presidency, he constantly lied about his actions and accomplishments topped by his lie about winning the 2020 presidential election. Unfortunately, millions of Americans were unable to differentiate between Trump’s lies and the truth, leading to an insurrection of his followers to try and maintain his presidency.

In 2020, Americans also elected two Congressional members who believe in QAnon conspiracy theories which are totally bizarre. And the majority of Republicans in the House have supported Trump’s lie that he won the election, showing that they lack basic information or are simply afraid of the president. Our democracy cannot survive if our citizens continue to elect officials who are uninformed about of government and are willing to lie to the American electorate. How do we get voters to meet their responsibilities to know about government and politics before they vote and to elect officials who are also knowledgeable about the jobs they will assume?

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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Trump Insurrection

Trump Insurrection

            Robert A. Levine

January 6th in Washington was shocking but not surprising. For months, President Trump had been stoking his supporters with claims that the presidential election in November was rigged and victory stolen from him. He provided no evidence to back up his claim, but repeating it over and over again in his speeches and tweets provided his assertion with credibility, particularly with his avid adherents. There was no question that millions of his supporters believed his declaration was real and that the election and the presidency had been stolen. In addition, there was affirmation from right-wing commentators and websites. Trump abandoned the tasks of his presidency for months while he tried to overturn the results of the election. The Covid pandemic was completely ignored by Trump while Americans died by the hundreds of thousands.

To the majority of Americans and the mainstream media it was clear that Biden had won the election handily- by over 7 million popular votes and the Electoral College 306 to 232. Yet a delusional and deranged President Trump continued to insist that he won the election by a landslide. In the two months after election Trump and his legal team lost over sixty lawsuits in various Courts contesting different facets of the election, including unanimously twice in the Supreme Court where he had appointed three of the justices. The Courts found nothing to suggest that anything illegal had occurred regarding the voting and that Biden had indeed won the election. Trump also tried to get Republican state Secretaries of State to “to find votes for him” so that he would win these states. No dice. And he blasted Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Raffensperger and Governor Kemp as stupid and corrupt because they would not help him.

Trump also went to several GOP controlled state legislatures to try and convince them to change the vote totals in their states, but was rebuffed in each case. He claimed as well that the voting machines had been illegally set to help Biden, but this path led nowhere. Thus he reached a point where his efforts appeared futile. His last chance was Congress. But VP Pence said there was nothing he could do when he directed the voting for Biden’s confirmation, as his role was purely ceremonial. A majority of GOP House members and as many as twelve Senators said that they would object to swing state voting totals, agreeing with Trump that he had won. It appeared that Trump and these Republican officials were living in an alternative reality, as it was clear to the press and to state officials, both Republican and Democratic, that Biden had won the election by a landslide.

But it was too late to change the minds of Trump’s radical base who had already been convinced that the election was stolen by Biden. The nadir of Trump’s presidency and the outcome of his alliance with white supremacy groups and conspiracy theorists occurred on January 6th 2021 when legions of Trump supporters at his urging stormed and took over the nation’s capital. Speaking to the tens of thousands of his cult who had gathered in Washington, some armed, others not, Trump, Don Jr and Rudy Guilliani exhorted the gathering to march to the Capitol and be strong. On social media during the previous week, plans were being hatched by right-wing nationalists and white supremacists to take over the Capitol, so it was no secret what was coming. But law enforcement, particularly the Capitol police were totally unprepared, with a mob of white nationalist insurrectionists invading the Capitol and gaining control of the building, looting and destroying property and various personal materials of members of Congress.

Intelligence agencies and law enforcement should not have been taken by surprise by the hordes of white supremacists, given their announcements on social media. There had been talk of assassinating various officials including Vice-President Pence and of keeping Trump in the presidency. Many of these groups wanted to start a civil war in the country and felt that their actions might light the fuse. Interestingly, the insurrectionists initially were treated with kid gloves by the police, unlike the Black Lives Matter protesters months before. Though Trump and various Republican officials tried to distance themselves from the violent behavior afterwards, it was too little and too late.

White supremacists and militia groups who believe themselves entitled to run the nation are a continuing danger to democracy in the United States, with their positions supported by a percentage of law-enforcement and the military. Whether anything will change after their assault on the Capitol remains to be seen. Trump will continue to be a menace to American democracy even after he leaves the presidency, unless he is charged with insurrection and other counts and goes to prison.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

The Uninformed Voter- buy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble