I couldn’t ignore this one, and no – not because it had three of the four words in the name of my (old) blog in the headline. That did help, though.
There has been a bit more chatter than usual about moderates and centrists lately, much of it responding to Thomas Friedman’s article in the New York Times, predicting that the circumstances are ripe for a centrist third political force to finally emerge in the center in 2012.
As I always try to mention when this idea comes up, I estimate that 2016 is the year that I think might be that time of critical mass (probably much later), but I can see how some may disagree – especially if they let their hopes cloud their judgment, or don’t quite understand just how much of a enormous gap there is between where centrists are now and where we’d need to be to start competing.
Big backlash against the article though:
Critics of Friedman quickly returned fire. One particularly good essay, by Poliblog’s Steven L. Taylor, lays out the obstacle course to this perennial idea. The Electoral College is stacked against third parties, since the candidate with the most votes in a state gets all of the electoral votes. The party system can absorb an insurgency, but it squeezes out third party challenges. A last roadblock is the Senate, where the filibuster rules would be particularly cruel to a President without some kind of party support.
Such problems do not apply to the same degree at the local level. There’s a good example of this “revolt from the center” in Idaho, where an attractive independent named Keith Allred, with support from both parties and a solve-big-problems agenda, is running as a Democrat and doing well, considering how Republican the state is. His playbook comes from Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat who won the Kansas governorship by transpartisan appeal.
Its oh so simple to expect some big centrist independent, white knight of an unmovable force like Michael Bloomberg to come along, throw down a cool billion and create a network of state groups that will be a catalyst for a national centrist party movement, but in the mean time, we need to be working on furthering the cause now, where we are, with what we have.
A whole lot of other interesting related info on the subject in the article, some of it having to do with Seattle area politics, but mostly national. Give it a look.
Relying on a pipe dream that is just as likely not to ever come along is a prescription for failure, or at least increasing the chances of failure. The left and right got to where they are by building slowly, over the course of decades. If we don’t do the same thing, we’re just going to be waiting another two generations before we get another centrist independent white knight – hopefully one better than Ross Perot.