30 Nov 2010

Moderate Blue Dog Democrats and Mainstreet Republicans Could Form the Party We’ve Been Waiting For

The United States could have an instantly strong centrist party if Blue Dog Democrats and Main Street Republicans came together in a centrist party.  This third party would ally with Democrats on some issues and Republicans on others.  The United States does not need an either-or two-party system.  The United States suffers increasingly for this system.

Many of Europe’s political parties were born of such party splits.

Heath Shuler’s recent intra-party challenge to Nancy Pelosi drew more interest than connoted by his 43 votes.  We could add to that the 28 Blue Dog losses in this year’s House races.  Comparable centrist Democratic Senators who might be interested include North Dakota’s Kent Conrad.

Of course, there aren’t many center-right Congressional Republicans any more.  But if Blue Dog Dems led the way, a few of Congress’s less dogmatic Republicans might be enticed.  Thirty-eight-year-old Shuler himself, a former star quarterback, would make an interesting party leader, but his pro-life stance would probably have soften.

In state legislative politics, many Democrats on the losing side in North Carolina and Georgia this year, and in other southern and Midwestern states, would be naturally curious about a Blue-Dog secession.  So would East and West Coast independents and Republicans tired of Democratic domination of their state legislatures and Congressional delegations, such as the Moderate Party of Rhode Island.

Of course, elected officials tend to play it safe, and abandoning the party that got you elected in the first place is not a safe bet.  But for many of these relative moderates, the alternative of a facing bienniel one-two punch isn’t pretty either — first from the party’s ideologically motivated in a primary election, and then from the opposing party in the general election.  That’s why it might make the most sense to look to recently defeated Blue Dogs for such a third party.  South Dakota’s young Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was chair of the Blue Dogs until her near loss this November.

So what do you say, Blue Dogs?  How far left are you willing to go with national Democrats?  Will you consider forming a third, centrist party?

Author Details
This centrist community blogger has chosen not to reveal much about themselves in their bio – as is their right.
This centrist community blogger has chosen not to reveal much about themselves in their bio – as is their right.

14 thoughts on “Moderate Blue Dog Democrats and Mainstreet Republicans Could Form the Party We’ve Been Waiting For”

  1. I'd love almost nothing more than to see Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe & Susan Collins break off of the GOP in the next few years, along with all of the Blue Dogs and some of the "New Dem" types.

    Another example of how the Tea Party may actually help a centrist movement along over the long term… by pushing the good moderates towards running as independents. Hell… they're even pushing Lugar our, and he's not exactly a moderate.

    1. So how do you make that happen? It's nice to talk about how nice that would be. It would be nice if it was 80 degrees right now in Minnesota. I'd like more ideas on how to get centrist politicos to break away and form a new party.

        1. IRV is terrible for centrists. Look at the 2009 election for the Mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Andy Montroll was everyone's second choice. So because IRV eliminates the candidate with the fewest first-place votes, he got eliminated in (essentially) the first round. (There were some very marginal candidates who got eliminated first; their votes made little difference to the total.) (See http://rangevoting.org/Burlington.html for an analysis of that election.)

          1. I think the top two system is terrible for independents, but mostly I'm against it, and for IRV, just because it think its RIGHT. We shouldn't be able to limit who runs in general elections to two, and we should have a system where we can have our vote go where we want it to go should the general election not lead to a majority vote.

          2. That's why I'm for the Coombs method — it eliminates last choices first. So in Burlington, the Republican would have been eliminated in the first round, and the Progressive would have been eliminated in the second round, leaving the Democrat the victor. (See the Wikipedia article above for a good theoretical example of a Coombs-method statewide referendum on which should be the capital of Tennessee.)

  2. I hate to tell everyone, but a 3rd Party is preety much impossible. You’d need the money first of all. If Ross Perot was trying to throw in, and was still political, and if Bill Gates felt the same way and chipped in, then you’d have a 3rd party. Problem is money and resources. Its also impossible in my opinion, but that is also because all of the political science courses I’ve taken and what I’ve observed my entire life.

    1. The U.S. is an aberration in this respect. Parties are created much more often in other countries, and a handful have come and gone over our nations short history.

      Perot can't self fund a party… no individual can – there are contribution limits to political parties.

      We've never had this many people say that don't think either party represents them well. 40+% of them stand between the major parties politically. Both sides are pushing their moderates out even more, leading to centrists having even less representation in national office.

      In other words, I could give a rats ass if you think its impossible. The past is a good measure of the future only IF/WHEN the past situation is similar… which it clearly isn't.

      A lasting centrist party isn't necessarily what will happen… one could pop up and pull the other two back towards the center (as happened with The Bull Moose Party), one of the major parties might splinter, both might splinter, who knows. Pretending you know what is going to happen is stupid. All we know is things will change.

    2. Ben, If the rules change in a two simple ways, two-party dominance will fade: (1) 50% + 1 for victory, through run-offs, and (2) reasonable ballot access rules for final-round elections. A third change would accelerate voter choice and information — required debates — it is debate performance that got Britain's Lib Dems into a coalition government in London, in their geographic representation system like ours (i.e., not proportional).

    1. Actually in mos places 13% would get you permanent party status if you got it statewide.

      Jeff had nearly no money, no party structure to back him, couldn't campaign full time and lives in a deep red district. 13% is great. If we build networks of centrist/moderate independents and run more people up and down the ticket, we'll start seeing more people win.

      As I said in a previous post, this cycle saw more independents run and win than… I forget the exact number, but something like 82 years.

      I named this blog Rise of the Center for a reason… its happening… but its just STARTING. We've got a LONG way to go.

      1. Hey, in New York State, 50,000 votes in the whole state would get you permanent party status. So yes, 13% is great for a 3rd party candidate. But while you cite all the factors working against Jeff, you failed to note that he didn't even have a Democratic opponent.

        I was pulling for Jeff. If you read my blog, you'll find out that he was the only non-Republican running for Congress that I supported in my recommendations. (See http://opinions-and-more.blogspot.com/search/labe… to see what I'd said about him.) But unless the voting system is changed, I really don't think there is a hope for the kind of change you envision. With plurality voting, if I (a moderate Republican) vote for a centrist in a 3-way race, I help split the right-of-center vote and help elect the Democrat, my LEAST preferred outcome. I'd rather see a Sarah Palin type win than a Chris Van Hollen (who is my actual representative). So I have to vote for a Republican who is more extreme than I'd like than a centrist who might be closer to me, but whose votes only make it easier for the Democrat to win.

        1. I'm of the opinion that we need to stop voting for those who we consider to be lesser evils, under any circumstance. It may lead to worse results at first, but I think it would lead to better ones in the long run.

          Really though, and I've said this on this blog several times… what we need to do is build a foundation… grassroots networks of centrist-ish independents that could help mitigate the gigantic organizational advantage D's & R's have. We also need to focus more on downticket races, where party matters a WHOLE lot less, if you have a candidate who is good at pressing the flesh and is willing to work their tail off.

          Politics is a skill just like anything else… most people who run have built networks of supporters through running for lower races… we need to start nurturing the stable of future congresspersons and senators now, by running and winning state house & senate races, city council, assembly, hell… dog catcher, whatever it takes and whatever people feel is a right place for them to start.

          Most runs for anyone who doesn't have political experience for a higher office like congress, senate, governor, etc… is quixotic or symbolic at best.

        2. Thanks, Bruce. I share your concerns about splitting the vote, and I had the luxury of not running against that headwind (for voters from either side).

          A big part of my campaign's problem was that the media barely covered me, so that most voters knew nothing about me. (I did get moments of very good coverage, and I'm grateful for that.) Even in precincts where Obama won 80%, Republican Goodlatte beat me, which makes no sense (even though the turnout ratio of Republicans to Democrats was higher in 2010 than in 2008).

          Only celebrity or millions and millions of dollars will advance centrism rapidly. The electoral reform I want would do it at a moderate speed. Otherwise, it's a long slog, and yes, it will require some tactics that risk "splitting the vote." That risk is easiest for those of us centrists already accustomed to voting for either party depending on the spectrum position of a given year's candidate, on the balance of power in the capital that year, and on the big issues likely to be legislated upon the terms.

          ALSO and importantly, the risks are smaller if (1) we focus on legislative races and not executive ones, where the stakes per office are high, and (2) we coordinate challenges to incumbents from both main parties in a single election cycle per state or per Congressional election.

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