21 Jan 2011

Hoping for a Pragmatic, Unspun, Moderate Political Party

Options for new political parties

Recent polling data suggests that neither the Democrats or Republicans are appealing to most Americans. The number of independents is slowly increasing. Party affiliation stands at 31% Democrat (dropping and tied with their all time low), 29% Republican (holding steady and 1% above their all time low) and 38% independent (increasing and tied with their all time high). Folks like Solomon Kleinsmith, here at Rise of the Center Uniters.org, see it as a trend of moderates away from the left and right extremes that dominate the two parties. That interpretation sounds reasonable.

Moderate options

If moderates are discontented and leaving the two parties, then what are their options? For people who are more comfortable with conservative ideology, they have the Republican, Libertarian, Boston Tea Party and other conservative third party options. Liberals have the Democratic, Green, Socialist and other parties. Religious people have small or nascent third parties such as the American Party or America’s Independent Party. All of those are grounded in some form of political and/or religious ideology, much of it pretty hard core and extreme. Despite the range of choices, none seem to have much popular appeal to independents.

Why be an independent?

In some (most?) states with closed primaries, people who register as independent cannot vote in primaries for candidates running in a qualified party like the Democratic or Republican parties. That is a big disadvantage. Despite the disadvantage, they still register as independent. A reasonable conclusion is that independents truly do not like their options, including the Democratic and Republican parties.

What else is there?

If it is true, as Mr. Kleinsmith and others suggest, that independents are rejecting political ideology or extremism on the left and right, then that would seem to be a repudiation of at least the extremes of the two dominant ideologies in America – liberal and conservative. If that is true, then what else is there? Other than compromise between the two extremes, not much, that’s what.

The data shows that Democrats and Republicans are being rejected. The other third parties offer variations, usually more extreme, of liberal and conservative ideology but they aren’t getting anywhere. Pragmatic realists (“moderates” as I define it) have essentially no option among any of the existing political groups. If independents are pragmatic realists more or less, that would at least partly explain why they are willing to suffer the major disadvantage of being independent in the first place. Right?Of course, there is another definition of “moderate”, i.e., someone who generally seeks compromise between Democrats and Republicans. In one sense that is pragmatic because there are no other powers to deal with. If you don’t compromise with them, you get nowhere. The downside is that with this kind of moderation, you get compromise between two rejected and flawed ideologies, liberal and conservative.

That may or may not lead to effective solutions to our problems. The outcomes can be good, bad or indifferent. Sometimes what Democrats want makes sense. Sometimes what Republicans want makes sense. Sometimes compromise makes sense. Sometimes (often, I suspect) none of that makes sense. A moderate grounded in pragmatic reality (common sense) and serving the public interest over special interests may on average be better able to see the best option than a moderate looking largely for compromise.

In the world of partisan political advocacy, the two sides (Democrats, Republicans and their special interests) nearly always present us with two highly spun and thus incorrect versions of reality. We also get two, often mutually exclusive, solutions based on their false realities. Their version of reality ignores, distorts or flat out denies facts and reasoning that undercuts ideology. The truth of the matter is that problems and reality are what they are, with no regard to which ideology, if any, it fits or denies. It’s like air pollution not caring about crossing state or international borders – it is just going to go wherever it goes, like it or not.

The opportunity

Assuming the foregoing has some validity, there should be an opportunity for a new political party to form right now. Despite that, the momentum for moderates just isn’t there. At least not like it is for the Tea Party (mostly hard core political and religious ideologues), who made real, tangible progress in a short period of time. Why aren’t moderates coalescing like the Tea Party did?

What is missing?

Maybe some things are missing before independents or moderates, if that is what independents are, will coalesce into an organized force. One is the emotion needed to rally people around a cause. It seems to be the case that many (most?) people just can’t rally around cold, rational political discussions about reasonable and effective problem solving. It’s too dull. Rhetorical fire breathing dragons, or something like that, seems to be needed. The second missing item is a coherent cause or intellectual framework for independents or moderates to rally around.

The coherent cause

As for the coherent cause, there is one possibility that no political party offers today. That is a party grounded largely in pragmatic reality and rejection of political and religious ideology to the extent it can reasonably be done. That is an alternative that none of the existing parties and movements, like the Tea Party, offer. That is something that should appeal to at least some independents and pragmatists.

The search for unspun truth and intelligent, shrewd, efficient and humane policies to address problems seen from the viewpoint of unspun truth could be the intellectual core for a new political party. That is something that none of the other parties can or will offer. From them, we get spin, more spin and service to their special interests at the expense of the public interest, i.e., the political status quo.

At the least, pursuit of honest reality and service to the public before service to the special interest is a real and different option compared to the political party chaos we have now. Any takers?

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.

46 thoughts on “Hoping for a Pragmatic, Unspun, Moderate Political Party”

  1. I agree the middle needs more options.  But we can’t just be against the two parties.  We have to offer an alternative.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe we truly understand what defines centrists!

    That is the goal of my blog.  I’m having an intellectual discussion with my audience around the U.S. to try to understand what defines us.  Once we do that then we can talk about offering an alternative like a centrist party.  But I think figuring out what unites us and defines comes first. 

    Check out this essay if your interested.

    [blog is no longer active – link has been removed]

    1. Nick,
      I have tried as hard as I can to offer alternative thinking and options to the two party system. My efforts are pointed specifically at how to approach political problems and their solutions. Some of that is posted here https://uniters.org/2011/does-boehners-5-cut-to-the-house-operating-budget-do-more-harm-than-good-2324; https://uniters.org/2011/partisan-political-advocacy-yields-failed-politics-2240 ; https://uniters.org/2010/one-moderates-outline-of-a-new-political-party-for-the-center-2211.

      It is also on my California Moderates blog (editor’s note – link is dead / site has since shut down). Plenty of ideas are out there, but it appears to me that the efforts to act on them are fragmented. Solomon is working with No Labels to coordinate efforts to find compromise.
      I have lost faith in the two party system and their ability to fundamentally reform themselves. My interest is in starting a new party that is grounded in cold, hard reality with as little ideology as possible to distort it.
      I struggle to define what a centrist is. The one thing that comes to mind is someone willing to face reality without spin or bias and then try to deal with it as intelligently, efficiently and compassionately as possible. All the other political options out there are awash in ideology. I cannot see how that will get us anywhere – we are already up to our eyeballs in ideology and it failed. I agree – we need to define what we stand for.
      I will contact you to see if you are interested in collaborating with me and maybe others who are interested in forming a new party. I am aware of your blog and have made some comments there (and here) as “pragmatist”. I have briefly tried working for a new party with some others, e.g., Rick Bayan, with no success. The enthusiasm wasn’t there at the time. Maybe now there is more appetite to try something new.

  2. While I will never oppose such a party, I think what we really need is structural reform.
    Because of how are system is set up, it is hard to have more than two parties (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger's_law).  That means it will, in the end, diplace one of two parties.  This will either drag it to one side or disenfranchise those who support the party that is eliminated (and while I probably won’t agree with their views, we should seek to free up _everyone_ from a system where voters are forced to choose between two parties when neither of them represents your views.)
    Thus, I don’t see a new party as a long term solution.  Instead, I would like to see something that fundamentally allows more voices to campaign.  My favorite is instant run-off voting…

    1. There seem to be three factions among independents as far as this goes. You sound like you’re part of the non party independent faction. I straddle that and the pro centrist party faction, where Nick is. I think they can compliment each other. Those are the two most logical factions… the only one I don’t think makes much sense is the anti-party faction.

      That faction just makes it easier for the independents to be divided and conquered.

      Regardless of whether we think a centrist third party is the way to go, we shouldn’t fight with ourselves over this. Anyone fighting for the rights of independents should find common cause, no matter the organizational manner in which they think the best to do so.

      1. Hm. I had not thought of it that way – the three-way view.
        I want a new third party. That would be some place for independents /centrists /pragmatists to have a home. Does that fit with a non-party independent faction? Given the labels, it seems I am a pro-centrist party dude, where Nick is. I swear, these labels confuse me. Help me out here.

        1. I think some of the non-party types would come around IF, and this is a big if, this new party was significantly different in some substantial ways that would set them apart from the two major parties in more than just stances on the issues.

          A big part of it is success too. If a party begins to actually accomplish things, and creates a place that is a big tent where centrists and moderates that lean both ways a bit are all welcome… that is an idea that could have legs. But its going to take a lot for independents to believe that this new party is for real.

          All these people trying to form national parties have their heads in the wrong place. They need to focus on making things happen locally and growing organically, or picking an organization, like No Labels, and putting their time, energy and money into that. A whole hell of a lot has to happen before a real movement can happen… people don’t realize that what we now know of as the Tea Party is decades in the making.

          These aren’t labels to be confused by, just a way to describe something I’ve noticed. Plenty of other attributes among independents.

          1. One thing that might get more enthusiastic to a new party was if it committed itself to structural reform to break up the two party system.  Instant run-off voting (some alternative reforms), redistricting reform, etc.  Then it wouldn’t what we will do instead of structural reform, it would be a mechanism for structural reform.

  3. David,
    I can only speak for myself, but I would rather try to form a new party and see it ultimately corrupted like the current two parties if that meant that something good could come of it before the party fell to politics as usual. That said, I do see a third party as a long term solution. Sure, there are many proposals to change the status quo, but do those things really get at the heart of our problems?
    For example, how would having instant run off voting affect (1) entrenched activists in the two parties (they will never stand down or step aside), (2) special interest money (which will never stand down or step aside) or (3) the opacity of politics and deception that both parties regularly inflict on us poor taxpayers? How are you going to pierce the veil with instant run offs?
    Finally, I tried your link to the Wikipedia article, but it wasn’t there. However, let’s assume that it is a brilliant treatise on why a third party is doomed to fail (be co-opted, at best). Fine. Did Dr. Duverger (born 1917) write his brilliant treatise when the internet was in existence? That is a relevant factor. Things change, political theories can lag by decades or centuries. Political theories can be wrong – communism comes to mind.
    I would caution about over reliance on theory when it comes to modeling the human condition, including politics. Remember the sainted Alan Greenspan, former head of the federal reserve and all around genius? He was a brilliant theoretician with ivy league credentials and connections out the wazoo. He was America’s God of economics.
    Despite his credentials, after our economy blew up in 2007-2008, Greenspan admitted to congress that his economic ideology had failed. He admitted that his sophisticated economic theories failed to account for one thing – human behavior that in the context of his theories (ideology, which was his term for it) looked so irrational as to be impossible to contemplate. What was that behavior? Greed. Greenspan, brilliant as he was, failed to consider that some people are so greedy that they will act in their own self-interest that they literally bring down the institutions they work for, regardless of the collateral damage to our economy at large. Greenspan truly felt that no one would ever do things in their own interest to the detriment of the institution they worked for. Greenspan was blindsided by common garden variety human nature. His ideology blinded him.
    So now, in retrospect, how smart does Greenspan look? How cool are his sophisticated and complex economic theories and equations? When I look at politics, I look for human nature and behavior first, and then consider theory. Theory does have its place. However, people are what they are, regardless of what the equations say they are or should be. What are the hottest new fields in economics? Behavioral economics and behavioral finance. Notice the emphasis on behavior? There is a reason for that. Economists are finally waking up to the fact that people are not logic machines. We are complex mixes of the rational and the irrational. I think the irrational dominates for the most part. Now, how much faith should I put in Dr. Duverger’s brilliant theory?

    1. I’m do not oppose a centrist third party.  It can, as suggested, do some real good in the short term that can benefit the country.  I don’t think it obviates the need for structural reform.

      The link to Durverger’s law probably ran into problems with the ” ‘ ” character.  A search at en.wikipedia.org using “Durverger” will pull it up.  He however, mostly just enunciated what other have seen.  The idea that you should “vote for the lesser of two evils” has always been a fundamental symptom of this effect.

      I actually think the situation he describes is getting worse.  Modern understanding of game theory and statistics, along with psychology, have allowed politicians to fine tune it.  They have also started doing “Faustian bargains”.  In CA, the Republicans allow the Democrats the gerrymander because they also make sure that all the Republican that have been elected are in safe seats.  This results in a bipartisan consensus (about the only one they can come to) where the turn-over in districts is even lower than before.

      I think you might get a third party through because the partisans have overstepped and started believing their own propaganda.  They have so alienated the center that it is casting about for something different.   That is probably the only reason a third paty has a chance against the structural barriers but, ironically, if it succeeds it will itself provide an outlet for the discontent that allowed it to succeed. I believe that if a third party drifts, which it must almost inevitably do, it will be a long time (and a lot of partisan damage) before people get fed up enough to create a third party again.

      However, given that structural change may never come, I don’t oppose a third party because of the short term benefits and because predictions of the future are, indeed, often wrong.  I would probably even vote for it.  (Assuming it doesn’t get subverted by people to try and push left or right ideologies to the center).  However, I think if we are going to get structural change, now is the time so while I don’t oppose a third party, my energy is going toward some sort of reform in the voting system.  I am please at the open primaries (and even use of instant run-off voting in some districts) and esp. with redistricting reform in CA.  But I think we need more.

      1. There ya go.

        “I am please at the open primaries (and even use of instant run-off voting in some districts) and esp. with redistricting reform in CA.  But I think we need more.”

        Unfortunately the Open Primary aspect came tied with the Blanket Primary, also called Top Two, limiting how many people can make it to the general election to only two. That is a boon to wealthy, politically connected and famous candidates, but a death knoll for underdog candidates of all types.

        We desperately need Open Primaries… but saddling that with Blanket Primaries/Top Two is like taking two steps forward, then two steps back.

        1. Here in CA, I think open primaries can help moderate GOP and Democratic party members, who otherwise get dismissed as RINOs and DINOs, get on the ballot.
          I agree it does nothing to help third parties and poorly known candidates and even makes things worse.  However, to be honest, the system was so stacked against them before that they didn’t stand a chance anyway.  I think the only way to fix this problem is more sweeping voting reform.
          So I think open primaries are a net benefit, but agree that more needs to be done to address the problems they leave unresolved.

          1. Nobody is disagreeing with open primaries… except major party people of course… but the top two (which I’m learning more about… I was wrong about it being essentially the same as blanket primaries, its a version of run off elections, but the run off is then general election) is a huge hurdle to everyone but politically connected, wealthy or famous candidates.

            It puts even more power into the hands of primary voters as well. Very few people vote in primaries, and even less independents, even when they’re allowed to. Limiting how many people can make it to the general election is the biggest threat to the independent groundswell becoming a full fledged movement that I can see right now.

            1. An open primary is the same as a run-off except you only select two and only have one run-off (where instant run-off lets you have an large number of run-off without holding new elections).   I do wonder if voters can be convinced, for example, to start regarding open primaries as run-off election and then point out that you can more than one run-off and only have to hold one election…
              The hope is that open primaries will attract more voters than traditional primaries…

              1. Run offs and open primaries have nothing to do with each other…

                An open primary lets anyone vote for whoever they want in a primary.

                A run off is an election that follows another than trips it off because neither candidate won 50%.

                One has to do with who can vote for whom in a primary. The other has to do with rules involving who makes it to the next round.

                1. I might agree that open primaries in general have little to do with run-off systems (I’m not an expert on the types of open primaries.)  However, the system we are using in CA looks to me to be effectively a simple run-off system.  We hold an election, the top two candidates than run in a run-off to win.  The only difference is that the following run-off is held without regard to whether anyone got a majority.  Otherwise they are labeled “primary” and “general election” only because people are used to thinking out them that way.

                  1. It IS a run off system… that is what I just said.

                    The general election isn’t just a label, its where the person who actually gets to take office is decided. You can change the name of it, but primaries and generals are two very different things.

                    Open primaries do attract more people, but tacking this Top Two garbage onto it is making the coalition of people who will help push for Open Primaries smaller, by splitting independents, and cutting out third party groups altogether.

                    Even if you think Top Two is better for independents, which I still have a hard time seeing why anyone would think that, its clear to see that tacking Top Two onto Open Primary style election reforms is going to make it harder to pass.

                    1. Well, perhaps we need to clarify things.  It seems to be me the issue now being addressed is that top two splits independents?
                      First of all, I totally agree that a full run off system or instant run-off voting is much better than a system where you have an election and only the top two go to the next round.  It can split groups and force “lesser of two evils” voting.  I prefer to work directly for a full run-off system.
                      However, in CA the choice, when it came time to vote on the proposition, was between a top two in a run-off system and “politics as usual”.  For all its flaws, an open primary can break open the strangle hold on choices that the partisan base force on the rest of us.  Independents can go to a moderate candidate that the partisan would never allow.  While a Republican or Democrat who might want to vote for an independent still has to worry that he is “abandoning” his party, that is an easier worry to overcome than if the same person had to worry about abandoning his party _and_ electing the other party’s guy.  Since, after all, with the new system someone _will_ have to get 50% of the vote and can’t slip in with 40%, even though the majority didn’t want him, because the other 60% was split.

                    2. Damnit… I can’t figure a way for WordPress to let threaded comments go more than 10 levels deep… ugh

                      Open Primaries is wonderful, but Top Two worse than Open Primaries is good. Its like taking five steps forward only to take seven backwards.

                      There is so much wrong with it… I’ve gone into it in depth elsewhere, but the worst is that almost assuredly kills the chances of lesser known independents to ever make it to the general election. Unless they’re wealthy, politicially connected in some other way, or famous, the only thing they have that is equal to the major party supported candidates is the full calendar.

                      Taking that away is the worst possible thing we could take from them. For example, Lincoln Chafee would have made it through the primary, but he was already a famous person because of his time as a Republican Senator in years past. But Eliot Cutler, had never been a candidate before, would not have made it to the general and he came within two points of winning. If a law is blocking people like Eliot Cutler, I really don’t see how independents can support it.

                      The organizations pushing for this are hiding it inside Open Primaries, which all but the most partisan hacks are for. They did so so often, a judge even ruled that they had to stop lying about it in campaign communications. I’m not sure why they’re doing it, but I’m going to find out. I’m getting closer, collecting pieces of the puzzle… and I’ll make sure everyone knows when I do.

              2. And in case you’re wondering… I’m trying to figure out how to stop these nested comments from getting more and more narrow… and failing. My CSS skills are… lets say I’m learning as I go.

  4. There seem to be two threads here: (1) the two existing major political parties are ideology-bound and incapable of consistently providing reality-based solutions to real-world problems; and (2) creating an actual third party as a serious alternative to the two existing majors is impractical, or doomed to devolve into another flawed major party, or both.

    I suggest that we consider Einstein’s maxim that we can’t solve our problems with the same kind of thinking that created them. Instead of a third party, I suggest that we need a formal Congressional caucus, composed of individual Democrats, Republicans, and anyone else, who is seriously interested in reality over ideology, and pragmatic solutions over political theater. The caucus could have whatever organization and bylaws it wishes, as long as it is flexible, open to new members and new ideas, and bound only to its goal of promoting and enacting what makes the most sense for the country regardless of whose idea it is and which party gets the short-term credit for it. On the electoral level, candidates of any party would be expected to commit publicly and repeatedly to joining the caucus if elected, in which case the caucus would support them to the voters as proponents of sensible government regardless of party affiliation.

    I see this as no more difficult than establishing a new, coherent third-alternative party, and arguably more supportive of what we all seem to agree a third party should accomplish.

    1. Its a big assumption to say that a third party will necessarily end up the same as the major parties. We could learn from the mistakes of the parties that have come before us and institutionalize some checks against the aspects of them that we don’t like.

      A caucus is a good idea, and I’ve heard that some people are actually trying to make that happen… who the senator is… their name is eluding me right now. Regardless, a caucus isn’t nearly enough. We need an organization that recruits, helps organize, helps raise money for and in general just supports the candidacy of centrists and moderates. That doesn’t have to be a party necessarily, it could be a political nonprofit, although I think having both would be best, since there are limits to each.

  5. I am not opposed to a 3rd party, but I’m pretty unlikely to join one. I am not interested in mimicking the format of existing groups I don’t like. On the other hand, I would probably be willing to join some sort of coalition if it was organized with a particular eye towards avoiding the most objectionable flaws of the existing parties. And if it focused on a short list of useful, achievable goals: open primaries; redistricting reform; limits to big money campaign finance; and identifying and electing to congress 3 , 5, 10 real independents.
    Mostly, what I don’t like is the idea of supporting an idea or policy on the basis of loyalty. That’s antithetical to the virtue of independence. Further, I am unconvinced of the virtue of moderation as a political organizing principle, since it suggests that we figure everything out simply by splitting the difference. Since I sometimes agree much more strongly with conservatives or with liberals on a given issue, I think we need a more sensitive calculus that to add everything together and divide by two.
    Years arguing with partisans from both wings has earned me many battle scars. I’m proud to have been accused of being both a conservative tool and a liberal lackey by hyperpartisans. And I’ve come to believe that “split the difference” moderation is something that holds little broad appeal. Instead, what’s needed are approaches that get liberals and conservatives to listen to and acknowledge when the the other side has a good point.
    The internet and social networking has brought so much more communication, but it hasn’t brought that much improved communication. The idea that folks need to entertain and study can be summed up in 3 words: good faith dialogue.

    1. Cranky,
      I understand your concern about “splitting the difference”. I have advocated here and elsewhere that my definition of a moderate isn’t someone who necessarily splits the difference. My ideal moderate politics looks coldly and honestly and reality to understand issues as best one can and then uses pragmatism (not ideology) to try to come up with the best solution.
      That is the kind of third party I advocate. That kind of politics fundamentally differs from any political party out there now that I am aware of and know anything about.
      When you approach politics that way, it is immediately obvious that you can come up with policy that looks (1) liberal/ Democratic, (2) conservative/ Republican, (3) a compromise between the two or (4) like none of those.
      Its that fourth option that rarely or never gets consideration by the main parties or the public because (a) it is outside the limits of what is acceptable under standard political ideology, (b) is opposed by special interest money and/or (c) threatens the political self-interest of the politician involved, even if that means damage to the public interest.
      That is why I sound like a broken record. Again and again and again, I point to (1) ideology, (2) special interest money and/or (3) political self-interest before the public interest in almost everything I write. When it comes to politics and political failure, those three are the three horsemen of the apocalypse.

  6. I think the problem with politics is they are ecologically conscious and recycle the same ideas instead of thinking of new ones.
    Perhaps the thing to do is to get reform minded people, regardless of political point of view and create, for the wanton lack of a better term, an “all-star” team of thinkers and doers.
    the right wing has some good ideas, so does the left wing, and there are even good ideas coming out from left field.
    Centerist implies something that this particular blog actually doesn’t advicate. What this blog advocates is something far better. I am happy I had the chance to read it.

    1. I can assure you, we do indeed push what I call a “big tent centrist” perspective here, which included moderates of all stripes, and centrists.

      I appreciate thoughtful creative political ideas from all over the spectrum. I regularly read what think tanks from the libertarian CATO, Conservative Heritage, Third Way and Brookings, left leaners, etc.

      Plenty of great ideas out there, you just need to look. I seriously doubt you’d ever be able to convince them to come together under an embrella, with how much they disagree with each other.

      1. Sol,
        Exactly right – you can’t convince them to come together. Many (most?) hard core ideologues treat their ideology and policies that flow therefrom more like spiritual beliefs than political theory that may turn out to be good, bad or indifferent. You simply have to take their beliefs on faith.
        I have no idea of how to get at that problem of human nature, other than to try to form a new third party. That just might provide an authority source with enough power to convince open minded people to try to look at things with less bias, more intellectual flexibility and a bit more humility. It gives open minded people a place to go and collectively express their influence. At least, I think that might be a possibility. I hope.

        1. I think its inevitable. Its up to early adopter types like us to get involved early and try to shape it so it isn’t just another party like the others, but with a different ideology.

  7. I can’t repeat often enough how strongly I think “moderate” is the wrong branding.
    I count “form a party” and “be a moderate” as recycling old ideas. Quite possibly,  both work against the formation of a truly useful countering force to the existing party. I am quite skeptical of the notion of forming a party that will avoid the pitfalls of the existing parties.
    If you actually have any ideas for those rules which would make this truly party different, I’m all ears. The only one I can think of is a genuine reticence to declare what the appropriate compromise position “should” be. There’s plenty of reason to think that this party should be about process and facilitation, and not about “we make better judgments than the other two parties.”
    But instead of trying to herd cats, why not find ways to use whatever power such cats have in ways that are viable? Many folks just won’t answer the bell based on party loyalty, or sign on to a broad platform.
    I think what’s called for here is something that is narrow, focused, loosely and creatively organized, and has a short list of straightforward understandable reforms that seem like no-brainers to independents.

    1. Cranky,
      I have tried to do what you ask, more or less https://uniters.org/2010/one-moderates-outline-of-a-new-political-party-for-the-center-2211). What I proposed maybe isn’t a “narrow” list, but it as creative as I can get – it isn’t consciously based on political ideology. It is “loosely organized”. It is a suggestion for a place to start. I agree, we have to start somewhere. I am trying as hard as I can to provide the somewhere.
      Can you see my point? Do you see what I am trying to do?
      Maybe you will never sign on to a new third party. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with picking your issues and trying to advance them within the political parties we have now. For me, I want to try reform from a different starting place. Maybe I will fail. Maybe you will succeed. All anyone can do is try, by whatever route they feel is best.

    2. I don’t like the word moderate either… but when you’re talking about someone who leans to the center, it makes the most sense to call them moderate republicans/democrats or moderate liberals/conservatives.


      “Quite possibly,  both work against the formation of a truly useful countering force to the existing party.”

      Its just as silly to assume that any party will act the same as the parties to come before as those who think a centrist party would magically be better. Depends entirely on how the party is put together.


      “If you actually have any ideas for those rules which would make this truly party different, I’m all ears. The only one I can think of is a genuine reticence to declare what the appropriate compromise position “should” be. There’s plenty of reason to think that this party should be about process and facilitation, and not about “we make better judgments than the other two parties.”

      If you think being a centrist has a damn thing to do with finding an “appropriate compromise position”, you don’t really understand what centrists think. We don’t end up centrists by trying to find a compromise position, any more that liberals do so by trying to find a compromise between centrism and communism, or conservatives by trying to find a compromise between centrism and theocracy.


      “But instead of trying to herd cats, why not find ways to use whatever power such cats have in ways that are viable? Many folks just won’t answer the bell based on party loyalty, or sign on to a broad platform.”

      The Independent Party of Oregon is, in my opinion, THE premier organization for independents in the entire country. They are a political party, and while only a few years old they are already having a bigger impact than any other such organization in the country.


      “I think what’s called for here is something that is narrow, focused, loosely and creatively organized, and has a short list of straightforward understandable reforms that seem like no-brainers to independents.”

      Just like any other constituency, a whole spectrum of organizations is needed to represent the center. Single issue organizations, parties, multi-issue grassroots networks, social groups, etc.

      There is no point *at all* of fighting with each other over this. Put your time and energy into the organization that you think is most fruitful. We need a whole centrist/moderate infrastructure to have any chance against the same on both sides.

      1. Interesting you mentioned the Oregon independents. Some my belief that a third party can come into existence is based on what they have done there. They organize and vote by internet. If they can do it, why not others?

        1. Can you say that again? The start of the second sentence is confusing.

          Their manner of electing who they support is secondary in my mind. I am so impressed with them because they are getting out there and doing the thankless, tireless work of building a political organization. Knocking on doors, making phone calls, registering voters, having events, running candidates, raising money, building their membership, getting media attention, etc etc etc.

          So many other groups have a lot of talk, but from what I’ve seen, these people are a perfect example of an organization that walks the walk a hell of a lot more than they talk.

  8. Well we can disagree about the value of political parties. I think there are problems inherent in their very natures, you aren’t as troubled by that. Fair enough.
    <blockquote>If you think being a centrist has a damn thing to do with finding an “appropriate compromise position”, you don’t really understand what centrists think. We don’t end up centrists by trying to find a compromise position, any more that liberals do so by trying to find a compromise between centrism and communism, or conservatives by trying to find a compromise between centrism and theocracy.</blockquote>

    Since I was a reader and then a poster at the centrist coalition for a couple years, I’d like to think I have some idea. Still, what you say may be true. I’m imaging that a political party such as the one you describe would tend to have positions on important issues. Are you saying this wouldn’t be the case?
    You’ve spit the bit on explaining what sorts of things you imagine this party doing that will help it avoid developing the same flaws as other parties. Do you actually have any ideas about what those things might be? Or were you simply expressing a hope, without having given the idea any real thought yet?

    1. There is some kind of communication disconnect here. I just said centrists aren’t interested in looking for an “appropriate compromise position”, and you take that to mean centrists aren’t taking ANY position? I don’t understand how you made that jump…

      I don’t know any centrists who are such because it is the approximate midway between liberal and conservative… its just where they end up on the issues.

      I do have some ideas along the lines of how a centrist party could be significantly different, and much better, than the parties that exist now… and I’m sorry if I’m not sharing them but I’m saving them for a time when I have a chance to actually put them to work.

      But really, just think about the things you don’t like about political parties, and think about how a party you might build from scratch could attempt to mitigate that issue institutionally. There are perils in any human run organization, because people are corruptible… but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn and improve, or that we should give up one very important type of political vehicle.

      The same problems exist for pure grassroots groups, political action committees, 501c4’s… every type of political group has weaknesses that can be exploited by corrupt people. Using your logic, we shouldn’t have any organization what so ever and just do things individually… that just doesn’t work.

  9. You got quite pissed when I said that I thought it might be a good idea for a centrist party to avoid focusing on establishing “an appropriate compromise position.”
    All that means, at least to me,  is a position that takes some bits from conservative insight and some from liberal insight. You seem to think it means something else. Does this have something to do with your apparent distaste for compromise?
    I don’t think a new moderate (or centrist or whatever you want to call it) party is going to have much success being a different kind of party if it establishes party positions on issues. The party then sounds like the smug smart guys and becomes roadkill for attacks from both wings. Not to mention, it immediately becomes just like the existing parties in many respects. Do you or do you not imagine this new party establishing positions for a platform?
    The only idea that came to my mind about how a party could be different from the usual parties was to focus on methods to help better ideas emerge rather than to focus on declaring what those better ideas were.
    I have a difficult time respecting your claim that you have some good ideas about how to make a party significantly different and much better, but are keeping them secret. When someone tells me something like that, it usually turns out to be horseshit.

    1. Are you puroposefully twisting things I say to try and get under my skin? Its not pissing me off, although if it continues I’ll just start ignoring you.

      I didn’t say what you said above, and I’m not angry. If I was angry I’d just ignore you. I also didn’t say, in the other post, that I have any problems with compromise.

      I don’t have a problem with you disagreeing with me, but don’t expect me to engage with you if you continue to read between the lines of what I’m saying and not just respond to my comments at face value.

      Maybe my ideas are horseshit… we’ll find out if/when I have a chance to put them into play. I don’t have any obligation to share every single thing I think about with you, any more than you have any sort of obligation to me.

  10. And no, I’m not purposely trying to twist your words. I’m simply finding some of the things you say and your methods of response VERY confusing.
    Starting when you said this: “If you think being a centrist has a damn thing to do with finding an “appropriate compromise position”, you don’t really understand what centrists think.”

    Have a good night.

    1. I explained what I meant, that centrists do not come to their conclusions at all because it is a compromise position.

      Of course any party would have to have some form of a platform.

  11. Cranky,
    Just out of curiosity, what is your narrow list of no-brainer reforms we should or could start from. My list is obviously of no interest. How about yours?

    1. The Moderates – a new party seeking fiscally and socially responsible policies to guide our country. What is needed are articulate public figures to carry the mantra AND an agenda outlining the policies. The President’s Fiscal Commission provides the agenda! All we need are some strong voices to pick it up and run with it!

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