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Third Party


Aug 27, 2011
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Recently, we, the United States of America, came within a whisker of prolonging the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The debt ceiling crisis, and underlying deficit issues, are both problems with relatively simple, and obvious solutions, but the nature of American politics has ensured that the truly difficult and necessary actions have been put off. The current state of legislative and executive action in the American government is unacceptable, and the blame for this lies square on the shoulders of both the Democrat and Republican parties.
When one surveys the current slate of options among the registered parties, and the platforms of the two major parties, it becomes very apparent that the choices currently offered to voters are extreme to either the left or right and thus have ideals that belong more in the realm of dogma then that of the solutions this country needs. The Republicans, led by the rightward surge of the Tea Party and Americans for Tax reform, is content to deprive the government of revenue when taxes are at their lowest as a share of GDP since the Truman administration. The Democrats on the other hand, have decided to defend their beloved entitlement programs, despite the obvious fact that the current growth of expenditures on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security cannot be sustained in the medium term. In addition to this, the intelligent and sensible reforms of the Dodd-Frank Committee and Gang of Six were almost totally ignored by both sides over the past several months. These positions formed the heart of the debt crisis, and will continue to paralyze American politics as long as both parties remain rigidly tied to them.
Most of this can be boiled down to the conflict between the donkey and the elephant over the role of government. The Republicans would love to believe that it is possible to return the state to the bare minimums by reading the 10th Amendment in the most literal way possible. The Democrats would prefer a larger state, but have yet to produce a clear means to pay for their dreams, and have shown a disconcerting willingness to push through various programs, despite the end product being faulty, as in the case of health care. The efficiency of both parties’ economic platforms will never be totally clear, but it is certain that in extreme cases, Keynes’ ideas are preferable to the unfettered capitalism of Hayeck. As with many other ideas, this comes with the caveat that extreme caution should be used in the application of such stimulus.
Also of note and of central importance to Washington’s impotence, is the current state of the interactions between the two parties. Since the presidential election of 2000, the political climate has steadily deteriorated to the point that basic civility and a shared commitment to public service from the two parties seems to be all but dead. When one reads the retirement statement of former Senator Evan Bayh, it becomes very clear that he was thoroughly disillusioned with Washington and his disgust is shared by many Americans. This is tied to the rigidity of the two parties’ dogmas, but also to some ridiculous political gamesmanship in the drawing up of electoral districts, and to the increasing polarization of the media. The partisan control of drawing electoral districts is inherently undemocratic, as it is at its core an attempt to rig elections. The media has become more democratic, especially as the Internet increases the variety of sources, including the new domain of social media. This “return to the coffeehouse” has however, been accompanied by a definitive shift to either the left or the right, most prominently by Fox News. While impartiality in the media is a myth, and only possible in an ideal world, the danger of this polarization comes when ideas and ideologies are presented to the public as facts, with little regard for alternatives or information that may contradict the “news.”
Given the current state of affairs, and an understanding of how we arrived at this point, the focus now turns to solutions. One would like to believe that both the parties will voluntarily return to more moderate and practical positions, but at the moment, there is a massive void in the center of the political landscape. The recent debt debate, so nearly a debt debacle, saw the vast majority of Americans advocate for compromise. Equally notable is the rise of independent voters, who are occupying an ever greater portion of the electorate and are clearly unwilling to espouse all the views of one party or another. The majority of Americans have been drowned out in a sea of Tea Parties, MSNBC, and virulent political rhetoric. As the Republicans and Democrats have swung further to the wings of the political spectrum, they have opened a massive void in the center of the American political landscape. A new movement is needed to revitalize American politics and represent the majority of Americans who have been ignored by the increasingly radical Democrats and Republicans.
With all this in mind, I propose the formation of a centrist third party, to act as a moderating and mobilizing force in American politics. The primary focus of this party would be effective deficit reduction, eventually guiding the US government to either a small and manageable deficit, or ideally, a healthy surplus. To do so would restore global faith in the American government, and empower our nation to continue strongly deep into the 21st Century. The course of history has demonstrated time and again that the power of the state is irrevocably tied to the economic power of the nation under it. It is only possible to maintain political and military power with a healthy economy, and the current deficit casts a massive pall over the American economy, as does continued paralysis in the Capital.
The rise of a third major party would also be a great triumph for democracy, and a necessary boost to a stagnant and rigid political landscape. The lack of true choice on voting day (Almost all other American political parties are even further left or right than the Republicans and Democrats) is a hindrance to democracy. Another choice for the electorate would be a triumph for the American ideals of freedom and capitalism. Equally important, this third party must support campaign finance reform, in order to level the playing field. The last two Presidents, Obama and Bush, have been notable in their prodigious fundraising, but have also been very susceptible to influence by the special interests that helped them shatter records. Notable among this web is the lack of Tort reform in Obama’s Health Care reform bill. Campaign finance and lobbying reform are tied to a healthier democracy, and a centrist third party could easily embrace these causes. An equally democratic reform would be the implementation of non-binding referendums on critical issues on the traditional voting days. Given the results from this, politicians who had been newly elected and reelected would have a precise understanding of where their constituents stand. This would be a much more efficient way of gathering public opinion then the typical surveys which can contain bias and not truly represent the population of a given district. Also of critical importance is the creation of an impartial national committee to draw the boundaries of Congressional districts, which would eliminate the current system, riddled as it is with politically charged failures.
The greatest impetus for the creation of a third party is the simple need for change. It is abundantly clear that political stagnation is a prelude to national calamity. The greatest example of this is found in Japan, where 50 years of rule under the DPJ and ruinous political squabbling have seen China overhaul Japan as the predominant power in Asia. The Japanese have a massive deficit, that when taken relative to GDP, dwarfs that of the United States. Equally concerning was the response of the government to the recent earthquake and nuclear crisis. Across the pond in Europe, Italy shows similar paralysis in a debt crisis that may well derail the euro and thus the entire project of European integration. The decade long rule of Silvio Berlusconi shows no signs of ending, despite his preoccupation with legal difficulties and the divisive nature of the debt deal that was rammed through Parliament, only to inspire little confidence among investors.
In naming this movement, I draw inspiration from a great American, Henry Clay. This congressional titan was nicknamed “The Great Compromiser” and that is a legacy I would like this new movement to revive. The Clay party can become the representative of much of America and if it gathers enough strength and would provide a bridge that draws the two major parties to the closer to the center. Clay also lacks the rigidity of the dogmatic solutions provided today by the establishment. In a climate where one party espouses idle ideas while the other clings to starched dogma, the flexibility to be a party of solutions will set the Clay party apart, and ensure that America remains as strong, or stronger, then ever.

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