Time for Option Number Three

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No offense to any of the card-carrying Democrats and Republicans out there, but I think it’s high time for the introduction of a major third political party in this country.

As a self-identified independent and something of a moderate (with some conservative leanings here and there), I’m not at all afraid to say that. I don’t claim any loyalty toward either party, and while Republicans are more likely to get my vote these days, I reserve the right to cast my ballot for whoever the heck I want. If you want my vote, you’re going to have to offer up more than just an R or a D behind your name.

And I don’t believe that the success of America or the survival of our democracy depends on one party permanently prevailing or the other being utterly vanquished – though I do think a good trouncing for the Dems in November could potentially turn into a healthy course correction at this point in the game. But time will tell if that really turns out to be the case.

According to Gallup, Americans who identified as either Democrats or Republicans were in a dead heat at 28 percent apiece during the fourth quarter of 2021. Those who identified as independents made up the biggest group at 41 percent with 17 percent of those leaning more to the left, 16 percent leaning more to the right, and eight percent at dead center.

And while we independents represent the biggest slice of the political pie and we basically decide which way most national elections will go, the two major parties seem to have forgotten or dismissed our existence while they shamelessly pander to their bases and big bankroll donors.

And, to be brutally honest, the level of divisiveness and antagonism between the two parties has moved beyond toxic. It’s getting downright dangerous.

I would even go so far as to say that rampant, unyielding partisanship just might be the single biggest “existential threat” to American democracy – over and above Putin or China or January 6 insurrectionists or Trump seeking re-election or white supremacy or Critical Race Theory or angry young Marxists setting cities on fire.

So, with all that said, I think it’s time for independents, along with some fed-up Democrats and Republicans, to get together around common interests and for the good of the nation to form a third party strong enough to challenge the other two.

And while I try to leave myself room to be wrong, I suspect this would be a positive development for America.

A strong third party could serve as a buffer between the other two and maybe bring a moderating influence to our hyperpolarized political environment. And it would make it less likely that any one party could ride roughshod over the federal government or deadlock everything out of spite.

We might even get a situation in which any significant legislation would have to be hashed out in compromise and cooperation between all three parties, and those introducing legislation would actually have to sell it on its merits. Imagine that.

And if I were consulted regarding the formation of a third party, I would recommend that it generally orient itself in the moderate range while making a point not to be too narrow or dogmatic in its political platform.

If a political organization were to offer the perks and support structure that goes with party membership while exerting less pressure to toe the party line on every little thing and leaving more freedom to pursue one’s own convictions and the interests of ordinary people – well I suspect that such an arrangement might actually appeal to many elected officials.

I also think that it would be a good idea for the new party to focus on coming up with practical, workable, affordable solutions to real-world problems, all while being careful not to get hung up over ideologies, subdivided by identity politics, or bogged down in culture war issues.

As far as a name, my first suggestion would be the America United Party. I think that has a nice ring to it. Or maybe the One America Party – or simply the America Party. But those are just some possibilities.

Of course, the two-party system has been entrenched for a very long time, and it is deeply embedded in the American consciousness. Over the past 200 years or so, Democrats and Republicans have established an almost unbreakable duopoly, and they have custom-designed our entire political system to exclusively serve as a field of competition between their two opposing teams.

Trying to introduce a major third party with its own national, state, and local primaries and equal billing on ballots would be an uphill battle (to say the very least), and those who have built their careers and fortunes around partisan politics would do their very best to kill any such movement in the cradle.

Realistically, I suspect it would take either a strong independent candidate getting elected as president or a Democrat or Republican president breaking off from his or her own party while still in office – and then using that presidential platform and pulpit to sell the idea to the American people, fight through the fierce partisan resistance that would surely come from both sides of the aisle, and just maybe succeed in birthing a new major party into existence.

While it’s highly unlikely that any of that will ever happen, I’m hoping that it’s at least possible – and an initial grassroots movement and some loud national conversation on the subject just might improve the odds. Mass demand for change usually precedes significant changes.

And on the outside chance that Elon Musk just happens to read this – and if Mr. Musk is looking for a new hobby (something besides blasting objects and people into space and taking over Twitter) – then he might consider funding and promoting the establishment of a new political party.

That would certainly make a lasting mark in the history books, and it would definitely spice up the soup, politically speaking.

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