Monday, December 31, 2007

The Plot Thickens - 3rd Party Candidacy a Real Possibility

I heard the news on the radio that Michael Bloomberg, among others, has announced a meeting scheduled next week among influential Democrats and Republicans to discuss ending the partisan politics in Washington, and possibly deciding to back a third-party candidate.

The Washington Post has a detailed article on the upcoming meeting, which was announced before the Iowa caucuses in order to avoid the appearance of the meeting being a reaction to any one candidate.

According to the Post,

"Those who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two parties do not pledge to "go beyond tokenism" in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party campaign for president."

The group includes influential Democrats such as former senators Sam Nunn (Georgia), Charles S. Robb (Virginia) and David L. Boren (Oklahoma). Among the Republican organizers are Senator Chuck Hagel (Nebraska), former party chairman Bill Brock, former senator John Danforth (Missouri) and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.

Whitman served as head of the EPA under Bush but resigned in 2003 "to spend more time with her family" - however, many surmised she had serious differences with the Bush administration in regard to its environmental policies.

According to the Post,

"Boren, who will host the meeting at the university, where he is president, said: 'It is not a gathering to urge any one person to run for president or to say there necessarily ought to be an independent option. But if we don't see a refocusing of the campaign on a bipartisan approach, I would feel I would want to encourage an independent candidacy.'"

So far the only candidate advocating for any degree of bipartisanship is Barack Obama.

If the group does decide to run a 3rd-party candidate, it is likely they would have the financial - and political - wherewithal to pull it off.

"Others who have indicated that they plan to attend the one-day session include William S. Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine and defense secretary in the Clinton administration; Alan Dixon, a former Democratic senator from Illinois; Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida; Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa; Susan Eisenhower, a political consultant and granddaughter of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower; David Abshire, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency; and Edward Perkins, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations."

If they do choose to run a candidate, it is likely to be Mr. Bloomberg, given that he has been expanding his role in recent months to travel the country and comment on matters outside the New York City political area.

The group seems to be really serious about this effort.

"A letter from Nunn and Boren sent to those attending the Jan. 7 session said that 'our political system is, at the least, badly bent and many are concluding that it is broken at a time where America must lead boldly at home and abroad. Partisan polarization is preventing us from uniting to meet the challenges that we must face if we are to prevent further erosion in America's power of leadership and example.'

At the session, Boren said, participants will try to draft a statement on such issues as the need to "rebuild and reconfigure our military forces," nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and restoring U.S. credibility in the world.

'Today, we are a house divided,' the letter said. 'We believe that the next president must be able to call for a unity of effort by choosing the best talent available -- without regard to political party -- to help lead our nation.'"

For those of us who have been sitting back watching the circus that our political process has become, the endless campaign that began nearly two years before the election, the countless repetitive debates on both sides, this prospect may actually add a lot of excitement and enthusiasm to the upcoming election.

It is not too late for a new candidate to emerge, one that appeals to the vast middle portion of the electorate, that is repulsed by the Republicans' appeals to the basest instincts of our nature (racism, anti-immigration, fear) but is not quite ready for the most radical liberal ideas either.

The important thing is for that candidate to be serious, not just act as a spoiler. Someone like Bloomberg could be that candidate, given the vast financial resources he can muster, as well as the connections he has forged in both parties.

If nothing else, it will at least make the coming year interesting!


Just to be clear, I am not in support of Bloomberg running - a third party candidacy by Bloomberg would hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans, and if he acts only as a spoiler, this could be a disaster; President Huckabee, anyone? :-(

From what I know about Bloomberg, I don't think he'd run if he'd only be a spoiler - I think he'd only do it if he thought he could win. But of course that might not be good either, depending on what his policies would be. We'll have to wait and see what happens...he may just be trying to shake things up; he may even be sincere about wanting bipartisanship in government. I realize sincerity is not in plentiful supply in our political system but you never know.


pygalgia said...

Actually, I don't think that bi-partisanship is their true motivation. I think their afraid that the Republican nominee will be a failure and that a Democratic nominee other than Clinton will be a threat to the beltway establishment. The "formers" are a bunch of insider corporate cronies hoping to maintain the status quo, and Bloomberg is the ultimate elitist. While it could be interesting, their campaign isn't about changing America but rather about preventing change.

Mauigirl said...

Hi Pygalgia, you could be right that they have an ulterior motive. But from what I've seen of Bloomberg in his role as Mayor of New York, he has not shown the typical Republican disregard for the middle class nor has he been a typical politician in the way he deals with things. And socially he has been of a liberal mindset - and is a former Democrat who only ran as a Republican because at the time it seemed an easier way to get elected.

It is possible, of course, that the crucible of New York City politics prevents anyone from straying too far from the liberal mainstream of the city. Now that Rudy Giuliani is outside of that arena he is certainly veering farther to the right. But he was considered somewhat of a fascist and was not popular in the city until after 9/11, when admittedly he did comport himself well.

Christie Whitman was no great shakes as a governor, for sure, but she did, I believe, have a certain sincere interest in the environment - at least more of an interest than BushCo. Compared to many Republicans she is much more middle-of-the road.

I'd call most of these folks "Rockefeller Republicans" - fiscally more responsible but socially more liberal.

I'm not saying I'd support Bloomberg if he runs. I'd need to understand a LOT more about what he thinks in terms of foreign policy, economics, and social issues before that.

I'm in an in-between place right now - I want to support Obama, I feel I ought to support Edwards, and I have a feeling I'd end up having to support Clinton because I am afraid she will win the nomination. But the problem with Clinton is, during the general election campaign the Republicans will hit her with everything they've got - and they have a lot - and it will mobilize them like no other candidate will. I'm seriously afraid that she might lose in November and we'd end up with Romney or worse yet, Huckabee for President.

It will be an interesting year no matter what...

Mary Ellen said...

I think a third party candidate will sink the Democrats. It's a bad idea and I had the feeling that asshole Bloomberg would pull this shit.

We have too much to lose if this backfires...another four years of a Republican will destroy what little is left of this country. A third party candidate cannot win...they are only spoilers. Nader proved that already.

The Future Was Yesterday said...

"...and is a former Democrat who only ran as a Republican because at the time it seemed an easier way to get elected."

That seems to be the key to Bloomberg. The easy way out. I'm not sure a President that always looks for the easiest way, is best for us.

Happy New Year!

Mauigirl said...

Mary Ellen, I agree - Bloomberg would take a lot more from the Democrats than the Republicans. So I'm hoping they don't run him as a third party candidate. Perhaps they will use this threat as leverage for some motive of their own, as Pygalgia is suggesting. I just don't know exactly what they're up to. Perhaps Bloomberg would be a good Secretary of the Treasury!

The difference between Nader and Bloomberg is the money and support. But to your point, even Anderson, who had more widespread support than Nader, only got something like 19% of the vote as I recall (do I have that right?) and of course sank the Democrat. Believe it or not my parents voted for Anderson, lifelong Democrats that they were! I am sure they regretted it.

Future, good point. Or it could mean that he just isn't partisan. It remains to be seen. I am not sure what his motives are yet.

I agree that a third party candidate could be a major disaster for our side. I hope that isn't the case.

Mauigirl said...

Correction on my memory - I think Anderson only got 11%. It was Ross Perot that got 19%, and he was part of the reason Clinton got in, since Perot pulled more votes from the Republicans.

Distributorcap said...

first a correction
the countless repetitive debates on both sides

those werent debates - those were group press conferences

2nd - our electoral and political process is completely brken - and unfixable --- but the powers at hand like it that way

we are not set up to have a third party candidate -- too many roadblocks for making that happen -- for one -- look at our laughable congress -- only two friggin interchangeable parties -- go to other more progressive democracies (tho i am hesitant to call this a democracy anymore) where there are many parties.

a 3rd party candidate ONLY helps someone -- like Anderson helped Reagan, Perot helped Clinton and Wallace (who was actually viable but had no chance of winning) helped Nixon. If i am not mistaken Teddy Roosevelt in the Bull Moose party was only the only 3rd party candidate (in 1912) that didnt finish well third.

i really hope Bloomberg doesnt run as the spoiler -- and basically allow a president Mike or president Mitt -- both of which he himself would hate. as much as a political animal as he is, i do believe somewhere down deep he actually cares about this country and doesnt want to see it go down the GOP toilet for 4 or 8 more years.

bipartisanship sounds so NICE doesnt it? never gonna happen as long as the MSM continues to give people like Coulter, Dobson, Hannity, Limbaugh credence and viability in the name of ratings.

Sue J said...

I agree with Distributorcap that our national political system favors having only 2 major parities. But I wonder about the strength of third parties at the local level. My city is overwhelmingly democratic, but we have had some strong showings at the local level by Green Party candidates.

Could the Green Party ever build enough strength -- albeit generations from now -- to be a viable national alternative?

Mauigirl said...

DCap, I saw in the Times, another article that said Bloomberg's candidacy might include either a Republican or a Democratic running mate. I suppose depending on which one he chose it would skew the "spoiling" in one direction or another.

I too hope he doesn't run. You are right, I believe Teddy R. was the only 3rd party candidate that even came close but he didn't even win - and he was an ex-President. I do think you're right, that if the polls were showing Bloomberg would give a win to a Huckabee or Romney he would probably not pursue it. He dropped out of the GOP for a reason; I'm sure he couldn't stomach a Huckabee or Romney for president.

Sue, it is unfortunate that at the national level it is impossible to get anywhere outside the party structure. Several towns in my area have non-partisan forms of government and they are not run by the individual parties.

As for the Greens, who do very well in Europe, they probably have a ways to go to be successful here. I think too many people think of them as too far left. Of course, being left would be fine with me!

TomCat said...

Personally I don't like this development, or wish to support a candidate who changed parties, because the GOP would sell him the nomination.

While in principle, I support the idea of multi-party democracy, it does not fit into our system because the of our electoral college. In other multi-party democracies, the chief executive is chosen on the basis of negotiating support from the majority of parliament.

An independent Bloomberg ticket could not win and risks putting a Republican in the White House for four more tortuous years.

Also, the Democrats in Congress made many honest attempts to work with the GOP on bipartisan compromises, so much so that many progressives, myself included, are furious with them for giving in and giving away far too much far too often. It was the GOP that demanded it be all their way or nothing at all.

TomCat said...

PS Happy New year to all here!

Mauigirl said...

Tomcat, you are right - our system does not support multi-party elections, and I think it is a flaw in the system. The electoral college really has to go. But there is no incentive for the Republicans to be party to any change like that since it would be to their disadvantage to abolish it so we're probably stuck with it for the foreseeable future.

You have a good point - the Democrats always try to be the good sports and compromise but Bush and his minions refuse to compromise on their own side. How does one do bipartisanship with people who won't give an inch?

I am very frustrated with the whole process and with the state of our country.

I'm also not all that sanguine that America is really going to elect Hillary or Obama no matter what the polls say right now. There are so many troglodytes out there who underneath don't really want a person of color or a woman in the White House - even if they don't admit it to pollsters.

I think this election year is going to be a real watershed in our country and a real turning point. If we get four more years of neocon rule - and that's what it is, rule - we are so doomed.

TomCat said...

Maui, poll after poll with different candidates head-to-head show that the most electable candidate against the GOP is Edwards. Don't get me wrong. I'd happily vote for a woman or a minority candidate, but I want a progressive, not a corporatist.

Mauigirl said...

Tomcat, I'm starting to lean to Edwards myself due to his anti-corporate message. It will be interesting to see how he does in Iowa tonight.

Tom Harper said...

I just read about this upcoming meeting in a column by Cal Thomas. I think he's connected with this meeting, as rightwing as he is.

Whether or not anything comes of this gathering, I think it's worth trying to defuse some of the polarization and hatred. Twenty years ago I thought politics had reached a new low when Lee Willie Horton Atwater used a bunch of smear tactics to get Bush 41 elected. But those days look quaint and innocent compared to the hatred today on both sides (I'm guilty of it too).

I hope both sides will start reaching across the aisle, in whatever little ways they can.

Who Hijacked Our Country

Mauigirl said...

Tom, I agree with you. If the purpose of the gathering is as they have stated, I think it can only help matters. If, as Pygalgia and others have suggested, they have ulterior motives, it may be a smokescreen. But I'd like to think they really mean to try to change the political discourse in this country.

I am as guilty as anyone of the hatred for the "other" side. But if people at least try to see the other point of view even part of the time things could improve.

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