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.