The conservatives at the Times are having a good week. Today’s entry comes from Ross Douthat, who has an excellent analysis of the basic problem of the attempts to kick-start a moderate third party in the United States. To summarize: “From the (inarguable) premise that the public is wearied by the failures of the political and economic establishment, it leaped to the (preposterous) conclusion that the country is crying out for a presidential candidate who mostly represents the interests and values of exactly that same establishment.”
Now, let me take that analysis a step further. Douthat notes that the successful protest movements of the last few years, the Occupy and Tea Party movements, both came from a place of anger at the establishment. I will add that this anger was largely irrational. A lot of that anger seems to come, in both cases, from a general fear that the “American Dream” is slipping away for many Americans. For the Occupy movement, that was the fault of the 1% and big money’s control over politics. For the Tea Party, that was the fault of the increasingly insular liberal elite who are trying to over-regulate a country that they don’t truly understand. But a common refrain from everyone who is upset at government is that “they just can’t get anything done.”
So what is the solution to “can’t get anything done”? Apparently, it’s to elect radicals who refuse to compromise, and get even less done. That’s the irrational part.
See, it’s not like the Tea Party and Occupy protesters flocked towards Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chaffee, Joe Leiberman, and Ben Nelson. They didn’t stand up and demand reasonable compromise on health care policy and fiscal reform. No, they dug their heals in, and through their weight behind the most intransigent, radical candidates that they could find.
If Americans Elect was really interested in compromise and reasonable, bipartisan reform on a variety of issues, they should be throwing whatever money and influence they have, not behind a new third party, but instead behind countering the radicalizing influences that already exist within the first two.