Thomas Friedman in the NY Times: 2012 could be the right time for a third party

From today’s New York Times Op-Ed page:

There is a revolution brewing in the country, and it is not just on the right wing but in the radical center. I know of at least two serious groups, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, developing “third parties” to challenge our stagnating two-party duopoly that has been presiding over our nation’s steady incremental decline…

We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.

“If competition is good for our economy,” asks Diamond, “why isn’t it good for our politics?”

20 thoughts on “Thomas Friedman in the NY Times: 2012 could be the right time for a third party

  1. pete healey

    These guys always end up arguing that a “centrist” third party is the “answer”. Why can’t we work toward a structure that provides for several third parties, or as I prefer to say it, a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh party. Why is modern proportional politics and a multi-party system never on the agenda for these guys?

  2. Ross Levin

    Pete, you should write a letter to the NY Times about third parties and proportional representation. If anyone can do it, you can.

  3. joell

    if we ever get a successful 3rd party, it will likely be a subsidiary of the 2 major parties.

    a possible candidate is the presently neutered Green Party.

  4. Catholic Trotskyist

    Thomas Friedman should run for office; he is a great intellectual; I don’t agree with him on everything, but his books are overall great.

  5. Robert Capozzi

    As a centrist (in some sense) this is music to my ears. But I seriously doubt Friedman and these largely unnamed east and west coast groups are the ticket. It is encouraging that they seem to see the dysfunction in the duopoly, though.

    (My guess is the east coast group involves Bloomberg, who might be preferable to McCain/Obama, but that’s not saying much.)

    TF: Suboptimal is O.K. for ordinary times, but these are not ordinary times. We need to stop waiting for Superman and start building a superconsensus to do the superhard stuff we must do now. Pretty good is not even close to good enough today.

    Me: Now here we run into some definitional challenges. Who says what is “optimal” and what isn’t? By what standard is optimality measured?

    Smart, wealthy, energized, non-political people might decide that they have the answer. R and D politicians for the most part are trapped in their paradigms, I’d agree, unable to think outside the box. They might even be able to forge a superconcensus.

    Whether that superconcensus is less suboptimal than what’s coming out of DC is a very open question. B/B- on defining the problem. Still very incomplete on the solution.

    It is still conceivable that the LP could play the role of radical centrist outside-the-box healers of what ails us. Unfortunately, we seem to be dividing into 4 dysfunctional camps: old-school true-believing absolutist abolitionists; constitutionalists in the Ron Paul mould; angry conservatarian wanna be’s; and macho flash lifestyle litmus testers.

    All I’m sure are quite sure are quite sincere in their beliefs. IMO, none of these approachs are likely to gather into a critical mass that can actually challenge the Rs and Ds electorally. Scoring the occasional debating point is not politics. Standing on a soapbox in the public square witnessing to one’s own sanctimonious, “principled” stand — ditto.

    IMO, as ever.

  6. Brian

    The LP does not fit the bill for a “centrist” third party. The LP, in most cases is just another right wing option. Personally I don’t think that fiscal conservatism combined with an ideology of “hands off” social issue is moderate (plus there seem to be very few LP candidates that actually believe this and aren’t just right wing stooges). We need a party that believe in smart investments that will look out for our money and be able to forge a social issues truce.

  7. George Tatevosyan

    Hypocracy thy name is “Friedman”. I remember Mr. Friedman calling Ralph Nader “a know nothing” about 10 years ago. Now with this article Friedman is calling for a 3rd party?!? About a decade too late and 12 trillion too short, you useless old fraud! It may very well be too late for 3rd parties at this point. The indians are off the reservation and your silly oped won’t help any. I expect a fake 3rd party, promoted by MSM/TPTB by 2012 – IT WONT WORK! Try a Constitutional Convention right after the coming social collapse. The world isn’t flat, its full of socially cratered nations, thanks to globalism – which you supported and mountains of bullsit blather which NYT keeps heaping on us. Thank you for the comic relief.

  8. pete healey

    @Ross, I’ve written to the NYTimes about this issue before, but they haven’t printed me yet. I’m not holding my breath but the issue raised by George, the Constitutional Convention, is on the agenda here in New York. Cuomo is advocating for a Republican-sponsored bill in the state legislature that would have New Yorkers vote next November on whether we want to hold a convention to rework our entire scheme of government. That might put PR and multi-party politics on the agenda in a new way. ‘
    It just shows me how desperate and devoid of ideas these guys are that they’re scratching and thrashing around this way…

  9. Ross

    Both the Greens and LP are “radical centrists” in the same sense (admittedly the LP might fit this role more than the Greens even) that neither fit neatly into the duopoly-enforced left/right spectrum, which really doesn’t exist. So if they fit nowhere, they are assumed to be “in the center.”

    All that really means is what Thomas Friedman is saying doesn’t make sense.

  10. Ross

    Plus, Friedman would probably support a corporatist centrist party before anything else. Like “Unity 08” which is now “Americans Elect,” or a Michael Bloomberg run for president, or something along those lines.

  11. '..... just look at the activists ' [Lake]

    Having worked with (so called) Unity 08 in the summer of 2007 in the area of strategy and with focus groups in the San Diego County / UCSD area, my final synopsis was ‘lots of nothing’.

    Having deal with the Post Buchanans’ Reform / Deform Party USA, it was ‘dija vu all over again’!

  12. '..... just look at the activists ' [Lake]

    #3 Hendrix says:
    8/2/2010 at 11:33 am

    I still expect this organization will fail in its attempt to establish itself as a 3rd party — Especially now that it’s trying to emulate the other 2 parties.

    We do not need another group to do extensive polling, PR, and message analysis so they can put a pretty face on the candidate of their choice who will fall back to representing military-industrial interests after the election.

    Where is the party looking for a rational, principled candidate who is honest enough to address our real problems rather than complaining that our problems can’t stay hidden?

    It is a bit unnerving to consider that in the next election the Center will be somewhere to the Right of Obama.

  13. Be Rational


    The answer for the LP to win is for everyone to stop debating and start participating.

  14. Robert Capozzi

    br, might work. However, Root steps off the reservation, and the unconstructive criticism comes at him like a tidal wave. Benedict makes a (probably well-meaning) gaffe, and the boo birds squawk loudly.

    Might be that we Ls (myself included) need to learn how to be supportive yet to offer constructive criticism.

    Still, if all 15K of us started pushing in the same direction while allowing some deviation, I’m not sure we win. There is still a lot of extremism in the foundational documents that are heavily protected from adjustment/deletion. Serious people who take a closer look at the LP might be offput by the extremism and rigid application of obscure political theory to practical politics.

    We might be able to work around the insane (IMO) overstatements in the SoP, for ex., but I like our chances better if we deep-sixed the embedded crypto-anarchism. And I say that as a theoretical asymptotic anarchist!

    It’s one thing to want to roll the State back toward zero, another to suggest (elliptically) that States are inherently “immoral.”

  15. Ross Levin

    FWIW, Steve Kubby’s got the right approach, it seems. Win where you can, get your ideas out there, show that your way of governing works (hopefully), and most importantly, be well-organized. I know that’s much, much, much easier said than done, but it apparently is being done.

  16. paulie

    FWIW, Steve Kubby’s got the right approach, it seems. Win where you can, get your ideas out there, show that your way of governing works (hopefully), and most importantly, be well-organized. I know that’s much, much, much easier said than done, but it apparently is being done.


  17. '..... just look at the activists ' [Lake]

    Laura E. Davis – Monday Oct 11, 6:26 pm ET

    …….. we’re getting close to finding out just how much force the tea party movement has had on this year’s angry electorate; Sparked partly in response to the ballooning federal deficit and the debate over health care reform ………

    Tea party-backed candidates around the country have seen some big primary victories —

    like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Joe Miller in Alaska and Rand Paul in Kentucky, all of whom knocked out U.S. Senate primary opponents who were considered the Republican Party’s establishment candidates.

    The same is true in Colorado, where Senate candidate Ken Buck beat the GOP’s early favorite, former state Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, in the Aug. 10 primary.

    As some Republicans worry tea party candidates might be too risky for the mainstream, both parties’ national organizations are pouring significant resources into the race.

    A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last month found that 23 percent of registered voters view the tea party favorably, 29 percent unfavorably.

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