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The Mandate to Govern

Third party time.

by Barnabas
November 17, 2004

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"There’s always a mandate to govern, no matter how much you win by... But if someone says they have a mandate to implement a party ideology, that’s a different question.

"You have to be careful not to read too much into a win. Power produces arrogance. The more power you think you’ve got, the more arrogant you become. The public can always turn on you. It’s smart to understand there is a short leash here." 
Leon Panetta, quoted in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, November 14.

Ideologues to the left of them,  Ideologues to the right of them,  
Bullied and thundered. 
- apologies to Tennyson

I’m always encouraged when a national figure says something that I wish I had said, but says it better than I could have. Such is the case with Leon Panetta’s words quoted above.

Unless there is a sea-change sometime this year in the major parties, it appears to me that it is time for a real third party to emerge, one that will displace, sooner than later, one or both of the major parties. This party will be made up of people with ideas (of course!) but who will not allow ideologues on either left or right to dictate the party’s platform or campaign. I believe this is the true national majority. If this description of the public will is accurate and lasting, all other parties will have to rethink or regroup in  order  to have a hope of attaining  a governing majority.  

The major parties through most of their history have had tendencies but not fixed ideologies; they have been practical to a fault. Evidence of their practicality is that the Republicans chose Eisenhower rather than "Mr. Republican," Robert Taft, in 1952; more recently, both parties were wooing Colin Powell until he finally declared himself.

Unfortunately, this evidence doesn’t demonstrate an earnest desire to govern as much as it does the earnest desire to win. Perhaps the most public demonstration of how far they were willing to go was the accommodation extended by the Democrats to segregation in the "Solid South" through the 1944 election, though the immediate past campaign furnished some good examples too. 

Today, the accommodation seems to be social prejudice on the right and left. In the campaign just ended, the Democrats railed against soulless Big Corporations and Fundamentalists who, they claimed, held the Republicans in their fists. The Republicans railed against the depraved sexuality they claimed was being pushed by the Democrats.

The Democrats have no problem with wealth when it is their wealth, or religion that agrees with them. The Republicans like to listen to the Fundamentalists when they’re talking "family values" but aren’t so interested in their main message of "repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ," the only workable foundation for the family values the Fundamentalists teach.

I believe the third party exists now. It only needs to organize and take leadership away from the ideologues of the right and left. The base of the third party are those, in governing bodies from the town and school boards all the way to Congress, who accept the mandate to govern in the common interest rather than for special interests. They want efficiency and frugality without foregoing excellence and compassion. They are not driven by ideological mandates of what ought to be, but by a realistic vision that sees the doable in terms of the human and financial resources now available, and which seeks to develop resources that will extend the range of the doable.

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Just Curious from Somewhere in TIme writes:
November 17, 2004
In a free nation, the citizenry should have the option of choosing whomever they want in the election booth. However, that position requires that all those eligible conform to the established rules for being listed. If the rules say that a candidate must be able to demonstrate a certain percentage of support and representation throughout the fifty states in order to participate in a nationally televised poilitical debate, then so be it. The Green, Libertarian,Socialist, and What's Happening Baby parties had better be able to mount a grass roots effort compelling enough to put them on the center stage, alongside the Democrat and Republican parties. Otherwise, they are just fringe players.

- Just Curious, 10/19/2004

I agree with your position that it is time for a viable third party. For that matter, it may be time for a viable fourth, fifth, and sixth political party. The key word is viable.

A viable third party needs to have an ideology that is mainstream enough to resonate with a prominent number of the population. A viable third party needs to be on the ballot in fifty states. A viable thrid party needs to be well supported at the grass roots level. Most importantly, a viable third party needs to be competitively financed.

The closest thing we have seen to a viable third party candidate was of course, Ross Perot. His point of view resonated with many people, He had good support and was listed in all 50 states, and he was willing to spend millions of his own money to get the message out. Even then, at the end of the day, all he succeeded in doing was assisting in unseating George the first.

There are two problems with the existing system as I see it. 1. There is not enough differenciating the two majority parties that we have currently. 2. More disturbing is that the public only wants to be told what they want to hear from their respective candidates. This dynamic creates formidable obstacles for the success of a third party. Can a group of people successfully mount an effort that profoundly seperates them from the existing options while avoiding alienating the disenfranchised that they seek to attract in the first place?

Barnabas from TPO writes:
November 20, 2004
Thanks for the comments. To your question:

Can a group of people successfully mount an effort that profoundly seperates them from the existing options while avoiding alienating the disenfranchised that they seek to attract in the first place?

My hope is not for a profound separation, rather that the true middle come together from the responsible center of both major parties, while picking up some of the less doctrinaire types in the alternative parties.

Thanks for your comments.

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