Politics & Media
Jun 15, 2023, 06:29AM

Third Political Parties Are Never “Risky”

A well-funded alternative to Republicans and Democrats is 50 years overdue.

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It’s possible—maybe likely—that I’m a sucker, but I still get a charge of the hand-buzzer kind when very affluent pundits imitate politicians at campaign rallies and write about “the folks.” Not as in family, but those “ordinary” Americans who possess more “common sense” than the “warring” factions in Washington, D.C. I read the latest columns from The New York Times’ folksy David Brooks—as I recall he’s supped, or at least donned his fact-finding monocle (which clashes with his Apple watch) on a fact-finding demographics mission, at Olive Garden—and The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, not a complete waste of time since their topic was similar: third parties in the 2024 presidential election.

Before my “brief dive” into the arguments of Brooks and Noonan, such as they are, it’s relevant to note that I’m an enthusiastic supporter of serious third, and fourth, national political parties and have been most of my adult life. (I was a Reagan supporter in 1980—and ‘84—but still welcomed Rep. John Anderson’s media-blessed Independent candidacy, which didn’t make much of a dent, unlike George Wallace in 1968 and nutty Ross Perot in 1992.) I’m still baffled that after all these years, the Libertarian Party, which ought to have access to Big Money, has yet to field an invigorating presidential candidate. It’s just a “protest” vote, not much more significant than the scattered numbers for Pat Paulsen, Mickey Mouse and, for the warped, Timothy McVeigh. European countries do have third and fourth parties, and even if, say the Liberal Democrats in England never elect a prime minister, they can have an effect on how the winning Tory or Labour Party forms its government. (Electoral rules vary from democracy to democracy, and none are exactly like the United States, but the point is that citizens have more than two choices.)

Brooks, once again endorsing Joe Biden—the Brooks vote!—in his 800 words on June 8, wrote lavishly about No Labels, the well-funded organization that seeks a viable third-party candidacy. Brooks magnanimously says he was “happy to use my column” last September to “introduce” the group to people. He writes: “America needs an insurance policy, the folks at No Labels argue. If the two parties continue to go off to the extremes, then voters should have a more moderate option, a unity ticket of Republicans and Democrats who are willing to compromise to get things done.”

But not next year! Brooks says Biden’s the moderate and Donald Trump is such a threat (immediate, existential, fascistic, take your pick) to democracy that the folks at No Labels will just have to wait for a time when their “experiment” wouldn’t be so risky. He also writes: “Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for the No Labels effort. I’ve longed for a party that would revive the moderate strain in American politics exemplified by Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, John McCain and contemporaries like Michael Bloomberg.”

Brooks was a McCain shill for years (like 75 percent of the media, at least in 2000; it was a quandary in 2008 when even McCain, judging by his half-assed campaign, wanted Obama to win), but the late Arizona showboat senator was a war hawk, not a moderate. And Bloomberg, who’s blessedly remained quiet about politics lately, is no moderate either, unless you believe that “Nanny State” rules of what you can and can’t consume, for example, is “moderate.”

Noonan, in her column, also mentions No Labels and hopes that the “third-party dreamers” get to work—doing the scut work of ballot-qualifying in as many states as possible—if the nominees are Biden and Trump (she isn’t a supporter of either man). Noonan gets folksy when mentioning Trump and the impact of his 1504-count federal indictment—I jest, but in the early days of his latest difficulties, I don’t believe any story, from left or right, about the DOJ’s action; it’s even more confusing than coverage of the Ukraine-Russia war—writing, “Mr. Trump may be sailing unimpeded to the Republican nomination. He may be cruisin’ for a bruisin’.” Unlike Brooks, who longs for a reincarnation of McCain or TR, at least Noonan admits she has no idea who’ll win the GOP nomination.

I like this bit of dreamy speculation: “I can quite imagine [why “quite” is necessary I’ve no idea, but that’s internet-age jargon that’s invaded the mind of even Noonan, who was long ago an extraordinary speechwriter] a competent third party now getting 35% of the vote to the other guys’ 32% and 33%, say. What would happen then? Most likely, no candidate would receive a sufficient Electoral College vote. The election would go to the House, causing uncertainty that would at some point be resolved. It would also be real edge-of-the-seat stuff in a nation that already has too much edge-of-the-seat-stuff, but also seems to like it.”

That’s rare truth-telling on Noonan’s part, the admission that politics is now entertainment every day of the year. How would the Left fill its days if the J6 Show was cancelled and they couldn’t lecture the public—those that listen or read—about the almost-coup? What would the Right do if everyone forgot about Hunter Biden, chalking it up to a more salacious Billy Carter escapade?

—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER2023


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