Darrell Berkheimer: We need a third party; so let’s talk ‘centrism.’
August 17, 2018
Many times we hear people say: "I wish we had a decent third political party so we didn't have to choose between the Democrats and Republicans."
And that disgust with our current two-party system has prompted a skyrocketing interest in alternative political parties. As a result, nearly 20 new political parties were organized in just the past 15 years.
About two-thirds of them, however, were formed by extremist groups on either the far right or far left of the political spectrum. But six are identified as centrism parties while another group refers to itself as the anti-corruption reform movement.
Our current political situation is well documented by Gallup polls conducted during the past 10 years. Those polls show an average of 41 to 43 percent of our electorate identify themselves as independent voters – making them the largest political group, but without a party.
The same polls show that only about 25 to 27 percent refer to themselves as Republicans while 28 to 30 percent call themselves Democrats.
Not only have Americans left the Republican and Democratic parties at a ht
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historic rate, but many who stay affiliated with them tend to be quite critical about how their own party operates.
And unfortunately, there is no one Independent party. Several of the states do have local parties that refer to themselves as Independent or Independence parties, but they apparently lack uniformity and have little desire to form a single national centrism organization.
So the statistics, and the many political commentaries I read every week, prompt me to conclude that voters have a strong desire for a middle-of-the road centrist party — one that emphasizes electoral reform and passage of the American Anti-Corruption Act.
That third party also "would have to argue that the Republicans and Democrats are just two sides of a Washington-centric power structure that has ground to a halt." That's the advice New York Times columnist David Brooks gives in his July 30 remarks on what he views as the obvious desire for a third party.
His column, however, deals mostly with a third party's selection of a presidential candidate. And that candidate, Brooks says, would need to offer a radical alternative to our federal structure that would decentralize powers to local levels of authority.
Brooks observes that today our country is more diverse, and that trust in big institutions is low while state and local governments are more effective. He says citizens have more faith in local levels of authority.
That conclusion presents a good argument for newly-formed parties to concentrate on grass roots recruiting and supporting party candidates in local elections as well as selecting a standard-bearer candidate for president.
I agree with Brooks because I believe voters are thoroughly disgusted with the corruption they see at the federal level — thus the need for electoral reform and passage of the anti-corruption act. But Americans simply aren't finding a political party that's offering what they want. And I believe the reason is the divisiveness fostered by leading members of both the Republican and Democratic parties. As a result, the word "compromise' seems to have acquired the status of a four-letter word.
That brings me back to the six recently-formed centrism parties that I alluded to earlier. They include the Citizens Party of the U.S. and the Unity Party of America, both founded in 2004; the Modern Whig Party organized in 2007; The Centrist Party, with roots apparently dating to 2012; the Veterans Party of America, founded in 2013, and the Serve America Movement, formed in 2017.
Each of them is listed by Wikipedia as a "centrism" movement.
In addition, two other movements that seek anti-corruption reforms are the Reform Party, founded back in 1995, and Represent.us, which launched its campaign in 2012. The Represent.us website reveals that many millennials have joined its movement.
As I read a bit about each of the centrism movements — and the changes they seek — I believe they should be joining forces in forming a single new political party. And that leads me to a few questions:
When these seven movements appear to have so much in common with their centrist attitudes, why doesn't at least one of their leaders take the initiative to invite representatives of all seven to meet and discuss the idea of forming a single, more viable party?
Have we lost our ability for constructive bargaining and compromise for our mutual benefit? Has the divisiveness become so entrenched in our political attitudes that such a proposal is now utterly impossible?
Wouldn't it be great if seven such entities could provide an example to the Democratic and Republican parties on what it takes to reach a cooperative solution?
Is there any chance that one or more members of the seven organizations will read this and take appropriate action?
Certainly one large movement has a better chance of accomplishing many of the centrist objectives sought by seven or eight small ones.
It's obvious Americans definitely want a viable middle-of-the-road third party, and the time is ripe for such a cooperative movement. But unless these movements with shared interests see the need to coalesce behind core objectives and set aside fringe goals, we will never have a third party.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of five books available through Amazon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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