James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Is this what a U.S. third party would look like?

August 18, 2009

Thinker extraordinaire Joel Kotkin gives an outline:

Given this sad political picture, the best hope now is to build an alternative perspective that focuses on the basic economic issues. This would not be the media celebrated movement of moderates–Democrats-lite and Republicans-lite–who seek kumbaya through compromise. It would, instead, require a radical third tendency–neither strictly left or right–that would draw on long-term American priorities and values.

These new radicals would focus on basic issues like improving infrastructure, and primary education and bolstering the nation’s productive economy. Their inspiration would come from a long tradition of federal successes–from the Homestead Act and the WPA to the Interstate Highway and the space program. They would view the financial crisis not as an imperative for protecting the well-connected but for financial reform, decentralization and innovation.

Such an approach would address what the British author Austin Williams calls our ”poverty of ambition.” Americans historically have rejected a future constrained by entrenched hierarchies. Most, I believe, would support spending money and paying taxes, if it was spent to achieve big things that would lead to a greater, more widespread prosperity and opportunity.

Just imagine if the upward of $1 trillion spent guaranteeing Goldman Sachs and Citigroup executives giant paydays had instead gone into roads, bridges, subways, buses, port development, skills training, energy transmission lines and basic scientific research. And imagine if instead of protecting Citigroup and Bank of America, we encouraged stronger local banks and solvent financial entrepreneurs to fill the breach left behind by gross failures.

Me: I think this sort of approach would have tremendous appeal. The $800 billion stimulus plan will go down as a tremendous missed opportunity. The most important thing here is the focus on the “productive economy.” If America doesn’t have that, nothing else works.

Comments

There is already a party that espouses this idealogy, its called the democratic party.
Now if we could only exorcise the Blue Dog Demons out of the party, maybe something could get done.

Posted by Rick Cain | Report as abusive
 

I would have to agree that American politics need new PARTIES… one solid one would be a slow start but meaningful I suppose. I can’t think of another democratic society in the world where only two parties vie for power – it’s madness and clearly un-democratic. Just take a gander at the Afghan elections; 56 candidates. In America, there are two + Ralph Nader (who, unfortunately, no one takes seriously. He’s actually quite an intelligent and well-spoken man). In Iran, believe the number of candidates was 17. In Iraq, again, several dozen. In Canada there are five parties represented in our parliament; in UK I believe it’s five as well. Israel has seven; India 24! So while crowning yourselves as the great democracy, hows about you begin to practice it.

Posted by the Shah | Report as abusive
 

The 2 party system leads to endless “compromises” where both sides get everything they want-all take, no give. A true 3rd party would need to battle the entrenched political class and that is one tough goal. It would need to include: term limits, balanced budgets, entitlement reform (elimination of current pyramid / ponzis like Social Security)smalller government, referendums, business experience for executive positions and a moratorium on “blame America” nonsense.

Posted by Pat Duggan | Report as abusive
 

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