Friedman: There could be a third party challenge in 2012

The Democratic and Republican parties are bankrupt, or let’s just come out and say it—they’re corrupt. Banks, corporations and the influence of billionaires have stolen our government from us and are using it to further enrich themselves. Tom Friedman, a naïve cheerleader for globalization and a serial apologist for the Iraq War, is not someone I usually follow, or whose opinions I value. For example, he still thinks we need corporate tax cuts to stimulate jobs. Really? The Financial Times debunked that idea in a recent article, as did  Ian Welsh in an excellent blog post on that topic. Tax cuts for corporations do not create jobs; they create jobs overseas.

But, I digress.

On October 2, Friedman wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times that made me sit up and take note. He admitted the United States is in serious decline, comparing it to the fall of Roman Empire, and declared that our two-party system is bankrupt and no longer viable. He also strongly suggested that a serious third party challenge could manifest in 2012.

Barring a transformation of the Democratic and Republican Parties, there is going to be a serious third party candidate in 2012, with a serious political movement behind him or her — one definitely big enough to impact the election’s outcome.

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.

His op-ed is titled “Third Party Rising” and it includes statements from political scientist Larry Diamond, whom he interviewed for the piece:

“We basically have two bankrupt parties bankrupting the country,” said the Stanford University political scientist Larry Diamond. Indeed, our two-party system is ossified; it lacks integrity and creativity and any sense of courage or high-aspiration in confronting our problems. We simply will not be able to do the things we need to do as a country to move forward “with all the vested interests that have accrued around these two parties,” added Diamond. “They cannot think about the overall public good and the longer term anymore because both parties are trapped in short-term, zero-sum calculations,” where each one’s gains are seen as the other’s losses.

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?”

We need a third party on the stage of the next presidential debate to look Americans in the eye and say: “These two parties are lying to you. They can’t tell you the truth because they are each trapped in decades of special interests. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear. I am going to tell you what you need to hear if we want to be the world’s leaders, not the new Romans.”

Other political blogs I follow have been embroiled in heated debate about the Democratic Party. That the Democratic Party is entirely bankrupt is a given. Opinions vary on how to deal with this reality, but they fall into three camps:

  • Those who want to purge the party of corporate Democrats (which is just about everyone in the party) by challenging them at the primaries with true progressive candidates, in other words working within the existing Party over time to reclaim its Progressive roots.
  • Those who want to abstain from funding or voting for Democratic Party candidates for the upcoming elections allowing the Party to crash and burn, so that a new Democratic party can emerge from the ashes.  This is the camp that feels we have to go through losing Congress in order to gain it back with real progressives.
  • Those who want to build a viable third party to challenge what is perceived as a bankrupt and corrupt Democratic Party.

I expect to read about the idea of a third party challenge on the progressive blogs, but not from Thomas Friedman.  The fact that someone with his mainstream perspective is admitting this country is in very serious decline, and that both parties are bankrupt is significant. The fact that he knows of groups on both coasts that are mounting a serious third party challenge is noteworthy.

So, stay tuned, we may have a very interesting 2012 election.