Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 31, 2007

BIPARTISANSHIP FOR THE SAKE OF BIPARTISANSHIP....David Broder reported yesterday, and the NYT's Sam Roberts adds today, that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is still laying the groundwork for an independent presidential campaign, and will meet a week from today with some relatively high-profile politicians from both parties in the hopes of forming a "government of national unity."

Those who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two parties do not pledge to "go beyond tokenism" in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party campaign for president.

Dems like Sam Nunn, Chuck Robb, and David Boren will be there, as will Republicans like Chuck Hagel, John Danforth, and Christine Todd Whitman. Boren, who will host the meeting at the university, apparently has a deadline in mind, telling the Times that Democrats and Republicans would have two months to "formally embrace bipartisanship and address the fundamental challenges facing the nation."

Now, I try not to be reflexive about efforts like these. I don't reject bipartisan proposals out of hand, and if a handful of former office holders have some constructive policy ideas, they should certainly be encouraged to be part of the public debate.

But the closer one looks at this Bloomberg group initiative, the more this looks like bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship. Worse, it's a solution in search of a problem.

A letter from Nunn and Boren sent to those attending the Jan. 7 session said, "Today, we are a house divided. We believe that the next president must be able to call for a unity of effort by choosing the best talent available -- without regard to political party -- to help lead our nation."

I suppose that's fine, but one wonders if the group realizes that Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson have already said publicly that they would have Republicans serving in their cabinet -- a claim no Republican presidential candidate has made.

Indeed, one wonders just how closely the organizers of this meeting have been following current events. Their letter insisted that "partisan polarization is preventing us from uniting to meet the challenges that we must face." Really? Because it seems to me congressional Democrats over the last year have been negotiating with Republicans on everything from immigration to kids' healthcare to minimum wage to Iraq to ethics reform. Some one of those measures were vetoed, some were blocked by what is literally the most obstructionist Senate minority in American history, and on still others, Democrats simply caved rather than fighting too hard. But in each instance, "partisan polarization" didn't prevent much of anything; Republican politics did.

The entire Bloomberg endeavor, which hasn't even considered dealing with actual policy proposals outside of vague platitudes (the group apparently wants to "rebuild and reconfigure our military forces"), sounds like a daydream of former officials who believe Democrats and Republicans can join forces, solve all of our problems, and "get something done." Get what done? It doesn't matter; it'll be something.

It all sounds pleasant enough, but only in an immature kind of way. They seem to believe Americans need to get unified. Unified behind what? Behind unity.

I realize some people (David Broder, I'm looking in your direction) look at the policy differences between competing parties and ideologies as inherently petty and parochial. They're not. These arguments are indicative of a serious disagreement about the direction of the country. It's called politics, and it's perfectly healthy in a democracy. (To borrow a phrase, debate over substantive ideas is a feature, not a bug.)

Be sure to read Digby's and Chris Bowers' take on all of this, but I wanted to highlight a point Chris raised that's especially significant:

It would be nice, for once, if the constant drumbeat from Aging Wealthy White Men for National Unity Under Billionaire Media Moguls (AWWMNUUBM for short) decrying polarization, the lack of bi-partisanship and gridlock in Washington would actually provide specifics on what legislation their hated polarization, partisanship and gridlock is blocking. Of course, they won't actually do that, because blaming national problems on vague, undefined concepts like "polarization" and "gridlock" is much easier than actually analyzing the contemporary political scene in America.

Chris is absolutely right. Parties and campaigns are, or at least should be, about ideas and solutions. Bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship doesn't mean anything.

Steve Benen 10:53 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (59)

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A Republican-lite, elitist effort. Do these people have a problem doing retail politics? Where have they been the last year? I tire of the Naders, the Kuciniches -- and now this group -- who can't be bothered to organize an actual, you know, THIRD PARTY. That would mean putting their money and their time into going district by district, state by state, to set up some kind of structural alternative to whatever-it-is-they-have-a-beef-against. You know, actual work.

The only thing lacking from this effort is Donald Trump.

Posted by: Robustus on December 31, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

It's the Democrats' promotion of radically partisan measures such as subsidized health insurance for children of the working poor -- a plan so radical as to be absolutely unheard of in any country anywhere, with the trivial exception of several dozen developed nations -- that prevents us from having an open and thoughtful debate about the centrist Republican plan for borrowing trillions of dollars from communist China to wage a perpetual war against all Muslims everywhere.

Posted by: alkali on December 31, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

i'm especially pleased to see that sen. danforth is a member of this distinguished group. remember, he is the man who gave us clarence thomas. now if there ever was a supreme court justice who promised bipartisanship it is certainly not thomas who is working hard to repeal the 20th century and when he finishes that will doubtless go on to unfight the civil war and return black people to slavery. good for sen. danforth. i'm glad he and david broder are on the same side. they deserve one another.

Posted by: samg on December 31, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Oh come on Steve, let's all Unite Behind Unity (tm).

For the children.

Posted by: craigie on December 31, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

(and another thing)

I had a back burner interest in Bloomberg and Hagel teaming up as independents. But now, having seen the Beltway Smoking Club infrastructure behind any such effort -- not interested. Nunn, Robb, Boren, Danforth? Please. More photos for Chris Matthews' Fantasy Political Players flip book.

Posted by: Robustus on December 31, 2007 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Seems to me we are hung up on the word "bipartisanship." In a two-party world, a third party movement must draw support from the other two parties, and that means an appeal that crosses the party lines.

The activities described here are an expression of disgust over the failure of the two major parties to produce government that works in the best interests of the people. That's a helluva problem, there's no need to dismiss it with language like "solution in search of a problem." How much bigger a problem would it take to drive a desire for profound change?

I totally disagree with the presumptions in this top post.

Posted by: ThymeZone on December 31, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Robustus.... Kucinich hasn't run as an independent. And, as for Nader, I voted for David Cobb, the official Green Party candidate in 2004, for precisely that reason.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 31, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

The only sense in which "bipartisanship" makes sense is trying to find the best ideas, and then not turning away support for them based on the party affiliation of the supporter. (And, then, its really, "nonpartisanship".)

"Bipartisanship" as usually sold by political elites is simply elites of different nominal affiliations getting together to advance elite interests and deny the rest of the public any meaningful choices. Which the two major U.S. parties do enough when they aren't overtly joining together, anyhow, so we hardly need more of it.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 31, 2007 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

I can't imagine that there is a constituency for this ticket.

How many people are aching for Mike Bloomberg? He doesn't have the joyful quirkiness nor the appeal to the common person of Perot.

Posted by: pinetreestater on December 31, 2007 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK
In a two-party world, a third party movement must draw support from the other two parties, and that means an appeal that crosses the party lines.

In the US electoral system, a "third" party must completely destroy and replace one of the two major parties, and thus become a "second" party. There's not room, structurally, for more than two viable parties without fundamental reform of the structure of the electoral system.

Which is why there has never been a successful third party, only successful displacement of one of the existing two major parties.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 31, 2007 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

I really don't think it's a solution in search of a problem as much as a problem that needs a feel-good, nebulous solution to mask, camouflage and cloak it.

The problem for Wall Street is that if Huckabee wins the nomination the Republican party will have finally been subsumed by the evangelicals and the wealth-side of the party will be left further behind in terms of policy. If Romney or McCain wins, the money will feel better but not safe because either candidate will get shellacked in the general by any of the three potential Democrats.

What to do?? Form your own party to peel votes off from the middle and retain those old-school Republicans that don't care about the religious right. A Bloomberg third-way run focusing on "unity" could appeal to enough voters to mess the Democratic race up and then it's back to the business of redistributing what's left of the bottom 90% back into the accounts of the important 10%.

Bloomberg will definetely run because he and the brain trust know that by triangulating the field they can force the religious vote off into a corner and duke it out with the progressive/Krugman voter on the left and still hope to appeal to the vacuous middle with their Siren song of "unity".

Unfortunately, I think this strategy will work pretty well. The MSM will love it for the story that writes itself and their financial backers will continue to reap the benefits.

It's ironic that Bloomberg, et al. never endorsed "unity" when the political tide hadn't ebbed so far from the Republican-controlled shore.

Posted by: Bigsky in Iowa on December 31, 2007 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I'm trying to figger out where the failure of bipartisanship has been in the current congress. Hmmmmmm, now let's see:

1) Congress was elected as a huge reaction to the terrible Iraq war

2) The congress has tried, over and over, to enact a bi-partisan compromise between the Democratic idea of immediate withdrawal and the Republican idea of making Iraq the 51st state.

3) Thus far, the Republicans have not bent one iota. Not even a micron's distance of compromise.

So, the failure of compromise is entirely on the Repukeliscum side. Am I wrong?

Posted by: POed Lib on December 31, 2007 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

We need more difference, not less, particularly on the left. The Dems supported the Reagan Revolution (after torpedoing Carter) and recently the Bush agenda, but in the current campaign there are some small flashes of populism. They should be encouraged and not neutered by "bipartisanship". If the Dems do end up with HRC, thus ensuring business as usual, the Clinton corporate agenda, then it's time for a third party but not one of bipartisanship.

Screw the center. The center has brought us to where were are now. The American people want change, not more of the same.

Posted by: Don Bacon on December 31, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

This "government of national unity" crap is designed to give legitimacy to a Bloomberg independent run for President. Without it he comes off as just another billionaire trying to give life to a larger than life childhood fantasy.

It is interesting just who a billionaire can buy. Pretty much all the pretentious middle of the road losers from both parties.

Posted by: corpus juris on December 31, 2007 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

"bipartisanship"??? Third parties usually are centered around people who think they know the answer to the problems caused by the two major parties unable to solve problems due to the failure of "bipartisanship". The cast of characters shown to be leaning toward a Bloomberg candidacy are either bluedog dems or middle of the road repugs. I can think of a lot of other good things Bloomberg could throw away one billion dollars on rather than another doomed campaign.

Posted by: wlgriffi on December 31, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

ThymeZone, you're right, there are no shortage of problems that the two party system has not solved. What Steve is pointing out is that this Bloomberg/Unity '08 boomlet is being oddly shy about what they see is the key problems that need addressing, and what their program is.

They can't keep that up indefinitely, though. Who wants to bet that when they get around to specifics, one of the major issues they want to address is the looming Social Security "crisis"? Getting serious about Social Security always makes the David Broders of the world swoon.

Posted by: Jeff S. on December 31, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Get what done? It doesn't matter; it'll be something.

I've heard Bloomberg has a secret plan to implement the metric system.

Posted by: antiphone on December 31, 2007 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

What surprises me is that Reid has been unwilling/unable to take some R Senator, not up for re-election in 2008, and mention that odds look good for a proper Democratic takeover in 2008, and "perhaps you'll be more interested in bipartisan compromise then. Care to start setting an example now?"

On the other hand, if you take recent Massachusetts experience as an example, a Democratic sweep does not necessarily mean a big change in behavior. We've got a tax code that leans too heavily on (regressive) property taxes to fund education, and the obvious solution is to nudge up the income tax with an explicit siphon of the nudge to large per-child and per-special-services-child subsidies, which in turn will blunt property tax increases. It's obvious, it's fair, and it hasn't happened yet. Beats the heck out of me why not (and yes, in my case I am asking for a personal net tax increase. The towns are all doing stupid shit with their budgets to try to keep property taxes down, and it's worth it to me to live in a place where things are run well, where retirees are not taxed out of their homes, where streets and sewers are kept repaired, etc.)

Posted by: dr2chase on December 31, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

the group apparently wants to "rebuild and reconfigure our military forces"

There are competing war pig factions in American politics. The Republican/W. Bush war pig faction, the Democratic war pig faction (all of the major Democratic candidates pledge to rebuild the armed forces, too) and the Bloomberg/Nunn war pig faction. All are competing for the trillions of dollars that will be spent on defensecare. Money that the American taxpayer does not need to borrow or spend on these intangible goods, but money all these factions want to go to their particular benefactors.

I cannot foresee a time when real bipartisanship will dominate American politics, and the bottom three quartiles of the population refuse to transfer the value of their labor to useless defensecare products and policies.

Posted by: Brojo on December 31, 2007 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

This is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to keep Democrats out of the White House. It's damage control for the Villagers to keep "their" town "serious".

Posted by: wtrspkbld on December 31, 2007 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

As they say on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others: most of those associated with this foolishness are fairly described as the "bipartisan" sort of Repubs and Dems, but Hagel, apart from his Iraq stand, is a textbook example of a more typical (and much further to the right) Repub.

Posted by: penalcolony on December 31, 2007 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

None of the Republicans will have Republicans serving in their cabinet? Wow.

Posted by: stoneyforest on December 31, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Screw the center.

Posted by: Don Bacon


Posted by: Econobuzz on December 31, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

My immediate reaction to this was that Bloomberg would pull another Perot, split more votes away from the GOP and ensure the Dems would win. This way if Huckabee gets the nomination, they keep him out of the White House and from destroying the GOP-possibly permanently.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 31, 2007 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

It is interesting that none of these concerned citizens were visible during the hyper-partisan Rove years. It is as if they were the ghosts of Henry Hudson's old crew playing nine-pins up in the Catskills the whole time. These representatives of wealth and privilege appear only when it looks like some Democrat may win both branch branches of elective government.

Fortunately for the survival of wealthy white civilization, they have a billionaire with political ambition who can self-finance their dreams, what ever those are; because, while this sounds like the 90's redux, they haven't announced their issue de la décennie as yet.

If they so desire bipartisanship, why not mention it to republicans. After all, it is their rigidity in adhering to the bizarre tenets of their orthodoxy which leads to their refusal to compromise that has caused this Great Divide

Posted by: Mike on December 31, 2007 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Where we need unity is between the people and Washington and between rule of law and Washington. The people want to get rid of illegal aliens, for ex., but the corruption in Washington prevents enforcement of basic law and sovereignty. Corrupt pols like Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin see illegal migration as a way to perpetual one party rule. Corrupt pols on the other side like Bush and Jose McCain see illegal migration as a way to favor business cronies.

Posted by: Luther on December 31, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I commend for all to read Steve Gilliard's summary of how the conservatives have been on the wrong side of justice for a very long time at http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/2003/12/im-fighting-liberal-you-know-ive.html

Posted by: Al Whassizname on December 31, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Something's missing. Ah, yes: where are Rudman and Lamm?

Posted by: Henderstock on December 31, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Grover Norquist (who should probably be drowned in a bathtub his damned self) said one thing I agree with. "Bipartisanship is another word for date rape."

Fuck the mushy middle. Commit, you handwringing bastards. All you get from sitting on the fence is an ass full of splinters.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 31, 2007 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

A transparent shuck! Given the events of the last 7 years it is impossible that the American voter would be taken in by such an infantile plan... Oh wait.

Posted by: jay boilswater on December 31, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I miss Steve Gilliard horribly. Loosing him this year was as devastating as losing Molly Ivins, David Halberstam and Kurt Vonnegut.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 31, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

This is primarily a moderate old-money GOP revolt over the dominance of the evangelista and neocon wings of the party. The Republicans in there are 1980's supply-siders, the Dems in there are for the most part neolib fellow travellers. I still believe that a Bloomberg run would pull far more votes away from any GOP candidate than a Dem, allowing the Dems to take the White House. If Bloomberg were truly serious about winning he would endorse something like single-payer health insurance (which would be the lowest cost, simplest, common-sense option). Since he is independently uber-wealthy he might be able to stay clean from health insurance company influence. If he proposed single-payer that could split far more votes from the Dems. Hmmm. This guy could end up being the kingmaker for Corporate America by keeping policy close to his chest until it is clear who the R and D nominees are...

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 31, 2007 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

""go beyond tokenism" in building an administration that seeks national consensus"

About 60% of all Americans think we should get out of Iraq in a year or less. More than half think Bush and Cheney have committed impeachable acts. So the consensus is impeach Bush and Chen ey and get out of Iraq by the end of '08. Somehow, I don think this is the consensus these folks are thinking about.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on December 31, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Bowers is right that there are no substantial, specific issues on which bipartisanship is urged. But it's not just because the Gang of 17 prefers empty platitudes to concrete proposals. Fact is, they probably don't agree on a whole lot, and what they probably do agree on is wildly unpopular: permanent presence in Iraq, immigration reform that lets businesses off the hook, PAYGO-type fiscal restraint (not that I'm against the latter, it just isn't a popular or populist position).

Posted by: kth on December 31, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

There's plenty of bipartisanship in Congress. For example, the House recently passed a resolution (almost unamimously) acknowledging, supporting, and expressing the deepest respect for American Christians.

Posted by: AJ on December 31, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

The real purpose of this campaign for bipartisanship is to dull the edges of voter anger with the GOP and George Bush and to slow the momentum behind the Democrats' lead before the 2008 election. Voters are angry with the mismanagement of the war, with the mismanagement of the economy, and with the mismanagement of the government, to name just a few things. By coming out and blaming our current sorry state of affairs on partisanship, this group is trying to spread the blame to Democrats who never shared in the decision making process that got us to where we are today. That this august group of Bipartisans are going after candidates who are campaigning for the presidency rather than the man who has occupied the office for the last 7 years ought to make it clear to everyone just how serious they really are about bipartisanship.

There are few things more partisan these days than pleading for bipartisanship.

Posted by: Lab Partner on December 31, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship doesn't mean anything.

—Steve Benen

It's really much worse than that. (If someone has made this point already, please pardon this comment.)

There is an important temporal consideration here. Bipartisanship ex post is not the same as bipartisanship ex ante. In fact, the latter will almost always lead to very bad compromises for dems.

As Krugman has suggested, one must expect to take extreme positions ex ante in order to have any hope of suitable, bipartisan compromise ex post. And, if and when compromise is not possible -- that is, when fundamental values and principles would need to be sacrificed in order to acheive so-called "unity" -- stalemate is by far the preferred outcome.

Stalemate is one of the great virtues of democracy. Together with leaks, it is what has made our country great. Clowns like Broder just don't get it.

Posted by: Econobuzz on December 31, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

the best talent available -- without regard to political party

The only "talent", after seven years of failure, is Democratic. So to be fair to the Repubs, well, they could supply the agenda.

Great plan.

Posted by: Bob M on December 31, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Sam Nunn, Chuck Robb and David Boren are not Democrats - they're Dixiecrats

John Danforth is the most progressively minded one of the bunch (notwithstanding his Senate sponsorship of Clarence Thomas - Senators sponsor nominees from their home state) - Danforth was one of the chief architects of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and for several years he operated as one of the precious few genuinely "moderate" Republicans - invariably to the left of Nunn, who early in the Clinton administration worked hard to shoot down Clinton's attempt to integrate gays in the military. Boren was a de facto right wing loonie on foreign policy, and as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, he helped whitewash Robert Gates' lies and involvement in the Iran/contra scandal in service to the Reagan administration. And Chuck Robb's solitary claim to fame has always been to lend his name and Democratic Party affiliation (he never had any actual legislative accomplishments) to any cause in desperate search for "someone from the left" to create a pretense of "bipartisanship."

These folks are "bipartisan" the same way that Colin Powell, Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Condoleeza Rice are "bipartisan."

Posted by: bz on December 31, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Mike Bloomberg seems like an honest guy, and no doubt he could parlay his fortune into an instant presidential campaign.

But after publicly dismissing that very notion not too long ago, whilst simultaneously pledging to New Yorkers his intent to serve out the remainder of his term as mayor, both Hizzoner's rationale and his personal credibility will most assuredly come into question from the moment he announces his independent candidacy for the White House.

Therefore, one must question the ostensible purpose for this remarkably curious conclave of political has-beens, save perhaps as a self-indulgent xercise to pamper and preen Mr. Bloomberg's enormous ego.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii, in New Orleans with the Warriors on December 31, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

This looks more like John Anderson than Ross Perot--the protest of the centrist Republicans (28 years ago is was the protest of the liberal Republicans) who now realize, about twenty years too late, that the national GOP is on the verge of becoming a mirror of the Texas GOP. It was those Republican voters, after all, who elected Chuck Robb when it looked like Ollie North was going to the United States Senate.

If you think Dems look like neutered sheep, then you haven't seen how clueless these centrists Republicans are when left to their own devices. Their fate is to end up as independents because they don't know what they want and couldn't organize a broom closet. Their present organization--no platform, no principles, no organization, no plan--more or less sums them up.

And check out Glenn Greenwald's column in Salon today for a review of Mayor Bloomberg's record of independence.

Posted by: Henry on December 31, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

This is an attempt to contrive an indy candidacy as a spoiler capable of derailing an all-but-assured Democratic recapture of the White House.

Just as Ross Perot and Ralph Nader had their role----but this "indy" run is stirred up by the Washington Establishment who likes the status quo just the way it is right now---under Bush.

These guys have never been moderates, nor bipartisan, nor reasonable. They're the same guys that danced around the golden calf of the national security state and had a fetish for state secrecy--virtually writing the blueprint for Bush's abuses.

Posted by: johnsturgeon on December 31, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

This sounds more like a shot at the possibility of Edwards getting the nomination.
Obama is running on the idea of "reaching across the aisle" ( good luck)
Clinton is as inside as you get.
Edwards is the only ordained "major" candinate running as a direct challenge to the establishment.

Kucinich is as well but alas no media play and even less funding.

Posted by: Ken on December 31, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't heard much comment about Evan Thomas' article for Newsweek: The Closing of the American Mind, in which Thomas wrings his hands over how bitterly partisan things have become in Congress, without giving any mention of the possibility that bitter partisanship was a conscious goal of Newt Gingrich's Republican Revolution of 1994 and has been the standard strategy of the Republicans ever since.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on December 31, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

the national GOP is on the verge of becoming a mirror of the Texas GOP

That must be why these bipartisans are meeting in Oklahoma. They are planning a Tulsa solution to the immigrant hysteria.

Posted by: Brojo on December 31, 2007 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

This is an attempt to contrive an indy candidacy as a spoiler capable of derailing an all-but-assured Democratic recapture of the White House. - johnsturgeon

I agree it is a contrived candidacy to function as a spoiler, but they would have to split more votes from the Dems to throw it to the Repubs. What policies would Bloomberg have to peddle for such a thing to happen?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 31, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'll give you a two-plank platform that would blow the race sky-high:

1. Completely out of Iraq by end of 2009
2. Draconian penalties against employers who hire undocumented workers

Both policies are supported by overwhelming majorities of Americans, yet neither proposal can seem to get a fair hearing in Washington. A candidate who ran on this platform would be instantly relevant, and the establishment candidates would be forced to respond.

What are the chances that this will be the platform of Bloomberg or Sam Waterston or whoever ends up being the guy? (hint, slim and none and slim just left town).

Posted by: kth on December 31, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Let's shovel this drivel out the door once and for all how third party candidates "don't want to do the hard work of starting with local races instead of going immediately for the presidency" of forming a third party.

In Illinois the Democratic Party has conspired with the Republican party to keep third party candidates off the ballot. Here's one example from the town I live in.

Here is another example from Illinois. Here is an article on the activities of third party candidates to get the voters attention and the hurdles they have to jump just to get the word out, let alone get on the ballot.

Finally, this article sums up the multiple states that all have laws placed by Democratic and/or Republican legislature to imped or prevent third party candidates access to the ballot.
And just last year a Federal judge ruled that the rules established by the Illinois Assembly (largely composed of Democrats) required "too steep of a hurdle for third party candidates to get on the ballot".

Let me just include the summary:

Five ballot access lawsuits have won in the last 20 days:

1. On September 28, a federal judge Con Cholakis ruled that the New York requirement that petitions must include the precinct number, and legislative district number, for all signers, is unconstitutional. As a result, the Libertarian Party qualified for the New York ballot. Schulz v Berman, no. 94-cv-1201, Nor. District.

2. On October 6, a mid-level state court in New York ruled that nonqualified parties must be given the same right to substitute new candidates (to replace old ones who resign) that major parties enjoy. As a result, the Independence Party will have a gubernatorial candidate, Tom Golisano, on the New York ballot. Cipolla v Golisano, State Supreme Court, Albany, no. 5756.

3. On October 3, federal judge Edward Nottingham struck down the Colorado requirement that third party and independent candidates for the state legislature must collect 1,000 valid signatures. The basis was that, since the law only requires 500 signatures for third party and independent candidates for U.S. House of Representatives, there can't be a good reason to require a larger number for the much smaller state legislative districts. Ptak v Meyer, no. 94-2250.

4. On September 27, the State Supreme Court of Colorado put an independent candidate for the legislature on the ballot, even though she had not been registered "Independent" for a year before turning in her signatures. Conte v Meyer, 94-SA-332. This corrects the injustice described on page 6 of the Sept. 20 Ballot Access News. The Court hasn't yet issued an explanation for its action.

5. A lower state court in Arkansas ruled that the Independent Party of Arkansas is a fully-qualified party and that its candidates should be put on the ballot. Lewis v West, no. 94-1073, Pulaski Circuit Court, 2nd div. Each case was hard-fought. The Colorado decision on the number of signatures was won in federal court, after the State Supreme Court had refused any relief on Sep. 22.

The New York ruling on substitution was made by a Republican judge, which was a pleasant surprise, since the Republican Party has been the prime force trying to keep the Independence Party off the ballot (New York mid-level judges are elected by the voters, in partisan elections).

The New York and Arkansas cases are not over. However, New York ballots have been printed with the names of the plaintiff-candidates on those ballots, so appeals are extremely unlikely to keep anyone off the ballot. The New York case on substitution is being appealed to the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court; the hearing was October 13. The New York federal decision will probably be appealed after the election.

The Arkansas case is pending in the State Supreme Court, but only on the subsidiary issue of which rival claimant for Governor should be on the ballot.

Each of these cases is significant. In New York, the decision that petition signatures need not include precinct numbers will vastly ease the petitioning burden. The other New York decision, on substitution, is even more significant. Unlike most decisions on election law from New York state courts, this decision is lengthy and discusses constitutional issues. Judge Robert Williams based his decision on statutory construction, but he expressed the opinion that the U.S. Constitution requires that unqualified parties must have the same generous period to substitute new candidates (until late September), that the fully-qualified parties have. Decisions on this issue are rare, so this one is important. At stake, among other things, is the right of third parties to choose a presidential candidate in the summer of presidential election years, rather than months earlier.

The New York substitution case arose because the Independence Party's original candidate for Governor, Richard Rosenbaum, quit the ticket on September 14. If the substitution case had not been won, the party would have been on the ballot for other office, but not Governor. Parties always want to run for Governor of New York, because only by polling 50,000 votes for Governor can they attain "party" status.

The Colorado cases may send a signal to the state, to stop making ballot access laws worse. Colorado has toughened ballot access four times in the last ten years. A 1985 change increased the number of signatures for county office, for Congress, and for non-presidential statewide office. A 1987 change made it illegal to circulate a single petition for a slate of statewide offices. A 1989 change raised the number of signatures for state legislative office, and again raised the number for county office, to 20% of the last vote cast (in small counties). A 1991 change made it easier to disqualify signatures on petitions.

So Republicans aren't the only ones engaged in third party suppression. Democrats indulge in it too.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on December 31, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Draconian penalties against employers who hire undocumented workers

Let's take our soldiers out of Iraq so they can come home and kill immigrants. That policy should have bipartisan appeal.

Posted by: Bob G. on December 31, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Bob, I can't tell if you think killing illegals is a neat idea, or are satirically suggesting that socking it to the employers is equivalent to killing illegals. Pretty disgusting either way.

Posted by: kth on December 31, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

"They are planning a Tulsa solution to the immigrant hysteria."
Yeah! To hell with Texas. We'll stop em at the Red River (in a bipartisan way)!
Viva! Baja Oklahoma! Viva!

Posted by: jay boilswater on December 31, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo:> "That must be why these bipartisans are meeting in Oklahoma. They are planning a Tulsa solution to the immigrant hysteria."

One can only hope that such a solution doesn't mirror Tulsa's 1921 approach to problems of race and ethnicity.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii, with 25,000 Warriors fans at the Sugar Bowl on December 31, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's fair to be skeptical of this sort of effort. But at least a few of the people who appear to be participating (Boren, Hagel, Robb, and Nunn) are people with a long and respectable track record of reaching across the political aisle. They deserve our eyes and ears as they express their concerns. I'm a lifelong Democrat, a liberal to the core who grew up in a household where Ronald Reagan was ONLY known as "that son of a bitch Reagan" ----- I'm okay with partisanship because I'm pretty partisan myself. But even I think we need to behave better toward one another.

Posted by: Stacy on December 31, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

This movement needs a name. As I've suggested elsewhere, how about The Bloomers? What could be lacier and frillier than a billionaire Republican riding a white horse?

Posted by: lambert strether on December 31, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

The goal of the wealthy is to make the state reflect their class interest. Free trade, no taxation, no regulation, no risk-sharing, no unions, no traditional economic arrangements, importation of labor, and outsourcing all serve the interests of the haves. The trick is, and always has been, convincing the have-nots it is in their interest too. Class interest, like NAFTA or the war in Iraq, is sold as national interest by a hundred stories.

In many ways the haves are at war with the interests of the nation as a whole. All policies must be accounted for in terms of the profitability for a very small percentage of the population.

In the United States the parties have become masterful at resisting any sense of national interest. The Democratic Party seems like it would be happier if it were a party without a base. The authoritarian nature of those who tend to vote for (R) makes them less likely to rebel. That some would want to create politicians without a base, like Bloomberg, comes as no surprise. The appeal to the transcendence of party politics is quite old as is usually invoked by dictators who embody the spirit of the people. Time and again the haves have thrown their support behind such men, sometimes, like in Germany, they have come to regret it.

Going beyond party is the privatization of politics. It is a logical step in the privatization of everything including the state’s monopoly on war-making- historically one of the great struggles between the national institutions (like a populist parliament) and the imperialists who go abroad in search of resources and markets.

Posted by: bellumregio on December 31, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

As they say Texas, the only things in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos. These "centrists" will get about as far as other "centrist" non major-party efforts and that is not very far.

It's all rank and no file. It sounds more like an emeregency plan than the possibility of forming a brand new party.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on December 31, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

The one thing that intrigues me about this meeting is the two members whom Kevin DOESN'T name -- Gary Hart and Bill Brock. This would seem to imply that this particular movement (rightly or wongly) may end up having more political appeal and clout than one might initially assume

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on December 31, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's all rank and no file. It sounds more like an emeregency plan...

That's precisely what I think it is. Big corporate interests have pretty much gotten everything they've wanted since 1980 and there have been no substantive threats to their interests since then. Now, there is a very real potential of a Huckabee or an Edwards nomination (what about both!), where their interests aren't being safeguarded in nearly 30 years. A big 3rd party candidate like Bloomberg (like Anderson and Perot) likely would have the power to swing the election to whichever (R) or (D) candidate would in their minds look after their interests. This is a specialized global moneyed elite that is facing the first major challenge to their influence.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 31, 2007 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Oh come on Steve, let's all Unite Behind Unity (tm).

For the children.

It's not that different from "Belief in Belief" which, when it gets trotted out every so often, is given a worshipful reverence rather than the total mocking it deserves. Most people are complete morons, so why shouldn't a moronic slogan based on a moronic premise work as well in politics as it has in religion?

Posted by: Maynard Handley on December 31, 2007 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK



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