Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

October 3, 2010

FRIEDMAN'S THIRD-PARTY MESS.... Thomas Friedman joins a long list of centrist media figures to call for a third party to offer a sensible alternative to Democrats and Republicans. To put it charitably, the column is wildly unpersuasive.

The general pitch is common, but lazy -- the parties are beholden to special interests, and refuse to tell Americans what we need to hear. To turn the country around, honest independents will swoop in and save us from ourselves and shake up the "stagnating two-party duopoly that has been presiding over our nation's steady incremental decline."

I didn't care for this column the first hundred times it's been published over the years, and it's not improving with age. Indeed, the more one thinks about the details of Friedman's case, the weaker it appears.

He argues, for example, that President Obama has delivered on some real accomplishments in less than two years -- health care reform, Wall Street reform, stabilizing the economy, launching education reform, successes on counter-terrorism -- but the system has prevented broader and better gains.

Obama probably did the best he could do, and that's the point. The best our current two parties can produce today -- in the wake of the worst existential crisis in our economy and environment in a century -- is suboptimal, even when one party had a huge majority. Suboptimal is O.K. for ordinary times, but these are not ordinary times. We need to stop waiting for Superman and start building a superconsensus to do the superhard stuff we must do now. Pretty good is not even close to good enough today.

And what would be better than "pretty good"? A more ambitious health care policy that conservatives blocked; a more ambitious stimulus that conservatives opposed; a comprehensive energy/climate package that conservatives killed; more crack downs on Wall Street that conservatives have vowed to fight; and an education reform agenda that the president has already launched.

In other words, Friedman has effectively endorsed the entirety of President Obama's agenda, most of which has passed, can't pass, or has to be severely watered down because of unprecedented Senate obstructionism. But instead of calling for reforming the legislative process, or calling on Republicans to start playing a constructive role in policymaking, or calling on voters to elect more candidates who agree with the agenda the columnist espouses, Friedman says what we really need is an amorphous third party that will think the way he does.

Sigh.

To hear Friedman tell it, this mystery party is, in effect, needed to pass a bolder, more sweeping version of the Democratic agenda. Why not just elect more and better Democrats to make that possible? Friedman doesn't say. How would the Friedman Party overcome Republican obstructionism? He doesn't say. How would this third party make the kind of institutional changes that have stifled the process in recent years? Friedman doesn't say.

Other than that, it's a fine idea.

It just gets so tiresome when this crowd argues, for the umpteenth time, that a magical entity can emerge that will agree with Democrats but not really, establish a "consensus" among people with sincere disagreements, and govern successfully without all the messiness that comes with a massive democratic system.

Friedman's heart is probably in the right place, but there's a more constructive use of his considerable media influence -- present good ideas, persuade the public of their merit, and call out those who stand in the way of effective policies.

Steve Benen 11:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (67)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

You nailed it. Friedman's column is a fantasy - totally divorced from today's political reality. It is a more sophisticated version of Broderism.

Posted by: Sheldon on October 3, 2010 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

No, Friedman's heart isn't in the right place. How can it be when his head is so far up his ass? He, along with Broder, is a poster child for the false equivalency school of political writing, wherein one party's faults are automatically attributed to the other party, too. If he weren't so "even-handed," he wouldn't get invited to those Beltway cocktail parties so crucial to our democracy.

Posted by: dalloway on October 3, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Well, this is true: "the parties are beholden to special interests," I give Friedman credit for at least implying that what Democrats want to do is mostly better. But indeed such a serious third party would mostly split votes (and the more appealing they were, the worse for Democrats. The best third party would be a very conservative independent party to draw votes from Republicans.) We need to reform the political process, and reform a compromised Democratic Party. Let's work on that.

Posted by: Neil B on October 3, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Friedman's an idiot; our bias towards first-past-the-post and winner-take-all voting means that a third party is always a losing proposition. If you want a third party to succeed, you need things like instant-runoff elections, and proportionally allocated electors. That way, you can support a 3rd party candidate without "wasting" your vote if (s)he does not obtain enough support to make it to the #1 or #2 rank.

Posted by: dr2chase on October 3, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Agree with most comments upthread, only I would also class his fantasy-world scribblings with the word-salad of Sarah Palin and her ilk.

It's snake oil. There's nothing left except deus ex machina, so that's what they talk about.

I expect next that a "Man of Faith" in a white suit will emerge to lead the nation to redemption through healing, or something like that. And the sheeple will flock to it.

Posted by: bleh on October 3, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

As usual the Republican party is way ahead on how to reform itself. It's had internal movements all the way back to Goldwater's which have led the day to changing its mission / message. The Democratic party on the other hand is built up out of interest groups. It's not possible to introduce an idea to the party without someone strategizing if it can get through this or that interest group which has a de-facto veto (and demands it) on its area. Ideas lose out to the Democratic "Gotcha!" game. In the Republican party, "Gotcha!" doesn't end discussion at all. Look at Ted Olsen ....

Posted by: Tony on October 3, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

We need to stop waiting for Superman

But that is exactly what he wants, he just calls it a third party. What he really wants is Il Duce to come and knock some heads together and make everything turn out the way little Tommy wants it to (and, of course, let little Tommy continue to stay rich).

Posted by: martin on October 3, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

The real problem is that most the American people are immature and incoherent when it comes to politics -- excluding the readers of this blog, of course. In 2008, a majority said they wanted a health-care plan. Obama gave them one -- and now they hate him for it. We constantly see polls where people say, "I will pay higher taxes for X." But when taxes are raised to pay for X, the voters throw a fit. Add to this the fact that everyone wants top-flight services without paying for them and hates "Big Government" while simultaneously turning to the feds to solve every problem, and you can see that the situation is hopeless. A third party would not help; it would just become another vehicle for irrational voter rage.


Posted by: Morbo on October 3, 2010 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Does Friedman ever do anything but propose stale, silly ideas as if they were some brilliantly counter-intuitive innovations -- things never thunk before?

Posted by: hells littlest angel on October 3, 2010 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

You are making very, very good points in this column, Mr. Benen. The idea that a third party will save America is irresponsible, pathetic wishful thinking, like imagining that humans can migrate to another planet just like earth after we have trashed this one.

Friedman needs to get some balls and start saying what really needs to be said. The problems in America today start and end with conservatives who refuse to govern and refuse to allow others to govern. Almost everything going wrong in the US today--the economy, the dominance of corporations and the uber-rich, the cultural paralysis, the unsustainable energy use, the increasing inequality, education policy--could be ameliorated if the political will was there. The Democrats may not be 100% right on all things, but at least they are trying to uphold the Founding Fathers vision of a nation "of, by and for the people." The Republicans, meanwhile, ha!

Posted by: PTate in MN on October 3, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Friedman's "folly" is to emasculate the Democratic Party and become the GOP's "Kapo-esque" ally.

Of course, the Kapo bought in in the end, as well....

Posted by: S. Waybright on October 3, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

I think you're missing Friedman's point. He's written the same column this week that he's been writing for fifteen years: "I wish we had a Democratic Party without all those dirty fucking hippies."

Posted by: sxp151 on October 3, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

What exactly would this imagined third party do? One thing it wouldn't is be the voice of all the people disgusted with the current two-party system. There are conservatives disgusted with the Republicans and liberals disgusted with the Democrats, but a new political party can't hope to address both of their concerns. And the idea that all independents are people who sit midway between existing Republicans and existing Democrats is one of the laziest Broderian tropes out there, completely unsupported by the evidence (though I suppose that when Jon Stewart's "Million Moderate March" generates as many attendees as Beck and One Nation Working Together had between them, it'll be used to "prove" that assertion).

Posted by: argo0 on October 3, 2010 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

the parties are beholden to special interests, and refuse to tell Americans what we need to hear.

Maybe that's because Americans refuse to hear what they need to be told. Mondale tried it - and the rest is history.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on October 3, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

If third parties are to even have a modicum of success they have to be built up from the local level, and stay out national and even statewide politics unless there is a realistic chance of getting elected and not just being a spoiler. The Greens, who had seen some success in small progressively oriented communities completely undercut their national image when they nominated Cynthia McKinney for president.


Nationally, third parties are usually personality driven and reflect voter frustration with the status quo more than a coherent ideology. The teabagger's success, such as it is, comes from keeping the revolution "in house". it's clear that fringe candidates who would be mired in single digits if they were making an independent or third party bid, suddenly become viable when they run as a Republican, and the same would largely be true among Democrats as well.

There are those who run successfully as independents on a statewide level across the political spectrum, but they are usually well known politicians who leave one of the two major parties, or in the case of Bernie Sanders someone who spent years in a small, often progressive state, building up a personal reputation for integrity, intelligence and competence.

I think there is a real chance that if both major parties are continued to be seen as beholden to corporate interests, that idependent bids by candidates of all persuasions could have more success than has historically been the case - some may be just be "sour grapes" candidacies like Lieberman and Murkowski's, but even then the "independent" label tends to give them a greater degree of political freedom once elected. It's just that in Lieberman's case, it was the freedom to be the asshole every one already suspected he was to begin with.

Posted by: rip on October 3, 2010 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Jebus Christ on a pogo stick!! Doesn't anyone realize that "Suck. On. This!!" is pining for the rebirth of Unity '08? And you know why Unity '08 imploded? Because they had an online poll of who people wanted to see run. And do you know who finished # 1 & # 2? Obama and Russ Feingold. I'm serious as a heart attack.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on October 3, 2010 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

You say, "there's a more constructive use of his considerable media influence -- present good ideas, persuade the public of their merit, and call out those who stand in the way of effective policies."

Do you think Friedman has a strong track record in that regard?

Posted by: Aaron on October 3, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Friedman is an asshole.

He wants a third party that's not beholden to special interests? Has he seen the centrists we have in the Congress?

If it's not Liebermann shilling for war with Iran, then it's Ben Nelson wanting to "reduce the deficit." If it's not Nelson, then it's Mary Landrieu shilling for tax cuts for the rich and drilling in the Gulf. If it's not Landrieu, then it's Bart Stupak weaselling his way to banning abortion.

Show me a moderate Congressperson who isn't a sockpuppet for special interests.

Posted by: Cliff on October 3, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Roddy has a point, and we should all listen well: much of this is indeed the voters' fault. Many are stupid, emotional, manipulable, fickle fools. If they were a lot better the pols couldn't get away with 1/10 of what they do slide down our throats.

As for centrists, I think that's a game viewpoint but admit I can't think of a really admirable example. But aren't the highly conservative ones even worse, save for a few very independent libertarian/paleocons off on their own tangent?

Posted by: neil b on October 3, 2010 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Of course! Eureka! American politics would be great if people agreed on both the problems and the solutions! Why didn't anyone ever think of this before? Huzza for Friedman!

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 3, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing "independents" have in common is their contempt for the Republican and Democratic Parties. Other than that, they have nothing else in common. Contempt for the two parties is not enough to organize a third party.

The Tea Party began as Astroturf to produce flash mobs for the long, hot summer against health care reform. But some of the people attracted thought they had the makings of a third party. The Republicans aggressive began to take control of the Tea Party to make sure that doesn't happen. "Leaders" of the Tea Party, Palin, DeMent, et al are firmly under Republican control. The Tea Party has just become a laundry for the Republican brand soiled during the looting by Bush, DeLay, et al. Now they soiled can claim to be Tea Party Republicans -- wash, rinse, repeat endlessly.

There are not enough disaffected Americans who agree on enough to form a consensus to create a third party. That's why the notion is a fantasy.

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on October 3, 2010 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Friedman may be offering a third party fantasy, but he's correct on elected officials (Democratic candidates included) who fail to speak honestly on issues. Instead, the pollsters and political hack pinheads draw up talking points that fail to acknowledge how screwed up the US is on so many issues.

I crave a politician who will speak the truth rather than looking for how (s)he can get reelected next cycle. Who within either party's leadership (elected or not) actually fits this model?

Posted by: buck on October 3, 2010 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

@ Cliff: Show me a moderate Congressperson who isn't a sockpuppet for special interests.

That's because the current crop that calls themselves "moderates" are essentially pro-business, anti-tax, but somewhat pro-tolerance. The "moderates" who get airtime aren't really _ideological_ moderates, they're just triangulating for the sake of convenience. IMHO the ideological moderates are, essentially, the mainstream Democrats--some of whom get called "liberals" in the media. Someone like Reid or Schumer or Menendez... those IMHO are "moderates." Not Bayh and Nelson and Lincoln and Landrieu. They're too far to the right to be "moderates." They're only "moderates" because there are too few actual liberals to reveal how far right the "moderates" really are.

(Incidentally, who would you guys say are the unabashed liberals in the Senate? Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Boxer, Franken, Feingold, Harkin, Mikulski? Leahy, Reed, Whitehouse, Durbin, Kerry, Wyden? I feel like the moderates outnumber the liberals by a good margin among the Democrats, even if you move the people-who-are-called-moderates like Nelson and Lincoln into a separate category. Thus, I'd say, if what you're looking for is an ideological moderate, you're probably at home in the Democratic party.)

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 3, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

It just gets so tiresome when this crowd argues, for the umpteenth time, that a magical entity can emerge that will agree with Democrats but not really, establish a "consensus" among people with sincere disagreements, and govern successfully without all the messiness that comes with a massive democratic system.

The donkey and the elephant are already taken; maybe Friedman, Broder, etc. could form the Magical Pony Party.

Friedman's heart is probably in the right place, but there's a more constructive use of his considerable media influence -- present good ideas, persuade the public of their merit, and call out those who stand in the way of effective policies.

Especially calling out those who stand in the way of effective policies. When 'Congress' fails to act on a serious problem or a major initiative, it would be nice if the media would tell people just who in Congress is pushing to get it done, and who is standing in the way.

Our major news outlets seem to think it would be a sin against their bullshit 'objectivity' to point out which party's on which side; it might make the GOP look bad, and they can't do that unless they can do it in a 'both sides are to blame' manner, which the facts often render impossible.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on October 3, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

@ buck: I crave a politician who will speak the truth rather than looking for how (s)he can get reelected next cycle. Who within either party's leadership (elected or not) actually fits this model?

It depends on what you mean by "speak the truth." By and large, I think, people who "speak the truth" don't go into electoral politics because it's an arena that's all about telling people what they want to hear and tapping into what they already believe. If you want to "speak the truth," you should be an activist working outside the system.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 3, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

@ low-tech cyclist: Our major news outlets seem to think it would be a sin against their bullshit 'objectivity' to point out which party's on which side; it might make the GOP look bad

The most genius move the Republicans ever made was getting their minions to raise a hue and cry about "liberal media bias." That intersects with the (still relatively new) idea that the news is supposed to be a profitable enterprise, and as a result the people who run media conglomerates are in a constant state of fear that showing something "liberal" positively, or showing something "conservative" negatively, will cost them customers and hurt their bottom line. Back when the news wasn't considered a profit center, the media could be much more dedicated to constructive skepticism, because if it pissed people off, well, good, that was like a badge of honor. Now, though, being critical of conservatives -- they think -- is too risky on the business end. So they just don't do it.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 3, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Indeed, the more one thinks about the details of Friedman's case, the weaker it appears."

Oh no, the Moustache of Understanding's case is strong, strong, strong. In fact, I think we should all recommend to Friedman that he set about organizing the Magical Pony Party. (Kudos to low-tech cyclist; what a perfect description! Ponies for everybody!)

Yes, we need to take back our country and Thomas Friedman strikes me as the man to do it.

Posted by: SoVeryConfused on October 3, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

In any case, we are faced with a "lizards not the Wizards" election up ahead, and can either pick the inadequate or permit the unacceptable.

Posted by: neil b on October 3, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity."

Posted by: hunter on October 3, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Why not just elect more and better Democrats to make that possible?"

When electing "a Democrat" means a 50%+ probability of electing a RIABN, "more" and "better" are at odds.

Posted by: Forrest on October 3, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Benen's criticisms are dead on, and many commenters have also made some good points, but ridiculing Friedman's trite 3rd party fantasies misses the underlying message that Friedman inches toward acknowledging, as in many of his columns, but can't bring himself to examine on its own terms.

This displaced notion is also a quite familiar one: That America may be in the very approximately same position as Rome in decline, that America's period of world hegemony, with all that accompanies it, is passing, and that this phenomenon permeates every aspect of American life, including American political life. That the idea is familiar doesn't make it wrong, or its implications any less radical. It could be an idea whose time has long been coming nearer, and may finally be upon us. If so, it suggests that, in the absence of mature coping, adjustment, and transition strategies, we will face increasing political and economic instability and dysfunction.

The political party that best exploits the situation may prosper, but will likely be understood by its opponents as embodying a fundamental threat to their own concepts of the American way of life. I think that's what we've seen since '08. No reason to think we won't see a lot more of it.

Posted by: CK MacLeod on October 3, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that the moderate wing of the GOP has a very hard choice in front of it. Either they do as they have done, and follow their far right masters over the cliff, or they swallow their pride and ally with the Democrats who are the only responsible governing party now active. Faced with that stark choice, they wish and pray for some other option. There is none. Face it! It's either back the Democrats or go with the Tea Party.

Posted by: tom in ma on October 3, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah Steve, progressives may as well give up the idea of ever forming a third party. Just continue to embrace the "democratic agenda" which now substantially the same agenda of the GOP save for the so-called "culture" issues.

Just forget about things ever getting better or ever having any real "change" No third party will ever ever ever be possible till the end of time.

*sigh*

By 2020, the Democrats and Republicans will have gone the way of the whigs and tories. Wait and see.

Posted by: getaclue on October 3, 2010 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Other than that, it's a fine idea. -- Steve Benen

Aw, Steve, don't be so cruel. Give it a six months trial, at least, before you condemn it.

Posted by: exlibra on October 3, 2010 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

tom in ma - the mainstream Rs will likely continue to hope that the TP subsides, gets domesticated and co-opted, and that the indulgence in extreme rhetoric and of bizarre and embarrassing individuals won't have any lasting effect.

Posted by: CK MacLeod on October 3, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

If it's a road map people want, Thom Hartmann has a new book coming out shortly: Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country. I've been reading an advance copy, and Hartmann does a plausible job of explaining why the country is so far off track, and what needs to be done to correct it. It would horrify Friedman - it takes on some of his dearest-held fantasies.

It also has insights sprinkled all through it that seem so obvious, it's a wonder they aren't brought up more. For example, one big reason the stimulus didn't have a bigger effect was simple. Much of the demand and job creation it stimulated was in China - not here! If we don't make things here any more, there's damned little to stimulate. That's why trying to save the U.S. auto industry may turn out to have a lot bigger bang for the comparatively few bucks spent on it.

And the idea that a service economy can work as well as a manufacturing economy to create wealth? Taking a pound of ground beef and selling it as a hamburger doesn't create nearly as much value as taking iron ore and turning it into cars. Duh!

Hartmann's biggest problem is that his book calls for overturning the conventional wisdom of the last 30 years. But considering where that 'wisdom' has taken us, eventually we're either going to have to, or resign ourselves to becoming a declining country.

Posted by: xaxnar on October 3, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Given the electoral college, a third party will never thrive unless one of the first disapears.

Posted by: Jamie on October 3, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Friedman:
Suck. On. This.
Really, after that, there's nothing left to say.

Posted by: Davran on October 3, 2010 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

This is one big joke. The reason nothing major gets past is not because of two parties and a third party will make no difference. The problem is simply that we as a county honestly do not agree on either the problems or the solutions. It's not special interests and it is not conservatives or liberals.

We don't agree. That is what the whole problem is.

Arguing with people does not change their minds. Arguing is just a way to blow off steam and feel good. If anyone wants their agenda to pass the only way to accomplish it is to educate other people that your definition of the problem is correct and your proposed solution is the best.

So far, no one has been very persuasive at that task.

Posted by: George on October 3, 2010 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

1) Friedman supports Obama's agenda. 2) He knows that a third party would disadvantage Republicans. 3) He knows that the odds of a third-party candidate winning are nil. 4) He knows that our system is set up to co-opt any third party into the other two.

Friedman is no fool. So why do you give him the benefit of the doubt about his heart being in the right place? There's a much better case that he is being disingenuous.

Posted by: KAM on October 3, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

You missed the point. Freidman wasn't just bemoaning a republican party that does nothing but flaunt no votes for the TV audience. He was bemoaning a Democratic party whose inane interior interests produce fiscally useless legislation (The same can be said of the Republican party, btw, if you recall Bush's immigration proposals, his prescription drug act, or his tax cuts).

Personally I think it's a fairly strong argument. + Anyone here who thinks the republican party has changed structurally over the years is self-fooling.

Posted by: Dru on October 3, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

There DOES need to be a third party. I happen to call this party the INO party. In Name of.

The Party platform is to "vote your constituents."
It is made up of anyone who has ever been called a RINO or a DINO and it has one purpose.
To DESTROY the Republican Right and Democratic Left.

Not to work WITH them, but marginalize them, isolate them, muzzle them and make them what they should be ...
irrelevant insignificant minority parties who combined can't muster a filibuster.

about 20% of the country are Radical right ... same for Progressives. This occurs in poll after poll ( ranging from 16-22% on each depending on the timing and pollster ).

This means 60% are MODERATE and are collateral damage to the culture wars of the other two.
So Brooks problem is he wants someone to bridge the differences.
That won't work.

We need a third party to represent the 60% majority silenced by their respective wing nuts who will FIGHT them and do every thing they can to make them ...
insignificant again.

Posted by: Chrome on October 3, 2010 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think both the author and Mr. Friedman are missing is that that 3rd party has emerged. I just happens to support positions fundamentally opposed to what Mr. Friedman and Mr. Benen happen to support. Currently they are taking over the Republican party from the bottom up, but if the party magnates try to use it as an excuse to spend wildly when they get into power, they'll very quickly find the Tea Partiers challenging them as a full up third party, rather than in just primary fights.

Just because they aren't blowing the way you want them to, doesn't mean the winds of change aren't blowing.

Posted by: Voyager on October 3, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK
He knows that a third party would disadvantage Republicans.

Really? And your evidence for this is, what, exactly?

Friedman is no fool

Sorry, but the evidence is overwhelmingly against you.

Posted by: PaulB on October 3, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK
I think both the author and Mr. Friedman are missing is that that 3rd party has emerged.

No, actually, it hasn't. The Tea Party is nothing more than the conservative wing of the Republican Party, just as it has always been. Its numbers are small and there are no signs at all that they are growing, nor that those who are its members have the foggiest idea what the hell they are talking about. Wishful thinking does not make it so.

Posted by: PaulB on October 3, 2010 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's apparent from reading the threads that the only solution is to turn the country over to the posters on this column. It's obvious that you are the brains of this country and everyone else is an idiot. moron or racist. and that you need to have the power, unfettered from the inconveinces of Democracy. You are obviously setting the example by donatng large amounts of your time and money to these causes and not expecting the someone else to pay for thes changes that need to be made. Since you have many people in your circle that agree with you, it should not be a problem to bypass the current system and fund these changes. Pay for someone else's health costs, pay for someone's mortgage that is behind. Contribute some of your extra money so that govenrment worker's pension fund is full. If you set the example, others will see what good people you are. Lead by example


Posted by: CHi_Ed on October 3, 2010 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK
Not to work WITH them, but marginalize them, isolate them, muzzle them and make them what they should be ... irrelevant insignificant minority parties who combined can't muster a filibuster.

Oh, do tell... Please do show me this radical "Democratic Left" that has all of this power, won't you? And while you're at it, tell me what is wrong with their policies. Because from where I'm sitting, they are a) powerless, shut out, and ostracized, and b) by far the best qualified to actually govern.

Posted by: PaulB on October 3, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK
It's apparent from reading the threads that the only solution is to turn the country over to the posters on this column.

ROFL.... Is that really the best you can do? Here's the thing: better to be thought an idiot than write posts like this and prove it, mmkay?

Posted by: PaulB on October 3, 2010 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK
Yeah Steve, progressives may as well give up the idea of ever forming a third party.

Yup, it's a pipe dream.

Just continue to embrace the "democratic agenda" which now substantially the same agenda of the GOP save for the so-called "culture" issues.

Oh, bullshit. *None* of the accomplishments of the past two years are even remotely on the "agenda of the GOP." Moreover, nobody is saying that you can not or should not primary the hell out of the Democratic Congresscritters.

By 2020, the Democrats and Republicans will have gone the way of the whigs and tories. Wait and see.

Not a chance in hell. Deal with it.

Posted by: PaulB on October 3, 2010 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's wrong. Friedman's wrong. No this. No that. No. No. No. Talk about a meme that's getting tired.

Posted by: K. on October 3, 2010 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

I like the two party system. Don't mess with it.

Posted by: russ on October 3, 2010 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

The underlying assumption here is that Obama has accomplished ANYTHING useful. Many thoughtful people beg to disagree with that assumption.

Healthcare was sold thru lies- think "It will bend the cost curve" or "You can keep your own policy" or "You can keep your own doctor" -all of which have been challenged by events and the CBO. In fact we now know that Obama was told that many of these atatements were wrong at the time but he went ahead and lied to the American people.

Or perhaps the accomplishment was the stimulus bill with all of the jobs it created by studying the genital washing habits of African males or the other jobs created at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars each?

Oh, I know it was financial reform which conspicuously ignored the two biggest culprits for the crash- FANNY AND FREDDIE.

Gimme a break and put down the KoolAid.

Posted by: peteinny on October 3, 2010 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

We don't need a third party. We need a dynamic, Progerssive democratic party headed by someone who strongly and consistently advocated and supports Progressive policies. If obama is the best the Dems can do with a large majority in the House and a near-super majority in the Senate, the we are ion impossible-to-solve trouble. if the midterms are as bad for Dems as some predict, then changes are needed at the buck-stopper position and many buck-passer positions.

Posted by: gdb on October 3, 2010 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, we could call it the Fried Man Party. Tom and his fellow progressive elites could run it from their gated guarded estates in the east and instruct the rest of us in fly over country, blue jeans belt and hickland how to vote and think and walk and talk. Wouldn't it be grand. Just think of it Tom Friedman and his friends straightening everything out for us other boobs. Gosh.

Posted by: Larsky on October 3, 2010 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Friedman is a great admirer of China, and while an idiot, he's got enough sense not to write about what he would really like - an authoritarian government run by someone with Tom Friedman's political views.

Posted by: Rockwell on October 3, 2010 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that Thomas Friedman is already well represented by Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Based on his writings the only reason he would want a more centrist party would be to break up the vote in the Republican party so that Obama, Pelosi, and the Democrats could really drag the country to the far left. We'll get back to you on that idea Mr Friedman!

Posted by: valwayne on October 3, 2010 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

Hey guys, go easy on Tom. He's "special needs". We're glad we got him out of here (MN), but our gain is the country's loss. Sorry, folks.

Posted by: Iska Waran on October 3, 2010 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Can someone point out to me Friedman's political positions that differ from, say, Nancy Pelosi's? Everything I've read from him is "green jobs" this and "raise taxes" that, and yet he's a "moderate". Just solidifies my view that "moderates" are simply liberals that don't want to be called liberals.

Posted by: Rockwell on October 3, 2010 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Friedman's view is common on his side of the political spectrum (which is not the center, by the way): that the Democrats' failure is in not lurching far-left enough. But the reason they are in trouble is that they pulled so far left that they scared the hell out of the country. Only 20 percent of Americans self-identify as "liberal." The country has rejected far-left policies whenever they have appeared. A third party won't change that.

Posted by: BillofIreland on October 3, 2010 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Most of the comments seem to be in criticism of Friedman's opinion. I think he hits the nail on the head.

The reason that healthcare "reform" and other legislative achievements are abysmal failures has less to do with conservatives vs liberals and more to do with the corruption of Congress by big money. Friedman is correct in saying that the Democrats had a large enough majority to deliver populist laws. The problem was that many of the Democrats, including Obama, were much too beholden to contributors to make tough votes against Wall Street, Big Pharma, etc...

The GOP is no better, but if the voters of both parties can at least acknowledge the rot at the core, there might be a remedy via the ballot box. A third party, if it can strike a tone that resonates across the spectrum (or at least the middle), might be our best chance.

Posted by: farmerjohn on October 3, 2010 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

"LAZY"

spot on. That's the perfect word to describe this incessant regurgitation of liberal platitudes.

Posted by: Frank K on October 3, 2010 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Steve

This is perfect, Friedman has one pitch and that pitch is "common but lazy". He is a millionaire from his foolish books, all of which are variations of "Big Problem and intractable...But. But I was talking to a guy who was sunning himslef by the burning river and he said ...[insert common but lazy unpersuasive wisdom such as "If we all did x, then y will happen...see! I Tom Friedman have earned another million by taking a leave and selling people hokum."

Freidman makes Charlie Rose seem like a cross between Voltaire and Studs Terkel.

Posted by: tomcj on October 3, 2010 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Being a Party insider yourself, I'd hardly expect you to understand.

Posted by: Dug on October 3, 2010 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

When the masses of the Roman Empire started first demanding "Bread and Healthcare!", that was the sure sign that return to the original Roman republic was urgently needed.

However, dynamic, Progerssive, if not totally democratic, forces were hungry for delivering more bread and more healthcare for the people, without the people doing a thing.

And we all know now (using the benefit of back vision) how it all ended.

Posted by: NoWeWillNOT on October 3, 2010 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

"...the parties are beholden to special interests....."

What can any elected official constitutionally do that would benefit "special" interests when they only authorized to spend for the "general" welfare?

Posted by: rick on October 3, 2010 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

BillofIreland, no the Democrats did not go very far left. How can you say that considering what they did the past few years? That's just mindless dittofaux agitprop.

Posted by: neil b on October 3, 2010 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

NoWeWillNOT, the people who didn't want to do a think were Repubs and corporatists who didn't want any changes in a totally failing system, no taxes from richer people to pull things up. Demanding "tax cuts" when we couldn't afford them and "wars" when we couldn't afford them, that's what did us in. And the people can't do much if a deregulated financial system wrecks credit and leaves a mess. It's a wonder we've crawled back this far (see "Bikini graph".)

Posted by: neil b' on October 3, 2010 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly