Rise Of The Third Party?

When I first became interested in politics as a young man, one of the things that bothered me most about our political system was the complete dominance of the two parties. You were either a Republican or you were a Democrat. Sure, you could cast your vote for some other party, assuming there was a suitable candidate. But a vote cast for the Green Party or the Libertarian Party was largely symbolic. Even the most successful party in recent history – the Reform Party – managed a mere 8% of the popular vote in the 1996 presidential election. They did manage to elect a governor, though, so . . . that’s good, I guess.

But even though my youthful enthusiasm for a multi-party political system has waned, I’ve long wondered if I might see a new third party emerge within my lifetime. It’s not without historical precedent. Parties come and go, wax and wane. We don’t have a Whig Party these days. We don’t have a Federalist Party.  The Democratic-Republican Party, oddly enough, split into what eventually became the modern Democratic and Republican Parties (via a detour through Whig Town for the Republicans).

My secret dream has always been that the Green Party would eventually rise up and gain some real teeth in the political process; a longshot, I know, but when you’re an early political idealist, you think just about anything is possible. I’m still holding out for that future, in case anyone is thinking about accusing me of giving up on my dreams.

Laugh if you must.

What I didn’t predict was that our rising third party would be hewn from the fragments of the schismatic and possibly irreparably broken Republican Party:

For nearly 150 years, there was something in America called the Republican Party. It was far from perfect. It often faltered. It made mistakes. But it was predictable; when it was in power, you knew, for the most part, what you were getting.

Cut to now and things look mighty different. The Republican Party today is, as Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein put it, “an insurgent outlier in American politics … ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” But, to borrow the title of Mann and Ornstein’s recent book, it’s even worse than it looks. There’s the Tea Party and then there’s a rump of spineless moderates. The GOP, quite simply, has been split in two.

So, I guess my long-held wish for a third party may be on the verge of fruition. With House Majority Leader Eric Cantor losing to the Tea Party candidate Eric Brat, it seems like a permanent split between the mainstream Republicans and the Tea Parties might well be here. Or maybe not; it’s a little too early in the primary season to say how this will all shake down.

Maybe Cantor’s defeat is an outlier. Maybe not. Regardless, it’s going to be interesting to observe.

 

Damn It, PETA

Stop making environmentalists, animal activists, conservationists, ecologists, vegetarians, and vegans look bad. Yes, know that they’re not all the same, but most people don’t. We’re all one big, pot-addicted, tree-hugging, save the whales, kumbaya collective. And we all get judged by whoever is making the most noise or saying the most obnoxious thing.

I know this because I do it all the time whenever I decide to blame the entire Republican Party for whatever stupid thing their most fringe Tea Party candidate decides to do or say. The reality is that the Republican Party is a vast organism with many different competing aspects, individuals, and motivations. But it’s much more emotionally satisfying the blame the entire crowd for the most egregious behavior of the distant fringe.

That’s not to say that I like or even respect the Republican Party. I’m just being emotionally disingenous.

PETA actually does a lot of good in the world. Most people like animals and think that being kind to them is a good idea, even if they make those choices based entirely on which ones are fuzzy and cute. But people also tend to hate PETA and go completely deaf whenever PETA (or another animal activist) tries to raise legitimate concerns or discussion.

Shit like this? This isn’t helping. There is such a thing as bad publicity.

About That “Abuse Of Executive Orders” Thing

I didn’t watch the State of the Union address live, so I’ve had to play catch up in the past few days. Fortunately, the Internet makes this a very easy proposition and I’m now fully informed on, among other things, the current status of the union.

My initial thoughts: sounds like we have a lot of work to do as a union. That’s okay with me, though. Work is good, because work is progress and if there’s a term I love more than liberal, it’s progressive.

Another thought: is it just me or did this speech remind anybody of the Obama who ran for president in 2008? The man is a damn fine orator when he focuses on it. This speech felt like a return to form for the president which I, as a member of the liberal loyalist base, found especially invigorating. I think the base needed that shot of adrenaline after the debacle that was the healthcare.gov rollout.

My favorite part, however, isn’t the speech itself, but the political reaction from the other side. I swear I’m not trying to intentionally poke them with a stick, but the Republicans make it so easy. There’s the three different official Republican responses to the state of the union; way to look like a unified and coherent party there, guys. Seriously, well done.

I’m glad we covered all the different flavors of the Republican party: there’s the Republican Party response delivered by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, then there’s the Republican Tea Party response delivered by Mike Lee, and of course, the Rand Paul Tea Party Republican Party response delivered by Rand Paul, because hey, why not.

But for my money, the best punchline comes from Obama’s abuse of executive authority. Dictator! Emperor! King! How dare the president abuse his authority in so improper a fashion! It’s the death of the Constitution! The end of checks and balances. President Obama is going to unleash so many executive orders that we might as well start melting down the gold and platinum to make the man a crown.

Clearly, that’s his aim here, right? He’s going to flood the republic with executive orders. Take a look at the number of executive orders Obama has issued so far during his presidency compared to previous presidents:

Source: Nymag.com

Wait, what?

Where’s Obama on this list? Oh, there he is: one up from the bottom.

I think it’s safe to say that if unleashing a tide of executive orders was going to be President Obama’s modus operandi, he would have already started to do so instead of waiting until the sixth year of his presidency. Just a thought.

As an aside, it’s also interesting to note how few executive orders George W. Bush issued. I would have assumed his number would have been higher. But that’s the great thing about dealing with facts and reality; if facts contradict your view on a particular topic, you change your view.