April 15, 2011
Will It Take A New Political Party to Save America?By Lee Cary
It is painful to even consider the possibility that America is moving into its Sixth Party System, as a new, conservative political party emerges to, eventually, replace the Grand Old Party. Yet events suggest this may be in the cards.
We've seen third party candidates like Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, and, for those older among us, Strom Thurmond. Earlier still, there was Teddy Roosevelt playing the Bull Moose. But personality-based political movements have been short-lived anomalies, with marginal long-term impact on the body politic.
Today, conventional wisdom labels the notion that a third party can become a major long-term player as heretical, and does so with the acquiescent nod of the major parties that represent an oligarchy of two.
But viewed across a calendar covering centuries in America, the evolutionary ebb-and-flow of America's political history can be traced through a geologic-like time scale: First Party System, 1792-1825 (Federalists vs. the Democratic-Republicans); Second Party System, 1828-1854 (Democrats vs. Whigs); Third Party System, 1854-1895, (post-Civil War new Republicans vs. the Democrats); Fourth Party System, 1896-1932 (called the Progressive Era due to Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson, dominated by Republicans); and the Fifth Party System, 1933-today (also called the New Deal Party System).
We the people have shaped and reshaped our political landscape along the way, and more than once. Perhaps another shift is underway today.
During our current Fifth Party System, both major parties have helped expand the role of the federal government. We've watched that growth match the accelerated increase in the federal debt, as the two parties have taken turns sustaining the unsustainable drag race to the cliff. Granted, one drives faster than the other, but both drive in the same direction.
Depending on whom you believe, the cliff is moderately-to-perilously close. Yet there's been no significant slack in our speed. And, in the last three years, it's been pedal-to-the-metal.
As we citizens hunker down in the back seat, tightening our seat belts, some of us see the cliff close enough to warrant pulling the emergency brake with the fierce urgency of now in order to avoid a Thelma & Louise event. (Note how the movie ends as the two heroines celebrate their freedom, launched into the blue. Note, also, that the resulting carnage at the bottom of the canyon isn't depicted.)
This week, the President, who perceives leadership primarily as a language event, addressed the federal deficit and delivered yet another speech on his 2012 budget. In a brilliant display of doublespeak, he called new taxes "spending reductions in the tax code," while Joe Biden spoke for many of us by falling asleep. Thanks, Joe. We needed that.
The President's speech came on the heels of a 2011 budget agreement whereby the Republicans gained...well, it's not clear what they gained by way of concessions from the Democrats, but a covey of pols in dark suits told us they'd made the best deal they could -- speaking from both sides of the aisle.
The next deficit event will address raising the federal debt limit. Both sides say that if we don't lift it, the United States of America will cease to exist.
Meanwhile, some of us have grown skeptical that neither party, not singly nor both working together, can cut the deficit and the federal budget. Bureaucracies tend to be, with regard to head-count and budgeted monies, inflexible downward. Self-aggrandizement is, after all, the dominant gene in the bureaucrat's DNA.
So it's time we face the possibility that our current cast of politicians, like Thelma and Louise, will not apply the brakes. What then?
The potential outcome from national bankruptcy drives some folks to stash firearms and ammunition, buy vegetable seeds, gather precious metals for bartering, and pile up dehydrated food and emergency water supplies. There's a burgeoning industry servicing those who believe a launch off the cliff is inevitable, and soon.
But there's another way this could all play out that might follow this path:
The House agrees to raise the debt limit -- just this one last time. Promise. The really, really big concessions Republicans receive in exchange for voting "Yes" to a higher debt limit turn out to be as underwhelming as the recent deal Boehner made on the 2011 budget. Diehard Republicans calm the troubled GOP waters by saying that the pending battle over the 2012 budget is what really, really matters. The GOP this time, they say, will really, really stand firm on fiscal principle when the big showdown comes. Promise.
Conservatives reluctantly postpone their expectations and await the mother of all budget battles.
Then it, too, ends in a draw, heralded by the media as a grand bipartisan compromise wherein the GOP trades a modest 2012 budget reduction -- say a couple hundred billion, but nothing approaching a "T" -- for a modest increase in taxes on the upper income bracket. Less than what Obama wants, but more than zero. It takes the votes of moderate Democrats to pass the House. It's a becomes a bipartisan group hug photo op.
GOP leaders explain how the party just can't afford to be perceived as inflexible defenders of the rich going into an election year. When Republicans control the government, they say, things will really, really change. Promise.
Conservative Republicans grimace at this outcome. But what can we do? Migrate to the New Socialist Democrat Party? Join the Libertarian hobby party? No, we're caught betwixt a rock and a hard place, déjà vu of the 2008 presidential election.
In 2012, the GOP runs a weak candidate against Obama; Obama wins. And that's the tipping point.
The Sixth Party System in American history forms around the Republican House and Senate members who trace their roots to the Tea Party Movement. They gather at a remote resort where, on their own dime, sequestered in a secure building, they hammer out a platform based on the pledge to immediately balance the budget of a federal government perched on the very cusp of going bankrupt.
Initially, they're a party within a party. But as time passes, they morph into a separate political entity, decentralized, less bureaucratic than the RNC and DNC, and lacking the hierarchical structure of both. A model of the new virtual party, if you will.
And the Sixth Party System in American is underway.
"No way," you say. "Crazy talk! It would only assure a Democrat victory!"
Yeah, you're probably right.
Because there was no way the United States could go from the world's leading creditor nation, to its biggest debtor.
There was no way much of the Middle East could erupt in riots in such a short period of time.
No way would the United States ever enter a third war this year with a Muslim nation unless attacked.
No way would TSA (Transportation Stupid Administration) officers would frisk small children.
Nor would the federal government essentially nationalize General Motors, and then market cars with steering wheels that fall off, only to turn to two Chinese banks -- owned by the Peoples' Republic of China, of course -- to help float an initial public stock offering (IPO) of Government Motor's stock. And there's certainly no way, looking ahead, that the PRC ends up a major stockholder of GM. (Picture a compact electric black and white Chevy called the Panda.)
No way any of that, and more, ever happens. But, consider this:
We live in an era of American history when we should not discount even the highly unlikely as being impossible.
See also: Third Party? Read the Fine Print First