Action Alert: NYT Calls for Dialogue on Third Party Alternatives

Yesterday, the New York Times published a letter to the editor arguing for a centrist, third party alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties, and invited readers to respond for publication on Sunday.  The letter is from one Robert Levine, a neurologist and author of a book entitled, Resurrecting Democracy: A Citizen’s Call for a Centrist Third Party.  The letter:
Why does America have only two political options? Every day, the news from Washington showcases the inability of our two political parties to govern effectively.

Rigid partisanship has repeatedly hindered or prevented Republicans and Democrats from reaching compromise solutions on vital legislation, provoking a crisis of confidence in our political and economic system. And elected officials beholden to lobbyists and special interests allow their priorities to supersede those of ordinary citizens.

The economy is stagnant, unemployment remains high, and budget deficits and the national debt keep climbing. Yet no answers are forthcoming from our representatives in Washington. The continuing dysfunction reinforces the need for a third party of the center as an alternative to the current parties.
Using the Internet and social networks to organize and raise money from small donors, this new centrist party could be independent of the special interests and able to work for the benefit of all Americans. Its hallmarks would be ethical conduct, transparency and pragmatism. Instead of being constrained by ideology, it would be guided by common sense and practicality in its search for solutions.

A centrist third party could prosper in today’s political environment and end the stalemate in Washington. There is a large body of moderate Republicans, disaffected Democrats and dissatisfied independents looking for the kind of political home that this party could provide. Unhappiness with the political options now available to Americans will sooner or later translate into a groundswell for alternatives. 
The Times adds an editor's note:
Editors’ Note: We invite readers to respond to this letter for our Sunday Dialogue. We plan to publish responses and Dr. Levine’s rejoinder in the Sunday Review. E-mail:


Solomon Kleinsmith said...

I would also note that Robert is a regular contributor at Rise of the Center. I just started reading his book the other day.

Pete Healey said...

Here's a letter I submitted to the NYT on this subject but apparently they didn't see fit to print.

Dear Editor,

Mr. Levine's letter advocating the development of a "pragmatic", "centrist" third party is a call that will get louder and louder. This type of party would give the most undecided and vacillating voters an automatic place to go, instead of the back-and-forth between the "just-barely-right-of-center" and the "just barely-left-of-center" that characterizes competitive elections in the two-party world of Democrats and Republicans. And that would be nice for those voters, but it wouldn't do anything to fill the void. Almost half of all elections aren't seriously contested now and a "pragmatic centrist" party would have sense enough to avoid wasting its time on such races. Ideology and serious public policy debate would also be generally left behind, as they are now.
By all means let's open up the system to other players, but let's allow voters to determine which new parties survive and develop into real challengers of the current "major party" players.

Pete Healey
New Paltz

DLW said...

I'm sending this email to them.

The problem is that currently the two major parties are centered around the de facto center, instead of the "real" center and they are unable to cooperate because of how much both of them want to game our first-past-the-post system to dominate the other.

With better election rules, the de facto center would be much closer to the "real" center and with FairVote's American forms of Proportional Representation we could handicap the rivalry between the two major parties so they are given more incentives to cooperate to maintain their privileged major party status against potential contenders.

Thus, true centrists should want better election rules, not per se a new party.