Opinion Brief

Does America need a third party?

The two-party system is failing America, says The New York Times' Tom Friedman — joining a rising chorus calling for a new alternative

A growing list of centrists — most recently joined by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman — say America needs a third political party to offer a moderate alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. The inadequate attempts that the "two-party duopoly" has made to address the financial meltdown, the health-care crisis, and other national emergencies demonstrates, says Friedman, how badly we need a "serious third party" that can navigate such waters directly and honestly without worrying about offending special interests. Is he right?

What a tired, silly idea: This third-party nonsense is getting "tiresome," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. Do its proponents really believe that some "magical entity" could "establish a 'consensus' among people with sincere disagreements," and successfully pass "a bolder, more sweeping version of the Democratic agenda"? Friedman's time and clout would be better spent pitching "good ideas" and persuading people of their merit."Friedman's third-party mess"

Not so fast — a third party could thrive: Voters have a "much lower" opinion of the Democrats and Republicans than they did in 1992, says Nate Silver at The New York Times, when Ross Perot failed to offer a tempting presidential alternative — and they no longer identify with either party so readily. If Republicans nominate a "polarizing" 2012 candidate, and Obama's poll numbers don't rise, a third-party candidate might have a shot at the White House."Odds against third-party bid not as long as they seem"

We need a third party — the Tea Party: Voters are angry enough to support a third party, says Fred Witzell at American Conservative Daily, but it won't be the one that "Obama fan(s)" are dreaming will ram through a bigger stimulus and socialize health care. The Tea Party, with its call for limited government and a return to fiscal responsibility, can jump from grassroots movement to third party if it can organize nationally. That would restore "integrity" to U.S. politics."The Tea Party as a third party?"

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