Open letter to the WaPo's David Broder

Re: "Growing A Third Party" Feb 25

Dear Mr Broder,
I decided to read a column of yours without the blogs having commented on it first, to see whether their criticisms were on the mark. Having read "Growing A Third Party," I've concluded that they're correct. The complaint has been made frequently that you've absolutely fetishized bipartisanship over just about any other political value. I'm afraid that's very much the case here. You cite the problems of campaign finance reform and "bundlers", but it's not at all clear how having a third party will address these problems.

You cite the problem of "bickering" without addressing WHY "bickering" exists. The US happens to be fighting a war without any clear idea as to why it's doing so or what it hopes to accomplish. About 40% of Iraqis felt in March 2003 that the US wanted to invade in order to steal their oil. That's pretty much a universal belief there today. We've got the Vice-President questioning Speaker Pelosi's "judgment" while having exercised execrable judgment himself. Remember "last throes" and Mohammed Atta in Prague? In short, the "bickering" that the two parties are engaging in is not some petty children's dispute over a favorite toy, these arguments are deeply serious matters that require deeply serious people to wrestle with them and to find answers to them.

"If [the Unity08] organizers had a compelling person already lined up, their task would be much easier, but they do not." Neither does Unity08 appear to have any idea as to how their campaign platform will differ in any dramatic respect from that of the two parties already in existence. Nowhere do you present any serious argument as to how their platform will accomplish anything beyond simply putting another group of people into office. Bipartisanship is seen here as an end in itself. Compromises are seen as something to be pursued for their own sake.

Finally, the statement you approvingly quote that says: "...the usual game is to target the base of your party, rile it up with wedge issues and ignore the middle" is an entirely accurate description for the Republican Party, but is of absolutely zero relevance to the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is talking about the Constitution and the will of the people and about basic civility and decency in dealing with prisoners and in how surveillance should be conducted in a lawful manner. These are NOT "wedge issues," these are issues that go to the very heart of what it means to live in America. "The middle" is a completely meaningless, neutered force in US politics today. The Republican Party has rendered it completely irrelevant. The Republican centrists have accomplished nothing of value over the past six years and have marched in lockstep with their peers whenever they've been asked to. The Democratic centrists have been driven to the margin because they couldn't win elections. They kept choosing candidates who couldn't arouse more than a mild indifference in most voters. If the Bush Administration weren't as awful as it was, Democrats would be nowhere on the political map.

I predict Unity08 will continue to be a very small, extremely marginal party that will accomplish nothing of significance.

Update: WhiskeyFire does a snarky post on Broder's piece.

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