Observing the current crisis, Wendy Kaminer thinks a third political party would only make things worse, not better:
But perhaps the greatest fallacy of the third party movement is the unspoken, perhaps unacknowledged, underlying assumption that members of a third party would be more informed, intelligent, and rational and less self-interested and demagogic than members of the first and second parties. What if the problem isn’t the two party system but the flawed human beings who would also participate, as voters and candidates, in a three party system? What if the problem, in part, is us?
Now Kaminer is well to the left for my tastes, but there is a grain of truth in what she says. I don’t think a third party is going to easily solve all our problems. A third party is not going to automatically be better informed or less suscpetible to partisanship. A third party might only make the situation worse.
I’ve more than once have fallen for the temptation that a “knight in shining armor” in the form a third party will just solve everything. But that’s the wrong reason to want to see a third party. If one is going to support a strong third party, it has to be to give people more choice in politics or to represent a group that doesn’t feel currently represented in the current system.
But Kaminer’s last statement is the one that I think it most interesting. I think it has been easy for us to lampoon those idiots in Washington and to see ourselves as pure and innocent, just wanting to get something done. The problem with that is because in a representative system, we elect the candidates. We support candidates that tend to be the most uncompromising. We throw out members that even dare to talk with the other side.
The problem is totally the fault of the populace, but it does share a good amount of the blame because we elect these folks to Washington to do our bidding.
What’s happening in DC with the debt ceiling; this unwillingness to compromise is as much mirroring contemporary American society than it is that Washington is dysfunctional. We live in little universes where the only people that matter agree with each other and where the other side is not simply wrong, but evil. All you have to do is look at Facebook to see people posting about how bad conservative/liberals are and how they are on the side of the angels.
The world that we now live in is one where we really don’t talk to each other. We go to places of worship where everyone seems to agree with each other. We have mostly friends who share our world view. There are few public places where we have to get along with each other.
So, if we live in such segregated worlds, why on earth do we expect Washington to be any different?
A third party alone is not going to be the savior of our nation. Unless the American people are willing to change themselves, then we can’t expect change from Washington.