Thomas Friedman has a new column out, which advocates the need for a third party in America to fix our broken system. This argument gets thrown out there quite frequently, but I was a bit surprised that I had to hear it from Friedman, who managed to write one of the most clueless articles I’ve read in a long time. It starts out with a comparison to the fall of Rome, which I’m sure in some way can teach us about the inevitable fall of the United States. I’m not sure how it is supposed to do this, but smart people have long told me that it is the case, so I suppose it’s true.
Friedman then moves on to his main argument; the American system is broken and it it going to cause a third party candidate to emerge.
But in talks here and elsewhere I continue to be astounded by the level of disgust with Washington, D.C., and our two-party system — so much so that I am ready to hazard a prediction: Barring a transformation of the Democratic and Republican Parties, there is going to be a serious third party candidate in 2012, with a serious political movement behind him or her — one definitely big enough to impact the election’s outcome.
Ah yes a third party will save America, just like Unity 08 did! I agree that it is bold to make a prediction that people make every cycle and almost never comes true. It’s also bold to make one that seems to ignore some entry level political science about why such an scenario won’t happen. But what is really annoying is the lack of an explanation over how a third party candidate could be effective at solving the problems that Friedman mentions. But maybe I’m speaking to soon, lets see if he manages to make a convincing case that a third party is needed to help our deadlocked system. Unfortunately, he doesn’t start out to well:
President Obama has not been a do-nothing failure. He has some real accomplishments. He passed a health care expansion, a financial regulation expansion, stabilized the economy, started a national education reform initiative and has conducted a smart and tough war on Al Qaeda.
Okay, starting out with a paragraph that basically disproves your entire argument that Washington isn’t working probably is not the best way to go, but I’ll keep reading.
There is a revolution brewing in the country, and it is not just on the right wing but in the radical center.
How did I know we were going to get here? I don’t know why Friedman wants us to feel bad for the poor ignored centrists who always lack a voice. But I’m even more curious as to why Friedman thinks the center can help us get out of this mess. For example, he goes on to list the things he laments were not accomplished, mainly a powerful climate bill, improved infrastructure, tougher financial regulation and a better health care bill. But does he really believe that a centrist third party would have made these things possible? Out of every problem he cites, I can’t think of one that wasn’t slowed down and weakened by the centrists in Congress. But no, I must be wrong, a clean energy bill surly would have been possible if only we had more Ben Nelsons in the Senate!
We need a third party on the stage of the next presidential debate to look Americans in the eye and say: “These two parties are lying to you.
I’m wondering at this point if Friedman wrote this article in about five minutes without doing a spot check on his logic. He talks about the need for a third party candidate to run for president, but every example he gives of special interests and good legislation getting stalled happens in….the Congress! In fact he acknowledges that the presidency isn’t the problem earlier in his piece:
Obama probably did the best he could do, and that’s the point. The best our current two parties can produce today — in the wake of the worst existential crisis in our economy and environment in a century — is suboptimal, even when one party had a huge majority.
So if we have a President with the right ideas, but is unable to pass his agenda because of the way congress operates, the obvious solution is to change the presidency, got it? I was happy to see Friedman quote Larry Diamond in the piece, but adding a second mustache doesn’t save this astonishingly clueless column.