A Recipe For 3rd Party Victory

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This commentary was written by CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer.
The dumbed-down duopoly that controls political power in our 50 states is devoted to just one thing: self-preservation. Americans can't take it anymore, but there's no alternative.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column desperately begging for a real third party in 2008 and depressingly charting the obstacles the legacy parties have erected. I received a boatload of e-mail, almost all of which said: "I agree, it's even worse than you say, but what's the solution, Mr. Wisenheimer?"

Since then, Chuck Todd, the political savant who runs "The Hotline" — otherwise known as "crack for hacks" — has written that the time is actually ripe for a third party putsch. He notes a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that found 45 percent like the idea of an "independent" party. And Thomas Friedman, the smartest serious American who doesn't run a hedge fund, also committed public fantasy by writing about a third party.

So trying to be responsive to both my readers and the obvious, spontaneous tsunami of support for an idea whose time has come, I have found a solution. It's easy and it comes in five simple parts.

First must come the name. Anything with any word that connotes ideology is out. Fuzzy marketing language is out, which scuppers Friedman's "American Renewal Party." "The New Party" would work fine but would you call them, "Newbies"? I'm going with the straightforward: The Independent Party.

Next, we need a top of the ticket. Yes, grassroots is better, but there is no time and no possibility of it happening. A top-down party will not achieve profound social change, probably ever. A top-down party, like the degenerate duopoly, will also be shackled to chains of marketing, fundraising and the decline of genuine community in America. That doesn't mean a third party won't be one hell of an improvement.

So the president comes first. The obvious choices are Colin Powell and John McCain, but they're both out. Powell is a casualty of a self-inflicted wound in a dishonest war. McCain wants to be a Republican president.

My criteria are simple. The Independent Party's presidential candidate has to have both a track record of public service and a demonstrable impatience with modern partisanship. He or she must have national recognition, obvious competence in leading large organizations and extensive experience in public safety. Charisma is optional - nobody can sustain it anyway in a 21st century political campaign.

There's only one person I can think of for the job, so he just got the nomination: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Google him if you want to know more about why he fits the bill so perfectly; don't just trust me that he's freakishly smart, pretty funny, undeniably competent on a gargantuan scale and has the necessary maverick personality. Bloomberg also has the gazillions to bankroll steps 3, 4 and 5.

As a running mate, Bloomberg could select retired Marine four-star Gen. Anthony Zinni. A former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, Zinni was one of the earliest and sharpest heavyweight critics of the proposed and then actual war in Iraq.

Zinni especially took off after the neo-conservative chickenhawks in the Bush administration who rattled the sabers louder than anyone. Zinni has also said he'll never get involved in politics in rather contemptuous ways, which qualifies him for this job perfectly. Welcome aboard, General.

Step 3 is building an infrastructure. By Christmas 2006, Bloomberg and his team would need to create an Independent National Committee and an Independent Party Academy, a think tank and training facility. It needs a large staff of lawyers, ballot access experts and field organizers to ensure that Independents are on the ballots in all 50 states and the disenfranchised colony of Washington, D.C.

The party would also need a huge fundraising operation, though I don't think money will be a problem. All that is for the new party's National Committee.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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