America Vs. Third Parties

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This commentary was written by's Dick Meyer.
In springtime, a young wonk's heart turns to, um, third parties. Really.

No young person who has ever followed politics with the ferocity of a sports fan, no citizen who has been an idealist for at least a few hours, hasn't daydreamed about a third party or independent candidate – a third party winner, actually. At some point everyone with a civic soul, no matter what their ideological flavor, has yearned for an independent spirit to break through the homogenized, cuisinarted horse manure that is modern American politics.

Italy this week seems to have elected a new prime minister who isn't a party guy. Romano Prodi ran as the head of a coalition of parties, not one party.

Yet we are stuck with the same two parties, ad nauseam. It's like a world where there are two baseball teams, the Yankees and the Dodgers. Every year since the 1800s they have played 162 games against each other, and then played each other in the playoffs, and then the World Series. The players change, but never the teams.

It's "Groundhog Day" meets Sartre. No wonder people tune out.

I want a third party right now. I can't take the Yankees and the Dodgers anymore. I'm not even that picky who the candidate is: Colin Powell, John McCain, Bill Bradley, Warren Buffett, Rudy Giuliani, Gary Hart, Lee Hamilton/Tom Kean, Oprah Winfrey, Russ Feingold, or Antonin Scalia. I'd support just about any one, provided they had money, buzz and a fighting chance.

The Constitution says nothing about parties. The great and wise founding elders detested political parties, and promptly formed them and divided up. Thanks so much.

The Civil War gave birth to the current two-party setup of Democrats and Republicans. That should have been a warning.

In 1942, an early and eminent political scientist named E.E. Schattschneider declared flatly that the two parties had a "monopoly on power" in America. Nothing has changed since then. Absolutely nothing.