|The Third Force|
Following the failure of the Super Committee to come up with a deficit solution, NY Times Op Ed columnist David Brooks penned a column called “The Two Moons”. The Two Moons refers to the current status of our two political parties – both stuck in minority party status.
Brooks reported on a recent National Journal article noting national polls over the past two years in which up to 40% of Americans supported the Republican notion that government is more the problem than the solution; about 30% of Americans hold the Democratic view that government should be more activist. The remaining 30% - the middle – are willing to consider the proposals of either side and then decide the issue on the merits. Moreover, both parties have, over the past several years, purged their ranks of moderates, leaving a hard core of loyalists with strong allegiance to party orthodoxy and little willingness to work with their colleagues across the aisle.
Seen in this light it is not surprising that the Super Committee failed. Republicans, wedded to the Grover Norquist pledge of no tax increases, refused to consider increasing revenue as part of the solution (during the final phases of negotiation they did put modest revenue increases on the table but not in a meaningful way). No serious solutions to our deficit issue can be constructed entirely from budget cutting. Let me repeat this: no serious solution can be constructed without revenue increases as part of the equation.
All of the bi-partisan expert groups who have examined the deficit problem, the latest being the Bowles-Simpson panel, have recommended a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases. National efforts involving ordinary citizens like you and me have reached the same conclusion. I was involved in one of these efforts sponsored by the non-partisan group America Speaks last year. When we examined the tradeoffs needed, most citizens in the America Speaks process (and there were several thousand citizens involved in representative groups in cities across the country) agreed that it was impossible to reduce government spending sufficiently to solve the deficit problem. When one studies the numbers and the magnitude of cuts that would be required, the impact on social safety nets like Medicare and Social Security and the literal decimation of other important government programs, principally in Defense, would be unacceptable to a significant majority of Americans. Citing the recent National Journal polling cited by Brooks, certainly the 30% of Americans who identify with Democrats and the 30% of those of us in the middle would not support a “cuts only” approach.
Where does this leave us? Brooks suggests it leaves us with a government, regardless of which party happens to end up in power, unable to address the most important economic issues of the day. No wonder 90% of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, and only 10% of Americans believe Government will do what is right for the country. These are hitherto unheard of levels of frustration with government.
Brooks suggests there are two ways out of this impasse: either the emergence of a third force that bonds with one of the parties to form a clear majority view or a national crisis that purges the current parties and likely drives the country into economic chaos.
I don’t know about you, but I would prefer the “Third Force” approach. We have two promising groups that may fill this role. The first is No Labels, a national group determined to elect more moderates to Congress, and Americans Elect, dedicated to a national on-line direct nomination of a third party candidate for President. Both groups are setting up state organizations to move their agendas forward. In the case of AmericansElect, their state organizers are intent on getting their presidential candidate on the ballot in all 50 states. I recommend checking out the web-sites of both groups: www.nolabels.org and www.americanselect.org. Both groups need our support and involvement. Taken together they offer a way out of the “Two Moons” dilemma facing this country.
Those of us in the agnostic 30% can become kingmakers. It is past time we were heard from. No Labels and Americans Elect are there to give us a voice, to give us hope, and to give America a chance to regain its positive stride. Don’t miss this opportunity. There is not a moment to be lost.