Seldom in my memory have Americans been so divided on the issue of national political leadership.
While both major parties have their staunch supporters, many voters shake their heads in disbelief or disgust at their inability (or disinterest) in working together for the common interests of their constituents.
Yes, they manage to accomplish a few of their essential duties, but the party-line deadlock on the issue of impeachment overshadows and largely blocks their achievements.
Some members of both parties are satisfied with this stand-off, but many would rather see them get to work on the public’s business.
A regular reader of (and occasional dissenter from) my columns came up with a novel suggestion during a New Year’s Day discussion:
Creation of a third party dedicated to positions other than those typically espoused by either Democrats or Republicans.
The result, she said, would be a situation in which both major parties would have to be responsive to viewpoints held by voters who refuse to march in lock-step to either far right or far left doctrines in order to govern effectively.
This concept, she said, works in many foreign countries, where minority viewpoints (embraced by third parties) carry enough weight to require consideration of, and adoption by, the major parties.
Third parties in the United States carry little weight in national elections (though they have a following in a number of individual states).
My limited research discloses three national third parties with more than 100,000 members:
The five largest centrist third parties:
—American Solidarity Party.
—Modern Whig Party.
—Reform Party of the United States of America.
—United States Pirate Party.
Single-issue third parties include two dedicated to legalization of marijuana and one committed to a return to prohibition.
Only three presidents are recorded as members of third parties, two of whom were elected as vice-presidents and succeeded to the presidency.
George Washington was elected as an Independent.
The two vice presidents were John Tyler, a Whig, and Andrew Johnson, a member of the National Union Party, which morphed into the Republican Party.
Could a third party rise to sufficient prominence to demand attention from the two major parties? History suggests otherwise.
Would a strong third party be an improvement to what we have now? Arguably so.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. For many years, he was registered as a Democrat when only Democrats ran for local office in Florida. He changed his registration to Republican to become eligible to vote for Adam Putnam in the Republican primary. He does not consider himself a “member” of either party, past or present. Registering as a Pirate does have a certain appeal.)