A Third Way?

When Stupid and Evil Are the Same

I went into the 2000 presidential campaign an enthusiastic supporter of Pat Buchanan’s bid for the White House as a third-party candidate.  I emerged more convinced than ever that Buchanan would have made an outstanding president but skeptical that a serious right-wing party will be able to emerge, at least in the short run.

I knew that no major national party had emerged since the Republican Party was formed in the 1850’s, helped along by the implosion of the Whig Party and the increasingly sharp divide between North and South.  I knew, too, that the most successful of all third-party candidacies, Teddy Roosevelt’s in 1912, accomplished little beyond the election of Woodrow Wilson.

There were more recent precedents, however, showing how third parties could effectively shift the national debate.  George Wallace’s 1968 campaign sounded the death knell for the great New Deal coalition that had dominated American politics since 1932.  Wallace’s campaign pushed the GOP to the right on social and cultural issues and laid the groundwork for millions of Southerners and ethnic Catholics to join Reagan and the Republicans in 1980.  Ross Perot’s 1992 bid forced both the Republicans and the Democrats to make at least an effort to address ballooning deficits and burgeoning debt, helping make the 1990’s a time of comparative fiscal restraint in Washington. ...

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