The two-party field of U.S. politics is widely polarized,
say Drs. Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace, from sharp Republican red to deep Democratic
blue. This leaves a wide sea of non-partisan purple
unchartered, they find, with a majority of the population forced to drift
across the currents created only by the opposing political extremes.
Lovelace and Rex believe, however, that the new moderate American Party they are forming could put the majority of American voters at the helm, enabling them to steer to safer waters. The primary goal of the party will not be to address any single, self-contained issue, but to pursue targeted solutions within a broader range of concern. "The core issue is a competitive global economy," Rex says.
Addressing the national debt, education, healthcare, tax reform and protection of individual rights would be principal to that goal, the party declares. (Check its website for more platform information.)
"The 20th Century was the American century -- militarily, economically, educationally," Rex points out, but "the 21st looks like it's going to be different."
Signs suggest Rex is right. The U.S. economy has slipped in annual global rankings for the last four consecutive years; the dollar's use as a global currency in international trade is at risk; a once world's-best school system has declined in rank, compared to those of other developed countries; and the public believes that America's military status as a global power is on a downward slope.
The fabrics of these declines share a common thread, Rex states. "The biggest disadvantage--the Number One liability--is our dysfunctional political system."
The wide gap between Republican and Democratic officials has meant that, instead of addressing pressing issues, the two parties have been mired in stalemate, Rex finds, adding that too many politicians, seeking merely selfish advantage, stick to the political extremes of vocal party members. "It all comes down to the fact that we have a whole bunch of people who want to stay in office no matter what. Everything else is secondary."
Rex offers as an example recent legislative news from South Carolina, where both he and Lovelace reside.
A recent bill calling for public hearings and public disclosure of campaign filings when government officials face legal charges was at first promoted by both Republicans and Democrats. In the end, however, the bill lay dead on the floor of the State Legislature.
"This debacle recently on ethics reform--that it went back and forth [with no results]--makes it obvious that neither party wants it," Rex said with a sigh. "As a group, neither party has office holders that want transparency."
Not only does party polarization block the middle from representation; it also removes incentive for election participation, Rex finds. This results in a political Catch-22 of sorts: Candidates who stand on far-end platforms in order to appeal to their party's primary voters are totally abandoned by the moderate majority of voters who don't participate in primary elections due to the narrow platforms of the candidates.
"There tend to be candidates who could win a general election, but who don't win a primary," Rex says, attributing that circumstance to the more extreme views of the party faithful who vote in the first election cycle. "They get punished in their primaries for their moderate positions."
An example of a victim of just such a circumstance (though not offered by Rex himself) might be Bob Inglis, the Republican who represented South Carolina's 4th Congressional District for six terms. Inglis' high ranking by the American Conservative Union and an NRA endorsement apparently didn't appease far-right Republicans, who were upset with his positions opposing offshore drilling and warrantless surveillance of citizens. In 2010, Inglis lost the GOP primary in a runoff against Tea Party-favored Trey Gowdy. Since elected, Gowdy has supported corporate-favoring measures that would take away individual rights, and even sponsored a bill that would abolish the federal office that pertains to labor laws.
Rex's hope is that an American Party identified with goals grounded in the common good, and with a government responsive to more representative issues, would return moderate voters to the polls.
The fact that the two founders of the American Party, Rex and Lovelace, previously worked with opposing parties gives credence to their stated goal of a new non-partisan politics committed to the public interest. In 2006, Lovelace, a family doctor, was the Republican primary opponent to then-Gov. Mark Sanford, while college dean Rex ran on the Democratic ticket as a candidate for the post of Superintendent of Education (which he went on to win). The two men first met that same year at a candidate forum at Rock Hill's Winthrop University, where each heard the other's address and became acquainted with his platform.
The two realized they had a lot in common outside the two party labels, particularly on issues that affected their individual
professional fields of education and healthcare. They kept in contact and maintained regular conversation, a
common theme of which was their mutual frustration with a
government they found unresponsive to a majority of the population. Both men also perceived the growing government gridlock not only at
the national and state levels, but also as it affected their own social and professional circles. These shared views helped inspire their idea to form the new American Party
about a year-and-a-half ago.