In recent columns, both Molly Ivins and Cal Thomas have taken their respective parties to the figurative woodshed and given them a through thrashing. Thomas suggested that the Republican Party may be so far gone down the Big Government path that a strong third party or revolution might be needed for the nation's salvation.
Ivins was no less passionate about the direction the Democrats have taken. She wrote in The Progressive that
I dont know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a b*tch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton.Not the sort of moderated tone preferred by the leaders of either the Democratic or Republican parties.
Thomas was as assertive, pointing out in a recent column that
Republicans fear only gobs of money will endear them to voters in sufficient numbers to re-elect their increasingly precarious majority.
Republicans have essentially turned themselves into a perpetual privilege machine that puts personal political advancement ahead of doing the right thing for future generations.
As Ivins and Thomas demonstrate so well, both the Republican and Democratic parties have abandoned not only much of their core constituency, but the principals they told the American people they believed in. Republicans not only see the people they elected behaving exactly the same as their Democratic predecessors as far as bringing home the bacon, but see that they have been willing to abandon principles to do so. With precious few exceptions, members of congress would support any spending project if the money spent were in their district, and that is not a Republican principal.
Part of the problem with both of these perspectives is that they assume that no successful alternatives present themselves today. Ivins argues that the Democrats have but one viable progressive in Congress, and thats Feingold. She goes on to
suggest that there may be someone else, perhaps a governor or big city mayor, or even a wise man from academia, can rescue the Democrats soul by running for President. How does this whimper of an ending jibe with the earlier quote? How does Ivins go from hair splitting son-of-a-b*tch to offering them advice on the correct issues to run on in 2006 and whom to run for President in 2008?
First Ivins seems to imply that she might put her weight behind an independent or third party bid if the Democrats dont put up an anti-war candidate. Well, they are not going to nominate an anti-war candidate, so there is no point in even going there. There were literally millions of Americans marching in the streets before the war was launched, and billions of emails and faxes and petition signatures have been sent to Congress since then asking for an end to the carnage. The Republicans and Democrats both have been silent. The best alternative put forward today given any credence by the Democrats is to slip American troops just across the border into friendlier space, and assert some level of control from their, just as we did before the war. That is what the Democrats offer as a sea change from the Bush program.
Ivins goes on to call for public financing of congressional races, but this does not go far enough. I know Ivins was trying to make the point that the Democrats must avoid nuance at this time, but she must know that those of us who are engaged as activists are watching, and we see the direction Democrats and Republicans are taking. They are tending towards public financing models that either leave qualified smaller party nominees out of the picture entirely or make demands on them that they do not make on larger parties.
Finally, Ivins calls for single payer health insurance. I know it might sound like word play, but the Green Party position is for single payer health care. I dont know if there is a qualitative difference or not. Either way, Ivins may as well call on the Democrats to demand unilateral nuclear dis-armament. It aint going to happen. The Democrats are as solidly pro-business as the Republicans, and if there are profits to be made, the Democrats want their fair share in every way.
The question is not limited to Ivins. Indeed, Thomas wraps up his piece by saying that Maybe it's time for a strong third party, or failing that, another revolution. Now I dont doubt that the difference is missed by many. Unlike Ivins, Thomas suggests a strong third party. Not a new third party, but a strong third party. Which party might Thomas be referring to, if not a new party? Id suggest that Thomas must at least be familiar with the Constitution Party and may be referring to them obliquely at least, or perhaps unconsciously.
For one thing, much of Thomas philosophy concerning social issues and questions surrounding the abortion issue are mirrored in the Constitution Party. In addition, their low-tax perspective and limited government demands fit well with what I know of him. I am sure that there are places where there is light between the Constitution Partys positions and Thomas, but they are not immediately apparent to this irregular reader. They seem close to a fit at least.
Thomas frustration with the establishment Republicans comes closest to the boiling point when he addresses both deficit spending and the federal debt. He calls for Means testing for all government programs and term limits for Congress... as the only way to end the wasteful and unconstitutional spending underway by the federal government. but says that neither is likely to happen. Again, here he seems right in step with the Constitution Party.
The Libertarian Party might seem a likely home for Thomas spending and taxing priorities, but their pro-freedom positions make them a less comfortable fit.
As to Ivins, she doesnt call for a strong or new political alternative, but instead implies that the Democratic Party is dead, plants a flag and declares Long live the party! This is particularly frustrating to those of us who have made the decision to become a part of the Green Party for exactly the reasons Ivins points to.