Favorite

A nation ready for Perot 2.0? 

The implications of the deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling remain murky. What is clear is that both political parties have been deeply fractured by the resulting "compromise" measure and that the independents who decide American elections have had their already keen antipathy for the political system sharpened by the ugly process that created the plan. As a result, at no point in the past century has the stage been better set for a third-party presidential candidate.

Activists within each party dislike the deal's substance. The Democratic Party's left detests its lack of revenue increases and its threat to crucial discretionary programs that are the soul of post-New Deal Democratic ideology. Even more fundamental is the concern of many Democrats that President Obama either lacks the backbone to stand tough for Democratic principles or lacks those principles at all.

Fortunately for the president, there is no Ted Kennedy-like figure whom the Left can employ to challenge his renomination (and scar him as a general election candidate). However, Obama will have to spend much of his campaign's impressive funds to nudge a dejected base to return to the polls in 2012.

Although they shaped the legislative dynamics that produced it, many Tea Party-identified members voted against the final deal because it wasn't tough enough in controlling spending. Tea Party activists' power over the GOP nomination process in 2012 was made clear by the rush of frontrunner Mitt Romney, his finger typically in the wind throughout the debate, to oppose the final bill. The GOP nominee will ultimately be a candidate of whom the Tea Party is dubious (Romney) or a loyalist who pushes moderates away from the party.

In the modern era, the 1992 election cycle is that which comes closest to the political environment of today. Despite his personal instability and ideological messiness, Ross Perot garnered 19 percent of the vote nationally in a country facing serious economic angst and angered by congressional malfeasance (in the form of check kiting and corruption). Today, the concern about the economic future is even more pronounced and the critique of the system is not targeted on the failings of individual members of Congress but on the entire system.

Even when the environment favors it, the odds against a third-party candidate becoming viable are immense. Gaining access to 50 state ballots is resource-consuming. Even more costly is the campaign that follows getting on the ballot. Finally, a candidate has to have some record of performance on the issues that matter most to voters and energize the swath of voters not loyal to the two parties.

Only one person in the country even approaches this list of requirements: a successful businessman turned successful manager of government in the nation's largest city who is socially progressive but fiscally moderate. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York has the personal resources to be the challenger to the status quo at a time when Americans badly want to shake things up. Bloomberg has said "a third-party candidate could run the government easier than a partisan political president." Will he heed his own call?

Jay Barth is the M.E. and Ima Graves Peace Distinguished Professor of Politics at Hendrix College.

Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Jay Barth

  • On institutions

    American conservatism has taken many often contradictory, but more often overlapping forms over recent decades.
    • Apr 12, 2018
  • Fixing the city

    Across neighborhoods, social classes and races, there is a growing consensus that Little Rock's city government is not as healthy as it should be and that its persistent underperformance in meeting the needs of the state's capital city makes the future of a promising city fragile.
    • Mar 29, 2018
  • A gun shift?

    This week marks a month since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. To note that anniversary, students planned to walk out of schools across the country to remember the deaths of the 17 students at the Parkland, Fla., high school and to call for an end to gun violence.
    • Mar 15, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
    • Jul 20, 2017

Latest in Guest Writer

  • No different

    We were leaving Southwest Little Rock heading north on Interstate 30. There were four of us — four black male teenagers. I was in the backseat. There was a BB gun that resembled a handgun inside the car.
    • Apr 12, 2018
  • Keeping a millionaire

    How do you get more millionaires to live in your state? You tax them fairly and equitably. And you use that money to pay for investments that improve quality of life, like education and infrastructure that produce successful businesses. The wealthiest people might not be excited about their tax rates, but research shows that nearly none of them will be bothered enough to leave.
    • Apr 5, 2018
  • Safe schools

    A truth all teachers know: If you want to see the secrets and shortcomings of any community, just take a peek inside its classrooms. You'll find poverty, lack of education, substance abuse, unstable families and socioeconomic segregation. Children have no choice but to bear the brunt of social ills, making schools the easiest places to spot and measure our failings.
    • Mar 8, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Week That Was

    • The credibility of anyone thinking Trump did anything felonious is even more wanting. If Hillary…

    • on April 20, 2018
  • Re: Week That Was

    • "What is Ernie going to say in 2020 when Trump wins his second term?" The…

    • on April 20, 2018
  • Re: Week That Was

    • One wonders how much of that wonderful weed Ernie has been smoking to think that…

    • on April 20, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation