I was talking with my partner in paranoia Kelly tonight about whether or not the time is finally right for a third party. We both see some possible scenarios, although we both acknowledge that the possibility remains remote. Still . . .
Kelly thinks the most likely scenario is that the tea party right will ultimately break from the Republican Party to form an independent party, leaving the Republicans as a moderate minority party and the Democrats as the majority. That's because there is no strong pull to the left from within the Democratic Party to serve as a counterweight against the tea party.
So, to an extent, Kelly is in agreement with Olympia Snowe (and yes, Kelly, the irony is not lost on me). Snowe believes it's possible that the Republican party will purge itself of everyone other than the tea party faithful and become a philosophically consistent minority party.
Me, I see things differently. I see the tea party tsunami as sweeping away both moderate Republicans and incumbents of both parties. In the words of Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, "If the choice is a government that speaks to someone else and no government at all, the voters will take no government at all."
And while there is no pull to the left within the Democratic party of similar import to the tea party movement, Blanche Lincoln can tell you that there is a strong pull to the left. Today, Lincoln may very well lose the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary to a more-liberal challenger, Lt. Governor Bill Halter. West Virginia Democratic Congressman Alan Mollohan has already lost his primary race. And Arlen Specter's fate is also to be decided in a Pennsylvania primary today.
So I think that there will be a lot of unemployed, experienced centrists of both parties looking for something to do in January. And I see a golden opportunity to bring together the moderate castaways from both the Republican and Democratic parties into one, moderate centrist party. I call it the Competent Party.
Now, the Competent Party would not seek a majority in the House or the Senate. They would just seek enough seats to function as swing votes so that neither the radical right or the radical left could move legislation forward without appeasing the middle.
How could we start the Competent Party right here in New Jersey? In my painting, we would get Bill Bradley and Thomas Kean, Sr. together in a room and ask them to start appealing to the rational middle of the State. Such respected public figures, not running for election, can speak to the chaos that will ensue should Governor Christie get his no-new-taxes squash-the-unions starve-the-schools budget approved.
What's the worst that could happen?