Concerning the imminent collapse of the two party system, it’s appropriate to paraphrase Mark Twain: reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The campaign of 2008 has already obliterated the comfortable and conventional assumptions on a number of fronts, demonstrating that money can’t determine primary outcomes (otherwise the GOP would be preparing to nominate Mitt Romney), that race and gender don’t push voters to side with their own (or Clinton wouldn’t enjoy her big support from blue-collar males, and Obama wouldn’t sweep Idaho, Utah and North Dakota), that immigration wouldn’t emerge as a dominant issue (you’ll notice that no candidate is talking about it), or that the front-loaded calendar would produce nominees by Super Tuesday at the latest (it’s three-and-a-half months later and Clinton and Obama are still going at it).
Another piece of conventional wisdom that deserves proper burial involves the alleged rejection of the two major parties by growing legions of Americans, and the eagerly expected emergence of a dynamic new third party to fill the void.
Lou Dobbs, CNN’s reigning prince of pomposity, went so far as to predict that voters in November would reject both Republicans and Democrats and choose instead “an independent populist.” In a column from last November, he declared that “independent Americans will demand a far better choice than any of the candidates now seeking their party’s nomination. I believe next November’s surprise will be the election of a man or woman of great character, vision and accomplishment, a candidate who has not yet entered the race.”
In fact, Mr. Dobbs went so far as to advance this idea in his bestselling book, “Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit,” complete with chapter headings like “Two Parties, No Choice” and the proclamation that independents, not Republicans or Democrats, had become the dominant force in U.S. politics.
Meanwhile, on the left side of the political spectrum, former Bill Clinton campaign consultant Douglas Schoen, wrote his own book to predict an immediate revolution in our political institutions. His 2008 book, “Declaring Independence: The Beginning of the End of the Two Party System,” opens with a chapter headed: “2008: Why America is Ready for a Third Party Candidate.”
After all of this breathless expectation, and with less than six months to go before the election, there’s little or no prospect of a serious third party effort (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) to challenge the Democrats and Republicans.
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