Winning Ticket [UPDATED]
The last several weeks have seen plenty of discussion about the possible emergence of the American center as a political force that someone should use to their advantage. Back in April, Ron Brownstein argued in the LATimes for the potential of a third-party to overtake the space left between the polarized left-right dominating the political climate these days. Most recently, Marshall Whitman argues briefly at the TPMCafe that the time is ripe for a third party run, should neither Democrats nor Republicans prove able to capture the trust of independents by 2008. And Matt Yglesias adds the very important element that what counts as centrism these days is a multitude of diverse attitudes.
I have always been a third-party naysayer. At the end of the day, the electoral college doesn't reward a second-place finish everywhere.
But I think there could be an opening, not for a new party, but an independent run. In the recent past, such efforts have been doomed by the personalities of the candidates. Perot got alot of votes--and he was crazy, and running with the single most bizarre VP choice (at least as a TV personality) by a major candidate in recent memory. Nader, of course, attacked the 2 parties, but from an ideological perspective from the left, not the center.
What if Perot had been more serious, and had some political experience? What if he had been John McCain? I know this McCain abandoning the GOP talk is getting tiresome and seems unlikely. My point is this: if he decided to run, but decided not to seek the GOP nomination, and if he announced early on a Democratic running mate with solid government experience...say Gov. Warner of VA, or Bredesen of TN, or maybe John Breaux from LA, and if they ran on platform of anti-special-interests on both sides, and of putting an end to wedge-issue, divisive governance in favor of serious priorities, why would they not win? It would be the ultimate throw-the-bums-out campaign, but one that on the surface favors neither major party. And believe me, most people are sick to death of both parties.
If he was convinced he could win that way, why wouldn't he do it? Announcing before the primaries would mobilize activists and shake up the party alignments. And if they did win, the fallout would be huge. In Presidential politics, Republicans may become the refuge of only the RepubliChristians, and the Democrats a true liberal party. The party coming in third would be in serious trouble. And we may face a prolonged period where any Presidential candidate is expected to run with a member of the other Party. Extreme partisans would never be believed/elected to the White House. Given how horrific we have seen a partisan President can be, that might not be such a bad thing.
By the way, I haven't looked it up, but do we know what happens if no candidate receives 270 electoral votes?
[UPDATE: Kenny B educates: if no candidate receives 270 electoral votes, it is thrown to the House of Representatives.]