Over at TPM Cafe, Reed Hundt says that "an independent Presidential candidate hasn't had this good a chance since Teddy Roosevelt ran as the Bull Moose candidate." Leaving aside the fact that Teddy Roosevelt lost the 1912 race as the Bull Moose candidate, I want to explore the platform that Hundt proposes for a hypothetical third party candidate. Bullet points are his, comments below are mine.
- --get out of Iraq (not leave 50,000 troops for 50 years)
This is a mainstream Democratic position, and a heretical Republican position held by Ron Paul and--maybe--Chuck Hegel (and maybe maybe John Warner).
- --open the vertically integrated carbon-based energy industry to green entrepreneurship
Again, this is effectively a Democratic concept. The tax code and some incentives would have to be changed to support the growth of wind farms and solar energy, as well as to explore the remarkable array of alternative sources that could be available to us within 50 years. Dems love this stuff, Republicans love their coal and oil.
- --reform the tax system by moving to tax consumption and not income
This isn't a mainstream approach in either party, (though a lot of Republicans are wild about the "fair tax" cause). I have a very skeptical instinct towards the "tax reformers" with their crusades to rewrite the tax code. If you want more information about taxing consumption, here's a wikipedia article on it.
- --balance the budget
Mainstream Democratic idea. The last time we had leadership to provide this, a Democrat was in office. I was enthusiastic about Howard Dean's candidacy largely because of his fiscal record. Democrats balance budgets. We've seen what Republicans do.
- --turn illegals into citizens and also close the border
Another Democratic idea. Republicans want the border closed without an "amnesty".
- --give everyone high quality health care
Another Democratic idea. All of the Dem candidates have plans to make this a reality. No Republican candidate does.
- --pay teachers for performance not seniority only
No party--unfortunately--really goes here. The Republicans would shutter the public schools using voucher systems, which would certainly help some kids, while ghettoizing others more thoroughly. I would support performance-based advancement over seniority any day, and encourage the Democratic party to adopt that as a strong platform plank. And the teacher's unions to recognize that merit is a better reason than age to advance pay and benefits.
- --give all workers wage insurance to mitigate globalization's impacts
I've never even heard this idea floated, though it seems to have been piloted a few years back. That's a pretty steep curve to come up on, floating a brand new benefits program to American workers made skeptical by two generations of the conservative movement demonizing government. Color me unimpressed with this plank, but hey, who knows? Maybe it's the next social security.
This happens every four years, this longing for an entirely new and better approach to politics. At least Hundt has the good sense to note that this hypothetical indy candidate would have to shell out $300 million from his or her own pocket to make it work. All I can think is "You'd have a rich candidate buy the election, and then two parties working hard to ensure that our next President has no accomplishments to run on in 2012."
It's a pretty thought, that the nation could coalesce around a candidate pushing a progressive platform, standing above the two-party fray, who could stride into Washington with the full force of a landslide and call the two parties to heel, but I think it's fantasy.
I believe the ideas Hundt proposes are, by and large, consensus policies that the public would back, but it's time we get a strong challenge from the right, not the left, to splinter the Republican (obstructionist) vote and give us a government that can get things done.
Paging the ideological heir to Ross Perot: America needs you!