Five years of being involved in moderate Republican groups trying to get people interested and involved have tempered my idealism and made me somewhat bitter.
So, when I perused Jeremy Dibbell's blog (nice to see him posting again)today talking about a potential third party bid, I was a bit skeptical.
I still am, but I also think there is something to this.
David Broder reports in today's Washington Post, that Michael Bloomberg, the current mayor of New York who left the GOP this past summer and is now and independent is gathering a list of moderates in both parties in Oklahoma on January 7th. At first glance, this reminded me of Unity '08, the movement that is backed by old politicos that want to create a unity ticket for President. I've been leery of that movement since it seems to have no other goal than to have everybody place nice. There isn't any there there.
However, as Broder reports, this movement has some heft because of the names it carries. On the GOP side, we have people like former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman and former Senator John Danforth who co-lead the Republican Leadership Council; Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; former Congressman Jim Leach of Iowa; former Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen and Susan Eisenhower, a political consultant and the granddaughter of Ike.
On the Dems, we have former Senators Sam Nunn, David Boren, Chuck Robb and Bob Graham.
These aren't second string political players from the 70s, but politicians who were recently in power and have continued to have a role in public affairs.
Does this have any staying power? I don't know. Again, we have seen movements like this before, but this one has some heavy star power. What I have a problem believing is seeing Bloomberg as the candidate. I don't know, but he doesn't seem the type that could propel a centrist movement. I think at this time, we want a healer who can bring people together, but we also want someone that is a bit more charismatic than Bloomberg is. We need a leader, and he seems to much like a manager.
That said, there is someone in that group that could be a great consensus candidate and could rouse passions for a unity government: Chuck Hagel.
Hagel has the fire in belly and this would be a second chance to go after the prize after basically turning it down in March. Hagel could get enough support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents to make this movement an attractive option.
Here are what some others say:
What many American moderates have hoped for - for years now - could very well happen: it seems that Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg has teamed up with moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats. This group of people - who are in contact with Unity08 - has talked to several Republican and Democratic leaders, basically telling them, according to Broder at least, that if the Democrats and Republicans don’t nominate someone who reaches across the aisle, they’ll prepare an independent run.
Is that scary for both Republicans and Democrats?
Bloomberg is a billionaire. If he starts spending his own money on a massive third party campaign he’ll pose a threat to the nominees of both parties. He could, as Americans call it, be a “spoiler.” A spoiler for who? Who knows. Could be for both in theory. In other words, Republicans and Democrats would rather not take the risk. Not only that, R’s and D’s also realize that if both parties nominate extremes (say Edwards and Huckabee) many Americans will consider voting for a third party candidate.
Especially if this third party candidate is backed by several prominent politicians from both parties and has hundreds of millions of dollars to spend for his campaign.
From Moderate Voice:
The American political process — if you include the way campaigns are run, negative campaigning, the tone of talk radio and some aspects of the blogosphere — may have disgusted enough people so that a candidate who doesn’t have the same predictable reactions, whose utterances don’t elicited the all-knowing smug wink and nod from those TV analyst talking heads and isn’t out of a politico cookie-cutter could have REAL appeal.
It looked like it could happen for Ross Perot in 1992, until he withdrew and jabbered about Republican operatives planning to disrupt his daughter’s wedding. By the time time Perot got in again, he had irretrievably lost Big Mo.
If Bloomberg does get in, many Americans open to a new option will be holding their breath — hoping he doesn’t have an engaged daughter.
At this point, I am still not holding my breath. This could just crash and burn. But it is worth keeping an eye. It would be nice to see a true centrist revolution take off.