In a piece in the Globe today, Susan Milligan reports on potential Congressional races in which the GOP is hoping to reclaim some lost ground here in New England.
The article focuses mainly on GOP moderates and also addresses the problem some may have winning primaries -- a rabid Republican *base* may not let it happen. This, in turn, will create problems for the party in even-numbered Novembers, because the "vast middle" of New England voters frankly does not identify with Republican party extremists, particularly on so-called *wedge* social issues.
What stood out for me most was a quote at the very end from Lincoln Chafee, a moderate who is running in the 2010 gubernatorial contest in Rhode Island as an Independent. He essentially advised other candidates to do the same, which probably makes a ton of sense for anyone who is esssentially conservative on things like foreign policy and taxation, doesn't want to get *wedged out* in a primary on issues like abortion or gay rights, but still wants to see his or her name on a ballot in November.
When I got back home, I saw a post on Right-Side-of-Lowell, inspired by an article forwarded by the author of Choosing a Soundtrack, which talked about the increasing legitimacy of Indepedent candidacies in major races in New York and New Jersey. This makes a lot of sense to me.
Frustration with so-called "politics as usual" is NOTHING new. We could open any newspaper or any circulation level at virtually ANY point in American history and see that type of rhetoric. So I'm loathe to buy the idea that frustration with the status quo is at some type of boiling point that's in any way historically unique. What I DO believe, however, is that the Internet is changing the system that used to place tremendous heft in the hands of party/machine power brokers. Candidates are finding new ways to spread the word about themselves in rapid-fire, cost-effective ways. TV and print media ads are slowly losing relevance.
This will continue to happen. Whether you see actual third parties form here from the center (New Whigs? Bull Moosers?) remains to be seen. What you will see, however, are mainstream moderates who, whether because they can't fit neatly into any party label (i.e. Lincoln Chafee), or, out of the naked opportunism that comes with someone who sees the futility of his prospects in an intra-party matchup (i.e. Tim Cahill) strike out on their own as Independents.
Good for them, I say.
Real democracy should be about real choice between different candidates, not about a small number of people in a smoke-filled room (I don't care if it's Tammany or Bohemian Grove) trying to dictate what the huddled masses will or won't be able to do.