Radical Centrists On The March!

by Alec MacGillis | November 21, 2011

In the past day or two, I've seen a few disparate data points to suggest that the movement to create a new third choice on the 2012 presidential ballot led by people who one might rationally expect to be with President Obama is gaining momentum. It turns out that these guys -- who are working to nominate a bipartisan ticket in an online convention with the blessing of Tom Friedman and the backing of some very wealthy people -- are not the only ones who believe that all Washington needs is a new breed of leader who can swoop in and transcend all our divides.

1. You might think that Jeffrey Sachs -- the influential Columbia economist, founder of the Earth Institute and advocate for global development aid -- would be foursquare behind the established political party that is trying to hold the line against Republicans who are calling man-made climate change into question and demanding deep cuts in foreign aid. You would be wrong. In his new book, "The Price of Civilization," Sachs is arguing for the creation of a third political party, the "Alliance for the Radical Center," which, the Economist's review of the book reports, would be "left of the Democrats." In this venture, Sachs will have distinguished company: Matt Miller, the former Clinton Administration official and Washington Post columnist, recently penned a possible stump speech for a radical centrist third party in which nearly all of the proposed stances were to the left of what President Obama has managed to achieve. Let's leave comment to the characteristically understated Economist: "This seems naive: a new party of the left, if it ever came into being, might split the Democratic vote and thus elect more Republicans." Uh-huh.

2. Sachs apparently places great hope in the Occupy movement, and lo and behold, its instigators are also sounding the third-party chime, except in even more bizarre fashion. In Sunday's Washington Post, Kalle Lasn and Micah White, the editors of Adbusters magazine, which issued the initial call for Occupy Wall Street, envision "with a bit of luck, perhaps even the birth of a new, left-right hybrid political party that moves America beyond the Coke vs. Pepsi choices of the past." Wha?? What, exactly, would be the "right" element of this new party? In the same paragraph the authors list the concrete reforms they would like to see: 

...a “Robin Hood tax” on all financial transactions and currency trades; a ban on high-frequency “flash” trading; the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act to again separate investment banking from commercial banking; a constitutional amendment to revoke corporate personhood and overrule Citizens United ; a move toward a “true cost” market regime in which the price of every product reflects the ecological cost of its production, distribution and use...

Sorry, I'm not seeing much "hybrid" there. And the Adbusters crew better be careful where this left-right hybrid talk will lead them, because that's the same lingo employed by the Americans Elect people referred to above, and the dream candidate that many of them have in mind is none other than one Michael Bloomberg -- the person who rousted the Occupiers in what the Adbusters editors call a "shock-troop assault."

3. Last but never least are the "Democratic" duo of Doug Schoen and Patrick Caddell, who today make another appearance on their favorite newspaper op-ed page to argue not for a third-party per se -- though Schoen is on the leadership team of Americans Elect -- but that Barack Obama ought simply to step aside and hand the 2012 Democratic baton to...Hillary Clinton. "Never before has there been such an obvious potential successor...who is the only leader capable of uniting the country around a bipartisan economic and foreign policy," they write.  And lest you suspect Schoen and Caddell of anything less than noble motives in seeking to undermine Obama, they assure readers that they "write as patriots and Democrats -- concerned about the fate of our party and, most of all, our country."

So many noble-minded people, all on record saying they have no interest in participating in the actual, you know, election that will happen next year. Now all they need to do is get themselves in one room to discuss their grand visions. I suspect that a mere half hour or so with Mssrs. Schoen, Caddell, Sachs, Lasn and White all in each others' company should cure a few of these notions.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-stump/97667/radical-centrists-the-march