In his latest move to become the Savior of the Republican Party (expect him to come riding into D.C. on a white horse sometime in the summer of 2011), Newt Gingrich has announced that the GOP needs to get its act together, or true conservatives may go third party in 2012. To that I say, AMEN!
A split in the Republican Party has been a long time coming. The last Republican presidential primary saw the GOP fracture into its three main bodies, with social conservatives rallying behind Mike Huckabee, fiscal conservatives behind Mitt Romney and warhawks behind John McCain. McCain, of course, managed to gather in more moderate Republicans than the other two, which catapulted him to the nomination. But once he was there, no one really liked the idea. Sarah Palin was always a sop to disaffected right-wingers, and as she catered to the base's ugly side, she left independents out in the cold.
The obvious answer, of course, is that the Republican Party no longer represents large portions of its base. What this country needs is, say, a Christian Democracy Party headed up by people like Huckabee and Palin; a Conservative Libertarian Party (colloquially known as the John Galts), which could fund itself through corporate sponsorships; and a Peace Party, which would actually be a hawkish party promoting massive defense budgets and an interventionist foreign policy, named in the Orwellian manner we've come to know and love in the Department of Defense.
But don't think the Democrats are immune! With multi-billion-dollar bailouts dished out to billionaires, health-care "reform" talk in which insurance companies are put front and center (thus negating any chance for real reform), an increasingly hawkish stance in Afghanistan, and a too-polite refusal to treat the previous administration like the war criminals they are, it's not like the Democratic Party is doing a bang-up job of representing its base either.
So, maybe Newt Gingrich is right. Maybe it's time to start thinking outside the two-party-system box. But Gingrich is mistaken about a mere third-party run. I think we need about ten of them, maybe more. Proportional representation, instant run-off voting, all the multi-party system goodies. Of course, as both political parties stand to lose from such a system, it would find no one in Washington to get behind it. Even Gingrich's own third-party threats are probably just the mere posturing of a man trying to paint himself as the one man staying true to conservative principles that the rest of the party has abandoned.
Here in Florida, as in many states, we have the option of getting amendments inserted into the state constitution via popular referendum. Currently, Fair State Florida is making a push to end gerrymandering, forcing the state to draw congressional districts that are compact and community-based, instead of the bizarre shapes they now take, which ensure that many districts are so solidly Democratic or Republican that representatives essentially have no worries as to whether they'll be re-elected. Ending gerrymandering and promoting public financing of campaigns may not end the two-party system, but it should make that system far more responsive to the will of the people.