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Con Games: The Real Third Party

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In this wacky-tobaccy world of 21st Century politics, if you can't parboil an idea down to a sound byte then you might as well chug it raw. We the people like our politics plain and simple, like meat and potatoes: Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, good guys and bad girls -- with nothing much in between.

The problem for pols, pundits, and poobahs is that the world doesn't work that way here on Lifeboat America. A black-and-white world nowadays is vacuous and often insulting, with all nuance lost in the rigidity of pre-sharpened saws and crackpot sound bytes presented like precious family gew-gaws.

And guess what? Voters have noticed: in state after state they're simply not buying. We're not talking about Ralph Nader or John Anderson or Ross Perot or even Bob Barr -- third-party candidates who now and again arrive on the Presidential stage with a megaphone for disenfranchised citizens and license to scream bloody murder because they just can't win.

This third party is like no other in the history of politics -- with no leader, no agenda, and no way to measure the profound and growing influence it already has over our national politics.

Think of it, for lack of a better, as The Independence Party -- independent voters without party affiliation, and independent thinkers who only reluctantly hang their hat on the door of Republicans and Dems. The Newsweek cover story this week had it bassackwards: this is not America the conservative, but America the independent.

There is no dearth of chatter about independents on the cable news networks: even so, the punditocracy has almost completely missed the point by not asking a simple question: what do independent voters believe in? Writing in the Wall Street Journal Monday, John P. Avlon, author of "Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics," says independents outnumber both registered Republicans and Democrats in six states: Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire as well as New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts." He put it this way:

"Professional partisans in Washington try to ignore this shift, perpetuating the myth that the independent movement is a chaotic grab bag. In fact, the movement has a coherent set of underlying beliefs: independents tend to be fiscally conservative, socially progressive and strong on national security. They believe in putting patriotism over partisanship and the national interest over special interests."

That just might be the most important paragraph about politics you'll read this season.

Couple Avlon's evidence with an earlier analysis about the breakdown of the party system in the Wall Street Journal by historian Alan Brinkley, provost of Columbia University. Anyone can see there is a sea change percolating in American politics -- one all but overlooked in all the discussions of independent American voters and their clout in the 2008 Primary and Presidential elections.

This might not be obvious to the congoscenti because there are no independent cognoscenti to speak of or about -- no independent know-it-alls, no sound-byte spouters among the talk show talking heads. But the spontaneous combustion of "fiscally conservative, socially progressive" independents lights the way to a recipe the two parties ignore at their own peril.

If Democrats don't change their ways and stop spending, they will ultimately lose the independent voter; if Republicans don't wake up and smell the 21st Century on social issues, they can kiss their elephantiasis goodbye.

So welcome to the real third party. What's not to like a movement with no pols, no pundits, and no bull?