"What this country needs is a good five cent cigar," said former U.S. Vice President Thomas R. Marshall. No one has ever been quite sure whether he was being frivolous and humorous or whether he was making a serious and astute political observation. Perhaps he was right at that time. However, what this country needs today is a new political party, a third party that will bring new, creative ideas and take imaginative and sensible action to solve some serious problems facing us today.
Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party seems able or willing to deal with those problems now or to do so in the foreseeable future. They are bitterly divided and at odds. Both parties seem more interested in gaining a political advantage than working to solve our problems.
Congress is dysfunctional! The government is paralyzed.
Millions of people are out of work, and the national debt keeps increasing. The Republicans openly declare that nothing will be done in 2012 before the election. They seem more interested in defeating Obama's re-election bid than helping the country. The Democrats take no aggressive action to help things.
Since the midterm elections in 2010, in which the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, nothing has been accomplished by Congress. Extreme partisanship has prevented any significant progress toward solving our problems of stimulating the economy and creating jobs, tax reform, immigration reform, Social Security or Medicare reforms. Public opinion polls indicate less than 15 percent of the American people approve of the job Congress is doing. According to a poll several years ago, 40 percent of the American people think a third major political party is needed. The need has never been greater than now.
There is nothing sacred about our present two-party system. Our Constitution is silent on the subject. We have had a number of third parties in our country's history. Some major issue of the day had arisen, and the two existing parties took no action. Some of these issues were slavery, women's rights, direct election of senators, and civil service. The policies advocated by the new third party eventually were adopted by one or both of the two major parties, and the third party ceased to exist.
Today there is not just one major issue facing the country. There are a number of them, and neither of the two parties is addressing these very serious problems. Bitter partisan divisions have produced nothing but paralysis in our government.
We have had two major political parties since the beginnings of our country. For much of this time there were greater philosophical differences between members of each party than between the two parties themselves. In past years, there were conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans. No longer. The leaders of the parties now seem so politically divided and philosophically opposed that they can never work together and compromise to solve problems as their predecessors did for several hundred years.
The growing national debt is an acknowledged problem, but the solution will not come from the existing Republican and Democratic parties. The Democrats seem determined to retain entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare in their present unsustainable forms. The Republicans have pledged never, ever to raise any taxes. The solution is obviously a combination of cutting spending and increasing taxes. The parties cannot agree upon these options.
What does this country need? We need to confront major political, economic, and social problems. How do we do so for the benefit of working people and small businesspeople rather than powerful special interests who give millions and millions of dollars in campaign contributions to control and in effect buy the government for their benefit?
This book sets forth a proposed platform for a new third political party to challenge both Republicans and Democrats and offer the American voters an option for new leadership. A majority of eligible voters no longer even bother to go to the polls. They either are disillusioned with both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party or they feel their votes do not count.
The platform of a new third party set forth in this book is not like those of the Republican and Democratic parties. Their platforms tell us only that they are against sin, crime, and drugs and that they are in favor of motherhood, freedom, apple pie, and the flag. This third-party platform confronts current major problems head-on and proposes pragmatic, imaginative, common sense approaches and solutions.
Politicians seem to pay inordinate attention to public opinion polls but ignore polls that show dissatisfaction with '"politics as usual" and continue in their same old ways to run the country for the benefit of certain special vested interests who for all practical purposes own the government. Two-thirds of the American public believes that big special interests run the government for their own benefit.
Recent polls indicate the government -- both Congress and the Executive branch -- do not understand what the people really think and want. There is a widespread view among government officials that the public is isolationist and dislikes the United Nations and opposes foreign aid. Poll results prove just the opposite. Another study reveals that government officials assume that the majority of the public is opposed to an activist government. The poll results are directly contrary. It is alarming that government policymakers have little confidence in the public. When asked if they thought the American public knew enough about issues to form wise opinions, only 31 percent of Congress members and 13 percent of presidential appointees thought the public had that much intelligence.
Most Americans probably fail to vote because they are unhappy with the choice of candidates for president and other major offices. A recent public opinion poll indicated more than half of Americans think the United States either is going in the wrong direction or has no direction at all.
Excerpted from the introduction of "What This Country Needs: A New Political Party (Revised Edition Election 2012)" (Polimedia Publishing, $4.95) a study of voter alienation and a manifesto for political change.
About the Author
John F. Kimberling is the author of What This Country Needs: A New Political Party (Revised Edition Election 2012, www.whatthiscountryneeds.net). Kimberling is widely known as a leading U.S. litigation specialist, a charter member of the ABA section on litigation, a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a veteran of two wars, and at various times served in leadership positions in both the Democratic and Republican parties. He was once hailed by The American Lawyer as the "one of the top trial lawyers in the country" and led a panel as moderator on a C-SPAN discussion titled "Is It Time for a New Political Party?"