Friday, May 05, 2006

NATIONAL: Thomas Friedman ("The World Is Flat") projects independent president as bipartisan ship runs aground...

Let's (Third) Party
New York Times, May 3, 2006 Op/Ed
What would OPEC do if it wanted to keep America
addicted to oil? That's easy. OPEC would urge the
U.S. Congress to deal with the current spike in
gasoline prices either by adopting the Republican
proposal to give American drivers $100 each, so
they could continue driving gas-guzzling cars and
buy gasoline at the current $3.50 a gallon, or by
adopting the Democrats' proposal for a 60-day
lifting of the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents
a gallon. Either one would be fine with OPEC.

So, to summarize, we now have a Congress
proposing to do exactly what our worst enemies
would like us to do — subsidize our addiction to
gasoline by breaking into our kids' piggybanks to
make it easier for us to pay the prices demanded
by our oil pushers, so that we will remain
addicted and they will remain awash in dollars.

With a Congress like this, who needs Al Qaeda?

Seriously, there is something really disturbing
about the utterly shameless, utterly over-the-top
Republican pandering and Democratic point-scoring
that have been masquerading as governing in
response to this energy crisis. The Republicans
are worse, because they control all the levers of
power and could move the country if they proposed
a serious energy policy — but won't.

"We used to say the system is broken because it
won't respond until there is a crisis," said
David Rothkopf, author of "Running the World," a
history of U.S. foreign policy. But now it's
really broken, "because the system can't even respond to a crisis!"

What to do? I'm hoping for a third party. The
situation is ripe for one: America is facing a
challenge as big as the cold war — how we satisfy
our long-term energy needs, at reasonable prices,
while decreasing our dependence on oil and the
bad governments that export it — and neither
major party will offer a solution, because it
requires sacrifice today for gain tomorrow.

Combine a huge leadership vacuum on a huge issue
with an Internet that has proved itself as an
alternative platform for organizing, financing
and energizing a political campaign outside the
Washington establishment, and you have the makings of a credible third party.

I would not call it the "Green Party" — the
name's been taken, and it connotes an agenda that
is too narrow and liberal. Today's third party
has to be big, strategic, centrist and
forward-looking — something likee the "American
Renewal Party," something that frames the energy
issue as critical to restoring American strength
and wealth, not just conservation.

Energy really is key to American renewal — from
stimulating more young people to study math and
science, to bringing down the trade deficit by
decreasing our dependence on imported oil, to
bringing down the fiscal deficit by raising
gasoline taxes, to improving U.S. competitiveness
by making us leaders in clean technologies, to
restoring U.S. global respect by leading the
fight against climate change, to advancing
democracy by finding alternatives to oil and
thereby weakening some of the world's worst
regimes, who are using their oil windfalls to halt the spread of freedom.

"There is an opportunity here for someone who
will seize it," said Micah Sifry, author of
"Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in
America." That someone would have to be a more
emotionally stable and energy-focused Ross Perot
type. Because, added Mr. Sifry, "if the issue of
the day in 1991-1992 was the ballooning budget
deficit that we were not dealing with, then the
issue today we are not dealing with is the energy
and environmental catastrophe that awaits the
next generation. It is as much a mortgaging of
our children's future as the deficit issue. It needs the right leader, though."

Like someone who will tell the truth: The only
way Americans are ever going to enjoy relatively
cheap gasoline again is if we raise the price now
with a gasoline tax— and fix it at that higher
level for several years — so investors know that
it is not coming down, and therefore it makes
economic sense for them to make the long-term
investments in alternative, renewable sources of
energy. That is the only way to break our oil
addiction and ultimately bring down the price.

Yes, our system is rigged against third parties.
Still, my gut says that some politician, someday
soon, just to be different, just for the fun of
it, will take a flier on telling Americans the
truth. The right candidate with the right message
on energy might be able to drive a bus right up
the middle of the U.S. political scene today —
lose the far left and the far right — and still
maybe, just maybe, win a three-way election.

And while we're thinking about this, have a look at last Sunday's Talk/Talk -- Every Sunday independent political consultant Jacqueline Salit and strategist and philosopher Fred Newman discuss the political talk shows. Here is an excerpt from their dialogue on Sunday, April 30, 2006 after watching “The Chris Matthews Show,” “Meet the Press” and “The McLaughlin Group.”
Salit: Gas prices and the oil crisis were the subject matter today. One way you could characterize the basic question in the roundtable discussion on “Meet the Press” is this: can you introduce any notion of limiting oil industry profits to try to make the industry more accountable and drive gas prices down?
Newman: Why not simply ask, at this stage of capitalism, can we limit profiteering? read more Talk/Talk

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