... The forty per cent of the American electorate who regard themselves as Independents would also benefit. Their number has been growing in recent years, and they are increasingly joined in political sympathy by Republicans and Democrats who find their parties captive to a base, fringe, or interest group with which they have little in common. We are living through one of those recurring moments—1912, 1980, and 1992 were others—when disgust with the two big parties stirs a longing for an outsider of upright character, untainted by dirty money or political dealmaking.
Maybe I'm wrong in thinking that voters are sick of what I'm sick of, which is the actions of the current executive, and the actions of Republicans in the House and Senate (and now apparently the Supreme Court). If pressed, I could draw up a specific, and fairly inclusive, list of grievances against BushCo and against the GOP and other enablers. But maybe that's just because I'm on the high side of the news-awareness bell curve.
I can see how, in someone who doesn't spend a fairly significant portion of their waking life reading and digesting news information (this is a class issue as well, by the way; a good portion of the population doesn't have the leisure time or spare energy), my fairly specific dissatisfaction could manifest in a general 'screw the government' sort of feeling.
That it's so difficult for a casual news observer to distinguish between radicals and anti-radicals is also a damning comment on our broken media discourse. After all, most politicians sound the same as one another, they all yell and point when they get angry, and mostly they only are seen on television disagreeing with one another.
More often than not, our politicians are quoted side by side making mutually contradictory claims, and too often the media fails to point out factual falsehoods (because to point out a negative about a candidate or official without pointing out a symmetrical negative for the other side would be 'biased' and 'partisan,' perhaps).
I recall a commentator on CNN who, after the Bush/Kerry debates said that it would take a team of Kennedy School of Government fact checkers a week to verify or refute all the truth claims made in the debate. And in terms of substantive discussion, that was apparently it for CNN. All that CNN was prepared to do was identify truly glaring factual inaccuracies. The rest was about who was more effective in their message delivery, the little tics, the gaffes. Coverage shifted over to 'Spin Alley,' a name suggesting fluctuation between two poles, existing simultaneously without cancelling each other out, matter and anti-matter.
It's understandable for people to get sick of it. The lack of attention to substantive policy difference makes mainstream political discourse a cross between a beauty contest and a shouting match. The media itself isn't the least bit interested in changing the dynamic; it makes for good television (Crossfire! Liberal, conservative--debate!). It took Jon Stewart making his own good television to get the show off the air.
There's ambivalence to objective truth; theirs a post-modern feeling that the truth is unknowable and that things can be two mutually exclusive ways at once. Maybe it's best just to call it doublethink. And Bush and his supporters have been disconcertingly open about their post-modern thinking:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
That's a post-modern stance (in the sense where post-modern can mean "counter-enlighment". There are so many senses of post-modern that it's best to specifcy). When Bush and Cheney say, as they often do, that only History will be able to judge their Administration, they are really concurring with the above. The un-named aide quoted is just, you know, articulater.
Post-modernism made some sense when applied to literary conceits like Justice, Virtue, Love, and all the rest, but it is a terrible paradigm under which to build a functioning government, composed of bureaucrats and cops. It's nonsense to say that truth is unknowable in the context of governance. The government must operate under the premise that truth is knowable, or government policy is governed by nothing but competition to see which narrative is the most compelling.
There are a few issues where one side or the other is objectively correct, and they can prove it. There are a great many other issues where an objective observer would say that the preponderance of the evidence tilts one way or the other.
I don't know that anyone (except maybe that Bush aide) would disagree with that assertion, and yet our media often seems to operate on the premise that all viewpoints are created equal. That stance, more than anything, creates the conditions that I think will consistently allow a sufficiently visible third-party candidate who can "bridge the divide" to claim ten to twenty percent of the vote.
The main way to be 'visible' without joining a party is to have tons of your own dough to pour into television ads. That's what Ross Perot did in '92, and that's what Bloomberg will do if he ultimately decides to make a run. Hell, he may get more than 20%. Perot got 18, and he sure wasn't a popular and effective city administrator with a record of effective compromise.
The question, if Bloomberg runs, is who he will pull more votes from, the Republican or the Dem. To me, it looks likely to be a negative for the Democrats. So what Bloomberg needs to consider, if he's conscientious, is whether he wants to help someone likely Giuliani or Thompson ascend the throne of George the Second. I hope he doesn't run. If it looked like he would help the Democrats, I would be pulling for him all the way. I say this because I am not a political post-modernist--I think the Democrats have superior ideas and positions, and as a result, I want them to win.