With Republicans moving ever further to the right and Democrats to the left — though not so far as Republicans are to the right — there really is a crying need for a centrist alternative.
President Barack Obama hopes to win re-election with populist appeals for “fairness,” meaning raising taxes on the highest earners regardless of whether it makes economic sense.
His presumptive GOP opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has spent the past year pandering to the tea party and now has endorsed a House Republican budget that practically eliminates federal investment in human capital.
What the nation needs is a third-party candidate who’ll advocate tax and entitlement reform and a leaner, performance-based government that invests smartly in education, research and infrastructure.
That candidate could borrow good ideas from both parties — such as the “premium support” Medicare plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — but ought to campaign for real on the problem-solving, “bring us together” promise that Obama (and George W. Bush) ran on, then abandoned.
I’m hoping that someone with political credibility will step up and run for president using the 50-state ballot access that the Americans Elect organization is in the process of securing for its ticket.
Say, former Indiana Sen. (and Gov.) Evan Bayh (D), who by the Americans Elect rules would have to choose a Republican as his running mate. Say, Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine).
I cite those two because they’re experienced and denounced the dysfunction of government as they announced their exits from public office.
Alas, so far only a passel of no-names or near-no-names has declared candidacy on the AE website — led by former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (R) and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson (D).
Bayh and Snowe are among 300 or so “draft” candidates who have been proposed by others, along with some other worthy possibilities including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Comptroller General David Walker, who seems most likely to actually run.
As one of the nation’s leading advocates of fiscal sanity and government reform, Walker could be a strong candidate — if he could attract the funding to establish widespread name recognition and get his message across.
All third-party candidates in the past have failed to win, of course, but some have moved — or scared — the major parties into addressing issues they were otherwise avoiding. And that’s the great benefit that a credible AE candidate could perform in 2012.
This year, it’s not one issue that needs addressing — it’s a whole series of problems that Republicans and Democrats can’t or won’t solve because they are so ideologically divided.
The problems start with getting job creation started again, which includes investment in education, research and infrastructure (which Obama favors) and tax reform (which both candidates merely give lip service to).
They include tackling the massive federal debt, which will increase under Obama’s budget from 80 percent of gross domestic product now to a crushing 124 percent by 2050, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.