There's always something cooking...
There's always something cooking and nothing in the pot
They're starving back in China so finish what you got
-- From John Lennon’s “Nobody Told Me”
Fifteen years ago, when I was becoming addicted to being connected to the Internet, if you had asked me if the Internet would stimulate third party politics in America and eventually facilitate new regional, even nation political parties, I would have said, "Yes."
Well, mostly, I would have been wrong.
Still, I think it's somewhat strange that it hasn't happened. If you look at the status-quo-roiling effect the social media have been having in some other countries, it's easy to see how quickly movements can be put together.
When you look at how the Occupy/99% movement coalesced out of thin air in this country last fall, the potential of how modern communications might launch a new political party was certainly there for all to see. In this case, the spirit of the movement had little or nothing to do with trying to start a new political party, so only the potential was shown to us.
How experiencing the shared ordeal they endured will change the most dedicated of the demonstrators will be interesting to watch down the road. The full impact the Occupy/99% phenomenon will have on the electorate remains to be seen, but there aren‘t any signs that it will lead to the formation of a third party.
The Tea Party has turned out to be a fizzler for those who imagined in the beginning that they were forming a new national political party, well to the right of the big-spending, deficit-ignoring Republicans that made policy during the most recent Bush administration. Some of them must be bitterly disappointed that their noisy movement of 2009/10 was so easily hijacked and converted into a tool by the GOP's leadership.
In post-WWII American politics third parties became even more unfashionable in a nation already accustomed to two-party rule. During the Cold War Era ideology became so important it overshadowed issues. Everything had to be viewed through a liberal or conservative prism. But since it is issues that usually breathe life into third parties, over the last half-century we‘ve watched the various attempts at creating new political parties rise and fall, one by one, because both Republicans and Democrats have continued using Cold War rhetoric and old habits die hard.
In addition, in 2012, what seems to be working overtime to prevent new parties from emerging are two sides of the same coin -- apathy and impatience.
Most people are put off by the hurly-burly of politics and don’t care to engage. And, too many of those who do care about politics fall into one of two categories: 1. They are hopelessly partisan and wouldn't consider an alternative to the party they prefer. 2. If they do lean away from both parties, they are so impatient to get instant results they can’t stay organized and focused long enough to affect change.
While it would seem there's plenty of fertile ground between the Republicans and Democrats, in which to plant the seeds for a third national party -- a practical, problem-solving movement -- the passion to cultivate such a party's growth doesn't seem to be there.
So, we live with having to choose between two parties that are both better at fundraising and quarreling than anything else. Parties that routinely spend obscene amounts of money in the pursuit of power, all the while knowing they won't be able to get much of anything accomplished on the problem-solving front.
Strange days, indeed.