"Make Way for the Radical Center" is exactly the sort of headline that suggests a story one might want to skip. But this is a Tom Friedman column (7/24/11), so you know it's going to be good for…something.
This time around, the jet-setting third party advocate is writing about something called Americans Elect, which Friedman hails as "a viable, centrist, third presidential ticket, elected by an Internet convention."
"I know it sounds gimmicky," he writes. Well, yeah.
Also slightly familiar, to anyone who remembers Unity '08, which was once described as "an Internet-based third party that plans to select its presidential candidate through online voting." That description came from one Tom Friedman, on June 16, 2006. Or the Tom Friedman of May 3, 2006, who hoped for an internet-based third party that was "big, strategic, centrist and forward-looking."
This isn't to say there's anything wrong with efforts to challenge the two-party system, which certainly limits political expression. But it's curious that Friedman assumes that the "center" isn't being adequately represented–or that, more importantly, a truly democratic nominating process would yield a "centrist" ticket. There's no reason to believe that would happen. Friedman's candidate would "challenge both parties from the middle"–but why would the people choose such a candidate? And is a third party "financed with some serious hedge-fund money" really a step in the right direction?
One rule Americans Elect has set down: A presidential candidate has to cross the party line to find his or her running mate–as Friedman puts it, "a Democrat must run with a Republican or independent, and a Republican with a Democrat or independent."
This sounds like… well, something that Tom Friedman would advocate. Which he did, in 2004: "I want to wake up and read that John Kerry just asked John McCain to be his vice president." Or consider the Tom Friedman who, in 2007, suggested that if Obama were to win the Democratic nomination, he "might want to consider keeping Dick Cheney on as his vice president." The reason had something to do with Iran policy: "Mr. Obama's gift for outreach would be so much more effective with a Dick Cheney standing over his right shoulder, quietly pounding a baseball bat into his palm." Ah, the magic of centrism!
Tom Friedman already has too much influence in our political discussion. Do we really need hedge fund millionaires organizing a third party in order to bring his columns to life?