Outside The 2008 Ballot Box: Gonna Take A Miracle? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Outside The Box

Conventional thought suggests that third party candidates are spoilers who do little more than cost one of the two major party nominees the eventual victory. That belief tends to preclude many voters from even considering an unaffiliated candidate. In understanding that likelihood, the two parties tend to take voters for granted and focus their attentions on drawing distinctions with the other major party candidate while ignoring the independent challenger.

It would be easy to heap blame on the two parties in light of the above dynamic...but that would be giving them more credit than they deserve. No doubt they've learned the art of opportunism...but those opportunities are being handed to them by a voting public that cedes its power all too quickly. By accepting the established formula, voters shut the door on the possibilities and by default, endorse the very mediocrity they lament. Instead, they look for the major party's to craft the latest frontrunner out of all too ordinary and familiar cloth...cloth that makes a nice place setting but rarely delivers the sought after meal.

With continued speculation that Mayor Bloomberg might enter the 2008 presidential race...coupled with today's announcement that he has changed his affiliation to independent...it will be interesting to see whether voters will reconsider the status quo. What makes Bloomberg an intriguing prospect is that he can overcome the obvious obstacle that leads voters to discount third party candidates...even if they have star potential...the lack of money to be competitive.

Michael R. Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat who switched to the Republican Party to run for mayor of New York City in 2001, announced this evening that he is changing his party status and registering as an independent. His office released this statement at 6:05 p.m. (EST):

I have filed papers with the New York City Board of Elections to change my status as a voter and register as unaffiliated with any political party. Although my plans for the future haven’t changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our city.

[...] Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology. Working together, there’s no limit to what we can do.

On Monday, the mayor gave a speech at “Ceasefire! Bridging the Political Divide," a conference intended to improve the quality of public discourse in America. In the speech, he said, “The politics of partisanship and the resulting inaction and excuses have paralyzed decision-making, primarily at the federal level, and the big issues of the day are not being addressed — leaving our future in jeopardy."

Should Bloomberg enter the race, the outstanding question will be whether voters are willing to demonstrate the vision they so frequently say they're seeking in their political candidates...a vision that can see past convention and break with longstanding traditions...traditions that have led us to the very place so many of us bemoan.

In the end, a visionary emerges when ordinary citizens employ their own extraordinary vision to see beyond the prescribed and the routine. I don't know enough about Michael Bloomberg to determine if he is the visionary America needs. At the same time, I grow increasingly skeptical that one will emerge out of the existing malaise we call our two party system. Notwithstanding, until American's demonstrate their own commitment to thinking outside the box, don't expect any miracles.

Daniel DiRito | June 19, 2007 | 6:50 PM
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