Politics: The Center Alone Can't Fill the Void

Challenges Two-Party System

Former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas
Former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas

Third Party Option Discussed

Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley
Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley

Former Connecticut Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr., U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas and four others made the headlines last week (November, 1995) when it was revealed a "radical center" group had met secretly to discuss alternative solutions to the nation's problems.

The seven had discussed in telephone conference calls "the need for a new voice to challenge the two-party system."

In addition to Independent Weicker and Democrats Bradley and Tsongas, the members of the group are Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, former Minnesota Rep. Tim Penny, all Democrats, and Maine Gov. Angus King, like Weicker an Independent.

Two-Party System Breakdown

Alas, it was inevitable that the steamrolling breakdown of the two-party system in the United States would lead to the proliferation of alternative groups, or political parties, that would reach out to fill a perceived vacuum -- a vacuum resulting from the inevitable flight to the right by the Republican Party, and the (not uncommon) disarray of the Democrats.

This new group, Tsongas told the press, shares a "similar philosophy that is socially inclusive, fiscally conservative, pro-environment and pro-campaign reform." He accused the two major parties of "pandering, in one case to the left, in another case to the right, and leaving a huge vacuum in the center."

Naturally, he, and the others in the group, would like to fill that vacuum.

Disillusioned Voters

And Rep. Penny confirmed that the group discussed the potential a third party might have in today's political environment, and how many voters "tend to feel disenfranchised, disillusioned, even disgusted."

Tsongas also talked about "a center in this country -- whether you call it a passionate center, the radical center, the sensible center..."

Americans, somewhere in the 1960's, began splintering away from the two-party system, which served the country well for decades. Many simply said, "A pox on both your houses," and abandoned both major political parties for the label "Independent" -- more properly, unaffiliated.

But, if they thought their independence would translate to some major solution to the country's problems, they were wrong.

Blame Extremism

We have lots of problems in the country today, but not because of the two-party system. Quite the contrary; many of today's problems are the result of extremism promulgated by the breakdown of the parties.

That's what the two-party system is designed to avoid! The melding of many opinions into two opposing views is what has enabled America, until now, to keep bitter strife at a minimum, to negotiate the differences among myriad viewpoints to reach a consensus everyone could live with.

Consensus Virtually Impossible

When the conservative moderates leave the Republican Party to its extreme right wing, and liberal moderates leave the Democratic Party to its left wingers, a vacuum naturally develops in the center -- and consensus is virtually impossible.

But you can't just assemble a group of independent thinkers to fill a void; it can't be done. Such a group would still have to deal with the extremes of the left and the right -- and still other groups would enter the fray with their own particular approaches.

Only through genuine negotiations, consensus, and the give-and-take of all Americans -- and the two-party system -- can America move ahead into the 21st Century.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Dec. 2, 1995. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here

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Comments 13 comments

PARA VOCE profile image

PARA VOCE 9 years ago from SOUTH AMERICA


MrMarmalade profile image

MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

The passionate centre is what it is all about.

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks, PARA VOCE. The center is critical, MrMarmalade, absolutely. But the center derives its power from its ability to take sides, Republican or Democratic. Without the parties, the center is powerless. In the U.S., only when the left center joins with the Democrats or the right center joins with the Republicans can the center wield the power necessary to make needed changes. Thank you for your comments.

MortimerWorth profile image

MortimerWorth 9 years ago from Germany

And we musn't forget that the center also is a home to those who play it safe. Ironic, as it calls to the more rebellious thiners.

REritr profile image

REritr 9 years ago from California

Isn't it amazing how you wrote about this 17 years ago and so much of it still applies?

Thanks for sharing your past columns with us.

Dena Kouremetis (now try pronouncing THAT one . . . )

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks MormtimerWorth and REritr for your comments. The candidates today are all calling for "change," but there's all kinds of change. It truly is amazing, REritr, but your observation is also true about most of my past columns. I would pronounce your name Koor Metis, but you might like to see how my name is mangled in my "guest" column http://hubpages.com/literature/After-All--Whats-in

REritr profile image

REritr 9 years ago from California

And you would be correct! Believe me, it has been mangled beyond belief. Its background (both my husband's and my own) is of the same ethnicity as Mr. Tsongas.

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Iðunn 9 years ago

good read.

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I believe you, REritr. I'm glad you enjoyed my scribbles, Iðunn. Thanks.

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Iðunn 9 years ago

I'm slow but not dead. I hope to one day backtrack all your Hubs I missed since I discovered you so late in the game. :)

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

That's very nice of you, Iðunn . It will be my pleasure to read your hubs as well.

shazz01109 profile image

shazz01109 7 years ago from Western Massachusetts

Glad I found this hub, even if it was 2 years later! It seems that a 3rd Party is more realistic and inevitable. It seems that everything has to be an either/or, this/that, black/white. It has become tiring and is antiquated thinking.

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

I believe, shazz01109, that there will always be left wingers and right wingers and ne'er the twain shall meet. There will always be a need to negotiate toward the center, but the creation of a new center will not bring both sides together. Without the two party system, there inevitably will be two, three, four or more parties created that eventually will be forced to seek coalitions to get anything done. It's a round-a-bout way of doing what the two-party system does already. There's no way around it -- other than a dictatorship. When there are opposing views, as there always is, either negotiations or chaos prevails.

By the way, I see you like Bluegrass. My daughter from Maine sings and plays mandolin with the Windy Ridge Bluegrass Band. I enjoy it, too.

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