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Chuck Hagel Suggests Third Party

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Is Chuck Hagel right in his new book? Do we need an independent president or a third party? Hagel, a Republican who’s been critical of the war in Iraq, is clearly frustrated at being pummeled by his own party for his contrarian viewpoint. I’m sure he’d be happy if he could join a new party less focused on enforcing party loyalty.

Whether or not we need a third party is one of those questions that shows up every election cycle. The general perception is that, if neither the Dems or Repubs are offering intelligent policies, then a third party could. Unfortunately, a third party would still be a party – meaning even if it’s more “centrist” than the current parties, it’ll quickly succumb to the same internal power games and distasteful compromises that afflict our blue and red friends.

What we need, I think, is not a new party but a revitalized commitment to independence within the two major parties. Their exists now a purge mentality that has resulted in the frustration of men like Hagel on the right and the near-banishment of men like Joe Lieberman on the left. There should be more room within the parties for policy differences. This may sound like fantasy, but there is hope.

The nomination of the less-than-purebred Republican John McCain indicates the bulk of voters themselves are more accepting of independence than their activist brethren. While McCain has done some well-placed pandering to the so-called base, he hasn’t disavowed his maverick streak. If other elected officials showed similar courage, the parties would eventually reach a critical mass of independence where there would be too many heretics for the activists to try to purge. I don’t know if that’s realistic but it’s more achievable and would be more useful than attempting to cobble together a third party.

As for now, I welcome Chuck Hagel’s dissent from his own party. I think that is something we need more of and I applaud him for staying true to his beliefs even as he’s attacked for doing so.