The face of American politics needs a makeover. Since this year’s crop of seniors began kindergarten, someone named Bush or Clinton has been in the White House. In the wake of murmurings over the possibility of Hilary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice making a bid for the presidency in 2008, the question has often been asked: Is the United States ready for a female president?
But in the wake of inept leadership and general dissatisfaction with parties on both sides of the aisle, a more fundamental question seems to be gaining inertia: Is the United States ready for third-party leadership? Despite the dreams of Ralph Nader and the provocatively sexy television exploits of Geena Davis, the answer to both is a probable no. But the questions are giving voters – and perhaps their representatives – greater pause than they have in recent memory.
With the President George W. Bush ineligible for re-election after the completion of his current term and Hilary poised as an ostensible maybe, Democratic and Republican leadership alike should be in the process of grooming candidates for the 2006 and 2008 elections. Instead, many members of the Republican Party are beginning to distance themselves from what they deem misguided leadership. In 2001, Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont changed his affiliation from Republican to Independent. In the “Declaration of Independence” he penned explaining his decision, he wrote, “Looking ahead, I can see more and more instances where I will disagree with the president on very fundamental issues: the issues of choice, the direction of the judiciary, tax and spending decisions, missile defense, energy and the environment, and a host of other issues, large and small.” Any of those grievances sound familiar? Many Republican politicians are now echoing Jeffords’ sentiment.
Meanwhile, their Democratic counterparts are still trying to reinvent a party that’s been embarrassingly ineffective during the past two election cycles. Their valiant efforts aside, they’ve failed. Howard Dean was put on a short leash quickly after being elected chair of the Democratic National Committee, and prominent Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have swayed fewer votes in five years than Hurricane Katrina did in a week.
So with Republican leadership in the House and Senate embroiled in scandal and a Democratic Party more lethargic than the average college student, where should the disenchanted turn? That’s precisely the question the lesser-known parties should be asking themselves at this point. Voters want an alternative and representatives want their votes. Neither want to be associated with bumbling, mismanaged political parties rife with infighting and the in-your-face kind of incompetence that’s been splashed all over the nation’s television screens and newspapers for the past twelve years. If the underdogs in the game of politics want a chance at political prominence, they need to strike while the iron’s hot and the giants are sleeping.