Political project looks outside party lines

He predicts “buyer’s remorse” will set in sometime in 2008 during the presidential campaign.

And that will open up the door for a “unity ticket,” made up of some combination of centrists from either party or an independent to shake up the race, Gerald Rafshoon, a co-founder of “Unity ’08” said during a Dole Institute of Politics panel Thursday on “Third Parities in Two Party America.”

After the early primaries in 2008, the Republicans and Democrats will have chosen their nominees months ahead of the late-summer conventions, and the candidates will engage in bitter partisan negative attacks for months, he said.

“The people are going to be disgusted with the choices,” Rafshoon said.

Rafshoon and another co-founder, Douglas Bailey, presented their idea for the political project. They intend to give registered voters from every state ballot access through a convention on the Internet in June to nominate a presidential ticket of their choice with the hopes of making the pair a major factor in the race.

“The political system in Washington is broken. It does not function. It does not solve serious problems,” Bailey said.

The pair were joined by three others on a panel – moderated by Bill Kurtis, a television journalist and Kansas University alumnus – and their idea became a main topic of discussion, although not everyone bought into it. Bailey said possible candidates suggested to them included former Democratic Vice President Al Gore, U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or several other independents.

“I’d like to see a more robust party system that has lots of different opinions represented,” said David Boaz, vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute. “I just don’t think that the centrist Republicans and the centrist Democrats getting together to create yet another centrist point of comparison in Washington is the solution.”

Richard Winger, of the Coalition for Free and Open Elections, said third parties have been successful in some states, including Vermont. But mostly the panelists said the country’s two major parties keep control through election laws and political culture.

Others said throughout American history, third parties develop and push an issue to the forefront.

“Historically, the party doesn’t last, but the issue goes into the mainstream,” said Micah Sifry, co-founder and editor of the Web site and conference Personal Democracy Forum.

The panel capped off an all-day symposium on the topic, including an academic panel earlier that discussed third parties.