Douthat argues that the governor's race in New Jersey and congressional race in New York illustrate the positive role that third parties can/should play in a healthy democracy, and he urges more third party candidates to come forward for future elections.
Douthat makes the interesting point that third parties are even more valuable in local campaigns than at the national level:
When people pine for third parties, they usually have a fantasy presidential candidate in mind — a Colin Powell or a Michael Bloomberg, riding in to save us from partisanship and corruption.
But presidential elections are the place where the two-party system seems more necessary than ever. The office of the presidency has become so potent and so polarizing — part priest-king, part ritual scapegoat — that chief executives need to represent the broadest possible coalition to have any chance of success.
It’s at the state and local level where an independent politician or party can actually hope to get things done. (In this regard, the cranks and idealists in your local Green Party have more sense than the pundits who fantasized about a Bloomberg-for-President campaign.) And it’s at the state and local level where we could use a lot more of them.
I have been thinking a lot recently about the possibility of a third party candidate emerging for the 2012 Presidential election, particularly if (1) the Republicans continue to move to the far-right and/or (2) certain liberals lose faith in Obama's ability to change the corporate domination of the government (illustrated by, for instance, his caving to the insurance industry on health care reform). I can't figure out if the third party movement is more likely to come from the left or the right, but I do think it's a real possibility.
Douthat's piece got me to thinking that maybe the real movement in 2010 and 2012 will be not at the Presidential level but in local and Congressional races. As the Congressional districts become safer and safer for incumbents, perhaps there will be a widespread recognition of the need to "shake things up" with independents/third parties.
Douthat would applaud the campaigns of John Lowry and Bob Fenwick locally - their campaigns illustrate his theory that third parties can "win hearings for unorthodox ideas ... and help fulfill the promise of federalism, by organizing themselves around local particularities, rather than the national political divide."The picture is of John Lowry, from his campaign website.
Ross Douthat continues to impress me, both with the content and style of his writing. I'm generally not a fan of his politics, but I like that he keeps his politics out of (the majority of) his columns -- he is kind of in the Richard Cohen / Anne Applebaum mode in this respect.