Republicans and Democrats are as polarized as Shiites and Sunnis. Politicians of both parties sound like rival mobs of chimpanzees run amuck in their habitat, throwing poo on each other and romping gleefully away going "Neener, neener." And--unless you live in a hidey-hole under the stairs, waiting for the Rapture--you may have noticed that neither party seems to be solving some of the great crises of our time.
Idaho businessman (and Boise Weekly founder) Andy Hedden-Nicely noticed. So, with guidance from legendary Idaho politico Perry Swisher, Hedden-Nicely has founded a new political party called the United Party. "It's for creative, thinking people who see more value in proposing positive initiatives than in tearing down the other guy," he wrote in an e-mail.
Here is the UP's description from its listserv: "The United Party is a new idea to bring together those people who want to make a difference and who are not interested in the current political party offerings. The United Party is self-actualized, inclusive and concerned with real life issues to make our lives better and our future brighter. We want to re-take the middle ground and support all types of small businesses including farmers. We are fiscally conservative and believe that government should only perform those services we cannot do ourselves. We believe that the best government is the government closest to the people. We believe in term limits, and we believe in each other. If you are interested, join us."
For a political platform, that's about as clear as a Boise inversion, but Hedden-Nicely says it's all about finding common issues. "People are reaching out to get involved in something, but can't attach themselves to either party," he said. "I hope they'll bring their disgust and frustration to the United Party."
The effort to find common political ground is a hot subject in political circles after the vile tone of the 2004 presidential race. New York Times columnist David Brooks has been adamant that people don't think through political values of their own, but rather adopt those of their party--out of custom, not critical thinking. That makes it near impossible to then use reason to sway voters, and even makes effective governance itself increasingly difficult.
So how can people stop the national trend of believing in the bad intentions of "The Other Side?" How will voters abandon the escalating for-us-or-against-us attitude? Political philanthropist George Soros maintains we must acknowledge the "radical fallibility" at the center of the American political system--we must admit that there is no complete and permanent answer, not even our own.
"Whaaat?" is the alarmed and skeptical response experienced by many who consider this for the first time. But some, like Hedden-Nicely and others who start alternative political parties, become enthusiastic about the idea of considering policies they may have once rejected out of custom.
There are now approximately 60 American political parties. The prize for Most Repulsively Weird goes to the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, which uses a swastika logo and is apparently a Nazi, pro-gay, anti-violence, pro-drug, environmentalist group which denies membership to Jews AND Christians.
Idaho's third-party roster includes the Libertarian Party (www.LPIdaho.com), the Constitution Party (www.ConstitutionPartyIdaho.com) the Natural Law Party (www.natural-law.org) and the Green Party (www.idahogreenparty.org). What does Hedden-Nicely think his new party has to offer that the others do not?
"Term limits," he answered. "You might remember that term limits was a part of the Republican 'Contract with America,' that has since been all but forgotten. The reason? Because now that the R's are in power, they do not want to give it up. Power is more important to them than their own ideals. We already term-limit the president because we didn't want a king, and now we've got an entrenched politburo that is almost impossible to unseat."
Locally, United Party member Rick Jackson says he just weary of voting for "the Candidate Less Likely To Screw Up."
"Republicans help large corporations with tax incentives and evasions, and the Democrats have their social programs which are misguided and poorly managed," he said. "Small business carries the weight of the tax burden while employing the majority of the population, yet remains largely unrepresented. The United Party wants to change that and do what is in the best interest of the people."
Will the Uniteds put up any candidates in the elections of 2006? Hedden-Nicely recently told the Lewiston Tribune that they will. He won't say yet whether he will run for office himself, but at a time when both the president's and Congress' popularity are at frosty lows, independent candidates may have more appeal than in past cycles. At the very least, they could make voters think a little harder about their party-line picks.
What a concept.