If you saw Judy Woodruff on the NewsHour interviewing Hamilton Jordan, President Jimmy Carter's Chief of Staff, now with well-preserved hair, and Doug Bailey, former Republican strategist, as they talked about their Unity Party, you got an early peek at what they hope will be a successful third party run at the White House.
Their approach? They are skipping primaries, and going straight to the people ... by electing a nominee via the internet.
HAMILTON JORDAN: No, no, we're sensitive to that. How many Americans have access to the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries? If you think the system -- not you -- but if your viewers think that the current political system is working well and serving the interest of our country, then what we're doing will not be attractive.
I think the system is broken; most people think that it's broken. And we think that what we're going to do is invigorate the political system and allow for this country to be turned around.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Doug Bailey, you're a Republican. Hamilton Jordan, you're a Democrat. Each one of you is fine if it's the other party that's at the top of the ticket here?
HAMILTON JORDAN: At this point in time, when you look at the problems and challenges that face our country, I'm an American first. And I think the idea of the Unity ticket, enabled by the Internet, is a powerful idea that can change the direction of our country.
Interesting idea, and an idea that has been around the blogosphere for a while. I can say that I am certainly open to new options, politically. The Democrats have been, shall we say, most extremely disappointing over the past dozen years, if not longer. Their collaboration with the Bush Administration regarding the foolish War on Iraq, the corporate welfare agenda, the appointment of activist judges like Alito -- and their mealy-mouthed opposition whenever they actually did try to take a stand -- not to mention their hand-wringing cooperation in taking down President Clinton (while giving the mendacious shrub a pass) and their abdication of any defense of women's rights to their own bodies.... oh, the list goes on and on....
But after John Anderson and Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, what's so unique about Unity? Their website is newly up, and it includes "Our Beliefs, Our Goals & Why We'll Succeed":
Unity08 is a group of citizens deeply concerned that the wheels have come off our political system, that the American Dream is slipping away, and that time is short to get things back on track.
Okay. Sounds kind of like the Democrats, so far.
We are of all ages, backgrounds, colors and beliefs and from both parties:
* Some of us have been involved in political campaigns at the state and national levels and served in high government positions.
* Others of our leadership group have never been active in political life but have been highly successful in the private sector, active in the non-profit world and in other walks of American life.
* Still others of our leadership group are students, who are concerned that the agenda of special interests is coming before the national interest.
Still not saying much, except that they're diverse and concerned.
Unity08 believes that neither of todayâ€™s major parties reflects the aspirations, fears or will of the majority of Americans. Both have polarized and alienated the people. Both are unduly influenced by single-issue groups. Both are excessively dominated by money.
That is true. So what are they going to do about it?
Therefore Unity08 will act to assure that an alternative ticket is presented to the American voters in 2008.
An alternative? Is that it? Is that all?
We have set three specific goals, and are exploring how best to achieve them.
1. Goal One is the election of a Unity Ticket for President and Vice-President of the United States in 2008 â€“ headed by a woman and/or man from each major party or by an independent who presents a Unity Team from both parties.
2. Goal Two is for the people themselves to pick that Unity Ticket in the first half of 2008 â€“ via a virtual and secure online convention in which all American voters will be qualified to vote.
3. Goal Three, our minimum goal, is to effect major change and reform in the 2008 national elections by influencing the major parties to adopt the core features of our national agenda. With a group of voters who comprise at least 20% of the national electorate, we feel confident that our voters will decide the 2008 election.
Wait a minute! Three goals, all of which are focused on just getting elected?
That sounds just like the Democrats and Republicans.
We are not looking to build a new and permanent party. That might happen, but our objective is to fix the old parties. A Unity Ticket in office for one term or even taking part in just one election can bring new ideas, new integrity and new leaders to the fore.
Excuse me, but that doesn't really follow, to me. Electing "the other guy" because he's just not Dick or Jane isn't much to build a movement on, is it?
What do they want to do? What do they want to achieve? What is the change they seek, aside from getting elected as neither Democrat nor Republican?
They bury their issues way down at the bottom, which is rather indicative, don't you think?
In our opinion, Crucial Issues include: Global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washingtonâ€™s lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all, and the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people.
By contrast, we consider gun control, abortion and gay marriage important issues, worthy of debate and discussion in a free society, but not issues that should dominate or even crowd our national agenda.
In our opinion â€“ since the disintegration of the Soviet Union â€“ our political system seems to have focused more attention on the â€œimportant issuesâ€ than the â€œcrucial issues.â€ One result: The political parties have been built to address the interests of their â€œbaseâ€ but have failed to address the realities that impact most Americans.
I am all for getting pragmatic on fiscal, economic and environmental issues. I'm all for fixing education and healthcare. I'm all for ridding Washington of the corporatist lobbyists who seem to have bought and paid for our government for their own ends. And yeah, I'm all for restoring "the American Dream for so many of our people." Rock on.
But we're in a serious battle here for the soul of our nation. We cannot solve our problems while ditching what has made America the great successful experiment in democracy. We cannot ditch the civil and human rights of women, minorities and immigrants simply because we have other problems, too. My feeling is that if we let our social fabric corrupt even further, while ignoring what is happening to the core of this secular, democratic republic, then we won't find any success in any of these areas. The rot of hate and intolerance promulgated by the radical right is doing more to destroy the fabric of this nation than most people want to admit. And we cannot solve it simply by sweeping it under a rug and focusing on other things.
Overall, Unity08 seems to be a rather underwhelming third-party effort. Standing for less than the nothing the Democrats stand for doesn't hold much appeal to me. Still, any alternative to the corporate-owned parties is worth paying attention to, so I'll wait and see what kind of candidate(s) they field.
But right now this election effort they're cooking up seems rather half baked.