America has met the enemy, and it is Washington.At Politico, Democratic consultant Doug Sosnik writes:
That was the message from a focus group of 11 Cincinnati-area voters, who issued a scathing and impassioned indictment Wednesday of Washington, D.C., and everyone in it -- from lawmakers to the president and, most strikingly, a political system that makes them feel powerless to change it.
"They're indicting the president, they're indicting Congress," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the two-hour session exclusively for the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.
"It is a sense that the system doesn't work, and they don't have an answer, but they know what they hate."
These voters -- who described themselves as independents who tend to lean one way or another -- assailed the distrust, gridlock, weak leadership and callousness from a government they said seemed indifferent to solving problems. And, they added, they felt "helpless" to punish the lawmakers responsible.
"We have a political class now," said Jerry Laub, a 54-year-old casino card dealer who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. "They're above us."
One biproduct of all of the anger toward the political class is the disapproval ratings of both political parties. The late October NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed the Republican Party with a 22 percent positive rating and a 53 percent negative one. Although Democrats are doing better, they are also underwater, with a 37 percent positive rating and a 40 percent negative one.
Due to recent Supreme Court rulings, power and money has flowed away from both parties. With this increasingly decentralized party structure, political entrepreneurs are increasing dominating the debate, making the parties less important in the political process.
There is clearly an opening for a third party in our country. While most of the focus is at the presidential level, there is a long-term opportunity to build this movement from the bottom up, state-by-state. This could take several years to grow, but as the country continues to move further and further away from the two-party system, this slower build is more likely to ultimately metastasize into an effective national movement. This third party will most likely be led by community-based leaders who are focused on getting things done to improve people’s lives rather than by professional politicians interested in their own agenda.There are, of course, daunting barriers to third parties: first-past-the-post elections, the electoral college, campaign finance rules, and (in California), an electoral process that effectively bars third parties from the general election ballot.
The ballot box has traditionally been the place where Americans’ voices their discontent. But the political system has built-in safeguards through reapportionment and redistricting that will limit the vulnerability of most incumbent elected officials. These lines will not be redrawn until the beginning of the next decade, forestalling the massive desire for change that is building in our country.
This all suggests that the period of turmoil and dissatisfaction that we have been experiencing for the past 10 years could well continue through the end of this decade. However, underneath this turmoil you can see the shape of an emerging populist movement that will, in time, either move the politicians to action or throw them out of office. The country is moving toward new types of leaders, those who will be problem-solvers and build institutions that are capable of making a difference in people’s lives.