First of all, let me say that I realize I am just a mom who lives in Dallas, Texas – and by no means an expert on anything. However, I have had an idea for a while now that I thought I’d share with the world at large as I share it with you, Mark. I have wanted to approach you with the idea that we take the frustration of the American people and make a timely documentary/reality TV show called “Third Party” where we gather a group of experts, build a platform, select a charismatic leader, and begin to select individuals in key districts throughout the country to represent our party. We build a party from the ground up with intelligent people giving us insight, maybe Nobel award winners, but without lobbyists or special interests of any kind involved in the crafting of the platform. I think it would make for amazingly compelling TV, and I think if there was ever a time where a third-party had a chance, now is that time.
Why come to you, Mark? Well, you are (pardon the pun) a maverick. You are a brilliant businessman and a cynical guy, with quite a bit of national recognition already. But you aren’t a part of the machine of big business that is so entangled with both political parties. You also happen to have a TV network and some crazy connections. 🙂
Here’s how I came up with the idea… I recently have been taking a history class. As an adult, learning about our national history is an entirely new experience. There has been, since the gilded age at the end of the 19th century, what appears to me to be a sense of “ownership” of our country by certain elite and wealthy members of society. Many years ago big business decided that it doesn’t have to lobby politicians to get decisions to go in their favor, they simply run their leadership in races and become the politicians themselves. So at root, our political system has been embroiled in big business and people have exploited it for personal profit. It has been very interesting to study the Populist party and the election of 1896 in light of the rise of the Tea Party in 2009/2010. There is much a third party could learn from the failure of the Populist Party. Just like the Tea Party of today, the Populist party, or People’s party, arose as a grassroots effort. In fact, it sprouted from an alliance of farmers opposing unfair practices by the railroad owners who transported their crops. Over four years the Populist party grew into a seriously powerful force. They had what was, at the time, a radical platform of reforms including government ownership of the railroads and telephone/telegraph. In the election of 1896, the Democratic party presented a platform similar to the Populist party, based on a monetary system of free silver instead of the gold standard, and the decision was made to fuse the Populist party into the Democratic party instead of trying to defeat them. This alienated many populist members who wanted nothing to do with the Democratic party. The Republican party beat the fused party and the defeat signaled the formal end of the Populist party, although the platform shaped public policy and reforms for more than 30 years.
I, along with many of my generation, am entirely frustrated with the Republican and Democratic parties. I have voted Republican in recent elections, simply because I felt it was the lesser of two evils. But I would love another option. I read a statistic today that you could buy every person in the world 9 iPhones with America’s national debt. That is unacceptable and something must be done. It is simply an unsustainable situation.
I have watched with some interest, and frankly suspicion, the rise of the Tea Party. The frustration that has led to the grassroots organization of the Tea Party is legitimate – although I don’t know if the results will be successful in the long run. I have seen some great people who I love and respect begin to support the Tea Party movement, which compels me towards it, but have also seen figureheads like Cheney, Beck, and Palin, which makes me wary. I cannot seem to locate their national platform, or identify actual leaders. In the absence of those two things, some crazy radical loudmouths have stepped in and so it begins to appear that the Tea Party represents nothing more than an anti-Obama position. I realize this is perception, and not necessarily reality – but in politics, perception is reality. I firmly believe that you cannot build a party on what you are against. You must build a party on what you are for – what you believe – and how it will help every American. If I could see a platform based on those things – and if I could see a charismatic leader the likes of a Lincoln, Reagan, or Kennedy, I would advocate for it and vote for it with all of my might. The Tea Party has the right idea – like the Populist party, there is potential for long-term reforms sprouting out of their frustration. Real change can come with the rise of a legitimate third party. But like the Populist party, I believe they need to be wary and learn from the mistakes made over 100 years ago. First of all, like what happened to the Populist party in the election of 1896, the Tea Party of today seems far too close to the Republican party. All a Republican would have to do is spout some rhetoric about national debt, and he could siphon off Tea Party support. I would also like to see, if the Tea Party comes up with a platform and a leader, them distance themselves from the crazy fringe (the Birthers and the racist ranters). I could never vote for anyone who I consider to be a racist or who I consider to be accommodating or accepting of racists – racism is EVIL and has gripped our country for entirely too long. I know there are millions of people like me – and our votes are the ones up for grabs. So it is important that the leadership of any third-party keep a razor-sharp focus on the vision and platform of the party, and eliminate any distracting and inflammatory rhetoric. To put it simply, a successful third party that wants to earn my vote would have to represent a radical return to conservative spending (which has not existed in the Republican party since Reagan).
I would actually love for Dave Ramsey to run for President as the leader of our party – just to give you an idea of one fun thing we could do. Laugh all you want – but I read his book “Total Money Makeover” when my husband and I were engaged. It was life changing for us. It shines a light on the lies of this consumer culture and the trap that is debt. As a family, we are not out of debt completely yet, because you see, Mark, we’ve had a tough year. My husband was laid off from his job last October, and I was laid off from mine this April. But here’s the cool part. Even given our circumstances, we have seen our net worth rise a CRAZY amount in four years as we have paid off debt and made wise decisions financially. Had we not read his book and applied his principles, I don’t know what would have happened to our family. We are Christians and we fully believe that we have been blessed beyond our imagination during this time – but we also have had the opportunity to demonstrate faithfulness with our finances that we were taught by Dave Ramsey when times were “good” financially. Without any form of government support, not a dime of unemployment or any other government handout, we have not missed a payment since he was laid off. In fact, we have continued to pay down debt, although more conservatively. Now granted, we both have worked our tails off doing freelance and part time jobs, but still it is amazing. If Ramsey (with God’s help 🙂 of course) could do that for our family, I’d love to see what his fiscal policy could do for our country. We have made sacrifices and have changed the way we view money. That is the kind of radical change we need in Washington.
Anyway – Mark – if this ever happens to reach you – I say we do it. I think it is an idea that’s time has come. Like the Populist party, our party may not win many elections, but we could shape public policy and generate a spirit of reform. Plus we’d probably get some kickin’ ratings.
(And if any of you Tea Party leaders are out there reading this – can you show me a national platform? And can you point me to the person in charge? And can you tell Glenn Beck that the chalkboard is condescending?)
Back to my kids and my regular life – my blogging foray into politics is now over. Thanks for listening.