Inside The Beltway Independents

Mark Schmitt pops third-party dreams:

The independence movement melds populism of both the left and right varieties (see Lou Dobbs, author of the 2007 book Independents Day), centrism, and technocratic anti-politics into one messy soup. Concern about long-term budget deficits and slipping U.S. economic superiority, plus tax cuts, are usually mainstays of the movement's vague platforms. The mere idea of being somehow different from whatever is on offer in current politics seems to be "unity" enough. Independents share not a vision of where to take the country but an analysis of its politics.

Second, most of the people involved in these efforts aren't independent at all but deeply embedded in the political system as candidates or consultants. (McCain and Lieberman are lifelong politicians; among Ford's several titles is chair of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.) They never suffer for lack of funds. And the most gullible audience for their efforts consists of the most practiced purveyors of conventional wisdom, like Washington Post columnist David Broder, who swooned over Unity08. Often it seems like the independents' primary complaint about the state of American politics is simply that they're not the ones running it.