In the Arena

Not a Joke

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Win McNamee / Getty Images

Protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 9, 2013.

The New Age spiritualist Marianne Williamson is thinking of running for Congress from Los Angeles as an independent.

There will be jokes about this. She’s been a glamevangelist, with a stable of celebrities swooning over her books and lectures. She’d be running against the estimable Henry Waxman, one of the more substantive and productive members of Congress–but also a fairly strict left-liberal  ideologue who shows few signs of flexibility on issues where reform may be necessary, like Medicare.

But I wonder: Could Williamson be the harbinger of a wave of Independent candidacies in 2014? Are people so sick of the two existing parties that they’re ready to go shopping for something new? “We’re seeing this all over our polling,” says Peter Hart, who does surveys for NBC and the Wall Street Journal. “People are sick of the status quo: 60% believe that the entire Congress should be replaced. They’re looking for alternatives.”

I’ve been skeptical about 3rd parties in the past. The best of them–the Populists, Ross Perot (at least when it came to budgetary matters)–tend to have their hot ideas co-opted by the Democrats or Republicans. That may still be true…although we’ve seen everything else in society fragmented, niched and marketized.

It may be that we won’t see a Third Party, but a rash of Independents breaking out across the country in 2014. Depending on which way the Republicans go, I can see Libertarians running their own candidates in the next two cycles–and especially for President in 2016. I can also see, in certain circumstances, moderates breaking away from the GOP (and maybe from the currently smug, listless Democrats) in the near future. If this happens, I suspect it will happen from the bottom up. Some will be wealthy, vanity candidacies like Williamson. Others may come from the Millennial generation–especially the recent military veterans among them–who find that there’s a lot not to like about the existing parties…or from the tech world. Who knows?

I may be wrong about this; I’m always uncomfortable about making predictions. We’ve been doing this two-candidate thing for a long time, but we’ve reached a point of paralysis–a very un-American state of being–and something is going to come along and shock the system back to life.

95 comments
LorraineDWilke
LorraineDWilke

"Wealthy, vanity candidates like Williamson"??? 

Why do you so condescendingly assume, Joe, that this is about vanity? 

Might it more probably be a compassionate, powerful woman's decision to "walk the talk" and get politically proactive in making the world a better place, a woman whose view of how to raise the bar embraces a different set of perspectives than the ones currently being implemented by either party? 

Whether or not Williamson has any real chance of winning in the cultural and political landscape we find ourselves in today, I'm thrilled that a smart, ethical, and spiritually attuned woman has the courage to step up and be counted, particularly given how ugly it gets out there. Good for her. I'll be interested to see how she does. Politics is sorely in need of the higher consciousness of wiser, more evolved individuals like her.  

SpikeLee
SpikeLee

"People are sick of the status quo: 60% believe that the entire Congress should be replaced"

Only someone silly enough to tell Politico that they don't understand how polls work would jump from anti-incumbency feeling to third party now! 

"I’ve been skeptical about 3rd parties in the past."

Somebody has forgotten what he's been writing for over ... 25 years now.  (I'm getting old.)  Joe Klein has always pushed for a third party that would combine his support for conservative budgeting and his fears of minorities.

"currently smug, listless Democrats"

That's a big step up from calling them nappy haired hoes.  So, yay?

"Others may come from the Millennial generation"

The problem with the Baby Boomers is they think that everyone is as socially conservative and economically conservative as they.  To be fair, Joe Klein was doing this long before Ron Fournier was unskewing politics for the AP in 2008.

SamuelClemens
SamuelClemens

The American system is rigged for two parties even though the role of parties is not even mentioned in the Constitution. But it is such a structural mess they have a death grip on it. "Check and balance" is a formula for paralysis which suits the ruling class elites just fine. 

Adam_Smith
Adam_Smith

The main advantage of the third parties is that they are not subsidiaries of big commercial special interests. They are more ideological. However, democracy and our system of checks and balances is much more effective at controlling ideological extremism than it is in controlling corrupt special interest influence. Electing third party candidates to Congress is likely to be of great benefit. They will help to make useful reforms supported by elements in the major parties more likely to overcome special interest opposition.


musicman495
musicman495

This kind of pull-it-out-of-your-rear punditry is exactly what Nate Silver is railing against.  Go Nate go.

AHick
AHick

Not likely.  Expect no wave election either way next year.  2016 is the wild card.  If the Republicans send up someone like either Ted Cruz, or another Bush, against the Clintons they will get blown out, and it will have effects down ticket.

docdave88
docdave88

Those polls are nonsense as you well know Joe.

Here's what will happen.

Virtually every incumbent who survives a primary will win reelection.

The only hope of stopping the secular progressive tsunami that is drowning the country is in primaries.

For all the talk of "throw the rascals out," I personally doubt that more than a handful of primaries will be successful.

Don't get me wrong. I hope to be proven wrong. I'd absolutely love to see Spineless Mitch, Lindsay Gramnesty and a host of others primaried out of politics altogether. But I don't think it's gonna happen.

It's simple really. 47% of the people now vote for a living. That means they only have to convince 3% +1 that the opportunity to elect the first woman president is just too good to pass up.

So then we'll have eight years of Hillary. Which, and this is from a right winger, will be far better than the eight years of the Boy King.

I am 65 years old and to paraphrase the First Lady, for the first time in my life I am ashamed of my country. Mostly I am ashamed of my generation. We are the first to leave a country poorer for our children than what we inherited.

Oh well. It's Obama's Amerika now. Live it. Love it. You elected it. You deserve it.

gr29az
gr29az

god bless the tea party

JoeDavis2
JoeDavis2

AAAHHHH! Libertarians DID run a candidate for president! Gary Johnson. He won 1% of the popular vote, which doesn't sound like much, but it was more than all the other 3rd party candidates combined.

Maybe if he wasn't blocked from national debates, and news agencies took him seriously, he would have gotten more. Saying things like, "Maybe libertarians will run a candidate in 2016," doesn't help. Do your homework and be journalists.

BarryLevy
BarryLevy

I wonder if once a political race starts no polls as to popularity are to be given if the results could and would be different.



there is the mentality that people like to support a leader,  so if an independent isn't portrayed as having 2%, but is given the equal time in the debates, and nobody is harping that the person can't win,  does that change the dynamics,  and if so, does that mean that polls conducted by the media, is now reporting the news but shaping it.

GerardVanderLeun
GerardVanderLeun

"Henry Waxman, one of the more substantive and productive members of Congress" But with a shriveling set of nostrils.

TomBlock
TomBlock

Nice language Joe no need to hide your contempt.

AlanHowell
AlanHowell

I am an Independent Joe. We have zero to do with the Tea Party, talk radio or Cable News, we're Americans. There are tens of millions of us out here that make or break general elections. We bundle contributions for this constituency and we're done with the incompetent in the Whitehouse now and were done with the previous incompetent in the previous Whitehouse or we wouldn't be Independents. The Republican Establishment has deferred ethnic representation among their ranks so until this antiquated OLD WHITE GUY cabal has evaporated there won't be votes for either side. We.Have.Had.It. 

allthingsinaname
allthingsinaname

So Joe you have come to this as your hope? New Age spiritualist.

LOL

thebax
thebax

We're sick and tired of the same old incompetent people running our Nation. We're not looking for a Lady that spreads "love and understanding"! We need someone that can put together a budget and stick to it. We also need folks that either enforce our laws on the book or work to change them legally. Term limits and no pension!

grape_crush
grape_crush

Okay, let's take what Klein is saying and dig into it a bit...

> She’d be running against the estimable Henry Waxman...But I wonder: Could Williamson be the harbinger of a wave of Independent candidacies in 2014? Are people so sick of the two existing parties that they’re ready to go shopping for something new?

a) There's no guarantee that Williamson would be any more 'flexible' on social programs than Waxman, is there? Michael Bloomberg aside, there's no guarantee that independent means Third Way Centrist, as Klein seems to believe.

b) In 2012, Waxman ran against and won against Bill Bloomberg, who ran as an independent.

c) Klein's post totally ignores evidence that, while Congressional approval ratings might be in the toilet, people tend to like the person representing their own district. This is also why I personally think comparing the President's approval rating to Congress' is an apples-to-oranges thing.

> We’ve been doing this two-candidate thing for a long time, but we’ve reached a point of paralysis–a very un-American state of being–and something is going to come along and shock the system back to life.

a) In the past presidential election, there were more than two parties and candidates...they were not given equivalent attention by the media. Y'all can come up with your own reasons as to why.

b) My opinion is that it's less about the candidates than it is the ideas that are the cause of Congressional polarity. The Dems and the Greens aren't too far apart, while the Repubs and the Constitutionalists aren't too far apart. The Libertarians are off in their own orbit, but aside from the more wacky policy planks, there's overlap with the Dems and the Repubs.

c) Something will come along and 'shock the system back to life', but don't look for some great change in the number of independent candidates to be it. It's going to be another Great Recession, massive environmental catastrophes, and/or some sort of large-scale, sustained attack on the US or US interests. Unfortunately, we tend to govern best when the country is under some form of duress.

Irony
Irony

Joe, one person is not a tidal wave. It's not like independent candidates are particularly new. While I would love to see a flood of independents in congress, what we have here is well within the norm.

Also, there are polls you could look at to determine who the moderates are breaking away from (Hint: it's only one of the parties). You're "equivalence" schtick is old and, in cases like this, provably wrong.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

As much as we make fun of reflexive "centrists" (especially when Joe Klein is involved) the truth of the matter is that there's and huge constituency of business friendly moderate Republicans who are now utterly unrepresented in Congress. If any sort of third party forms, that's where I see it happening.


Jenna99649128
Jenna99649128

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janoxenberg
janoxenberg

Marianne Williamson must think herself a very very special human being to think she has a rationale for running against a progressive Democrat with a stellar record in Congress, Henry Waxman.  Waxman is not the problem in Washington.  It is a Republican party bent on making it impossible for an elected Democratic president to govern that threatens our democracy.  Once upon a time Obama thought that HE, with his personal qualities, could "heal" the divide in Washington.  He is no longer that naive.  Marianne Williamson's higher consciousness will not change the nation.  Taking back the House from politicians who would hold the nation hostage, will.  But Williamson's quixotic, egotistical bid - like Ralph Nadar's - will at best waste progressive resources - and at worst throw a safe Democratic seat to a Republican by splitting the Democratic vote.  if Williamson wants to make a difference she should run in a Republican district.  Or, challenge Waxman in the Democratic primary.  I see  her Independent challenge to Henry Waxman as pure, unadulterated hubris.

passion4murals
passion4murals

Wow, Mr. Klein. You did NOT do your research on Marianne Williamson. Judging by your assessment of her, you've been living in a vacuum and have no idea the depth of her character and the message of love she's been spreading for many, many years. Do some reading! Here's a start: "Return to Love" and "The Healing of America."

GlennRobb
GlennRobb

I think Mr. Klein is a little flippant and unnecessarily dismissive of Ms. Williamson's candidacy.  Calling her a wealthy vanity candidate is trivializing her and her following, which is widespread and crosses many demographics.  You can expert her to do very well at raising money from her followers, and she will connect with many people who want a candidate that is spiritual but not fanatical.  She has a strong enough profile to run without being beholden to party machines, and if she wins, she will by definition have a mandate to do things differently.  Why would anybody look at her as a joke, especially after observing the Barnum and Beltway Circus this month?

j45ashton
j45ashton

No idea where this article is coming from,  Independents Bernie Sanders from Vermont & Angus King from Maine caucus with the Democrats.  So there's nothing new under the sun here.  Anyway, what would make anyone think that electing independents would create any cooperation from Republicans?  Dreaming.

jmac
jmac

". . .  moderates breaking away from the GOP (and maybe from the currently smug, listless Democrats) in the near future" 

  This is what is so infuriating about the old guard MSM.    Why would I break from the Dems?   Are they 'listless' because they went center?   You want them to fight with pitchforks the way the right has done?  Well,  Democrats have never been the party that fought with pitchforks unless you count their opposition to the endless, horrid, unnecessary Vietnam war.   Was it 'listless' to finally pass some form of health care in this country and then fight tooth and nail to keep this Republican plan, Mr. Primary Colors?   

And smug?   I hear that on Fox all that time.  That "elites," AKA The Democratic party (those of us who believe in science, for gosh sake) look down on the less educated and the religious.   There's nothing smug about believing in science.   There's nothing smug about not picking a God or church.   And there's something wrong with thinking we don't fight for the poor and middle class while the other side is owned by Wall Street (did you listen to the Supreme Court today?)   

There's something terrible, horrible wrong with the party that claims it's for fiscal responsibility when it's never shown ANY fiscal responsibility.   There's something equally wrong with the press not being able to report without false equivalence.   



Heizzzenberg
Heizzzenberg

Any American who votes for either of these parties deserves what they get. If I had my way these idiots would be dragged into the steets... tar, feathered, and beaten with a belt (less violent then a metal pipe but still demeaning enough I suppose).. then when every American had taken a turn, we would allow them safe passage back home to whatever rock they crawled out from.

Some more food for thought... get rid of political families... tired of these dynasties... this is public service not a family career and legacy. Do your job and go away. Next your husband or wife or daughter or son gets to run for office based on family name and seats of power. Cut that and ban gerrymandering by penalty of treason... there  I just fixed your country... you're welcome.

BillOakley
BillOakley

Joe Klein is a TWIT and his opinion is worthless to me! We need more compassionate people like Marianne Williamson in our Government.

glennra3
glennra3

Over 60% of people polled may want to replace the entire congress, but unfortunately that number does not include the wacko, extreme right-wing, tea party folks who actually support the people who are destroying government.


And please spare me the "plague on both your houses" routine. For all the faults of liberals and Democrats we all know who the people are who refuse to compromise, refuse to negotiate, and who are perfectly happy to see the government go down in flames.

BruceMajors4DC
BruceMajors4DC

Since the Libertarians have run a Presidential candidate every year since 1972, isn't it embarrassing when a writer "predicts" they will run one in 2016?

RettaBillingsley
RettaBillingsley

I don't live in California and I've already donated to Marianne. Get thee to DC, Marianne!

RettaBillingsley
RettaBillingsley

Ok...Unum...you're blocking the article. Get off my screen!! N

tommyudo
tommyudo

We need 435 Henry Waxmans who aren't wobbly on entitlements. Buzz off Joe. Go back to writing the book that no one will buy.

Curious_Quiche
Curious_Quiche

Your sad, aggrieved tears shed in memory of a past not as fulgent as the present have a delectable savor.

TomClareyLassimer
TomClareyLassimer

@AlanHowell Old White Guy Cabal?

You mean Brian Sandoval (Nevada), Bobby Jindal (LA), Martinez (NM),Nikki Haley (SC), Tim Scott (SC) are in office. Alan West, Ryan Frazier, Mia Love and others were nominated (lost) but ran close races.

BarryLevy
BarryLevy

@Irony   I thought we got that in 2010 with tea party candidates.


So how about primaries where all people agree to support the winner,  not the petulant children that lose taking toys and leaving.

BarryLevy
BarryLevy

@janoxenberg   so you love the cost over run on the health care web site, on the projected costs and you don't care how much debt we go into.   Guess you must have hated the person that said running up the debt was unpatriotic and irresponsible, and having to raise the debt ceiling is a sign of leadership failure.


Spoken by B.O.

yankeeparrothead
yankeeparrothead

If democrats believe in science so much why do they oppose virtually every technological advancement  since the start of the industrial revolutions (automobiles, oil production, coal, nuclear energy, fracking, GMOs, etc.)

tom.litton
tom.litton

@Heizzzenberg I don't blame the politicians.  They are doing what they have to do to get elected.  It is the only way of effecting the things they care about.

I blame the system that requires them to extort and/or accept bribes in order to raise the money required to win.  I blame the system that forces adherence to the party, without which, you can't win.  I blame the people media who focus on the drama of politics rather then teaching policy.  

Most of all, i blame the people, who, despite these being very obvious problems, continue to vote them into office / watch the same news channels.

jmac
jmac

@Heizzzenberg Just what exactly do you want?   The Democratic party went center.   What do you want out of your candidate?   Exactly what?  I'm sick of reading that both parties deserve what they get.   One party got the Presidency (again), and more seats in the House and Senate.   Maybe that's exactly what America wanted.  

And what's wrong with political families?   There's nothing wrong with Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton.   

SuzanneStephens
SuzanneStephens

@EstherFink1 @RettaBillingsley 

Same here. I live in Washington State, have contributed already, and have been a Marianne Williamson student since the late '80s. It's obvious that Klein doesn't have a clue about her .

jmac
jmac

@BruceMajors4DC Because Reagan tripled the National Debt and Bush actually broke his record by doubling the National Debt.  Because Clinton has a stellar record of making government smaller (yes he did), closing the gap between the rich and the poor and handing Bush a budget surplus.

Bush handed Obama a budget already a trillion over for the year.   And a Great Recession.   And a political party bent on making sure the economy didn't recover. 

Curious_Quiche
Curious_Quiche

Did you mean for those words to come out together, or did they just fall out that way?

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

GWB never could have been elected to any office on his own merits without his father's name, political machine and backing.  He was just not an electable candidate in his own right.

jmac
jmac

@DeweySayenoff @jmac @Heizzzenberg A political dynasty didn't give us GWB.   He had a moderate record as the Governor of Texas working across the aisle.  He got the religious right on board (unlike his father), sold himself as a moderate and lost an election.   A conservative  Supreme Court (saying never to quote them on their vote) selected him.  

He won the second election fair and square.   I don't see anything wrong with that, even though I thought he was an idiot.   He wouldn't have won the second time if the press had done it's job.  Eventually the word got out about Iraq, but it took awhile.  His sins were in his first administration.   

I don't think anyone should be punished by their husband,  wife,  brother, father.    Should Cruz's be punished for the Benny Hine Purifying Fire Ministries his father preaches at? Only if it has to do with Cruz.    

Openminded1
Openminded1

@jmac @BruceMajors4DC Yes Clinton the man who will always be remembered as the president who got a BJ in the Oval office and then said that was not sex, is that the man you admire so much. what a joke.