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Here Comes That Third Party

by JAYNE LYN STAHL

Hoping for a 3rd party to come along, and do away with the two party paradigm? Well, stay tuned because something is happening in a New York congressional race which portends that change is en route, but not the change you had in mind.

While she may have left politics in Alaska, over the past few days, Sarah Palin proved that she hasn’t left politics. The former Republican nominee for vice president has just given an enthusiastic thumbs-up to a 3rd party candidate in an upstate New York congressional race. The offseason election is being held to replace Rep.John McHugh who was recently appointed Army secretary by the president.

Why is a former governor from Alaska interested in a New York congressional race? Meddling seems to be an old school Republican pastime these days. Palin’s concern is palpable. She worries that the Republican candidate for the 23rd Congressional District, Dierdre Scozzafava, isn’t Republican enough. Would Ms. Scozzafava pass the Barry Goldwater smell test?

Well, the Albany assemblywoman gets the Newt Gingrich good housekeeping stamp of approval. She also has solid support from the National Rifle Association, but this doesn’t square with Sarah Palin. “There is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race,” pundit Palin says on her Facebook page.

Palin has elected to throw her full weight behind Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate, who best represents core Republican Party values like shrinking government, lowering taxes, and selectively affirming civil liberties..

Although Bill Owens, the Democrats in the race, leads both his Republican and Conservative counterparts by a healthy margin, many Republicans are concerned that Hoffman’s presence will ultimately result in a loss for the Republicans, an argument not unlike the one made against Ralph Nader by Democrats in 2000.

But, what’s happening here is quite different from what happened in 2000. The Green Party didn’t result from any seismic divide in the Democratic Party whereas, like an overzealous earthworm, the Republican Party appears to be splitting down the middle with half positioning itself as moderate on issues like choice, and gay marriage, like Scozzafava, and the other half insisting on being true to their Goldwater, Bircher roots. Trouble is, nobody seems to be able to convince the Bircher half that their roots are dyed.

It remains to be seen how this bifurcation plays out not just in this New York congressional race, but in the midterm election, and whether or not the Conservative Party, with or without Sarah Palin, becomes a tour de force in 2012.

Those who have been crying out for a 3rd party alternative to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum can only chuckle at the prospect not of a Green Party White House victory, but that the Conservatives might accomplish in the U.S. what they’ve done in Canada, and be the first to successfully challenge the two-party system.

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

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JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

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