Just When We Thought Bloomberg Was Out, They Pull Nunn Back In

With Mike Bloomberg reportedly ending his flirtations with a run for the Presidency (and I stress reportedly), it's apparently time for a new vanity candidate, another former Democrat, to let on that he's thinking about running for the White House this cycle. Jim Galloway has the story for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"It's a possibility, not a probability," said [former Georgia Democratic Senator Sam] Nunn, now the head of a nonprofit organization out to reduce the threat posed by nuclear, biological and chemical weaponry. "My own thinking is, it may be a time for the country to say, 'Timeout. The two-party system has served us well, historically, but it's not serving us now.'"

The 68-year-old former senator, still considered one of the foremost experts on national security, confirmed that he's discussed a presidential run as part of several conversations with Michael Bloomberg, the New York mayor.

More important, Nunn said he's been in touch with Unity '08, a group with a goal of fielding a bipartisan or independent ticket for president. Initial talks began with Hamilton Jordan, a co-founder of Unity '08 and former chief of staff to President Jimmy Carter.

From the AJC report it's not entirely clear whether Nunn, who flirted with a presidential bid back in 1992, is actually serious about trying to win a bid for the White House -- or even run one -- or to, instead, raise the profile of some of the issues important to him, first and foremost nuclear non-proliferation. Chuck Todd and the folks over at MSNBC's First Read write today about exactly that issue: "Nunn's interest raises this question: Why haven't other political has-beens expressed more interest in a possible 2008 candidacy? What better way to get back in the news to push a pet issue? In Nunn's case, the pet issue is a big one: nukes."

I don't have a terribly large problem with someone flirting with a run to increase the public's attention about a particular issue. On one hand I think it debases the system to an extent -- running for the Presidency should be about... running for the Presidency -- and having an excess of candidates who aren't really running to win doesn't exactly do much to limit cynicism about the system. That said, if a campaign isn't the place to raise issues, I don't know what venue is.

But the time really isn't now for a former Democrat to work to make it more difficult for a Democrat to win the White House next fall. The last six and a half years have unfortunately done much to dispel the notion that there is no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties (I think few would argue we'd be in the same situation had the Supreme Court not coronated George W. Bush President and rather the process in Florida had played out with Al Gore securing his rightful position as President). What's more, though the notion of bipartisanship as exemplified by folks like Sam Nunn and Unity08 may sound laudable, as I've written at length before the bipartisanship of the 1970s and 1980s was a byproduct of the changing partisan leanings of the electorate coupled with decades-long Democratic dominance on the congressional level, two conditions we do not see today.

So while folks like Hamilton Jordan and Doug Bailey, who thrived under the system of looser partisanship in the late-1970s, might like a return to that era, and thus are pushing candidacies like that (potentially) of Sam Nunn or others under the banner of Unity08, I truly believe that it would be to the detriment of the country to forward the candidacy of someone -- particularly a former Democrat -- who could potentially make it more difficult for the Democrats to win back the Presidency and begin to right the wrong course charted for the last six and a half years by George W. Bush and the Republican Party.

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Memo To Pundits: Electorate Not Turning To Third Parties

With the exceptions of 1992 and 1996, years for which I could not find data, here is the cumulative third-party performance in US House races since 1990:

2006: 2.3%
2004: 2.4%
2002: 3.1%
2000: 3.8%
1998: 4.9%
1994: 3.7%
1990: 4.1%

(Sources here and here). Despite extensive punditry discussing supposed voter dissatisfaction with both parties as the result of excessive polarization (or something), an analysis of trends in actual election results shows both voter turnout increasing and third-party performance stagnanting. Third-party electoral performance is lower now than it has been in decades. Despite the media cult of bipartisanship, "polarization" between the two major parties actually increases participation in the two-party system. And yet, despite actual numbers, we are still subjected to brain farts like this from Howard Fineman:

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Storming the Unity08 Gates?

The '08 campaign season is only four months old (good God, how did it start so early?), and already my choices have me in a blue funk.

For exactly two years, I was a Russ Feingold supporter. I followed his every move via Google News, I joined the Draft Feingold sites, I recommended Feingold-centric diaries on MyDD.

When Feingold announced that he wasn't running, I was left adrift from my '08 moorings. Having heard good things about Edwards' stance on poverty, I joined the bandwagon and became an Edwards man.

Recent events, however, I have been forced to reappraise that decision. I am speaking, of course, of the health care plan, and Edwards' belligerent speech in Herzliya, Israel. The health care plan I can forgive -- so it's not single payer, I can deal with that -- but the Herzliya speech demonstrates fairly clearly that Edwards has learned nothing from the failure of the Iraq war, that he still believes in the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war, and he still feels the need to bow and scrape before the Lobby That Wes Clark Dares Not Name.

So I am left with, essentially, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich as my choices, neither one of whom, of course, has any chance to win. And frankly, that has me a little pissed off.

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Unity08: It's been tried before

It could hardly be more appropiate that this post was written by a long-time user named "Nonpartisan," or that is was written after the Iraq Study Group failed to take any real position on the leading issue of the day: Iraq. Beware of snake oil bi-partisans such as, I don't know, Joseph Biden of late--Chris

[Cross-posted from ProgressiveHistorians.]

Chris Bowers has been doing an excellent job demonstrating that the group known as Unity08 is both funded and helmed by DC insiders and "rich consultants."  Yesterday, Jonathan Singer explained that Unity08's view "that bipartisanship is in and of itself an end rather than a means" -- a summary bolstered by the group's own platform -- is no better than cynical "snake oil."


All these pieces are worth a read, and each chips away at the dangerous farce that is Unity08.  The purpose of this article is to open another line of attack on the organization -- to examine the inefficacy of the group's historical precedent.


There have been many "moderate" third parties in American history.  The Anti-Masonic Party ran former Attorney General William Wirt for President against the phantom threat of the Mason lodges in 1832.  Former President Millard Fillmore ran a vicious anti-immigrant race on the Know-Nothing Party ticket in 1856.  Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party in 1912 purported to be "moderate" while actually staking out positions far to the left of both major parties.  And Ross Perot's independent candidacy in 1992 (and its successor under the Reform Party in 1996) focused on supposedly moderate issues like campaign-finance reform, tax reform, and anti-special interest efforts.


But the "unity" party I want to focus on is the one I believe best matches the mission of Unity08.  Coming into being in a time of bitter and dangerous partisan strife, this movement had no mission at all other than the vague hope that cooler heads would sweep all America's problems under the rug -- not unlike Unity08's vague mission of "return[ing] the focus of our politics and policy to the common good. ..."


That party is the Constitutional Union Party of 1860.

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Snake Oil and Unity08

Yesterday in Breaking Blue I posted a couple of video clips of Law & Order's Sam Waterston, one of him extolling the virtues of Unity08, an organization intent on backing a bipartisan presidential ticket in the 2008 election, the other of him pretending to sell robot insurance to the elderly during a fake Saturday Night Live commercial. In case the comparison were not clear enough -- and apparently it wasn't, because I have been asked by the organization to "share what [my] point is" -- please bear with me for a few moments as I meander through my editorial reasoning.

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