Regarding Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein’s May 20 Outlook commentary, “What won’t fix Washington. What will.”:
Mr. Ornstein and Mr. Mann argued that a third party won’t help solve the political gridlock in Washington, but they discussed only a presidential challenge. The gridlock problem is in Congress, not in the executive branch, and a congressional third party might well be the key to a solution. Here’s how:
The new third party would first target a number of vulnerable House and Senate seats held by both parties, with the object being to win enough seats to deny either major party a majority. That would force one of the parties to form a coalition with the new party, allowing the new party to enact a substantial part of its problem-solving agenda. The new party could gain instant credibility with a receptive public by recruiting some of the many frustrated and respected former and current members of Congress who would relish the opportunity to truly address this country’s problems.
With that victory behind it, the new party would be well positioned to eventually become the majority congressional party and to field a presidential candidate who could win. It’s too late for this year, but let’s get started for 2014.
Michael Black, Columbia
The two-party system may have worked when people paid attention for longer than a sound bite, but I find it to be polarizing and divisive. A third party — or more — has got to be the solution to the stranglehold partisan politics has placed on this country. With politicians toeing untenable party lines, I feel a glimmer of hope each time a credible third-party candidate runs for office; but I admit I never vote for one because of his or her slim chance of winning.
With the current system, many of us vote against rather than for a candidate. A legitimate race with three or more candidates might capture the interest of and expand the electorate. I mean, if the Kentucky Derby ran only two horses, how many people would watch it? And who wagers when they know that a race is “fixed”?
Jan T. McCarthy, Great Falls
There was much food for thought in Mr. Mann and Mr. Ornstein’s Outlook commentary, but their treatment of a balanced-budget amendment left something to be desired. Their arguments against a plain old balanced-budget amendment and against the House Republicans’ proposed version were on the mark. But why not a balanced-budget amendment that: (1) permits deficits when unemployment is above, say, 7 percent; (2) requires a balanced budget between, say, 4 percent and 7 percent unemployment; and (3) requires a surplus when unemployment is below, say, 4 percent?
Yes, there should be an exception for times of war. And when else?
Waller H. Wilson, Front Royal, Va.
Mr. Mann and Mr. Ornstein asserted that term limits won’t help to end partisan politics and claimed that term limits give more power to permanent staff members in political offices and to lobbyists. But term limits have a positive effect of weakening the leadership control of state legislatures, one of the chief troublemakers of partisan politics.
In many cases, term limits have reinvigorated state legislatures, broken up the political class and injected new ideas into the political mainstream. Furthermore, the faster turnover of officeholders has weakened the relationship between career politicians and special-interest lobbyists. The fact is, term limits are changing our country’s political culture in positive ways and paving the way to real reform.
MacMillin Slobodien, Alexandria
The writer is executive director of the free-market advocacy organization Our Generation.