The Washington Post

Want To End Partisan Politics? Here’s What Won’t Work — And What Will

Gridlock and political dysfunction. Partisanship at record levels. Attack politics run amok. And public approval of Congress scraping the single digits (Sen. John McCain is fond of saying it’s down to blood relatives and paid staff).

We’ve all heard the laments — we’ve made some of them ourselves — that Washington is broken, that our political system can’t grapple with the nation’s big, long-term problems. So what can be done about it? Unfortunately, the cures that get tossed around are often misguided, sometimes even worse than the disease. Here are five much-praised solutions we should avoid, followed by four that have a chance to make a meaningful difference.

A third party to the rescue

Ah, if only we had a third force, an independent movement that could speak plain truths to the public and ignite the silent, centrist majority around common-sense solutions.

Sound familiar? In recent decades, Ross Perot, John Anderson and George Wallace have pursued a serious third-party route, although only Wallace managed to win any electoral votes. But that hasn’t stopped high-profile columnists such as Tom Friedman of the New York Times and Matt Miller of The Washington Post from singing this siren song, along with former elected officials such as Republican Christine Todd Whitman, Democrat David Boren and many others. The much-hyped Americans Elect group — which was to harness the democratic spirit of the Internet to find a centrist third-party presidential candidate for the 2012 race — is a prime example of this approach.

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