Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
June 8, 2006


Can a purple America rise up out of the ashes of the Red and Blue States ? Thatís the desire of a group of influential folks who hope to nominate a centrist politician for President in 2008. They call their organization Unity08. Unity08 does not want to create a new political party but rather it wants to pull the Republicans and Democrats into orbits closer to the political center of gravity. Iím intrigued.

I first heard about Unity08 last week. I read about it in Newsweek the day after that magazine was delivered to my house. Newsweek mentioned a website with the same name: http://unity08.com which I then visited. Like hundreds of other visitors I posted a comment. (Not all of them were favorable) Afterwards, I went to my blog and posted a favorable comment about the project and linked it to their website. Within moments someone sent me an email with a text summary of a radio interview about the organization. I linked to that as well on my blog. Later that night on PBSís News Hour I heard two Unity08 founders interviewed live. Before turning in for the night I read Andrew Sullivanís blog, the Daily Dish, which mentioned the organization yet again. This remarkable Internet driven buzz is why Unity 08 may have more than a fighting chance of succeeding. It wouldnít be the first time such a movement to find an alternative presidential candidate took hold although, as far as I know, it would be the first time that such a movement was started by committee. Could this succeed?

In 1992 a self-made, non-swearing, Texas-hailing, computer-selling, multi-millionaire H. Ross Perot became a wild card candidate for President. ďLook in the mirror,Ē Ross told us and you will see whatís wrong with America . What we saw in the mirror were failed political parties. We had let them fall into the hands of people who only seemed interested in the next election while America was sinking up to its neck in debt.

Ross and his Reform Partyís stunning success came about because it appealed for the first time in years to people in the middle. Today, just as in 1992, the people in the middle are feeling as though the political parties are giving them short shrift. Iíve heard folks on both the far left and far right describe centrists contemptuously as wishy-washy because we wonít swallow their black and white positions. We centrists would say of ourselves that we simply see both sides of the issues. While centrists regard this way of looking at things as wisdom the extremists regard our ambivalence as something closer to a moral failing.

For the moment Iím focused on the 2006 election because Iím rooting for the Democrats to take over Congress. Iím not pulling for the Democrats so much because I want Democratic extremists in take charge but because I want to curb the power of the Republican extremists.  Still, I can understand the nationís irresistible interest in the Oval Office and the early front runners. Why youíd have to be a professional lobbyist to keep track of all 535 of those pesky congressmen and senators.

Some people are watching Hillary Clinton at once fascinated and repelled by her seeming lock on the Democratic nomination. Others are gaping at Al Goreís Lazarus-like rebirth after the movie industry and Mother Earth laid hands on him. Yet others are wincing to see the straight-talking maverick John McCain pay homage to his former nemesis, Jerry Falwell. Who knows how these candidates will respond should the American center wake up and unite? It sure will be fun to watch.

Every politician strives to get 50.1 percent of the vote. This is the magic number that generally guarantees a politician victory. (As Al Gore knows all too well, the presidency is a notable exception to this rule because the Electoral College is a different beast.) But until recently candidates trying to achieve 50.1 percent of the vote did it by appealing to 100% of the voters. Whatís changed today in our new interest group dominated environment is that politicians try to win 50.1 percent of the vote by appealing to just 50.1 percent of the voters. Itís taken for granted that no matter how disappointed the centrists will be after a primary they will still vote in the general election for whichever party they lean toward. Unity08 could change that political calculus.

So, Republicans and Democrats, go ahead and nominate your boot licking, extremist fawning, candidates and see how many votes they get. And all you weak-kneed, wishy-washies - stand up and be counted! Your nation needs you as never before.

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.lincolndemocrat.com