Will the Internet Help Do Away with Entrenched Two-party Politics?

From an excellent article at Newsweek by Jonathan Alter, updating us all on the age in which we live and why it’s going to prove significant during the next presidential election:

Bob Schieffer of CBS News made a good point on “The Charlie Rose Show” last week. He said that successful presidents have all skillfully exploited the dominant medium of their times. The Founders were eloquent writers in the age of pamphleteering. Franklin D. Roosevelt restored hope in 1933 by mastering radio. And John F. Kennedy was the first president elected because of his understanding of television.

Will 2008 bring the first Internet president? Last time, Howard Dean and later John Kerry showed that the whole idea of “early money” is now obsolete in presidential politics. The Internet lets candidates who catch fire raise millions in small donations practically overnight. That’s why all the talk of Hillary Clinton’s “war chest” making her the front runner for 2008 is the most hackneyed punditry around.

[...] To begin busting up the dumb system we have for selecting presidents, a bipartisan group will open shop this week at Unity08.com. This Internet-based third party is spearheaded by three veterans of the antique 1976 campaign: Democrats Hamilton Jordan and Gerald Rafshoon helped get Jimmy Carter elected; Republican Doug Bailey did media for Gerald Ford before launching the political TIP SHEET Hotline. They are joined by the independent former governor of Maine, Angus King, and a collection of idealistic young people who are also tired of a nominating process that pulls the major party candidates to the extremes. Their hope: to get even a fraction of the 50 million who voted for the next American Idol to nominate a third-party candidate for president online and use this new army to get him or her on the ballot in all 50 states. The idea is to go viralâ??or die. “The worst thing that could happen would be for a bunch of old white guys like us to run this,” Jordan says.

[...] But funny things happen in election years. With an issue as eye-glazing as the deficit, a wacky, jug-eared Texan named Ross Perot received 19 percent of the vote in 1992 and 7 percent in 1996. He did it with “Larry King Live” and an 800 number. In a country where more than 40 percent of voters now self-identify as independents, it’s no longer a question of whether the Internet will revolutionize American politics, but when.

This is a very exciting possibility for those of us who are perennially frustrated by the current two-party dynamics in the United States.

See the full article for more.

UPDATE (6/1/06) – Peggy Noonan has a timely article in the WSJ on a related topic, namely, the continued crisis of two-party politics, and the increasing likelihood that only a third-party candidate could deliver the kinds of reform that American needs in order to stay safe, free, and fiscally responsible.

UPDATE (6/2/06) – And today, more on this topic from Instapundit.