The Trouble With The Third P

The Trouble With The Third P




Leonard Zwelling

I am being bombarded by people on the left and the right about some of the stances I have taken in this blog. Good. That means I am both close to the middle and not far from being correct.

Readers may remember the four P’s of Washington, DC that I learned early in my Robert Wood Johnson Foundation fellowship. They are:





With the last being the most important to getting legislation passed—personality.

But I would like to focus on the third P for a moment as it may well determine the success or failure of the current administration, Congress and the American government–politics.

In general, the United States has had two active and predominant political parties at any given moment since the inception. Since the 1860s these have been the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Throughout this period, both parties stood for the values expressed in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution which is basically the mission statement of the federal government.

Establish justice

Insure domestic tranquility

Provide for the common defense

Promote the general welfare

Secure the blessings of liberty

It is my proposition that this is no longer true of either party and thus neither the current GOP nor the current Democratic Party is trying to form a more perfect union.

Let’s start with the Republicans as they are the more united of the two parties right now.

As a friend said, the GOP is no longer being led by its leaders, but by its base. The Trumpist populace that is the mainstay of the Republican electorate is driving the agenda right now of America first, immigrants out, and white predominance. I recently saw Ted Koppel on a bus interviewing visitors to the town of Mount Airy in North Carolina. Most of them were there to celebrate Mount Airy as the real Mayberry of Andy Griffith Show fame. Most of the tourists were southerners and they all backed Trump, but wanted to make sure Koppel’s viewers knew that they were not crazy. There is obviously a split between Coastal America and the rest of the country.

Mr. Trump represents a strain of Americana antithetical to the Coastal Elites and intelligentsia, but quite popular among Red State citizens. Unfortunately, it also embodies some really whacky ideas like those perpetrated by QAnon and other home-grown militants which spilled out on January 6 as a full-blown riot on Capitol Hill. That strain is still the one that dominates in the GOP and leaves many true conservatives like Liz Cheney, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake and other true Republicans with an ever-shrinking hold on the GOP. The tail is definitely wagging the dog in the GOP and that makes the party in danger of losing its adherence to some of its key principles like freedom of speech, support of the justice system, support of the police, and adherence to the rule of law.

The politics of the GOP has been upended by the politics of the Trumpists and those who will pander to the Trump base so as not to lose their seats in Congress.

The Democrats are even more fractured. Like the moderate and true conservative Republicans, the moderate Democrats are being overrun by the liberal wing of the party which wants a litany of new social programs that would convert the United States into the European Union. This is not good either as it will undercut any ambition among the masses, make the United States an even greater destination to the world’s unskilled, and undermine the entire economic system. I think universal pre-K education, universal health insurance, and a reasonable minimum wage are all good ideas BUT, only if we can afford them and only after vigorous congressional debate on each item in the $3.5 trillion package. That liberal Democrats are holding up the real infrastructure package for the new social safety net is outrageous and will undoubtedly do harm to the important aspects of the Democratic agenda especially as it seems that President Biden and Nancy Pelosi are unable to act as honest brokers within their own party.

One of the great challenges facing the country right now is the hollowed out political middle, the rise of left and right extremism, and the awful state of the leadership of both parties. The GOP is being led by its populist base and the Democrats are forming a circular firing squad.

I have no answers for this dilemma and perhaps it is the natural outgrowth of a 200 plus-year democracy in the internet era, but if the responsible GOP leadership like Liz Cheney and the responsible Democratic leadership like Cory Booker rose to the occasion, both parties would be better off and so would the rest of us.

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