UNITY08….When Unity08 introduced itself this week, and unveiled a vague plan about a bi-partisan presidential ticket in 2008, it was easy to imagine journalists like David Broder, who love nothing more than centrist cooperation, jumping up and down. Right on cue, Broder had high praise for the initiative today.
In a wonderful example of life imitating art, a group of serious political pros has taken the plot line of “The West Wing” and turned it into the most intriguing gambit yet seen for the 2008 election.
As fans of the now-canceled NBC drama know, the closing episodes showed newly elected Democratic President Matt Santos offering the position of secretary of state to his defeated Republican rival, Sen. Arnold Vinick. The Great Reconciliation not only brought Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda together for the closing shows but also satisfied the audience’s hunger for national harmony in a time of bitter partisanship.
That’s also the motivation for the creators of Unity08, a scheme announced last week to put forward an alternative ticket for the next presidential race, joining a Democrat and a Republican or headed by an independent pledged to forming a bipartisan administration.
It all sounds very nice. Unity08 wants to form a ticket with candidates from the two parties — one from each. It’s effectively a third party presidential bid without an actual third party.
The group’s pitch is overly-simplistic but largely inoffensive: Democrats and the GOP are “well-intentioned,” but ultimately “trapped in a flawed system.” Unity08 can take steps to address real problems, it claims, by tapping into online activism, a centrist platform, and a bipartisan ticket.
The idea, however, is not without flaws.
For one thing, like the “Purple Party” idea that New York magazine was touting a few weeks ago, Unity08 offers an agenda that sounds awfully similar to a Clintonian Democratic model. For example, the group explains that it wants to take on “crucial issues” that the two parties aren’t addressing, including:
“global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washington’s lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all, and the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people.”
The group goes on to say that culture-war issues such as “gun control, abortion and gay marriage” should be placed on the back burner while government deals with more pressing matters. All of this sounds eerily similar to what most of the Democratic establishemtn want to do right now. So who needs Unity08?
Perhaps more important are the practical concerns that Broder alluded to in his column. As Unity08 sees it, an experienced, well-qualified leader from each party is going to abandon their side, and take on their party’s nominee in a presidential election, while running with a member from the other party. I’m not sure who the group has in mind, but I’m hard pressed to think of a lot of people who’d volunteer for the gig.
Also, in terms of style, Unity08 also offers an oddly mixed message. The group says it’s intent on focusing on “ideas and traditions which unite and empower us as individuals and as a people,” while in the next breath its website features an online game in which Howard Dean and Dick Cheney run over people with their car, accompanied by the message: “Gotcha! Another trip to Democracyland cut short by the parties and special interests!”
The whole thing comes across as a bit of a press stunt. I’ll concede that there are some serious people involved with the project — establishment types who are now railing against the establishment — but it’s an endeavor that’s long on rhetoric, short on specifics, and more pie-in-the-sky than substance.