Independent bid will benefit candidate to the left

Monday, May 14, 2007

At first blush, there's something appealing about Sen. Chuck Hagel's suggestion that he and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg might mount an independent presidential campaign.

Southwest Nebraskans have had a independent bent since the earliest times, solidified by Sen. George W. Norris and continuing through Sen. Ben Nelson's membership in the Democratic Party while maintaining one of the most conservative voting records in Congress.

While Republicans toward the right end of the spectrum may agree with the current party leadership's stance on social concerns, many fiscal conservatives are chagrined at continued deficit spending, much of it due to spending for the war in Iraq.

Hagel called the current Republican leadership "isolationist insulationists" on Sunday, and said he will decide about running by late summer.

"We didn't make any deals," he said of his recent meal with Bloomberg. "But I think Mayor Bloomberg is the kind of individual who should seriously think about this," Hagel said.

"It's a great country to think about -- a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation."

Hagel said the GOP is no longer the party of "Eisenhower, Goldwater, of Reagan," and he is probably right.

But if he'd check with George H.W. Bush, he'd learn that a third-party campaign, especially if it enjoys a modicum of success, is likely to benefit those on the opposite end of the political spectrum, the way that H. Ross Perot's run helped elect Bill Clinton. Or, the way Ralph Nader's campaign helped put George W. Bush in the White House.

Such is the trap of independent campaigns for office, with two-party control reaching all the way down to state and local elections.

But there is something to be said for offering an independent option to voters disgruntled with both major parties.

To make that option more viable, we'd like to see Nebraska's primaries opened to independent voters.

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