Since third-party fantasies reemerge every time there is evidence Americans hold their elected officials in minimum high regard, Brendan Nyhan provides a public service with a compendium of “here comes a third party!” predictions dating back to 2005. Moreoever, only a few of them were written by Thomas Friedman.
Aside from underestimating the attachment of Americans to the two major parties, and the structural barriers to successful third parties that exist throughout our political system, the most common problem with third-party fantasies is that they stipulate some sort of common ground for widely disparate people with various grievances against the major parties. Most recently and notoriously, this has led many writers to imagine a third-party coalition focused on a deficit hawkish agenda of tax increases and entitlement “reforms” that is even more unpopular than the existing parties. And for reasons that elude me, a lot of folks impressed with the GOP’s unpopularity don’t seem to notice that about half of rank-and-file Republicans consistently think the party’s not conservative enough, a view that isn’t exactly consistent with some “centrist” third party drawing from both parties.