About ten days ago, I had a real treat. I met and had lunch and discussion with Tom Campbell, in Orange, California where he is teaching. Tom Campbell, for those of you who don’t remember or never knew, was a five-term Congressman from Northern California. His bid for the Senate ended in defeat, and he is now a Professor at Chapman University. He teaches both law (he’s an attorney) and economics (he has a PhD in the field from University of Chicago). Tom served as a moderate Republican, a near-extinct species.
He and I see alike on the two dominant parties being pulled to the extremes by their ideologues—Democrats by the progressives, Republicans by the tea party. We both think that President Trump represents neither, and is an anomaly, and an unfortunate one at that. We both feel that our country needs a third party, a centrist one, dedicated to re-uniting the country by representing the large and unrepresented middle—conservative Democrats, Independents, and liberal Republicans. He believes that legislation is almost always a series of compromises, rather than holding out for the extreme, having insufficient results, and getting gridlock as a reward for obstinacy. We agreed on a remarkable number of policy issues.
Where we differ is more in strategy. I believe the way forward is to attract enough attention and followers on a national scale, to have a successful approach to significant donors that will build a financial war chest, and then to seek appealing candidates for “purple” state offices, the House, later the Senate, and eventually, the Presidency. Tom’s approach is to start in California, which clearly needs fixing as well as the Federal government. He would form a Centrist party in California, raise money, and recruit candidates for the State Legislature. He believes it’s important to deny any party a 2/3 super-majority, and just one or two legislative victories can do that. With those new legislators in the center holding the balance of power on fiscal matters (that require a 2/3 vote), and showing the way to useful compromise, the party might grow to support a candidate for Governor or US Senate in the future. From growing a party in California, he would approach other states where the chances of success were reasonably high (the “purple” ones), and roll out a party that way.
I have to tell you that whichever strategy is better, Tom has an infinitely better sense of the tactics to get there than I do. Counting primaries and general elections, Tom has run thirteen times in California, and won ten times– he has been there and done that. He knows the important elements of election law, and the easiest ways to qualify a new party for a position on the ballot. He has had contact with important sources of funding. And he has the personal charisma to win votes.
Midterm elections are over. Keep an eye on Tom and on this effort. I think this man has his thoughts together, and could be the leader of an important national movement, starting at the state level. I will be tracking him, and letting you know of whatever opportunity he offers to centrist-thinkers.