Any real news about a Third Party?

Regular readers of GetReligion will know that we don’t spend much time blogging about religious media, unless it is a site offering very solid information that is of interest to mainstream Godbeat reporters. The work of Ted Olsen and the CT blog crew leaps to mind. There are valuable sites on all sides of the Anglican Wars, too. And so forth and so on.

But every now and then you can catch a passing reference to an uncovered news item in niche media targeting various religious camps — especially when you are dealing with, let’s say, the Alpha Celebrities who head powerful parachurch groups. It also pays to read between the lines of the denominational press organizations on both sides of the Culture Wars, such as — sort of — Baptist Press and Associated Baptist Press.

The politico turned activist/apologist Chuck Colson is just such a person — an evangelical Alpha Male of the highest order. The radio commentaries written by Colson and his team of researchers often deal with political events, which is not surprising. But the current commentary with the title “The Long Run: News Cycles and Nominees” includes a very interesting glimpse into a scene that is predictable, yet interesting nevertheless.

The short script is about the guessing games leading up to the nomination of John G. Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court. People on both sides of the church aisle were tense. On the right, people were nervous about Judge Edith Clement being another Justice David Souter. Enough said. Then we find this passing reference:

This concern, while understandable, made three unsupported assumptions: first, that Clement really was a Souter-in-waiting; second, that she was actually the nominee; and third, if activists made enough noise, they could pressure the president.

When speculation shifted to another candidate, many activists breathed a sigh of relief, but during the hours Clement spent as the front-runner, saw more than one meeting regarding a possible third political party — and panicky phone calls to the White House, and alarmist traffic on the Internet, as if we could control events.

Colson goes on to offer some patient words, urging other evangelicals to be patient. I expect he wrote this script himself.

So — WHOA — what was that about multiple meetings to discuss a Third Party? Does anyone have a list of the folks in those meetings? Talk about burying the lead. What was discussed? Who represented the White House, urging calm? Dr. James Dobson makes this threat every few years. So who else was inside the closed doors?

A quick Google of “Third Party” and “Christians” yields no news. Anyone out there seen anything? I am still in dial-up land and I cannot do my usual blitz work.

What’s shaking?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Stephen A.

    Good eye!

    I don’t imagine a Third Party organized by Christians would go any farther than the current Constitution Party has gone. i.e. nowhere.

  • Mark

    Fascinating post. Now that’s a journalist’s nose for news.

    I’m going to get all copyeditor on you and note that Ted’s last name is Olsen, not Olson.

  • tmatt


    Thanks! A typo. I knew that ’cause I know the guy.

    But corrections are always apppreciated. My writing gets more scattered when I am on a slow connection.

    Stephen A:

    We all have our opinions on that topic. What I want to know is WHO is currently dreaming that dream and who the White House sent to talk to them.

  • Stephen A.

    I suspect Mr. Colson is apparently beating a very old horse with the third party scare tactic.

    Doing that Google search you spoke of came up with only articles and Websites dating from the 1996 presidential campaign, when Colson and Gary Bauer and others were fearful that the Dole camp would take out the plank opposing abortion.

    If the GOP “goes off the rails,” they warned, they would form a third party. A Google News search finds nothing about these supposed recent meetings.

    I suspect the meetings existed only in the imagination of Mr. Colson. I’m sure the national GOP leadership are not exactly shaking in their boots in fear even if they actually took place.

  • Glenn A.

    A third party of course just marginalizes the evangelicals. They are powerful within the GOP, but will they be on their own? I think not…

    Now, if there was some sort of overall blending of the social justice concerns (i.e. democratic) along with some real morality (supposed to be the GOP), I could go along with that personally, but I’m still not sure that would have a big enough base.

    We deride the two party system, and I’m not really into politics that much, but do multiparty systems really work out well anywhere else. Coalitions and such seem to lead to chaos to me, but as I said, is not my area of expertise.

  • Rock

    Glenn you make some interesting points. (Actually you all do.) I am with you on the Social Justice thing and a third party. I have been wanting a third party of Social Democrats for some time. The Dems have morphed into something very much like Republicans at times and there is very little of the sticking up for the marginalized. As far as the chaos theory, during the 30’s and 40’s the Socialists were very strong in America with over one million votes cast for socialist candidates. They put fourth much of the New Deal ideas first. FDR could see the writing on the walls and co-opted them. Unfortunately infighting and splintering reduced the party and then the red scare took care of the rest. I have been told that getting another party up and going during a war is not going to happen; however if you look back it was during times of third party candidates that forced many issues to be considered. Wallace and Anderson come to mind and that was Viet Nam wartime.

  • Steve

    If the Republicans do not pursue a road that eventually returns Roe v Wade and they make it obvious that they have given up on this aim, then I will be voting neither for the Democrats nor for the Republicans.

    In the long run it’s more important to me than even the war on terror.

  • Steve Nicoloso

    I am yet another Steve who is with you, Steve. It is looking more and more likely that the Repubs will nominate a wishy-washy (a la McCain) or full frontal (a la Pataki, Rice) pro-choice candidate in ’08. This will hopefully break the (dark) magic spell that Evangelicals have been under for the past 25 years. The Dems, to their shame, have by-and-large deserved the mass defections. But I wonder if breaking this spell might somehow create a crack within the Democratic party for orthodox Christians of conscience, i.e., fully pro-life, fully pro-social justice, in short, fully conserving of things upon which no price can be placed.

  • Glenn A.

    Yeah, that’s sort of what I think we could hope for Steve N, but it seems so unlikely I suppose.

    Actually, not necessarily unlikely, but ineffectual I suppose unfortunately, as I don’t even know if your average Christian would really even hop n the bandwagon there…

  • Steve

    I agree it would be ineffectual. But a certain percentage of pro-Life Christians not voting for Republicans would screw them over in an election. It’d probably be sort of like Ross Perot in 92/96.

    Put this together with a complete inability to deal with border/immigration issues and the love of spending money on the right, you betcha I’d leave the Republicans if they went pro-choice.

  • Maureen

    This is something that has gotten brought up in every discussion of folks on the right for the last twenty years or so. It’s rarely done seriously, and the ones who tried to do something about it (Libertarians and Perot) failed spectacularly. But we’ll probably always keep chatting about it, every time someone’s dissatisfied, and it’s a favorite piece of advice today to Democrats who are moderate or on the right.

    I suspect pro-life folks are the bitterest (same reason abolitionists were increasingly bitter and radical — because the injustice goes on and on) and most likely to talk third party.