There’s something happening here What it is ain’t exactly clear ….
There’s battle lines being drawn, Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong ….
Lyrics from “Somethings Happening Here” by Buffalo Springfield

Is there a shifting in the political landscape or is this something that happens every election cycle? Dissatisfaction with the political parties by the electorate is nothing new. However, dissatisfaction by politicians with the parties and the political process in unusually high numbers makes one wonder: Is something happening here?

On the national scene, Maine’s Republican Senator, Olympia Snowe announced her retirement with a slap at a dysfunctional congress. argues that Snowe’s retirement following announced exits of centrist Democrats Joe Lieberman, Kent Conrad and Ben Nelson indicates that the political center is crumbling.

A week ago, former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman suggested that there was a need for a third party for “a whole bunch of Americans out there that can’t find a place politically.”

In California a couple of former Republicans have decided to declare they are not associated with a political party as they run for office under the new top-two primary system that permits them to declare a preference to a party or none at all.

Are we seeing signs that Americans want a third way to express themselves politically or are we going through the process of weeding out malcontents who cannot convince others in their political parties to follow the direction they want to take the parties?

There have certainly been third parties that have arisen in this country, some that had quite an influence on elections such as the Bull Moose Party of 1912 lead by former president Teddy Roosevelt and California’s own Hiram Johnson on the ticket as the vice-presidential candidate. The Bull Moose Party finished second in the popular vote and electoral vote count for president ahead of the Republican Party but dissolved four years later.

The Republican Party, itself, began as an upstart party that quickly pushed aside the Whig and Know Nothing Parties.

There would likely have to be a massive financial infusion to create the beginning of a third party. The Bull Moose Party was supported by rich patrons, and it is not hard to believe that the money could be found for such an effort.

However, a movement for political change can only be sustained if it also comes from the bottom up. Creating a new party is highly unlikely. But changing the political landscape is possible. California could be a test case for a change in direction.

A report issued from the Public Policy Institute of California states that while California has a well-earned reputation as a Democratic state, the political geography indicates the average Californian voter is in the middle and leaning slightly conservative.

How these voters react to the politics of the top-two primary may indicate a new way in the political landscape.

Will candidates who don’t give a party preference convince the voters to support them or will they be marginalized because of their choice? Will the strong middle indicated in the PPIC report support candidates of like preferences?

This is the hope of reformers behind the top two primary. Results will be watched across the country. The top two primary may set a new course through the political landscape or the effects could disappear quickly like the Bull Moose.

What do you think?