Gerald Seib in the Wall Street Journal
"In American politics, people tend to think of "radicals" as those on the ideological fringes of the left or right. But what happens when the radicals are smack in the middle of the political spectrum?
That may be the picture we're looking at today. Many of those seriously estranged from the political system and its practitioners appear to sit in the political center. They are shaping this year's campaign, but equally important is the question of what happens to them after the election Nov. 2, and especially on the road toward the next presidential campaign in 2012..."
"...They appear to want government to tackle health care, but didn't like the solution the Democrats cooked up. They appear to think the government overspends, though they seemed to think that of the Bush administration as well as the Obama administration.
Mostly they want solutions—economic and job-creating solutions—and they seem to think Democrats have failed to provide them. They also thought that of Republicans previously. And they seem to think this failure to produce in Washington is, at least in some measure, the result of both parties being in the thrall of "special interests," a term with various definitions..."
"...But perhaps the tea-party influence will push the Republican Party too far to the right for many of these independents. And perhaps Mr. Obama will tack too far to the left in the next two years, to protect his liberal flank and preclude the possibility that he, like Jimmy Carter in 1980, faces a primary challenger from his party's liberal base when he seeks re-election.
If that's what happens after this year's election, Washington may descend into true partisan and ideological gridlock, and independent voters' frustration and estrangement may only grow. And that won't be a small thing, for the Pew study found that more voters now identify themselves as independents—37%—than as Republicans (29%) or Democrats (34%).
So this roaming army of independent nomads is getting pretty large. And who knows? If neither party can pacify it, maybe, just maybe, the army carries the seeds of a third-party challenge in 2012..."