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Broderist Ticket: Threat or Hoax?

I'm not sure I can remember the last time David Broder of the Washington Post broke a major political story. But it's certainly appropriate that he was the first out of the gate with the news of a bipartisan cabal of Former Big Names who appear to be coalescing around a third-party presidential run by Michael Bloomberg next year.

In case you missed it, Bloomberg's attending a meeting next Sunday, hosted by former sorta-Democratic Senator David Boren of Oklahoma, to discuss "bipartisan" options for 2008. Other past or present Democrats billed as part of the cabal include Chuck Robb, Alan Dixon and my old boss Sam Nunn. The two more surprising Democratic names on the attendance list are Gary Hart and Bob Graham. The one sitting elected official on the list is soon-to-retire Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, with fellow GOPers John Danforth, Bill Brock, Jim Leach and Christine Todd Whitman.

According to Broder, the meeting is intended to send a signal to presidential candidates of both parties to immediately announce support for a National Unity Government or risk a Bloomberg run. So it should be understood as positioning Bloomberg and his wallet to offer the American people a High Broderist bipartisan option next November.

I pretty much agree with Digby's take on the objective case for High Broderism, most obviously its fatuous assumption that the two parties are equally responsible for polarization and gridlock. I do not, however, share the popular progressive netroots view that big majorities of voters actually like polarization and want a lot more of it, or the corresponding theory that a Broderist option is so politically puny that Democrats should, as Digby puts it, "tune out" and ignore it. The massive and persistent wrong-track numbers represent something beyond a coalition of those who hate Republicans and those who are mad at Democrats for not fighting them enough. There are those who out of conviction, ignorance or simple fatigue might vote for a reasonable-sounding third option, and the billion smackers that Bloomberg is alleged to be willing to spend will buy you a whole lot of credibility.

In the end, a serious Bloomberg run may not materialize. And if it does, history suggests he wouldn't come close to winning, and would hurt the Republican more than the Democratic ticket (third parties generally get more votes from major parties in decline, such as Democrats in 1968 and Republicans in 1992). But Democrats shouldn't' just laugh it all off, even if they justifiably laugh at Broder and his confederates.