WASHINGTON – The night he conceded his defeat in 1992 after the most successful independent presidential campaign of the last century, Ross Perot made it clear that he had not finished making any changes to the order established. "Believe me," he said, "the system needs shocks".
It was therefore normal that Mr. Perot died nearly 27 years later, during the same week, the two main political parties were shaken by the earthquakes of his campaign. President Trump was busy quarreling with former President Paul D. Ryan, while current speaker Nancy Pelosi was arguing with the first-year Democrats in the House.
In both cases, those who represented the institutional order, Mr. Ryan and Ms. Pelosi, found themselves in conflict with racist incitement within their own parties, who demanded a change from the outside. of the traditional system through the power of social media. It is not a week that has highlighted the competition between the parties but within them. The stress fractures that Mr. Perot identified a generation ago are tearing the foundations of the Republican and Democratic parties.
"It's really panic," said Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago Democrat Mayor, Congressman and Chief of Staff of the White House. "The fights generally pitted Democrats and Republicans, one side of Pennsylvania Avenue and the other, or the left against the right. Today's quarrels are internal between the establishment and the people who storm the barricades. "
Mr. Emanuel closely attended Mr. Perot's campaign in 1992 (and then again in 1996) as Bill Clinton's aide. Today, he identifies this moment as "the starting point of party upheaval". the Bushes and Clinton have given way to Twitter-armed outsiders such as Mr. Trump and Alexandria representative Ocasio-Cortez of New York and "The group" of his Democratic insurgent comrades in Congress.
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The difference is that Mr. Trump successfully organized a hostile takeover of the Republican Party in 2016 and that he has since defeated much of his former establishment, for example pushing Mr. Ryan to hide or to hide. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her compatriots have not resumed the Democratic Party, but they are fueling the conversation to a point that few members of the first year of the House have ever managed to do, thanks to their online armies of disruptive like-minded, tired of what they see as the corrupt status quo.
The week passed between Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan began with the publication of "American Carnage," a new book on the Republican civil war of Tim Alberta, political correspondent Politico Magazine. In the book, Ryan, who stepped down from the presidency in January, described his frustrations with Trump, who he said "did not know anything about the government." As Mr. Ryan said, "I wanted to scold him all the time."
Mr. Trump, the first president of American history to have arrived in Washington without a single day of government or military experience, but with tens of millions of followers on Twitter eager to burst the system, usually shot Mr. Ryan. In the late tweets In the White House, Trump called the former speaker "the protracted failure of a lame duck," whose "record of achievements was atrocious".
The clashes between Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her allies, representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, echoed some of these themes in some respects.
In In an interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Ms. Pelosi complains that the upstart government does not understand how the government works, rejecting their digital publications as "their audience, no matter". she was too willing to compromise rather than confronting Republicans on issues such as the border migration crisis.
There is, of course, no irony that Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Ryan are now the beleaguered defenders of the old order, since they were both once considered advocates of the ideological extremes of their party – she , as radical San. Leftist Francisco, he is a right winger who destroys Medicare.
But they have both entered the system that is now under pressure from eager newcomers who see no point in spending years at the back of the line waiting for their turn to be empowered by Twitter to exercise a influence in a way that would have been unthinkable in the past. .
"Because of the social media and because people can be their own stars, they do not need to work under the direction or the hierarchy," said Josh Gottheimer, New Jersey Democrat and Chief of Staff Representative. problem-solving group, a bipartisan group looking to find a consensus in a House where it's a big word. "They work on the outside – it's a huge challenge because technology allows it."
The outsiders exploit, in their own way, the same disenchantment with the two-party system as Mr. Perot. When he won 19% of the vote in 1992 against Clinton and President George Bush, it was the maximum that an independent presidential candidate has generated since the unsuccessful return of the candidacy. Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and the largest number of independent candidates who had never served as president. had received since the advent of the two current parties just before the Civil War.
Since then, more and more Americans have chosen to dissociate themselves from both parties. In July 2004, only 27% of Americans said they were independent. in Gallup polling; today, 15 years later, 46% do it. Most of them still vote reliably for one party or the other, so they are not really undecided voters who change according to the year and the candidate. But they are sufficiently dissuaded by the parties not to want a D or an R next to their names.
In 2003, 56% of Americans interviewed by Gallup, the two political parties did an adequate job. Last year, 57% said they needed a third big party. Young Americans think it even more strongly. In a NBC / GenForward poll in 2017, 71% said they wanted a third.
Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, who is in favor of Mr. Trump's indictment, took this into account when he left the Republican party on July 4th. "The bipartite system has become an existential threat to American principles and institutions," he wrote in the Washington Post.
But the experience of Mr. Perot offers an edifying account. Despite all his money and his easy access to television – "Larry King Live" was his Twitter – he still could not decipher the duopoly. By the time he showed up, in 1996, again targeting the two-party system with the vow to "kill this little snake this time," his share of the popular vote fell to 8%. The Reform Party he created was eventually taken over by marginal figures – Mr Trump was a candidate for the party's nomination in 2000 before resigning – and disappeared from the scene.
What Mr. Trump found from Mr. Perot's experience is that breaking the two-party system from the outside did not work. instead, he had to take over one of the parts of the interior.
"The bipartite system has been in bankruptcy for at least a decade," said former Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida. But "the barriers to entry into this space are extremely high," and only Mr. Trump has discovered how to exploit the frustration of the Americans.
"If the bipartisan system remains unable to meet the most important and controversial challenges of our country, the younger generations of Americans will find a third way," said Mr Curbelo. "Unlike older voters, they will not remain complacent and will not resign themselves to this political misery."
Nancy Jacobson, founder and director of No Labels, a bipartisan group created in 2010, said that the advent of Mr. Trump, combined with what could be a turning point for Democrats next year, could to open the door to a third party.
"The foreign populists make sure that the voters of each party who solve problems have more in common with each other than with the extremes of their current parties," she said. "They could be forced into a new marriage."
Maybe, maybe not. But the threat of divorce within the parties is palpable.