‘We’re broken.’ In the suburbs north of Los Angeles, voters feel fed up and afraid and sick and angry. Polls show the suburbs moving, and the nation’s economy in a major tangle. In a state where only 12 percent of the electorate identifies itself as conservative, there’s talk a lot of the time of being a liberal, or at least a Democratic one.
‘We have to make a change,’ says Tom Tancred, a 59-year-old insurance executive, a two-time candidate for state controller, and the new Republican state chairman. He tells me he thinks he’s just another Republican, but says he’s ‘in no doubt’ that a change needs to be made. ‘I’m not a Democrat, but I think we’ve got to have a party of change.’
When we meet, Tancred tells me he’s a registered Republican, but he’s no fan of President Bush. He’ll vote for a Democrat when the time comes, but ‘I’m not a Democrat.’ He says he’s not sure what the party he belongs to is called: the Libertarians? The Constitution Party? The Constitution Party is the third political party in America. The first was the Whig Party in the 19th century, the second was the Democratic Party, which arose in the mid-20th century, and the third is the Republicans. (By the time of the New Deal, they were called ‘third parties’; the only legal party standing today is the Libertarian Party.)
Not counting the Constitution Party, the Republicans are the dominant force in America. They own Congress, the White House, the Senate, and a huge chunk of state governments. But the party is in tatters. On election day last November, Republicans won only one Senate seat out of the 100 they need to get to a filibuster-proof majority; three in Congress; 38 governorships; and 24 state legislatures. A majority of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the Democrats, and two-thirds say they believe the