He may be tilting at windmills, but Paul Zeitz is sincere about launching what he calls the seventh party system in the United States since 1789. He believes the country is ready once more for a total reconstruction of the political landscape in America.
Zeitz was in Salt Lake City Tuesday making arrangements for the first national convention of the new Justice Party that will take place in February. Zeitz is acting chairman of the party, which will formally announce its organization in Washington, D.C., on Monday. The next day, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson will formally announce his candidacy for president of the U.S. under the Justice Party banner.
The party hopes to be on the ballot in all 50 states for the 2012 election, a goal some political observers have called “quixotic.” Others have dismissed the effort as just another third-party adventure that will have little impact on the election and wallow in obscurity.
University of Utah political science professor Thad Hall told The Salt Lake Tribune last week that the new party will help Republicans because whatever votes it siphons off from the established parties will hurt Democrats, since the Justice Party’s agenda reflects mostly liberal causes.
But Zeitz, who only met Anderson a month ago, says the country is on the precipice of change and the Justice Party is emerging at precisely the right moment.
He and Anderson say that in their organizational meetings and their outreach to key political figures nationally, they have received support from Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians and Green Party folks.
“The uniting issue,” says Zeitz, “is the corporate, monied dominance over the political process.”
Zeitz, a physician, is executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance and has been involved in international public health issues for more than 20 years. He has been a high-profile advocate for human rights, a guest on numerous television and radio programs, and has had columns published in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and other major newspapers. He helped create and currently chairs the board of directors of Global Action for Children.
That makes him a perfect fit with Anderson, who after leaving the mayor’s office formed the nonprofit High Road for Human Rights, which addresses economic fairness, civil rights and environmental issues, among others.
Also, said Zeitz, the timing of the Occupy Wall Street movement was convenient for advancing the goals of the Justice Party because “it has changed the discussion in this country.”
Zeitz has gathered research on the idea of the “party system” that was introduced by scholar James Bryce in 1885. The research identifies six dramatic “party system” changes in the United States.
The first (1796-1816) was the Thomas Jefferson Republicans, who believed in smaller government and states rights, versus the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, who believed in a strong central government.
The second (1840-1856) was the Democrats — farmers, laborers and other lower-income factions — versus the Whigs, representing wealthy interests. That died out when the Whigs could not come to a consensus on slavery to counter the pro-slavery Democrats.
The third (1861-1896) was the Republicans versus the Democrats, largely on the slavery issue.
The fourth (1900-1932) was defined by progressivism and immigration. Northeastern business supported the Republicans while the South and West supported the Democrats.
The fifth (1932-1968) was defined by FDR’s New Deal coalition, which supported new social welfare programs and stronger labor unions.
The sixth (1968 to the present) began when the Democrats lost their dominance in the South, leading to Republican dominance overall.
So, says Zeitz, it’s time for the seventh party-system revolution, in which he sees the working class reclaiming some political clout from the rich.