Britain’s Nick Clegg. Florida’s Charlie Crist. Would U.S. politics benefit from a third party? The Washington Post asked Mark Penn and other political experts for their assessment.

MARK PENN
Chief executive of Burson-Marsteller; adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign; pollster and adviser to Bill Clinton from 1995 through 2000.

So Starbucks has 155 combinations of coffee but America and Great Britain only have two parties?

The election in Britain could be a game changer if the Liberal Democrats get nearly 30 percent of the vote. For the first time the major parties agreed to debates, and the results so far have been stunningly favorable for the outsider party.

In the United States, we have the structural issue that there are many Democrats who are socially liberal and economically more conservative than the leadership. And the Republicans have many members who believe in the economic philosophy of the party but reject the religious right. Both groups are not entirely comfortable with their party and have see-sawed in their voting.

On top of this, we have a record number of independents in the country, along with new, open media and Supreme Court rulings that make it easier and easier for non-party interests to participate in politics. This is why it is critically important for Democrats to welcome the vital center.

But if party primaries are driven farther to the left and the right by partisans, we are going to see more independent candidates at all levels. It’s part of the natural change in politics, and I think all eyes will be on Britain to see the final result.

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