In 1988, Out & About’s original tagline was “A Guide to Good Times.” Though we let it fade as our editorial focus expanded, for the most part that’s still who we are: Optimists highlighting the positive in our community.

Which makes the current national tone such a challenge. Tough to be Team Smiley Face in this divisive climate. Singing in the rain is one thing, but this is like singing through a mudslide.

It’s pick a side, vilify the other, and agree on nothing to avoid appearing weak. Compromise is anathema, respectful disagreement not an option, and social media bullying is the go-to tactic when things don’t go your way.

Yep, that was our president, the one with the itchy Twitter finger, attacking a 16-year-old social activist because she beat him out for Time’s Person of the Year (How many times over the past few years have you said to yourself: Never thought I’d see a U.S. president do that?)

But that’s the new normal. The _____ (Insert the public official of your choice) didn’t lie, you misunderstood. The tape recording was doctored. And by the way, when’s the last time you had your hearing checked?

Watching this incessant Democrat-Republican gaslighting is uncomfortable, makes you uncertain of certainties, and leaves one yearning for the simplest of all virtues—honesty.

Which brings me to my hope for 2020. An idea—in keeping with the theme of this issue—that is worth trying.

Time for a legitimate third party.

I don’t care what we name it. And enough with the punditry about how all a third-party candidate does is compromise chances for one of the two main candidates (isn’t that the point?).

Then there’s the argument that the electoral college wasn’t designed to accommodate a third-party candidacy.Rethink that, too.

I’m tired of being forced into a binary choice when the world isn’t that simple. I have conservative leanings and liberal leanings. I don’t fit easily into a Democrat or Republican box, especially with extremists controlling both parties. I’m not seeing a cooperative effort to get things done. I’m seeing self-absorbed ideologues more intent on ensuring that the other side fails.

Turns out, I’m not alone. In a recent NBC/WSJ poll, only one in 10 adults felt the two-party system was working well. And 38 percent indicated they were open to a third party—the highest polling percentage for that question in more than two decades. What do those two statistics tell me? We’re ready for options.

“A third party could fill this void,” stated S.E. Cupp, in a recent essay for CNN. “This party wouldn’t be ideological in nature, as those already exist. It wouldn’t take this position or that one, and it wouldn’t have a charter or a platform committing to a fixed value set. Its only commitment would be to represent and support the majority of moderates and independents on every issue, wherever they are.”

Of course, such a movement would have significant challenges. The two parties currently hold three high cards: the money, the debates and media coverage. But with 40 percent of voters identifying as Independents, we have strength in numbers.

It’s time we use that strength to force a redeal. Or even better, demand a new game.

Jerry duPhily
Since 1988, Out & About has informed our audience of entertainment options in Greater Wilmington through a monthly variety magazine. Today, that connection has expanded to include social networking, a weekly newsletter, and a comprehensive website. We also create, manage, and sponsor local events.