Political Party for Mild-Mannered Is Off to a Slow Start -- Whigs Try to Tap the Angry Middle
This year, an anti-Washington mood is opening doors to novice candidates from right and left who speak to the ire coursing through the electorate. The Modern Whigs, a start-up party with a venerable name, are trying to tap an even more elusive force: the angry moderate.
Sparking a grass-roots uprising in the center has been a frustrating task. "A moderate person tends not to be the kind of person who gets out there and marches at a rally," says party Vice Chairman Andrew Evans, a 30-year-old college student from Greenville, N.C. "They see people further to the right and further to the left making a huge ruckus. They think they don't want to be like that."
The Modern Whig Party was the brainchild of soldiers tired of the bickering that filled chow-hall TV screens on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them, Capt. Mike Lebowitz, a Washington lawyer then serving with the 101st Airborne Division, emailed his buddies and began talking up the idea of a party that would be fiscally conservative, socially liberal and generally mild-mannered. They picked the Whig name because of its ties to the Founding Fathers, William Henry Harrison and the early career of Abraham Lincoln.
In 2008, the party predicted that 2009 would see a handful of candidates for local and state offices and that 2010 would bring its first congressional bids. Reality has been harsher. "We…are not delusional in believing that people will flock to our party," the California Modern Whigs admit on their website.
Nationwide, Whigs point to just two members in political office, both in unpaid, local positions.