Third Party Novel Pitkin County Library Review
Review by Susan Cottle of the Pitkin County Library
Originally published in the Aspen Daily News
When 39 percent of U.S. voters identify as independents, it seems fair to say that most Americans are looking for something beyond the two-party system. So why haven’t we seen a viable third party succeed? You may find some answers to that question by reading “The Third Party” series by local author Steven Nemerovski.
Drawing from his experience as a lawyer, lobbyist and professor, Nemerovski brings an insider’s look into the world of backdoor politics while crafting the plausible trajectory of a third political party.
In Volume I, “Starting in the Middle,” we are introduced to Alex “Atlas” Stein, a self-made billionaire with no heirs who decides to take his wealth and use it to fund a new third party at the state level. His long-range goal is to create a roadmap that will stimulate and drive the same model in other states. He secretly convenes a group of his most trusted friends from across the years, all highly respected in their fields, to his home in Aspen to help him lay the groundwork for his mission.
The team quickly gets to work, identifying Illinois as ground zero due to its rampant nepotism, corruption, pay-to-play politics and fiscal irresponsibility. There, they assume, voters would be more likely to take a chance on a new party. And by initially aiming “down ballot,” with house and senate seats, they predict their fledgling party will gain the foothold needed to go after more powerful political positions.
The book follows the E Party (standing for education, ethics and economy) from conception through two election cycles. Partly epistolary, the events are at times revealed through memos, emails and a political email newsletter called “The Back Bench,” written by a cheeky ex-Chicago Tribune reporter turned political pundit. The characters are well drawn and varied, from Eddie Cobb, “scumbag millionaire” chairman of the National Democratic Committee, who specializes in financial and patronage shakedowns, to the beautiful Nancy Rae Mitchell, political assassin/lobbyist extraordinaire. The book is both a fastpaced political thriller and a handbook that provides the reader an education on the inner workings of the U.S. political and legislative system. And the references to places in the Roaring Fork Valley are fun to come across.
In “The Third Party” Volume II, “Strange Bedfellows,” the E Party returns to fight for its survival against the system where Ds and Rs focus more on getting elected at all costs than on governing to meet their constituency’s needs. The story continues to shed light on the legislative process and how policy goals take a back seat to political dynasties.
These books reveal the hard truth about how the odds are stacked against a third party, even though the two-party system isn’t mandated in our Constitution. But they also offer hope that one day, if the right person with the right message and the right team came along at the right time, the two-party system might finally come to an end. — Susan Cottle PITKIN COUNTY LIBRARY STAFF PICK