In an age of hyperpartisanship, will a legitimate, viable third party emerge?

That was one of the questions that emerged during the first panel discussion at the launch of “No Labels” in New York.

MSNBC host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough said it’s “inevitable” that third-party candidates will start winning — if the major parties continue to fail to tackle the national debt and energy independence.

“The practical barriers to a national third party are so substantial,” disagreed outgoing Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.). “More likely, one of the two existing parties will get it.”

Asked to rate the partisanship in Washington on a scale of 1 to 10, Republican political analyst David Gergen pegged it at 15. He said the spirit of the World War II generation, that we are Americans first and partisans second, has been eroded.

Newly elected Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he was struck at his first Armed Services committee meeting how the Democrats and Republicans sat apart – unlike they do at committee meetings in his home state.

Bayh agreed that the caucus system needs to change. “It’s almost tribal,” he said, adding that there were only three times during his 12 years in the Senate that Democrats and Republicans sat down and listened to each other.

“The whole notion of principled comprise seems to have gotten a dirty name on the far left and the far right,” said Bayh, who cited the divisive political climate when he decided not to run for re-election. “If you see people being exceedingly partisan or exceedingly ideological, don’t support them. Join the raging center.”

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