While talking heads sway back and forth between bashing progressives for their lack of "realism" and bashing republicans for their lack of reality, the really neat thing that seems to be occurring is the realization of a desperately needed three-party system in America.

It seems like only a decade ago - wait a minute, it was a decade ago - that angling for a viable third party was akin to liberal treason. Voting Green, for example, was throwing your vote away or worse, just handing it over to the Republicans.

In the frightful tug-of-war between Nazi and Nazi-lite, it was all hands on hemp (so to speak) and "lesser of two evils" was the battle-cry pragmatic progressives were reduced to.

Well, screw that now.

The emerging political landscape is the most fertile one yet for a three-party democratic system, and what's most intriguing about it is that it gets to happen within the existing two-party architecture.

My rationale for this lies in math you don't even need a calculator to compute.

In a 55%-45% America, the Us vs. Them impulse is irresistable, to be sure. And lingering guilt over, say, voting Nader in 2000 instead of Al "Yugoslav War Commander" Gore is understandable.

But tomorrow's republican party (that would be Them) is well on its way to camping out permanently in the 30%-or less pup tent they deserve, leaving an impossibly large 70% big-top to the democratic party.

Already, the blue team's fault lines are being drawn with progressives on one side (that would be Us) and less-enlightened democrats on the other (Them-lites, or, if you prefer, the lesser of two Usses).

Normally, this fissure in democrat-land would be cause for much consternation and finger-pointing but thanks to the math, this time is different.

Either wing of a dominant democratic party split right up the middle is still bigger than the piece of crap the republican party has become: 35%Us/35% The Other Us/30%Them.


So here's what it boils down to:

We can oppose the war like doves, watch Obama like hawks, end the death penalty, build a consensus for demand-side economics, dismantle the prison-industrial complex, bring fairness to the tax code, reduce pollution, work for social justice and hug some figging trees if we want to - without having to worry about damaging the oh-so-fragile ecosystem of the democratic party or tipping the balance of power to the republicans.

We can wield a powerful, Popeyed, can-o'-Kucinich progressive bloc in Washington, and in state and local governments, too - a sort-of shadow third party within the democratic party to set the agenda and steer governance.

And if, down the road, it makes more sense to simply step out of the shadows and become a bona-fide third party - with ballot legitimacy, campaign funding and all the trimmings, then so be it.

It's progressive partytime either way.