PEGGY NOONAN: “The Perot experience seemed to put an end to third-party fever. But I think it’s coming back, I think it’s going to grow, and I think the force behind it is unique in our history. . . . The problem is not that the two parties are polarized. In many ways they’re closer than ever. The problem is that the parties in Washington, and the people on the ground in America, are polarized. There is an increasing and profound distance between the rulers of both parties and the people–between the elites and the grunts, between those in power and those who put them there.”

(Via Texas Rainmaker). I’ve been saying that for a while. There’s more on the third-party angle here, too.

UPDATE: Mark Tapscott looks at the rapid ascendancy of the Republicans from third-party status before the Civil War and comments:

The GOP went from nowhere in 1854 to Lincoln in the White House and congressional majorities in a decade. Thanks to the Internet’s power to link like-minded people, I doubt it will take so long this time around for a new party to become ascendant.

I think the “Feiler Faster Principle” applies here, too. But Michelle Malkin, even though she favors Noonan’s idea in the abstract, thinks it won’t go anywhere: “When push comes to shove, Kos repulses me more than Bill Frist or Dennis Hastert does. So I won’t gamble on a Reform candidate, especially one who’s likely to draw votes from the GOP nominee, lest it tip the election to the nutroots.” John Podhoretz, less comfortable, warns against just such an outcome.

That’s what Republican (and Democratic) leaders are counting on, of course. But their best protection against a third-party breakout would be to do a better job themselves.