Third Party & Independents Archives

Researching the Third Parties

I think there is a Third Party out there to appeal to everyone.
Some appeal to high ideals, some want to limit government’s reach, some want to rule this country by the Bible… Much like my position on the majority parties, I agree with some pieces of their platforms and either disagree or have questions regarding others.
However, Third Parties have special obstacles and I think they’re increasing…

Third parties are running candidates at all levels, not only the high profile office of President.

  • 373 Green Party candidates are vying for state and local offices.
  • I couldn’t find a candidate list, but the Libertarian party has always been active at the local level.
  • The Constitution Party is also running candidates in multiple states, some with the affiliated Independent American Party.
  • The Reform party has gone through a lot of changes since the days of Ross Perot and it’s apparently almost fatally wounded. Currently two separate groups are claiming to be the Reform Party. One of these factions is running 3 candidates. State Reform Parties and state Independence Parties are also running candidates.
  • The Natural Law party used to be active, but they don’t appear to be running candidates anymore. As they attempted to run a candidate for president under the Reform Party banner, their members were probably absorbed into the Reform Party or the Independence Party.
  • The Working Families Party in New York is a blend between a third party and a special interest group. They run the name of a Democrat or Republican unless they think one of their own candidates will have a better chance of winning.

The above is a partial list of some of the more active (or historically active) parties with defined platforms. Lately, new groups are emerging out of a general discontent with our political climate. Some groups are trying to organize Independents into a group of its own instead of merely seeing us as the uncommitted. There is also a new Third Party that is soliciting input on its future platform.

While some Third Parties are unfocused and some do not have much of a presence in local politics, I think the other obstacles need to be considered.
Every state has different rules for adding a candidate’s name to the ballot. While filtering out frivolous candidates is a goal that makes sense, this process is increasingly being used by entrenched powers to preserve their own positions.
Similarly, restrictive requirements to qualify to participate in Presidential debates have ensured that third party candidates will not be able to present their views to the American people as Ross Perot was able to do in 1992. As the media does not cover third parties, it is difficult to poll at 15% nationally before anyone is able to hear what you have to say...
Ross Perot was able to resort to commercials in 1996, but most third parties have to spend most of their resources in the effort to gain access to all of the states' ballots.

As I read about the Reform party fiasco in 2000 and Ralph Nader's ballot fight in 2004, the importance of party legacy was reinforced. Matching funds for the party based on their last showing, lower ballot requirements if you are from a “viable party”, redistricting to maintain the primacy of the party in power... The major parties have really dug themselves in.

The Electoral College is also an institution that provides an obstacle to third parties trying to elect a President. In A Brief History of the Electoral College, the author presents an interesting argument to explain how this actually helps our country.

In addition to protecting the presidency from impassioned but transitory third party movements, the practical effect of the Electoral College (along with the single-member district system of representation in the Congress) is to virtually force third party movements into one of the two major political parties. Conversely, the major parties have every incentive to absorb minor party movements in their continual attempt to win popular majorities in the States. In this process of assimilation, third party movements are obliged to compromise their more radical views if they hope to attain any of their more generally acceptable objectives. Thus we end up with two large, pragmatic political parties which tend to the center of public opinion rather than dozens of smaller political parties catering to divergent and sometimes extremist views. In other words, such a system forces political coalitions to occur within the political parties rather than within the government.

A direct popular election of the president would likely have the opposite effect. For in a direct popular election, there would be every incentive for a multitude of minor parties to form in an attempt to prevent whatever popular majority might be necessary to elect a president. The surviving candidates would thus be drawn to the regionalist or extremist views represented by these parties in hopes of winning the run-off election.

I agree with his view. Some of the positions of these parties are extreme and some don't address key realities.
But their influence has been felt. Third party candidates have had good showings and they’ve even taken over to become one of the majority parties. Strong third parties have also led to evolutions in the closest major party.

The problem I have is that this ebb and flow is being cynically restricted.
Why do we have this trend to change the rules to further exclude third party challenges? Three people didn't crowd the debating floor in 1992. People can handle seeing 7 or 8 names on their ballots. In smaller races, it makes even less sense. People don't research their local races very well, but maybe more diversity in the choices could change that.

I realize that rules about this are necessary, but making them stricter serves no purpose but to disregard the opinions of potential voters and keep people in the dark about what their choices could be. The major parties already have a huge advantage in their resources - why are they so afraid?
If they silence the opposing voices, how will we scare them into moving more towards our will?

I may or may not decide to vote third party but I deserve to have the choice. We all do.

Posted by Christine at August 31, 2006 8:30 AM
Comment #178488

Christine, excellent article. I believe that looking for 3rd party however is the wrong approach. It seems to me that voting in registered Independents with no party affiliation at all is the better option. Today, we’ve got institutional corruption vested in the two senior parties. If you add a third, I believe it is only a matter of time before it too is infected with the same disease. Independents owing fealty to no party can whistleblow, irritate, disrupt and eventually change the legislative process which is where the government impacts us the most. I think the less a party has control of committees is better for the people as a whole. If enough independents were to win seats in the house to cause a lack of majority for either party, then you would see a lot of change required relative to committee assignments and leadership, patronage, dilution of influence on lobbying groups and a lot of other things that would change the balance of power in Congress.

If the Greens or the Libertarians or the Constitutionalists gain power as a unified party, then they are pushing an agenda. If one subscribes to that agenda fine, support them all you want. If however, you want to see the influence of the democrats or republicans diminished, then independents are the way to go.

Posted by: Dennis at August 31, 2006 11:06 AM
Comment #178516

Some people say a vote for a 3rd party or independent is a wasted vote. Not true. Worse is what too many people do; lazily voting to re-elect an irresponsible, bought-and-paid-for incumbent politician. That is worse, and is not only a wasted vote, but it is a harmful vote because it empowers the very same irresponsible incumbent politicians that are threatening the future and security of the nation in their pursuit of self-gain and more security for their cu$hy, coveted seats of power.

Here’s some candidate lists (press CTRL F and enter libertarian):

Posted by: d.a.n at August 31, 2006 12:24 PM
Comment #178523

Christine, great article. Seems to me what is needed is a ‘vote out incumbents who won’t pass laws opening up elections to third parties movement’.

I don’t see a single third party I would want to hold a majority position in Congress. That said, our Congress desperately needs Libertarian and Green party representatives in Congress to force accomodation for long term environmental issues and fiscal responsibility. We see what the absence of Libertarian and Green Party representatives in Congress have brought us. Time for a change! But only we voters can make change happen. Politicians are all about status quo and don’t rock the boat.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 31, 2006 12:37 PM
Comment #178539

If most third parties combined to champion the message to voters to simply do the one simple, common-sense, non-partisan, responsible thing voters were supposed to do all along (i.e. stop re-electing irresponsible, bought-and-paid-for incumbent politicians), then those third parties may possibly acquire more support then ever before. Especially since there is currently only 1 indepedent in congress. Especially since third parties have the most to gain. And, who can argue with the common-sense of simply not re-electing irresponsible incumbent politicians? Especially if voters also consider the many benefits. Haven’t voters discovered yet that most (if not all) incumbents poiliticians will not reform themselves. Heck, if there’s a BILL they don’t like, they can simply vote against it, or even put a secret hold on it (like The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 2590) BILL which some Senator anonymously put a hold on it). And, with re-election rates of 90%, there are never enough newcomers to Congress to ever change the status quo.

The big question though is will enough voters buy it? When will enough voters stop
re-electing the very same incumbent politicians that are endangering their future and many future generations.?

Can Americans look at history and reality and finally take action sooner than later; rather than always wait until it is too late; must we wait until it gets so bad, that recovery is many times harder?.

Perhaps that is the way we are, and expecting humans to be different is folly?

Perhaps it is simply our nature, and we just haven’t yet reached our threshold of pain and misery yet? How much pain and misery will it take to finally motivate voters to stop lazily pulling the party-lever (i.e. straight ticket), and stop re-electing (empowering) those that are largely responsible for the nation’s problems, growing in number and severity?

It’s surprising that more third parties don’t see the logic of carrying that message? Some say it is a message of negativity. It asks people to be against something, rather than for something. Well, frankly, that is stupid. If that’s true, why is negative campaigning so popular and prevalent? With that sort of logic, why be against anything? Why be against bad behavoir of any kind, much advocating people stop lazily pulling the party-lever and continually re-electing irresponsible incumbent politicians.

If it helps, don’t look at it as voting against incumbents, as much as voting for better candidates; someone with more integrity, willingness, and likelihood to pass many badly-needed reforms that senior congress persons have not passed, and never will.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 31, 2006 1:36 PM
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