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Third party politics
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, June 21, 2007

With the president's approval ratings in the tank and with Congress holding at an all time low (14%) third party talk is perking up.

Yesterday the focus was on a possible Michael Bloomberg run. Today, the Naderites are cheering because Ralph is thinking about it again:
"You know the two parties are still converging — they don't even debate the military budget anymore," Nader said in a 30-minute interview. "I really think there needs to be more competition from outside the two parties."
Other than the fact that only one recent third party candidate has ever won any electoral votes (George Wallace, 1968, American Indpendent Party, 46 electoral votes), what chance do these candidates really have?

Well, in the "I'll be sitting in the Oval Office on Jan. 20th 2009" sweepstakes, none. And let's be honest, even if they did manage to win, how would they govern with nary a single member of their 'party' holding a seat in Congress?

Actually they can have quite an effect, even if the effect has little to do with actual governing.

First, they can effect the outcome of the election by drawing disaffected voters from the two major parties. Many credit Ross Perot for George Bush's defeat in 1992 when a virtually unknown Bill Clinton won with a plurality. Perot took 20% of the vote, the vast majority of it coming from disaffected voters who had previously supported Bush. And, in 2000, many feel that Ralph Nader took just enough votes on the left to give George W. Bush an electoral victory.

Secondly, they can effect the focus of campaigns and what they talk about. They can bring up issues that the major parties might like to avoid. And they can float ideas which the major parties can be forced to consider. But the reality is, most good ideas that third parties bring to the fore are usually co-opted by one of the major two parties. However, if done well, they can indeed make things uncomfortable for major party candidates.

Nader, for instance would constantly be harping on the Iraq war and what a sell-out a candidate like Hillary Clinton is.
"She is a political coward," Nader said. "She goes around pandering to powerful interest groups on the one hand and flattering general audiences on the other. She doesn't even have the minimal political fortitude of her husband."
That would most likely make her have to defend her stance on Iraq, something she doesn't want to do and in the end could drive crucial potential voters away. Bloomberg, were he to become a candidate could have a potentially different effect. His candidacy could put NY in play for the Republicans by splitting the NY vote between the Dem candidate and himself. And while that might just be the only state in which he'd be competitive, the effect, should NY go Republican, could be catastrophic for the Dems.

Says Nader:
"A multibillionaire like Bloomberg could immediately turn it into a three-cornered race," Nader said.
Lastly, third party candidates give disaffected voters an option, at least for one election. When you look at the Reform Party headed by Perot in 1992, it took 20%. By 1996, it was down to 8.5% of the vote.

The only question, of course, is which side will these third parties hurt the most, because let's face it, that's the bottom line for the two major parties. Nader, of course, is a no-brainer. And in today's highly polarized election climate, 2.7% is a critical and potentially fatal percentage for whichever candidate loses it.

Congress? Well that's in play as well. Don't forget that when the 1994 Republican Revolution took place, the Congressional approval rate was 18%. It is now at 14%.

Yes, this may be one of the more interesting election seasons if we actually do see a few viable third party candidates. But we need a few unviable one's as well ... will someone please tap Cynthia McKinney as their third party candidate? The Twoofers need a political home too. And besides, as everyone knows, every circus needs at least one clown.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

My two cents is this:
Both of the current 3rd party candidates do have some support in congress. For Bloomberg, the reality is that he was a RINO. Ideologically he is a Democrat. He’d do just fine with a Democrat controlled congress.
Nadar probably doesn’t have a chance. But just for grins, if he did win, he will still have some of the more openly socialist Democrats on his side.

Neither of these two will get my vote. Currently there are only two people who I might vote for and that is Fred Thompson or Ron Paul. Thompson isn’t running (yet) and if he did I’d still have a hard time believing any Republican on the topic of limited government. They put the lie to that one over the last six years so I’m not eager to believe it again.
Ron Paul would be a refreshing change. He is probably the only Republican that I believe on limited government. But with the current crop of DNC and GOP legislators, even if he were elected, he’d never get his way. And then he seems a bit naive when it comes to the Middle East. He may be right that an non-intervenionist policy is best but I don’t think that if we ignore the Jihadists that they will go away.

So with the current choices I will be at the same place I was the last time an election rolled around: the pub. I refuse to chose between bad and worse. If it comes down to something like Clinton or Obama and Guiliani or McCain then I’ll abstain.

Written By: tkc
I think the time is right for a serious third-party candidate. And there’s a big difference between Bloomberg and Nader: though it is indeed a long-shot, Bloomberg might win, while Nader can not.

Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
Given recent third party runs, it seems they’re at their most appealing when an incumbent president isn’t running for reelection. Again the Reform party numbers speak to this.

I think you got it backwards. Reform Party was at it’s highest numbers when an incumbent was running, it dropped into Buchannonville when the election was for an open seat.
Written By: Random Numbers (Brian Epps)
I think you got it backwards.
I think you are precisely right, now that I think of it.
Written By: McQ
Actually, what we really need is a second party. With both the republicans and democrats blasting towards the left, what we need is a party that will actually act like republicans. I’m telling you, gang, that’s why Fred Thompson’s been getting such a response; he’s not afraid to act like a republican.
Of course, if we were really going to have a republican party that acted like it, Ron Paul would have been removed long ago. With prejudice.
Written By: Bithead
Other than the fact that only one recent third party candidate has ever won any electoral votes (George Wallace, 1968, American Indpendent Party, 46 electoral votes), what chance do these candidates really have?
Not much of a chance, admittedly, but slightly better than you suggest. Lincoln’s Republicans were the third party when he was elected, albeit not for long since the Whigs were imploding. And then there’s Libertarian candidate John Hospers, who received one electoral vote in 1972.
Written By: Xrlq
Bloomberg, were he to become a candidate could have a potentially different effect. His candidacy could put NY in play for the Republicans by splitting the NY vote between the Dem candidate and himself

NY Democrats are ruthless scum. They’ll never vote for Bloomy if there’s even a tiny chance it could help the GOP. They’re lemmings. Or sheep. Or sheep-like lemmings
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Unfortunately, Xrlq, When Lincon’s Republicans were getting going, a House member could actually make eye contact with all of his constituency whithin the course of a campaign. One of the biggest barriers to a third party becoming viable these days is the fact that the House of Represetatives isn’t.

Isn’t representative, I mean.

Most people - even most voters - don’t even know who their Representative is. They have never met their Rep, nor will they ever do so. Up until about a cenury ago, Representatives were, in fact, members of the communities they represented. They campaigned in person, often speaking to individuals or small groups. That is impossible now, when a single House member ’represents’ more than 500000 people. House races are too expensive now for even a relatively well-to-do citizen to finance on his own, so Party donation lists and support are vital. In order to have a shot at the House, a candidate must marry himself to the support structure and contact lists of one of the major parties.

The only answer to this problem, I’m afraid, is a pipe dream.
Written By: Random Numbers (Brian Epps)
Bloomberg/Nader now THAT is a ticket!
Written By: kyleN
Historically third parties only have a chance when:

1. A political "star" is leading them, like Teddy Roosevelt or Ariel Sharon.

2. One of the two major parties is literally dying on the vine such as the Whigs. Lincoln was originally a Whig.

And that’s pretty much it. The problem is due to Duverger’s Law. When voters can only cast one vote for a single winner, they will almost always vote for either the frontrunner or the contender in order to not "waste" their vote.

Bah-dah-bing: two party system.

Written By: peter jackson
Third party?

Let’s see:





Constitution Party

Natural Rights Party

Socialist Workers party

Communist Party USA


And remember, if there was a ticket of Jefferson/Madison, they’d get less than 10%.
Written By: Sharpshooter
URL: http://
When a third party candidate get 5% of the vote or more, the party gets funding. That funding can help a party move towards winning many local elections. The Green Party has already won scores of local elections across the country. Cynthia McKinney has a reasonable chance of getting that 5%.

In addition, thousands of citizens will learn how to put a candidate of their choosing on the ballot, learn campaign resource management etc.

Cynthia McKinney talks about 2008 Green Party Campaign June 9 NYC
Written By: GreenGenes
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Written By: Banik

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