Time for Third Parties?

CBS News just ran a pretty good editorial. The title, “America Vs. Third Parties”, pretty much foreshadows the theme of the entire article.

Here’s one section I found especially compelling:

Yet we are stuck with the same two parties, ad nauseam. It’s like a world where there are two baseball teams, the Yankees and the Dodgers. Every year since the 1800s they have played 162 games against each other, and then played each other in the playoffs, and then the World Series. The players change, but never the teams.

It’s “Groundhog Day” meets Sartre. No wonder people tune out.

And another:

The Constitution says nothing about parties. The great and wise founding elders detested political parties, and promptly formed them and divided up. Thanks so much.

The Civil War gave birth to the current two-party setup of Democrats and Republicans. That should have been a warning.

In 1942, an early and eminent political scientist named E.E. Schattschneider declared flatly that the two parties had a “monopoly on power” in America. Nothing has changed since then. Absolutely nothing.

And another:

Still, that doesn’t mean third parties candidates are prevented from winning elections at any level. So here’s where the monopoly parties come in. First, they set up rules where Democrats and Republicans automatically get on ballots, but third parties have to jump through petitioning hoops. There are 51 different sets of laws to get on the ballot in this country, one for every state, plus Washington, D.C. Next they make it hard for third parties to raise money. Then they sleep well at night.

In the cycles of politics, we’re probably due for a major third party presidential candidate. The fact they have had so many close elections indicates the opportunity is real. Contrary to popular belief and punditry, close elections do not mean the country is deeply polarized.


  1. “So a daydream about a radical centrist is very practical, in a totally unrealistic sort of way. All it takes is celebrity, brains, money, guts and an honest mouth.”

    So where’s the LP and the “radical center” I’ve been bitching about for 2 years now?

    We are in position, if we could ever stop fucking with each other.

  2. I am in consensus with Michael.

    I have a lot I want to say on this, but the article has pretty much said it all already.

  3. PBS has a nice history of third party presidential politics on a special ending with campaign 2000.

    Within the past week or so I came across a nice article or fragment that talked about the importance of third party votes. When they reach above 10% or 15% the major parties pay attention and consider and adapt and adopt the policies advocated by the significant third party efforts. A major relatively recent example is Perot’s emphasis on the budget deficit.

    Unfortunately I failed to bookmark it and have spent the past few hours going through my browsing history trying to locate it, so far unsuccessfully. If anybody recalls a similar article, I would really appreciate a link or reference.

    It would be useful as motivation since Libertarians are still unlikely to win any partisan election at the state legislative level or higher for the immediate future (doesn’t Gallup say 16% or so are libertarian?).

  4. The point of the whole article is that the mechanics of the winner takes all system leaves out any candidate who is not aligned with the Donkeys or Elephants.

    It also leaves out the complicity of a media whose acceptance of the inevitable drives the coverage. Mentioning a third party candidate wouldn’t affect ratings or coverage.

    Tweaking a platform or staking a particular issue will not defeat the problem. Madison thought some gifted politician would always arise above the caustic factions. Winner takes all is the problem, period.

    Until the reformers, howlers, and malcontents realize this, nothing will change. This type of civic education will be hard to acheive in the other world of choices. Economic choices and alternatives will always trump the mundane world of instant run-off voting, proportional representation or ‘gasp’ a run digital democracy not obsessed with little pieces of paper.

    One candidate’s rant for the evening. Help the candidates, not the candid apes.

  5. Maybe the LP should take out ads in major newspapers. That might get the authors of all these fake “discontented voter” articles to actually admit the existence of the LP. I am sick of reading all these complaint articles that act like some miracles is just supposed to be delivered from the sky that is an as-yet totaly unknown when the answer is right there in their idiot dishonest faces.

  6. This idiot even had the audacity to suggest that it would take “an honest mouth”, when he doesn’t even have one himself!

  7. Eric,

    there’s no magic solution, but there’s every reason to believe that if we make it easier rather than harder to attract support and money to the LP, we might get more support and money. We are the only political party in America that actively limits both, which is totally at odds with the american political system.

  8. Tim,
    Good to see you back, bud.

    Does ‘easier’ come from stated and accepted party positions or does harder follow from some mindset amongst the members and leadership ?

    My own practical experience thus far does not see that from a NYLP experience. They are willing to accept candidates who conform to the basic idea of less government and more personal freedom. The rest is literally up to me.

    I honestly believe that the electoral mechanism sets the die for the best and the brightest to follow the money. Personally I’ve always preferred the freaks and geeks, despite being part of the latter,.

    My point is that no matter what the LP does,the deck is stacked against it. As the only LP’r seeking a Congressional seat in upstate NY (perhaps the whole state), I view my job as a foghorn for the Party of Principle. Any awareness or change that accrues from that will perhaps build the party.

    The change required here goes deeper than ‘blogville’ will ever penetrate.

  9. The pledge, the dues, an the mindset among a dignificant part of the LP have all made it harder han it should have been. There’s no doubt that th R’s and ‘s have used everything they have to make sure we cant get a foothold.

    Having said that, the LP is it’s own worst enemy. Until the recent zero dues, it’s never been about political involvement, REAL political involvement, where you have to compromise to gain enough market share to attract enough people that agree with MOST of what you stand for to actually get elected. It’s been about making people into libertarians.

    It’s changing, thank god, but not fast enough for the 2006 mid terms.

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