Third/Fourth/Fifth Party Thoughts

Wednesday, 28 April 2004, 14:58 | Category : Politics
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Third-party/independent candidates seem to have been as ever-present as they’ve been unsuccessful in US politics. Martin Van Buren, in 1848, was possibly the first “serious” third-party candidate (Free Soil Party). Maybe the most successful was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, with the Bull Moose Party, garnering 27% of the vote and outpolling the Republican candidate. Eugene McCarthy, George Wallace, John Anderson, and Ross Perot made notable runs which all ended with less than 10% of the vote.

But even if one of these had somehow been elected, how would they have governed? They would have been confronted by a Senate and House Of Representatives controlled by either Democrats or Republicans, neither of whom would have had much interest in seeing the Administration thrive. And the President would have had to assemble a cabinet composed of people who had opposed his election. It would be nice to dream of a world in which this situation would have brought about real teamwork, bridges being built across party lines, and meaningful change. But far more likely would have been a gridlock of immense porportions.

Why aren’t third-party supporters instead concentrating on getting candidates elected to the House or Senate? Build your party from the ground up, rather than blue-sky down? It wouldn’t have the immediate impact as would the (never-to-be-achieved) election of a President, but if, say, the Libertarians were to elect 10-15 House members in 2006, they might soon enough be in a position to effect some measure of change. Maybe in 20-30 years, we’d be looking at the real possibility of a President who wasn’t Republican or Democrat.

6 Comments for “Third/Fourth/Fifth Party Thoughts”

  1. 1loren

    Makes sense to me. Actually, that was what I was saying when Nader ran last year.

    Actually, I’d love to vote for some Green Party candidates if they had a chance of winning.

    Guess there’s not the same ego-rush as runing for President, though.

  2. 2Jim Roberts-Miller

    Why would a third-party candidate have to form his/her cabinet of people who opposed their election? If they won, surely they could find a dozen or som prominent people that supported them…

  3. 3Harry

    Because, realistically, in this day and age, breaking from your own party would end you politically. And I’m convinced that the only thing Democrats loathe more than Republicans, and Republicans more than Democrats, is someone or some group that isn’t one of the two. Each of the two major parties has a vested interest in keeping the other around and healthy, despite what their rhetoric would imply.

  4. 4Deb

    There was a movement in the early 90s to start a third party along just the lines you mention – starting with local races, working up to state. Un-fortunately it is almost dead now. It was called the New Party (NOT the New Alliance Party and no relation at all). There is a straggling state chapter called Progressive Minnesota in MN, and I believe they got some people elected in NYC, where they could use the “fusion” laws. It was the thing you said about the Demopublicans fearing anyone who isn’t them (partly) that did for them, and also that they could not resist the need to cross-endorse Democrats and get caught up in movements too big for a fledgling party and lots of other stuff. I was involved in it from almost the beginning, and had such high hopes, which were cruelly dashed. I can tell you more if you’re interested.

  5. 5Deb

    Great blog, by the way. I have put you on my Bloglines feed. I grew up amongst the kuhd-zu myself (Atlanta GA). Where in Mississippi are you, if that’s where you are? I have people in the Gulfport area.

  6. 6Harry

    I live in Madison, just north of Jackson. And thanks!