The Futility of Third-Party Candidates for President

Trying to get elected as a third party candidate in American politics is extremely difficult if not impossible since the electing process is not by majority vote. Ballot access is also an obstacle since third parties have to meet additional criteria not required of Republicans and Democrats. Reform Party candidate Ross Perot was able to get on the ballot in all 50 states in 1992 as was Pat Buchanan in 1996. Perot was a nationally known figure who had lots of money to pour into the process. The Reform Party affected both elections but did nothing to advance it as a genuine third party player. While Perot received nearly 20 percent of the popular vote in 1992, he did not receive a single electoral vote.

Trying to change America’s political system by running a third-party presidential candidacy is a pipe dream. Theodore Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate in the 1912 election, but he had already served nearly two terms as president. He had significant name recognition and national governing experience. Nevertheless, he fell far short of winning. He got 4.1 million votes — 27%. This was well behind Woodrow Wilson at 42%. He did manage to beat Howard Taft’s 23%. Unlike Perot, Roosevelt did receive 88 electoral votes to Taft’s 8.

Let’s take a look at Ron Paul and compare him to today’s third-party candidates. Paul’s platform is very conservative, best described as Libertarian. Even so, he’s running as a Republican. Unlike so many third-party candidates who will enter the 2012 presidential race, Paul has an electoral track record. He has represented Texas districts in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1976. He ran and won political offices on the local level before he ran for president in 1988 as a Libertarian (while still a Republican) and as a Republican in 2008. He saw the reality of working within the system because he understood the inherent obstacles of a third party.

Bob Barr, like Paul, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 7th District in Georgia. He lost to Paul Coverdale in the 1992 Republican run-off for Senate, but went on to win the 7th District House seat in 1994 against incumbent Buddy Darden (Dem.) who had won it from when Congressman Larry McDonald had lost his life when Korean Air Flight 007 was shot down by the Soviet Union on September 1, 1983. Barr later lost his House seat in the primary to John Linder. He should not have run for president. If you can’t win a local election where you have a great deal of name recognition, there is no possible way you’re going to come even close to an electoral win as president

I can’t see how anyone who has not won some political office somewhere has any business running for president no matter how right he might be on the issues.

So what’s to be done? At this point in time, we are stuck with a two-party system. Deal with it. If radical leftists have been able to take over the Democrat Party and a mini-Republican Revolution was started by Reagan in 1980 and revived congressionally in 1994, 1996, and again in 2010, I can’t understand why conservatives would not put their efforts into taking over one of the major parties. If we can’t do this, then what makes us think we can create a competing third party or send up a solo candidate for president and get him elected?

The old adage that you can’t just one thing applies here. First, a two to six-year election process needs to begin now to capture the Senate and the House by picking the most vulnerable political party.

Second, begin to recruit and groom candidates who will run as reform candidates on a unified competing political platform within one of the political parties. It would help to find candidates who have political experience and some name recognition.

Third, bloggers and websites should be started immediately to lay out the specifics of the new platform. Use the web to get around the political gatekeepers.

Fourth, build a giant email list of donors, bloggers, information gatherers, and propagators of the party-within-the-party takeover movement.

Fifth, keep the kooks from taking over the process.

Sixth, the energy behind the effort will encourage other candidates to jump on board. We might even get a good presidential candidate out of the process.

Will the malcontents follow this strategy? Probably not. They will bellyache about how bad the candidates and the two-party system are then tell those who don’t vote for one of their miracle candidates that they are not principled enough.

The Republicans and Democrats that are now in power because they’ve worked at it. If you want to revamp the political system, it’s going to take a lot of work and very few miracles. Are you up to the task?