What About a Third Party?

Trying to get elected as a third party candidate in America 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. A third-party presidential candidacy could have a devastating effect on the 2012 election. An ABC news article makes an important point:

[T]he third-party candidate draws a large minority percentage of the vote, but doesn’t win any states (thus electoral votes). This scenario likely re-elects Obama, who now just needs 38 percent of the vote nationally to succeed. He wins enough states with a percentage in the forties, and gathers a majority of electoral votes. The Republican base is below this, and without an ability to force enough voters to kick Obama out of office because of the third-party siphon effect, watches as a president without a majority of voters gets re-elected. This has happened a number of times in American political history.

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. He also had access to the media who were willing to interview him. 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 candidacy is a pipe dream.

Ron Paul makes a helpful case study. Unlike so many third-party candidates, he 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 necessity of working within the system because he understands the inherent obstacles of a third party approach.

It’s humorous to see white-knight, third-party candidates put themselves up as viable presidential contenders. I can’t see how anyone who has not won a political office somewhere has any business running for president no matter how right they might be on the positions. It’s understandable to everyone that a no-name candidate running for president has no chance of winning, but it’s harder to explain if he can’t win in his own neighborhood.

There are no political messiahs. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation” (Ps. 146:3). While Ronald Reagan was certainly better than Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, he was not perfect. He raised taxes and overspent.

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 we would not put our efforts into taking over the Republican party. If we can’t do this, then what makes us think we can create a competing third party or send up an unaffiliated solo candidate for president and get him elected?

The old adage that you can’t change 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. That’s the GOP.

Second, 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. Local politics is radically different from national politics. Novice candidates can win at the local level, especially in a time when voters are fed up with the status quo establishment.

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, recruit bloggers, information gatherers, and propagators of the party-within-the-party takeover movement.

Fifth, keep the kooks from taking over the process. Keep in mind that 80 percent of the electorate is not made up of true believers. They are not usually swayed by purest ideology since they are ignorant of how government ought to work. We need candidates who can present constitutional principles in ways that they can be understood. Teaching by analogy and using easily understood rhetoric are keys to communicating.

Sixth, the energy behind the reform 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 how every candidate is and inherently evil the two-party system is then tell those who don’t vote for one of their miracle candidates that they are not voting out of principle.

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