In a previous post, I looked at all the candidates for President in the upcoming election. This included all the candidates from the third parties, who truthfully speaking, do not have a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected. That got me thinking: why? Why is it that third parties have such a hard time getting started and succeeding?
We have had third parties before. Teddy Roosevelt bolted from his party and was a “Bull Moose” candidate. Ross Perot ran as a candidate of the Reform Party. George Wallace, if I recall, ran on a third party platform. None have been even somewhat successful. Why is that?
My theory: We’re starting at the wrong end. These third parties attempt to succeed through their presidential candidate. That’s an approach doomed to failure. The parties will never acquire enough votes at the Presidential level to get their candidate elected, and if they do get elected, they will not be successful with Congress.
I believe that if a third party is to succeed, it must start at the local level. The Hypothetical Third Party (HTP) would need to start by successfully electing candidates to local offices: mayor, city council, county supervisors. As their platform catches on, they work on establishing themselves at the state level, and starting to acquire House positions. It is only after they have been successful in becoming near majorities at the state level and having significant congressional presence should that party attempt to go for Senate and the Presidency.
I do not believe that any of our current 3rd parties, as constituted, would be able to succeed in this fashion. Certainly not the American Independent or Peace and Freedom parties, which are probably too far to the fringes on either side. The Greens and Libertarians have great chances, but only if they start working at the local level, demonstrating their parties success and the validity of their ideas.
Will they do it? That I can’t answer. Some people prefer to tilt at windmills, to rage against the system without having the patience to use the system to affect the change.
Do I hope it will happen? That’s a different question. As I’ve looked at the various positions of the 3rd parties, there were none I was 100% congruent with. My hope is more that a generational change will affect the existing major parties, and they will lose some of the social rigidity and appeals to the more extreme elements within that have overtaken them. My hope is that the existing major parties will relearn to work together for the country as a whole, and will learn that compromise is what makes our representative government successful. I hope that the major parties, once elected, they represent their entire constituencies, not just the segment that voted for them, and that they realize why compromise is important to do that.
But what are your thoughts? What do you believe is necessary to make a third party successful in the US?
Music: “Carrie: The Musical” (2012 Original Cast): “A Night We’ll Never Forget”