Nov 022009
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead, Ian Bezek

Third parties poised to make unprecedented leaps

By Kevin Hollinshead

One year ago tomorrow, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. While he ran his campaign as a “uniter,” it now seems as if he’s even more of a divider than his predecessor.

As I argued in my column Monday, Mr. Obama’s presidency has been marked by schisms in both the Republican and Democratic parties, and by a surge in popularity for both registered independents and alternative parties, such as the Libertarians. While I don’t believe either major party will be completely overtaken anytime soon, I do think that third-party candidates will make significant inroads in races at every level in the future, perhaps as early as 2010.

Given how trust in government is at a 12-year low, and that half of all Americans now support the creation of a third major party, that’s going to be much more conducive to alternative candidates to flourish than in 1992, when Ross Perot, a billionaire who ran for President as an independent, essentially tried to buy votes.

Thanks to today’s omnipresent media presence, smaller parties won’t have many of the issues associated with exposure and fundraising like they have in the past. While Ron Paul won just 1.6 percent of the popular vote in the 2008 GOP Presidential primary, he was the subject of an Internet buzz-storm on sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

Should this disillusion with both major political parties continue, a new party is more than capable of stealing some media spotlight, then fundraising and eventually voting for that party. The issue isn’t whether a new party will start making big waves, it’s about whether it will be an offshoot of the Democratic or Republican parties, an active alternative party that experiences massive growth or a completely new group waiting to be created.

Sadly, third parties still not relevant

By Ian Bezek

I’d love for Kevin to be right. Believe me, as a jaded third-party member, I’d love for a real alternative to emerge to these worn out major parties. As the former co-president of the CSU Libertarians, believe me, I’ve tried to change the system.

But, as always, we’ve failed because the two-party system is so entrenched. A minor party candidate has to overcome profound structural opposition. Candidates of minor parties don’t get campaign financing from the government, don’t even get automatic access to appear on the ballot and face the all-to-common response, “But I’d be throwing away my vote,” when asking for votes.

Let’s face it. While it feels like both the Democrats and Republicans are splintering, this has happened before. The Vietnam War ripped the Democrats apart at the seams, and Watergate destroyed the Republicans’ unity. After Nixon resigned, it appeared both parties were on the decline, especially with the economy suffering from the Middle Eastern oil crisis.

But no, both parties recovered against all odds, stopping any new third parties from making headway into the political scene. If not then, why now for third parties?

Sure, every so often, an inspiring candidate like Ross Perot will make a wave, but it inevitably leads to nothing. Oddballs like Jesse Ventura get elected from time to time, but it never leads to any durable third option.

While I hope Kevin is right, I suspect his optimism is misguided. But as a libertarian who is frustrated by the complete intellectual bankruptcy of both major parties, I will do what I can to help America attain a viable third party, despite the odds being against us.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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