The Time May Be At Hand for a Third Party in American Politics

Hold on to your britches now, I’m not talking about some
dude to mess up choice by taking votes away from a major candidate. We’ve seen
enough of that and it’s served us badly.

But the fact remains that 40%
or more of American voters are deeply unhappy with what’s on offer in the
current two-party system. Many see no options but ‘choice by holding their
nose.’ Centrist-right Democrats and centrist-left Republicans, desperate to
hold their seats, keep bi-partisan government frozen in the headlights.

We are where we are, with no
apparent way forward. The recent narrow loss by Republicans in the House is far
more than simply a slight gain for Democrats. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s
voice is far from timid and the young voters who got her where she is are fed
up with business as usual.

There’s something in the air and it smacks of a third
party.

Following the 2016 mid-term
elections, 20 women now hold seats in the Senate, and 85 in the House. We are
tiring of old white men telling us to wait
our turn
. When an old white voice such as Bernie Sanders raises itself, the
system (in this case, illegally) turns against him and his young supporters are
angry. When a man of color becomes president, the system ties his hands and young
voters are fed up with that as well.

We are a divided nation and
there’s much to be said about the causes of those divisions and sense of
fairness that divide us. But here is
where we are. Change is in the air,
you can feel it. Not the change that is merely a motto, but systemic
change.

More and more, I wonder if we are moving inexorably toward
coalition politics. Coalitions, by their very nature require a third party,
whose backing by constituents grease the wheels of the truly bi-partisan legislation
that’s gone missing. No more need we put up with a liberal or conservative
‘base’ to jam things through that don’t serve us equitably.

But third parties have failed us for over 200 years and
there’s a reason. They never get sufficient traction and give us third-party
presidential candidates who are spoilers at the best and embarrassments at the
worst.

So what might success look like?

First of all, it would require
a groundswell of support across the
nation. The Libertarian Party still exists and has been around for nearly fifty
years, but even now it boasts just half a million registered voters. Not
enough, a political pimple on the legislative nose.

148 million voters were registered in the 2016 election. Only
58% of them actually showed up at the polls. So the number of active voters out
there comes to a mere 86 million. Not to tire you with numbers, but the 40% unhappy with their choices amount to
nearly 35 million and that’s hardly a pimple on the nose.

No need to ask why
the 62 million who were registered, chose to sit it out. Poll after poll shows
voters have lost trust in politics and think the game is rigged in favor of big
money. No doubt that’s true, but it suggests that going to the trouble to
register and then failing to show up represents
a powerful group that under the right
circumstances
might choose to become engaged.

So let’s try to construct a template for a third party.

First, we give them a name.
Your choice is good as mine, but just for fun let’s call them the Change Party. A lot to live up to, but
it shows a willingness to move with the times. After all, times, goals and
needs all change in this lightning fast environment in which we live today.

Second, the Change Party needs
a platform upon which to run and
explain itself to voters. If it wants to engage the 40% disengaged, it better
be clear about its dedication. Like all political platforms, that includes
environmental concerns, education, jobs, economic fairness, legislative support
and a raft of others too numerous to mention.

But they must be mentioned and perhaps the most
important among them is to deny themselves
the temptation to announce their own presidential candidate until the Change
Party reaches one-third representation
in the House and Senate. In other words, parity.
Change shouldn’t expect to climb into the ring until it’s a proven contender.

That’s the cross upon which so
many third parties have been nailed. Obviously, no such rule prevents
endorsing, supporting or electing candidates for House and Senate seats.

Third, in the case of congressional candidates, all the
funding and advertising laws agreed by the two major parties would apply. So
far as presidential candidates of those
two major parties are concerned, both endorsement
and financial support would be
allowed for whichever candidate they choose. 
But they agree not throw that support to a candidate other than those of
(current) Democrats or Republicans.

These limitations are meant to discourage independent
candidates from skewing a national election, an age-old (and factual) complaint
Once the one-third requirement in both House and Senate are
met, all bets are off and the Change Party can finally offer the country a
presidential candidate.

Many democratic governments throughout the world operate
within coalition governments.

When coalitions become
problematic, it’s usually because too many minor parties are formed, badly
splintering (and often subverting) majority rule.  No doubt splinter parties like the
Libertarians will continue to rise and fall, but the Change Party’s self-imposed
requirement means to prevent that very circumstance from shooting themselves in
their own foot.

America needs a new tool in the electoral toolbox. I’d love
to get some feedback on this.

2 thoughts on “The Time May Be At Hand for a Third Party in American Politics

  1. Be interesting to see what Bernie does the 2nd time around. He's an 'old white man,' but he thinks like the young crowd that's making inroads in American politics.

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