13 May 2011

The Important Role a Third Party Presidential Candidate Could Play in 2012

As frustration builds with many (should I say, most?) voters, the call for a third party gets stronger.  With hypocrisy, corruption, and empty headed thinking abounding with both Republican and Democratic parties, the idea of a third party absent these qualities seems alluring. Is this real or simply a mirage?

The odds against a third party winning a US national election are staggering.  Individual State requirements work to restrain any national candidacy.  Given today’s campaign financing expenditures, where would the money come from to support a third party.

Some simplistically suggest the individual voter will abandon the major parties and flock to the third party with votes and money.   And, if your name is Bloomberg, why worry.

Pundits say that President Obama will spend over $1 billion on his reelection. A third party candidate will be lost at sea.

So is that it for third party power?

I do not think so.    A third party candidate can have a powerful impact.  Here is how.

First the third party candidate must wipe his/her mind clean of ever expecting to win.  That is not where the power really lies.

Second, the candidate must not go near any social conservative issues or advocate for human or civil rights.  That is a nobel path but also one to distraction.

Third, the candidate needs one major campaign proposition and a maximum of two additional minor ones.  These propositions should be centered on quality of life for America and Americans.

And, fourth, the candidate should spend his/her public exposure time outlining the propositions of the other major party candidates as they really are.  The emphasis should not be on his/her candidacy but on exposing the limitation and out right mistruths of the major parties. He/she should go to great detail in debunking campaign propaganda… with facts.  He/she should especially reveal the major parties’ funding sources and estimate the amount of money being spend by the major party candidates.

As a legitimate candidate, the press should cover the third party candidate and report what he says as news.  To ensure press and TV coverage, the third party candidate must combine witty sound bites with generous advertising buys from various newspapers and television networks.  Twitter and Facebook management would also be essential.

While most of the press already knows the distortions the major political party candidates make daily, the news media suffer from two handicaps.  First, they are also recipients of generous contributions from the major parties and do not wish to jeopardize this revenue.  Second, the nature of reporting demands they must report factually what the candidate actually says.  That’s news reporting even though the major candidates’ speeches are hardly ever fact checked.  Analysis of those comments belong only on the “opinion” or editorial pages, and that is someone else’s job.

So, how would this third party candidate be different than the numerous campaigns Ralph Nader has run?

Nader ran as a quasi legitimate candidate.  He has had a position on most everything.   His message has been too complicated and contains too much information.   He has also been seen as an extreme consumer/green party person.  If you like these positions, he was your candidate.  Most people were far more centrist and tuned Nader out.

The third party candidate I am seeking will keep the light shining brightly on his/her opponents.  The goal would be to do the job each voter should do for themselves, and lacking that, the media should do for its own credibility.   Neither is done today,

Today Americans vote for either (1) the person they dislike the least, or (2) the one who has promised the most.  Following the election, Americans are then dumbfounded that their pick has no intentions to do what they thought he promised.

Who will be that liberating third party candidate?

Author Details
This centrist community blogger has chosen not to reveal much about themselves in their bio – as is their right.
This centrist community blogger has chosen not to reveal much about themselves in their bio – as is their right.

35 thoughts on “The Important Role a Third Party Presidential Candidate Could Play in 2012”

  1. For all the good that a third party candidate can force onto a race, there is always the problem that this is a VERY high stakes race, and that most centrist voters end up having a clear preference between the two main candidates (not all centrists choosing the same). So many or most centrist voters will not only vote main party but also get quite irked at the third candidate for running the risk of their respective worst case outcomes. Presidential and statewide executive races differ in this stakes regard from legislative races, as long as we are stuck with plurality victory rules.

    1. Jeff, you make a valid point… Nader was blamed for Al Gore’s defeat although it was the Supreme Court who probably stole the election.

      There is strength in a two party run off. It is A or it is B. And there are problems (like relevance) with the extra candidates who run in addition to the Democrat and the Republican standard bearers. Three cheers for Landon LaRouche…

      I still wonder what a third party candidate like the one I describe would do on the outcome….

    1. Amen, sort of. The traditional run-off (instant or otherwise) can still produce a situation where the consensus candidate doesn’t make the final round. You can end up with Burlington Vermont’s 2009 mayoral race, instant run-off, where the Progressive beat the Republican in the final round, but the Democrat was ranked ahead of the Progressive on the majority of ballots! (Burlington promptly scrapped instant runoffs.)

      That’s why I prefer a bottom-up instant runoff known as Coombs method.

  2. I recognize that this post is like tilting with windmills. In picking elected officials, one usually votes for someone they think will support most or at least the most important principles the voter has. In today’s races the real position of candidates or how they will act when elected is a mystery.

    Candidates say what they think will get them elected and what their largest donors want them to say. Once elected, it is wide open as to what they will actually do.

    I do not think it is our voting process or even the two party system. Rather it is most voters accept promises and do not check to see if the promises are supported by fact. The media and the now emerging social media could shift the balance.

    We don’t need to know “Joe is a great guy”. We need to know (hypothetical example) that big banks are over extended and if one were to fail, there would be another severe recession affecting all Americans, and Joe would vote to eliminate the chance of too big to fail. So, if you reject the idea of large banks failing or that they could (again) cause a severe recession, then Joe is probably not your man.

    All we know today is Joe is a great man and goes to church on Sunday.

  3. We don’t need a 3-party system. Those who really don’t like both major parties don’t agree on enuf other stuff to form a viable party. We need to use more multi-seated elections in ‘more local” elections like state assembly elections, as was done in IL from 1870-1980. That’d handicap the rivalry between the two major parties so neither could dominate and they’d become more apt to work together. Plus, then LTPs, local third parties who specialize in contesting more local elections and vote strategically together in less local elections, could play the two off of each other to make them both more dynamically centrist.

    The result would be two new evolving parties…

    1. “Those who really don’t like both major parties don’t agree on enuf other stuff to form a viable party.”

      Not true at all. There is a huge chunk of the electorate that sits between the two major parties ideologically that aren’t any more diverse in opinion than the two major parties used to be a couple decades back. Even if you only took hard core centrists, there are more of them than hard core liberals or conservatives.

      I know you don’t like the idea of a third party. Good for you… but your opinion on that is clouding your ability to read polling data.

      I’d be fine with a two party system with bigger tent parties, or more viable parties. I just want people to be represented more equally. If the two major parties wont, then a third major party is an option that would be foolish to ignore. Like it or not, political parties are the most powerful tool to organize and leverage political power that exist. It is precisely because the far right and left control a large share of the power inside of the major parties that they have a hugely disproportionate amount of power in our country.

      1. Then theory predicts that one/both of the two major parties shd do whatever it takes to target that portion of the population, especially if a third party starts to have some success…

        I’m not against the idea of a third party. Our system just doesn’t sustain the existence of more than two major parties. You are tacitly claiming that I and the wonks at both major parties can’t read polling data.

        “I’d be fine with a two party system with bigger tent parties, or more viable parties. I just want people to be represented more equally. If the two major parties wont, then a third major party is an option that would be foolish to ignore.”

        Experience and the MSM will be going against you. If you want more equality, the kicker has to be to handicap the rivalry that tends to lead to one party dominating a state’s politics, with a similar effect present in nat’l politics.

        ” Like it or not, political parties are the most powerful tool to organize and leverage political power that exist. ”

        dlw: LT parties would be very powerful in terms of making both major parties more responsive due to their greater likelihood of being the swing-voters who are immunized to MSM B-S–t $pin. There is also a need for minor parties who threaten to displace one of the major parties or to force a merger on their terms, but I’m of the opinion that LT parties wd be easier to do with less money and more volunteer-power.

        “It is precisely because the far right and left control a large share of the power inside of the major parties that they have a hugely disproportionate amount of power in our country.”

        I’m sorry. The far left? I don’t think so… Both parties are neglecting lots of issues due to the increasingly small set of likely swing-voters due to rising apathy/extremism and how they’re acting like conjoined fraternal twins. Maybe a new party can bring these issues back to the forefront, but the thing is that it’s easy for lots of folks to agree on general issues, but the more specific the issues get, the weaker is the level of agreement. This is especially true due to misinformation campaigns and the influence of $peech. If you begin to succeed as a minor third party then they’ll due their best to corrupt your leaders. The way to fight back is to avoid the hierarchy required for a larger third party. This is possible with smaller LT parties that can decentralize decision-making and keep their overhead down.


      2. I agreed with *most* of what you said there, until you claimed the “far left” control a large share of the power inside one of the major parties (I assume you mean the Democratic party?). I just don’t understand how you can objectively come to that conclusion. In what way have the Democrats governed from the “far left”? Even in Vermont, where the Progressive Party has pushed them to be more “progressive”, they’re still not even close to “Far Left”, with Shumlin acting quite corporatist outside the issue of Health Care.

        1. The far left doesn’t have as much power as the far right does within the GOP (although I’d bet a pretty penny they will in not too long), but they are a truly minescule portion of the populace, and have much more representation in congress than centrists do, a much larger segment of the electorate.

          And this “corporatist” bullshit… I’ll be very plain with you. I have a no asshole rule here. If you want to call moderates “corporatists”, you can take your ass somewhere else.

          That is the same as if I called everyone on the left moonbats. It’s fucking bullshit, and if you believe it you’ve bought into a line of crap that is just as bad as the Tea Party nonsense. I’m not going to go on liberal sites calling everyone left wing socialist pinkos, or whatever right wing freak shows think about the left these days, so leave that at home, or go somewhere else and your stuff will go on the spam shelf.

          Two examples of the far left’s influence… The individual mandate part of the health care reform bill is a good example of something very few outside of the far left agrees with. Thank gawd there are still SOME moderates left in the Senate to stop the dems from so much of the stuff they wanted to put into that bill, and cut the cost of it down. A heck of a lot of far left junk was in the second stimulus bill, much of it that had very little stimulative effects other than boosting the budgets of states (who are much better off fiscally than the federal gov’t is), and the far left’s influence is still seen with this never ending argument that we can just borrow and spend our way into faster growth, pretending that businesses will hire much to keep ip with the short term demand that temporary stimulus creates – they only hire when demand is sustained… which the government couldn’t borrow enough of to create if it wanted to. Krugman is a great example of this.

          1. they say macro is religion… I say the sample sizes tend to be small enough to support rather different positions…

            The keynesian approach is not far left. It’s just a position you very much disagree with, which gets at the difficulty with the labels right, center, left for the kaleidoscopic world of politics. In the end, they’re only of limited usefulness…which is another reason why forming a party around the center is problematic.

            Also, most people also don’t understand health care reform or macro/public-finance related issues, in which case the prejudices of many are not infallible guides for better policy-making.

            If our system’s broken it’s because of systemic reasons, not a neglect of the center. Both parties will tend to cater to de facto center to get elected. It’s just that the use of only single-seated elections, inflammation of the cultural wars wedge issues, and aggressiveness of $peech have made the de facto center based on an increasingly smaller number of potential swing voters. In my view the latter two problems are serious because of the first.

            1. From my experience, it seems the media powers that be have successfully conflated Keynesian to “far leftism” or “socialism”, or what not…

              1. There is a big difference between using stimulus to pull an economy out of a tailspin, and borrowing huge amounts of money while we’re already in a recovery, to try and create sustainable demand.

                I’ll repeat…

                Businesses do not hire much when they are faced with temporary demand. This is all the federal government has the ability to create on a wide scale… temporary demand. Faced with this, they may hire temp workers and make do with what they have, squeeze more output with current staff, etc… but we cannot afford adding hundreds of billions more to the debt for a temporary bump.

                What is happening right now in the economy is the best we have available to us right now. Slow trimming of government spending, while the economy grows slowly, but is picking up steam (majority of jobs created in the last few years have been within the last six months or so). If that equation flips, THEN – and only then – should we consider finding ways to stop trimming of government payrolls and whatnot.

                1. Well, it’s a commitment problem but you are right that what is fundamentally at issue is a matter of expectations.

                  I don’t buy the need to trim gov’t payrolls. That’s chicken feed next to the major problem of our military expenditures. We need a way to subvert the influence of the iron triangle between the defense industry, the pentagon and the US legislative branch that makes us excessively prone to engage ourselves militarily abroad.

                  I’m of the opinion that more competitive elections would serve to weaken the tragically imperialistic bent that has been increasing gov’t spending.


                  1. We don’t have the luxury of cherry picking. We could literally cut the entire military budget, and our debt problems would not be solved.

                    For example, just because the majority of the long term debt problems stem from social welfare spending, that doesn’t mean we should then ignore the rest. That would result in insanely drastic cuts needing to be made there. The military needs trimming, as does the growth of social welfare spending, and size of government elsewhere. The entire budget needs to be looked at for savings.

                    1. You are right. There also needs to be reconsiderations of public finance.

                      But in the end, all of that stuff stems from the political equilibrium between countervailing influences and the issue is the best way to check the influence of $peech on our polity.

                      My thought is that lots of smaller third parties that can rely more on volunteer power and regularly engage each other in dialogue are a better check on the influence of $peech.

          2. Uh, I didn’t call “centrists” ( a term I find to be vaguely nebulous anyway) corporatist, I’m not sure where the fuck you got that insinuation from. Oh, was it the Shumlin jab? Perhaps I’m going too far by calling him a corporatist, but his policies in general are fairly business friendly, and he does have that history, being a businessman himself. I personally don’t find him much different than most Democrats, outside having a strong countervailing influence pushing him more leftwards than he’d be without it. I’m not attacking him at all, I’m glad he won, because the said countervailing power makes Shumlin a better governor.

            “The individual mandate part of the health care reform bill is a good example of something very few outside of the far left agrees with.”

            Uh,what? The individual mandate is born from Mitt Romney’s health plan he instituted in Massachusetts, and was born from proposals over the years proposed by institutions such as “The Heritage Foundation”. Was/is Mitt Romney a “far leftist”? In fact, “Obama”care is pretty much just a clone of “Romney”Care. Bob Dole also included it in his presidential campaign. There’s nothing “leftist” about the “individual mandate”, it’s a mandate to buy for profit private health insurance.

            I could go on with other examples, but I’d first like to see how you consider the individual mandate “far leftism”.

            1. I know what the term is, and where it comes from. Business friendly is not the same as corporatist. I’m not okay with people using that any more than I’m okay with people calling anyone who is far left a moonbat (Bernie Sanders for example is far left, but no moonbat) or far right a wingnut (for example Ron Paul… extreme, but no crazy person).

              I know what the individual mandate comes from, and it was around a long time before Romney and company. There are a lot of ideas that need to be tested before people understand them, and the American people have done so and are against it overwhelmingly… leaving mostly just the far left.

              I’m not talking about any “ism”. I call it far left because the only place in the electorate where there is much support for it is on the far left. This isn’t an opinion, its polling data. As I said before, I don’t equate far left or right with crazy, its just a position on the spectrum of political belief that I very rarely have much agreement with.

              1. I don’t think the “far left” of the Democratic Party supports the individual mandate, they supported Single Payer, or at least a public option, and were very disappointed by the health plan passed by Obama and the backroom deals he made almost immediately on this issue after assuming office. It’s true though, a lot of rank and file Democrats have come towards supporting the PPACA, but that has a lot more to do with the whole “Go team!” mentality than any dedication to a “Far left” ideology, especially since it’s essentially a Republican plan, supported by Republicans in some form or fashion dating back to Nixon. Also, both Mitt Romney (who after all, instituted it at the state level in Massachusetts) and Gingrich have recently voiced their support for an “individual mandate”, but we’ll see how the Republican rank and file respond to that. Anyway, I think we agree more than disagree on what people should do in regards to the “two party system” and think your persuasion, and people with it should get more representation in our governments, more political diversity is a good thing in my book 🙂 (though we probably wouldn’t agree a lot on individual issues), I just happen to think a piece of your analysis of American politik is flawed, that’s all really…

                1. Polling would disagree with you. The farther left you get the more people support the mandate… although they support single payer as well.

                  I didn’t say anything about the whole bill, so I’m not sure why you’re commenting on that… although its absurd that you’re pretending it’s “essentially a republican plan”.

                  That some republicans a few years ago supported something with similarities to this doesn’t make it a republican plan. Views shift after people take a look at an issue closer and the public gets a chance to think things through. It’s not fair to call something a republican idea, when people from the left liked the idea too, and republicans of today almost universally disagree with it.

                  1. I dunno, I’ve not met many “far leftists” (though I guess it would depend on the definition?) that support the individual mandate. The individual mandate to buy private for profit health insurance is very different than a medicare for all single payer system. But the plan itself was constructed by various Republican think tanks, and implemented at first by a Republican, it was just adopted by Democrats later. So I think it’s fair to call it a Republican plan, at least in it’s originality, but evolved into being “bi partisan” I suppose? Republican rank and file may hate it (for now), but the Republican establishment likes it, though they played “opposition” to it for partisan reasons, but as I pointed out with Romney and Gingrich, they both support the mandate, and Paul Ryan’s “premium support” system was essentially the same idea as a replacement for Medicare.

  4. My opinion is that the scrapping of IRV by Vermont was a bad idea. IRV works best in a two-party dominated system and it wd have probably provoked the formation of a different two-party system in Vermont if it had been retained instead of polemicked against.

    I mean how many FPTP elections yield the exact same sort of defect? Why should IRV be scrapped because it’s an imperfect improvement on FPTP? It can be tweaked to work better and the truth is that the nature of single-seated elections makes it hard to sustain having three major parties and so when there are three major parties, it usually is less predictable and leads to the creation of a new equilibrium.

  5. If there were to be viable third parties, the method of finding the person with 50+1% of the vote would be a challenge. That’s today a hypothetical argument.

    I am proposing a third party candidate, who does not want to win. His/her entire goal is to lay out the shallowness, at times hypocrisies, and the shameful financing of the mainstream candidates. My hope would be this could cause the nomination of non-career candidates who seek to serve for reasons they lay out, and when in office promote those ideas.

    Naturally my type of candidate serves a self impost limit on the number of terms, for example 5 terms of representative and 2 terms for a senator.

    1. 50%+1 is easily fixed with some form of run off, if people even think that is necessary.

      I’d obviously prefer a candidate with a serious chance of winning, but that just aint gonna happen in 2012, no matter what people want to pretend. 2016 MAYBE, but terribly unlikely, unless some kind of more organized network of centrists and moderates evolves faster than I think it likely within that time. All bets are off past that though… anything can happen in 10 years.

    2. So the third party candidate would help get outsiders elected within the two major parties?

      That theoretically could work, but outsiders can quickly be made into insiders in politics and just because they are good at saying the right sorts of things doesn’t mean they’d be good leaders. Populism hasn’t produced great leaders. In a modern variant it did help to elect Jimmy Carter, who was not that effective generally as a president.

      You’re neglecting the systemic nature of the problem. We spend too much time on the “bigger” elections, because we’ve given up on the “smaller” elections where we’d naturally be more effective if they weren’t chronically non-competitive and not responsive. But if we pushed for the use of 3-seated elections for city council elections and state representative elections then these elections would become more meaningful and we could be more focused on them and spend less of our time/energy on the the elections where our influence or potential to be swing-voters is inevitably somewhat lower.


    1. Condorcet’s superiority rests heavily on the homo rational voteris assumption. It also requires all of the candidates to be ranked, which gets ugly when the number of candidates grow.

      Condorcet is best for elections where the voters are all well informed about the options and there are not that many options.

      IRV3 can be improved on if in the first round the rankings are ignored. We can narrow the list of candidates to the three who get the most rankings and then used the rankings to determine the final winner. This is a hybrid between Approval Voting and IRV. It could make it easier to count the votes faster. We’d know the three finalists right away, like we do now.

      But in my opinion, we would get a lot more bang for our activism if we push for the use of 3-seated elections for “more local” elections that otherwise would be chronically non-competitive(regardless of what you let voters rank/approve/cumulatively vote for candidates) and which would handicap the cut-throat rivalry between the two major parties and let third parties win some seats and more influence… It’s what we did in the past in the US and it made our democracy function better back then, it’s time to go forward to the past…


      1. There are two things important to know in a democracy: one is what the people truly want (at least as far as leaders are concerned) and the other is what is best for the country. Condorcet voting accurately records what the people truly want, and while it fails at yeilding good results if the people are irrational (or uninformed), so do all other voting systems.
        Seriously, the process isn’t any more complex than using a cash register, and support for it can be found if we start using it in a non-binding way at state and local levels to show who would have won (the majority will always prefer the condorcet winner to the plurality winner (if different)).
        If some people are unable to research all candidates, they are free to leave blanks. The process will still work for those that want to give more information. I’m having a hard time seeing how it wouldn’t work.

        1. 1. The people do act like sheep sometimes and are easy to lead astray because they are not really sure what they truly want.

          2. What is “best” for the country is often what is contested.

          3. More garbage in, more garbage out. This is why more options for voters isn’t necessarily better. Plus, if you don’t require voters to rank all of the candidates then you end up with more ties and I believe a greater likelihood of a condorcet paradox. To explain how the winner would be determined in that case would further complicate an already complicated system. And more complicated rules are harder to pitch to voters with low levels of interest in politics and low comprehension levels of mathematics.

          4. It’s more important to change voter habits than it is to get the “right” election rules in use.

          5. And the appropriateness of an election may depend on what sort of an election it is… Politics doesn’t naturally lend itself to clear cut comparisons across candidates. This is due to the many issues at stake and the fuzzy matters of character involved.

          Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have elections or democracy. I am saying we need to be realistic in our expectations about democracy. All modern democracies are unstable mixtures of popular democracy and aristocracy of sorts. If we try to make it too much a pure popular democracy it tends to rebound to less democratic rule. This tendency was observed all the way back by the ancient greeks.

          Bottom line: democracy is an experiment and theory doesn’t settle all of the issues of which election rules shd be used for which elections. My hypothesis is that what matters most for political elections is working out the right balance between winner-take-all elections with only one contested seat and winner-doesn’t-take-all elections with more than one contested seat. I believe the evidence shows that the sorts of options given to voters tend to matter some for winner-take-all elections, but the prevalence of rational ignorance makes it so most alternatives to first-past-the-post are more-or-less even improvements. I also believe that experience has also shown that winner-doesn’t-take-all elections are more important for elections that tend not to be competitive/interesting with a winner-take-all election.

          3-seated LR Hare is worthy of your consideration. The problems of ordered-lists are reduced strongly when only three seats are contested.

        2. That’s an interesting idea (non binding “fake” election of sorts using a different rule) Any idea how to get a large amount to participate and get it to permeate in the psychology of said voters? If so, email me at tiradefaction@gmail.com you have me intrigued.

      2. As for the 3-seat elections, I like those. It will better represent minorities (of opinion). In the New Hampshire legislature, there is something similar, but I’m unaware of how well it works.

      1. People who don’t understand politics are easier to manipulate and those in power have a strong incentive to avoid term limits.

        But the real advantage to term limits would be if they led to more competitive elections, due to a reduction in the import of the incumbency advantage. IMO, there are better ways to increase the number of competitive elections or trim the incumbency advantage and there are advantages to letting good/skilled leaders get reelected. Also, concentrations of power are inevitable and often less transparent in the absence of senior senators/ congresspeople like the late Edward Kennedy.


        1. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it is people who don’t understand politics who are against term limits. I’ve known far more very politically astute people who are against term limits than those who are for them. As much as I disagree, I don’t pretend that those who think otherwise are stupid or have nefarious reasons.

          1. I’m not fooled. X->Y does not entail the converse Y->X. Not understanding politics may make it easy for those in power to manipulate them so they don’t support term limits, but that does not imply that being against term limits implies that someone doesn’t understand politics.

            Solomon, I do not generally denigrate those that disagree with me either and I did go back and revise that earlier blog-post of mine to make it clear that what I was against most was not your views.


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