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A Recipe For 3rd Party Victory

Against the Grain readers expressed their concerns about the direction of U.S. politics. Despite varying opinions on potential third-party leaders and titles, most agreed that it was time to make political history.

I couldn't agree more with your two essays about negative and positive liberty.

Regarding the concept of a third American party, one of the things about a third party which people don't realize in America, because there is no extensive history of third-party politics, is that a third party doesn't have to be hugely successful to become very powerful.

This would be especially true in the United States, where the two main political blocs are, and have for many years been, very closely balanced. In this case, a party with a few senators and only a couple of dozen representatives could hold the balance of power and could use this position to form ad hoc coalitions with the other two parties to drive forward specific items of legislation. Thus, a relatively small number of moderate 'Independent Party' members of the Senate and House could exert a disproportionate influence.

Pragmatically, it would be better for such a party to begin as a regional
party in areas of the country that tend to be moderate in their politics,
and therefore more prepared to contemplate backing a centrist alternative.
Thus, scarce resources could be concentrated.

The example of the Liberal Democrat party in the United Kingdom is instructive. They lack any discernable underlying philosophy and candidates who are remarkably boring, yet in spite of this they regularly poll about 20 percent of the vote in national elections because they are a protest party. In the next election, which promises to be well balanced between the two main parties here, they are very likely to hold the balance of power, even with only about 10 percent of the House of Commons. They have reached this position by concentrating on building themselves up on a local and regional level, where they have become a force to be reckoned with in certain cities and regions. They will use this position to force changes in the electoral system which will facilitate their continued expansion.

I'm not suggesting that a third party in the U.S. try to emulate the Lib Dems in terms of being a policy-free zone. But the use of a local/regional
approach to pry open a political system that has evolved to become
structurally inimical to new parties is probably worth considering.

Philip Aaronson

I'm so totally in on a third party.

But the name is too generic and doesn't quite enough stand for something. That said, it only needs a tweak to do so. Instead of "Independent Party," change it to "Independence Party."

Americans need independence from so many things — foreign oil, demagogic policy, lousy health care, etc. — so you get a pretty strong sell when you slap that word right on the face of the party.

Naturally, the party faithful become "Independents."

Bob Devol

Your article was very thought-provoking. I think, though, that any third party would have a fundamentally more populist tenor than the one that you had posited. I could see a Lou Dobbs being a visible element of such a party, if not one of its major candidates. Moreover, I think such a party would be more protectionist and isolationist than either of the other two parties – which, contrary to the punditocracy, is a good thing because it reflects the belief systems of many voters who feel unrepresented. Independent Party is a fine name, but Populist Party also has a good solid American heritage to it, as well.

John Lovell

I liked your blueprint, and I'd love to see a viable third party. However, the problem with third parties (if you are opposed to continued GOP leadership) is that they have tended to draw more moderate and liberal voters in recent times and have split the GOP opposition vote. In 1992 that didn't seem to matter, but I can't see those voters being willing to take that risk in 2006. Too bad we don't have a more European system with proportional representation. Then, voting for a third party wouldn't pose such dilemmas.

Paul J. Brennan

Bloomberg is unelectable because of his position on gun control, and if elected, for the same reason, he could not govern.

Mark K. Benenson

For the past 15 years, I have felt nothing but a sense of erosion when it comes to my feelings for my country and the optimism, beauty, and hopefulness that I have always held for what the notion of America means.

Your article brought tears to my eyes as I chanted "yes!" Yes! YES!" while reading.

Donna Miller

Its time is here!!

Thank you Mr. Meyer!

This country is too great to be dragged down the drain by the efforts or lack of efforts by the current two parties.

One more point, let's bring back the notion of term limits. One term for senators and no more than three terms for representatives. I refuse to capitalize senators and representatives; they don't deserve that act of respect.

Bob Ward

You missed what is perhaps the most important element in the success of a third party; before any third party has even the slightest chance of victory, Americans must shed the belief they must vote for the candidate most likely candidate to win rather than the candidate with whom they most agree with on principle.

This is what snatched victory from Howard Dean just as the primaries got rolling. He made a mistake or two, was branded a nutcase by detractors, then, suddenly, in state after state, people who had intended to vote for Dean a month earlier voted instead for Kerry. When asked why a huge portion of these people said something along the lines of 'well, I didn't think he could win. ...'

There was a time when the national conventions of our two-party system actually meant something. Real decisions were made at these conventions, and candidates were actually decided upon by ballot. Now it's all pre-packaged and prearranged, aimed at that voter who wants nothing more than to have voted for the right guy rather than for the guy the voter actually believes in.

I have begun voting for third-party candidates (despite the onerous fact that I know I'll lose) because I — don't — believe in either of our two parties. And I've never voted Republican. I seriously doubt I'll vote Democratic anymore, either.

Les Clark

While I truly love the third-party concept, to elect national candidates it must move right, not left. Don't be fooled into believing that Bush's approval ratings mean a desire for Hillary. And when it moves right and is elected 51 percent-49 percent, how do you suppose the other two parties will act? How is that any different than what we have? Somehow we have managed two pretty distinct views of what America should look like, and changing that will take more than a third party.

Randy Poole

The gay marriage, open borders, gun-banning Mike Bloomberg? You are hilarious! Do you not realize there is an entire country out there west of the Hudson River? Third-party Bloomberg vs. Democrat vs. Republican = Republican takes ALL the "red states" from '04 and at least half of the "blue states" due to the Dem/third party split.

You've missed your calling. You shouldn't be writing for CBS. You should be writing for SNL!

Robert O'Rourke

Dick Meyer's Third Party Victory article was brilliant. It's a fantastic idea, but based on the way the system is stacked against a third party, I'm afraid it will take an economic "train wreck" before there is enough courage to tackle the problem. You would think with the polls showing the contempt most Americans have for Congress there would be a reason for the right candidates to step forward. However, it takes a lot of guts and courage to step in front of the "train" and risk getting run over.

Let's just pray that the "train wreck" is not so bad that the train can't be put back on the tracks ... that's my biggest concern.

A Concerned American

Loved it.

Unhappy with the two, dominant, political parties, my wife and I voted for Ross Perot both times. I lean more towards the Republican Party but was disillusioned with its "anointment" in 2000 (and increasingly disgusted with it over the last six years) have voted straight Democrat since then. Have been dreaming of a third party; gave it the title of "The Common Sense Party." However, I'll go with "The Independent Party" title.

Let's get this snowball rollin'.

Dave Gardner

If you still want to send in an e-mail, you'll have to read a real column to find the address.
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