Third Party Fantasies

The latest entry in the unity third party presidential candidate genre is just as bad as they always are.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:  the solution to our political problems is a bold unity-ticket to run for the presidency.  Such a ticket would break us free of the bonds of partisanship and lead to a new era of problem-solving.

Well, if you like that one and want to hear it again, or need to experience it for the first time, look no further than to last week in the Politico Magazine and Juleanna Glover’s piece, Biden Should Run on a Unity Ticket With Romney.

The intro:

Last summer, John McCain told the world that he regretted not picking Joe Lieberman, the former senator and Democrat, to be his vice presidential running mate in the 2008 presidential election. A McCain/Lieberman ticket might not have won the White House, but it could have diverted us from the dangerous polarization now plaguing our political system.

Joe Biden should learn from McCain’s regret.

Now, McCain picking Palin did help lead us to the Trump nomination, but the notion that Lieberman on the ticket in 2008 would have “diverted us from…polarization” is utter nonsense.  First, we were already polarized in 2008 (indeed, we were before then) and, more importantly, there is no reason to make the argument that a given presidential ticket in one year is pivotal, at all, to the general partisan political disposition of the country.

Beyond that, there is no basis for assuming that a third party Biden-Republican unity ticket would solve anything.

First, the author is worried about the primaries:

in a Democratic primary [Biden] could be cannibalized by his own kind. Other Democratic candidates with more ambition than ability to win a general election against Donald Trump will inexorably and gleefully erode his standing by rehashing the Anita Hill hearings, pushing him to the left on domestic policy and endlessly reminding voters of his support for the Gulf War. Biden is the clear front-runner now—with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 13 percent—but plenty of early favorites have ended up as also-rans (i.e. Jesse Jackson in 1988, Jerry Brown in 1992, Howard Dean in 2004 and Hillary Clinton in 2008). Running in a Democratic primary could deeply damage Biden’s legacy.

If one cannot win the primary in one’s own party, then perhaps one ought not be running (and I say that with some profound criticisms of the primary process).  Also, the author’s own argument is self-contradictory.  She lauds Biden’s popularity (“He is one of our most esteemed and admired leaders. His favorability ratings have touched the 60-percentile range”) and cites it as evidence of how he could win a three-way race, but he is insufficiently popular to win his own party’s primary?  (Keep in mind, I am not sure Biden should run, nor am I sure he could win the primary, but those strike me as good reasons not to run a third party campaign).

Nonetheless:

Now here’s what Biden should do next: Pick a Republican running mate in a “trans-party” third-party run for the White House.

Should Trump run again, this could be a “break-the-glass” moment for many Americans, creating an opening for a radical departure from our malfunctioning two-party political system. By injecting some ideological innovation into the process, we can break the hidebound precedents of two narrow parties running their ceremonious and illogical nominating process to select a candidate.

First, having a career Democrat run, even with a Republican running mate, is not “injecting some ideological innovation into the process”–indeed, a Biden-Romeny/whomever ticket would be injecting a golden oldies fusion band onto the scene (call it the Traveling Wilburys ticket).

But the fantasy is made clear here, with the typical trope that surely a centrist can win:

Biden, by picking someone from the principled wing of the GOP, would instantly signal that he intends to run from the center.

First question:  why would running from the center lead a sufficiently large number of Republican and Democrats to defect from their partisan identities to vote for a third party ticket consisting of two politicians who, by the act of running in such a fashion, rejected those parties?  Have we learned nothing about party and personal tribal identity in the last two years?

Second question:  why would conservative Republicans, who have demonstrated a willingness to stick with whomever it is that promises pro-life Justices on the Supereme Court, go with a pro-choice third party candidate?   Keep in mind that, really, Joe Biden is not ideologically all that different from Hillary Clinton (but his memes are certainly more amusing).

The author kind of skirts the whole Electoral College math issue by making some sweeping claims:

The top of the ticket needs to come from the center-left, because he or she needs to get a plurality of the vote in the blue states Hillary Clinton won (227 electoral votes), yet be moderate enough to win a plurality in some combination of Trump states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan (another 119 votes). A bipartisan ticket might even put purple states like North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana in play. A right-leaning candidate at the top of the ticket won’t work, though: He or she would meet the same fate as a primary challenger to Trump. Around 36 percent of voters won’t be cleaved from Trump under any circumstances, so the deep-red states would be off the table entirely.

So, Trump keeps the deep red states and the hope is that the third party ticket would win three-way races in blue states and swing states?  In such a scenario the likelihood is that Biden and the Dems would split a lot of the vote in swing and blue state, giving Trump an advantage.  Mathematically, a two-way race would be easier to win, especially given the closeness of 2016.  A three-way race advantages Trump since the magical centrist here is really just another Democrat on the ballot (regardless of who the veep nominee is).

But the magical thinking doesn’t end there:

A Biden-led bipartisan ticket would pledge to serve a Cincinnatus-like single term and address all of the U.S.’s ticking time bombs like Social Security, Medicare, health care reform, climate change, money in politics, immigration, gerrymandering and infrastructure investment in four years.

I have a one word rebuttal:  Congress.  Why would any president, especially one who had to squeak out plurality wins in number of states, and without their own party in Congress, be able to convince that body to address those issues?  The only way we are going to get definitive policy in those areas is with unified party government (and only then with a majority of 60+ votes in the Senate for the majority party).  Even then, Congress is not predisposed to solve all these problems (if anything, because they are hard to solve and any real solution will come with political backlash).

There is no centrist, good government, above-it-all solution to these policy issues.  There is no safe haven combination of voters that will overcome our present polarization.   Certainly this is not achievable with our current electoral processes.  The incentives to two-party competition are too strong and structure of the legislature is small-c conservative (i.e., maintenance of the status quo).

She continues about the one-term pledge:

It decouples a president from the demands of reelection politics while simultaneously easing concerns about age—Biden would be 78 on inauguration day. It also ensures governance unpolluted by campaign finance concerns and narrow special interests inherent to maintain a winning coalition. This ticket would promise to force decisions on all the underlying structural policy matters damaging America’s long-term prospects and distorting our democracy. No more kicking the can down the road.

A few thoughts.  One, a one-term pledge by a politician who will cease to be relevant after his terms is up, coupled with no party mechanism to support for long-term significance, is an instant lame duck whom no one will want to listen to.  And, again, Congress still has to make laws.  The notion that a lame duck president takes can-kicking out of the policy-making equation makes no sense, because it remains a motivation to members of the legislature.  If one-terming truly took all that away, it would mean that we should see the most productive output from second term presidents in their last two years.  This is, however, not the case.

In regards to how to get bills through Congress, she suggests:

Biden and his running mate could also promise to break through the debilitating stalemate on Capitol Hill by pledging to push for laws that reflect the will of simple majorities in Congress. Recent Congresses allow bills to move forward only when a “majority of the majority” in either house supports the policy, leading to gridlock and deepening partisanship.

All well and good, but that isn’t how Congress works.  The president can assert this kind of idea all he likes (I think Obama made arguments like in terms of various government shut-down debates, for example), but the question will be:  will the majority leadership in both chambers schedule debate in this way?  The “majority of the majority” bit has mostly been a Republican House Leadership approach, for example.  This has nothing to do with the president (and there is nothing a president can do to alter it).

A third-party presidency would be genuinely disruptive. Today’s ironclad party discipline could well break down, and moderates on both sides could form a powerful, decisive block willing to work with the new president. The policies passed into law may not be ideal for either Democrats or Republicans, but that’s precisely the point: The major agenda items that must be addressed for America’s long-term fiscal health require each party to make sacrifices.

There is no reason, save for hoping it to be so, that this would be the behavior in the Congress.

The piece goes on to discuss additional fantasies about the Electoral College and the possibility that the House would choose the next president under a three-way race.

Look, two points.  One, if the goal is to stop a second Trump term, the absolute best strategy is for anti-Trump forces to go all-in on the Democratic nominee (and to make sure that states like WI, MI, and PA have strong GOTV campaigns)–indeed, the 2018 midterms should underscore the validity of this approach.  Second, there is no magic centrist ticket that can sweep in and solve all our problems–it is a persistence fantasy that needs to go away.

Note:  I am not opposed to third parties, and actually would like to see a multiparty system in the US.  What I find frustrating are purely fantastical account of how centrism will solve all our problems coupled with ignoring how the structural conditions in our system make such scenarios especially fantastical.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Neil J Hudelson says:

    Popehat had a recent blog post wherein he pointed out that you can’t always trust Law Professors’ take on how courts work because often that Law Professor has never actually experienced arguing in court. This article sounds like it was written by someone who has never had to run and win a campaign. “Here’s how voters will respond, because that’s how I respond, and clearly all voters are like me (please ignore the results of the last election).”

    It also amazes me how many people think the Vice President matters for voters, despite literally no evidence to support the notion. In this scenario, a large bloc of Republicans will split from their party (who currently actually holds the reins of power) because this magical ticket has placed one of “their guys” in an office that’s “not worth a warm bucket of spit.”

    So these voters are gregarious enough to vote against their own perceived political interest, but too stupid to understand how much power they will lose in doing so.

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I have lots of fantasies about third parties…but at this age…doubtful.
    (yeah…I never bothered to read past the headline)

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  3. @Neil J Hudelson:

    It also amazes me how many people think the Vice President matters for voters, despite literally no evidence to support the notion.

    Yep. I almost wrote a paragraph on that as well, but it seemed like overkill.

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  4. Kathy says:

    I call these types of essays intelectual masturbation. They’re more fun to write than to read. When done as satire, they can be very good (if often spectacularly off the mark). But one should never take them seriously.

    I doubt we’ll ever see a mixed party ticket. Even the latest Libertarian party presidential ticket was made up of two former Republicans (both governors, to boot).

    Back in the early days of the Clinton era, I thought he should have kept part of Bush’s officials, in particular he should have tried to get Baker back at State, or as an adviser. The reason being he had scant foreign policy experience. But I knew even then such a thing would never happen.

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  5. Gustopher says:

    I think they are doing it wrong. We don’t want to draw the mainstream of the two parties into a failed third party campaign and leave more extreme parts to decide things.

    I propose a unity ticket of Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan.

    It’s hard to find a lefty on the level of Jones, and I’m not sure Farrakhan is lefty at all, other than being brown and Muslim. He might be dead. Bernie?

    Jones could be replaced by Gen. Flynn, if he isn’t in jail, and if we want more experience in government.

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  6. Mister Bluster says:

    I wish I had not clicked those links.

    Went to politics1 website to get the latest count of third parties in the US.*
    Got distracted by a news update on the cover page.
    Kansas Sen. Dinah Sykes, Rep. Stephanie Clayton flip from Republican to Democrat
    I just had to click on the link for The Topeka Capital-Journal online to get the whole story where I stumbled onto this sidebar:

    White northeast Kansas official tells black woman he belongs to ‘master race’
    Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp cited the master race — the Nazi ideology of Aryan supremacy — at a board meeting Tuesday while responding to a presentation by Triveece Penelton and a colleague on road development options in Tonganoxie, just west of Kansas City.
    “I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you because we’re part of the master race,” Klemp told Penelton. He then said he didn’t like any of the land use options that she had presented to the commission.

    *36 not counting the Nazi Party which is alive and well in Donald Trump’s Amerika.

    Update: Klemp told KSHB-TV off camera that his comment was a joke.

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  7. Kylopod says:

    The end of the 1990s movie My Fellow Americans does feature this sort of scenario–a former Democratic and former Republican president teaming up on a unity ticket after surviving a crime caper together. It’s a cute little film, but about as relevant to the real world as The Prestige is to the real Nikola Tesla.

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  8. gVOR08 says:

    From the quoted aricle,

    someone from the principled wing of the GOP

    You gotta admit that’s funny. The second lyingest GOP to ever run for prez is from the principled wing? Makes you wonder what the unprincipled wing is like. Oh wait, we know.

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  9. @Kathy:

    Back in the early days of the Clinton era, I thought he should have kept part of Bush’s officials, in particular he should have tried to get Baker back at State, or as an adviser. The reason being he had scant foreign policy experience. But I knew even then such a thing would never happen.

    You do see things like this at the cabinet level on occassion. The most recent prominent example was Bob Gates who served as SecDef for Bush and Obama.

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  10. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Another recent case: Huntsman was Obama’s Ambassador to China for a good stretch, and did an excellent job. Unfortunately he felt he needed to stick the shiv in Obama on his way out because he wanted to run for President and couldn’t be shown respecting the darkie….

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  11. the Q says:

    It’s been a mystery why a third party doesn’t attacked the soft underbelly of American democracy – the Senate. 3rd parties can never be successful running for POTUS. Even if a 3rd party were to gain 40 seats in the House (a Herculean achievement) its still less than 10%.

    But the Senate can be had by winning 4-6 seats in certain states which could go for a charismatic option with a pragmatic policy or have an independent streak. With the Senate so narrowly divided 5 or 6 seats by a third party basically controls legislation getting passed. Kavanaugh, for example, would not have been confirmed had there been a moderate group from a 3rd party in the Senate.

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  12. Mister Bluster says:

    @the Q:..But the Senate can be had by winning 4-6 seats in certain states which could go for a charismatic option with a pragmatic policy or have an independent streak.

    Which “certain states” are you referencing and what third political party would these candidates be members of to bring about this scenario?

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    This article sounds like it was written by someone who has never had to run and win a campaign. “Here’s how voters will respond, because that’s how I respond, and clearly all voters are like me (please ignore the results of the last election).”

    This describe at least half of our pundit class. Many of whom are prone to exactly that argument for some third party, No Labels, Third Way, Bloomberg nonsense. What they all seem to want is Republican policies without the crazy. (They seem all to believe that Republicans care about the deficit and that Paul Ryan was a policy wonk.) They don’t understand that the crazy is necessary to get anyone to vote for real Republicans’ policies.

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  14. @the Q: Well, the same basic conditions that make it hard to win as a third party candidate in House and Presidential elections makes it hard to win Senate races–plus, there is a profound incentive to be in the party structure due to the way committee power is allocated.

    I am not sure how a Senate-only third party would evolve (i.e., if there was enough support for a third party to win some Senate seats, then that party would win House seats, and some Electoral Votes as well).

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  15. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I stand corrected.

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  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: While I agree on the principled wing b.s., I think that there may be some irony at work behind the scenes. Consider the following possibility: Trump is the unprincipled one, true enough, but only because he is touting the crap that he is touting for the power and approval that he gets from touting it rather than from the conviction that it’s good policy. (Not that he would recognize good policy if it kicked him in his tiny little nads.)

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  17. Kathy says:

    @the Q:

    It’s been a mystery why a third party doesn’t attacked the soft underbelly of American democracy – the Senate.

    Not a third-party, but there are two formally Independent Senators right now, from Maine, I believe, and Bernie.

    It’s an intriguing idea. I suppose no third party has pursued it, if they thought of it, due to several factors. A big one is the expense. While a presidential run is even more expensive, it’s also way more noticeable and it’s national in scope. You get donations from all over the country. That’s hard to do on a state-wide contest.

    The potential is huge. A third party controlling a few seats could control the Senate, and either end or enable filibusters, if the Senators were united in action. It wouldn’t work if the 6-10 third party members split their votes between the two major parties.

    Another question is what the Senate rules allow. If you have six senators of the same third party, can they caucus on their own? If they do, would they get any committee assignments at all?

    That’s off the top of my head, and rushed at work. I suppose someone with greater knowledge of how the Senate operates, and of campaigning for the Senate, would have a better take on it.

    But it might make for a good twist in a story.

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  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    If a third party were to ever have a possibility of capturing the presidency it would be after years of party building first in local government and then in state government. By the time of the legitimate presidential run, the third party would already have captured a reasonable number of congressional and senate seats, 25%-30%. The closest, any current third party, is to accomplishing this is the Green Party, and they are only a factor in a handful of cities and probably hold a dozen or so state legislative seats.

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  19. grumpy realist says:

    @Sleeping Dog: This is why you can tell the third-party runs for POTUS are nothing more than vanity candidates. None of them have bothered to actually work their way up.

    Get elected as mayor, run a town for a few years. Show everyone that you actually have some real life experience. Ditto for the rest of your party. Then, if you can show you can in fact run things, the public might be willing to elect you as Congresscritter.

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  20. TimH says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Occasionally the VP matters. Anecdotally, I was set to sit out the ’08 election altogether. I had quit the GOP in disgust not 2 years before, largely because of McCain and his Prog-O-Philia. But then McCain nominated Sarah Palin! I figured the decrepid McCain would possibly kick over in his first term… So I voted for her.

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  21. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I wonder if history should have a sub specialty called something like “change dynamics.” In just over 2.25 centuries, American democracy has undergone major changes several times. But, curiously, it tends to be dominated by two major parties.

    Now and then a third party does arise, but it tends to be temporary, or to wipe out one of the two other parties. See the Populist/People’s Part, and the Whig Party.

    Mexico’s democracy is very young, 1990s, and seems stabilized to three major parties. Just now a new one, Morena, pretty much did in an older one, the PRD. Not coincidentally, many of the top people in Morena used to be part of the PRD, including His Majesty Manuel Andres Lopez Obrador First of that Name.

    Oh, there are a bunch of little parties, and they elect people to the equivalent of the House, and sometimes the Senate, but mostly they just ally with the Big Three and trade offices for votes. Sometimes they field a charismatic candidate who can act as a spoiler.

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  22. @TimH: Sure, as with all discussions of aggregate behavior, individuals can vary from the norm. Indeed, in my own case, the picking of Palin had the opposite effect: it guaranteed that I could not vote for McCain in 2008.

    Still, the evidence is clear that in aggregate VP choices don’t matter.

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  23. the Q says:

    Party cohesion is at an all time low. California, which has elected a song and dance man – George Murphy and a crazy college President – S.I Hayakawa to the Senate as well as two actors as governors, currently has the GOP with only 24% membership. Independents track higher. This state would be ripe for an alternative to the Dems and the GOP, especially millennial/Gen Xers.

    Also, expenses are greatly reduced when the party does not have to register in all 50 states which is a major hindrance running for POTUS. As for caucusing, I would imagine it would be with the Dems, but that is just a housekeeping item. Senators can vote anyway they choose. King and Sanders come to mind as they are Independents but caucus with the Dems. King was a Republican and switched affiliations. He got more votes than his Dem and GOP challengers COMBINED. There is no question that a state like Wyoming with 200,ooo voters or Wisconsin the land of La follette or Minnesota would be open to a charismatic 3rd party candidate who would only appeal to voters if the party doesn’t have some crazy policies. The party of Jefferson/Madison/Jackson and the party of Lincoln/TR/Reagan both are dinosaurs and need to be challenged. I agree totally with Mr. Taylor’s accurate assessment of a third party Presidential run – it ain’t gonna happen – but if you can elect a few Senators and show legitimacy and effectiveness, the party will eventually grow to run House candidates and for POTUS.

    In fact, to be honest, I will start such a party….it’s called the United States Party…join US…I am a relic of a bygone age where someone starts as a teenager licking stamps and mailing flyers and going door to door promoting a candidate. Then intern as a college kid for a pol at city hall or DC. Then get involved in a race and work yourself up the ladder. This old way which could take decades to be elected is now obliterated with gofundme and youtube. Get a good stump speech, put it online, have it seen a million times in a month, raise millions in a blink of an eye and its TOTALLY possible to compete with the big Two. 5 years ago…10 years ago…impossible.. a pipe dream.

    Now with Trump and the coming schitestorm of partisan politics the next two years, as my Marxist Leninists buddies would say, “the objective/subjective conditions have never been better” to effect history. This window the next 2 to 4 years will be so poisoned with Trump and the old Dem gerontocracy, many will be open to a viable and creditable alternative party.

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  24. @the Q: Running a real Senate campaign in CA costs millions.

    Get a good stump speech, put it online, have it seen a million times in a month, raise millions in a blink of an eye and its TOTALLY possible to compete with the big Two. 5 years ago…10 years ago…impossible.. a pipe dream.

    What is your strategy to get a stump speech seen a million times in a month? (Let alone for that to translate into raising millions).

    I have to confess: that sounds like a pipe dream to me.

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  25. @the Q:

    Party cohesion is at an all time low.

    Also: what do you mean by this? By what metric?

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  26. Kylopod says:

    @the Q:

    Party cohesion is at an all time low.

    Like Steven Taylor, I’m not sure what you mean by this, and it seems to me that if anything, the opposite is true. The two parties used to be a lot more divided–the Dems had the Dixiecrats and the liberals, the GOP had the Rockefeller and Goldwater wings.

    Let’s put it this way: It’s very easy to imagine a scenario where every single Democrat in the House and Senate votes to impeach or convict Donald Trump, and every single Republican votes against. That kind of outcome would have been unthinkable in the 1970s. The situation where each party votes as a single bloc is a pretty recent phenomenon historically.

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  27. Teve says:

    South Carolina Republicans are so concerned about a primary challenger in 2020 that they’re thinking about canceling the primary.

    Once the inevitable recession kicks in….

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  28. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    The American Institutional design basically forces a two party system, in the same way that Brazilian Institutional design basically forces successive coalition governments. Any strong third-party will be at best temporary, being disbanded or absorbed by other party if they manage to win the Presidency.

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  29. rachel says:

    @TimH: My parents liked Obama as a person, but had concerns about whether he was seasoned enough for the job. OTOH, they liked and respected McCain and were set to vote for him — until he picked Palin. My mother found her particularly off-putting.

    So, yeah. Sometimes the choice of running mate makes a huge difference.

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  30. Monala says:

    @Sleeping Dog: in 2016 there were at least a dozen 3rd party candidates on the ballot for state and local offices in Washington state. None of them were from the Green Party.

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  31. Todd says:

    @rachel: I was about to say the same thing. I agree with the others that a VP pick is unlikely to have much impact on the upside, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that picking Palin definitely hurt McCain … at least marginally.

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  32. @Kathy:

    It’s an intriguing idea. I suppose no third party has pursued it, if they thought of it, due to several factors.

    All third parties tried to elect senators – but they usually fail.

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  33. This whole “centrist third party” things has a big problem from the start – usually centrists don’t splitt or vote for parties with apparently low chances; centrists usually like compromises, prefer the possible to the ideal, don’t like high-risk adventures, like stability, etc. (almost by the definition of “centrist”). This kind of person (both as politicians or voters) is not the kind of person who easily defects of his party or votes in a new party.

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  34. Barry says:

    “A Biden-led bipartisan ticket would pledge to serve a Cincinnatus-like single term and address all of the U.S.’s ticking time bombs like Social Security, Medicare, health care reform, climate change, money in politics, immigration, gerrymandering and infrastructure investment in four years.”

    Meaning ‘cut taxes (but not spending) on the rich, and cut spending (but not taxes) on everybody else’.

    Every one of these things has really been a proposal for a Pure Plutocracy Party. There are some plutocrats and their courtiers who like GOP policies, but would prefer more decorum.

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  35. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “In fact, to be honest, I will start such a party….it’s called the United States Party…join US…I am a relic of a bygone age where someone starts as a teenager licking stamps and mailing flyers and going door to door promoting a candidate. ”

    Look forward to seeing your party’s growth and success.

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  36. Kathy says:

    @the Q:

    Party cohesion is at an all time low. California, which has elected a song and dance man – George Murphy and a crazy college President – S.I Hayakawa to the Senate as well as two actors as governors, currently has the GOP with only 24% membership. Independents track higher. This state would be ripe for an alternative to the Dems and the GOP, especially millennial/Gen Xers.

    I think this seems to mean voters are not as attached to their party, and therefore there’s an opening for a third party to step in and win.Or that with GOP registration so low, there’s an opening for a third party.

    I’ve no opinion on that. The trick would seem to be to attract the GOP and Independent voters to defeat the Democratic candidates?

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  37. wr says:

    The bi-partisan tickets always seem to feature two guys who are liked by a lot of people but loved by almost no one. People don’t vote for the “yeah, he’s not bad” candidate, and putting two of them together only doubles the indifference.

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  38. @wr: Indeed. Someone popular enough to win a three-way race is popular enough to win their party’s nomination and dominate a two-way race.

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  39. @the Q:

    Party cohesion is at an all time low. California, which has elected a song and dance man – George Murphy and a crazy college President – S.I Hayakawa to the Senate as well as two actors as governors, currently has the GOP with only 24% membership.

    I just re-read this in a comment above. Are you really suggesting that Senators from the 60s and 70s are evidence for party dynamics now? I would suggest that is not the case.

    CA is definitely heavily Democratic, but that does not mean that there is a diminution of party cohesion (indeed, it is rather strong at the moment).

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  40. the Q says:

    Thank you all for your comments. Gallup poll last month: 39% I, 24% R, 31% D. This is at a modern low as far as party affiliation or identification is concerned. The Independents are now the largest “party”. And where do the now biggest voting bloc – the GenX/Millennials go? Certainly not the GOP and then they look at the Nancy/Chuck/Steny gerontocracy and feel totally left out with leaders they can’t relate to.

    How many Democrats aren’t real happy with some of the party policies but just can’t see themselves ever voting for a Republican? And how many Republicans last election left blank their vote for President since they just could not stomach voting for Hillary all the while acknowledging the lunacy of Trump?

    Good cases in point. Utah voters passed an initiative last month which over rode the GOP dominated state legislature’s rejection of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Utah’s ballot initiative bypasses lawmakers and will result in full Medicaid expansion, as called for in the ACA. Voters in Idaho and Nebraska also passed Medicaid expansion ballots in the 2018 election while Maine did the same last year. This after their Republican legislatures refused to implement this component of the ACA. No one will accuse Utah, Idaho or Nebraska voters as bastions of democratic socialism but it’s obvious there is a huge schism here between their elected GOP leaders and their own self interests. Maine already has gone “Third party” with King who quit the GOP and became Independent but caucuses with the Dems.

    Seems states like Nebraska or Idaho or as stated above (WI, MN, CA) along with WA, OR, NH etc are ripe for an alternative. James Buckley NY was a 3rd party senator as was Joe Lieberman CT (remember he lost the Dem primary then won the general as an I). The Democratic Farmer Labor Party in Minnesota is a quasi third party as they are referred to as DFLers as opposed to just “Democrats”.

    Mr. Taylor questions the ability of raising money for “expensive” Senate races. Very true, but then you look at Beto, Bernie, even Jill Stein who got many small contributions that allowed them to run competitive races from small contributers scattered throughout the U.S. As for social media, you can accomplish in a month what would have taken years to build from the ground up as a viral video can attract multiple thousands of viewers in a nanosecond.

    This isn’t to gainsay the enormous challenges but the Senate offers the quickest, “easiest” way to confer legitimacy and credibility for a 3rd party and also have a strong voice in governing.

    In short, more and more voters are breaking away from the two party duopoly, especially those under 35, and those under 35 will soon dominate politics after the boomer’s power is taken away from their cold dead hands.

    I believe we are evolving into a system of “entrepreneurial socialism”. In fact, this is what the basis of a new party should implement – basically, the U.S. from the late 40s till St. Ronald of Reaganus destroyed the New Deal. In that period from 1945-1980 you had tremendous social change (youth, women’s movements, civil rights, environmental protection) all the while throttling finance capital, enforcing anti trust laws, expanding the middle class and taxing the wealthy at top marginal rates from 71% to 90%. This period is generally referred to as “the good ol’ days or the Golden Age”. The myth that the rich will suffer if taxed too high or their incentive is robbed is total demolished b y the em

    In an entrepreneurial socialist economy we CAN encourage and reward ambition, innovation, drive, hard work and create just as many billionaires as today while creating the social safety net which eliminates bankruptcy from medical bills, homeless camps and deficiencies in educational opportunities.

    Lets face it, the two parties kowtow to the same few thousand donors. The Dems are captives to the same monetary sources as the wingnuts. The Fortune 400 richest in 2017 had 10 TIMES the wealth, factoring for inflation, than the top 400 in 1984. The top 10 richest have more wealth than the bottom 60%. Sooner or later this skewed disparity will manifest in political and social turmoil.

    For all that ails us, really our country and the global community have never had it better. Other than the wars we started, there is genuine peace globally. Mass starvation, pandemics are being eliminated. There is global agreement on curbing greenhouse emissions (Trump is an aberration). Nuclear annihilation is a thing of the past. I am sanguine about the future. But we need new leadership and ideas and an America Version 3.0 to discuss the next set of priorities. Hence, the need for a new party as a credible option for change.

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  41. @the Q:

    Gallup poll last month: 39% I, 24% R, 31% D. This is at a modern low as far as party affiliation or identification is concerned

    That is not unusual. But the reality is that the 39% “independents” vote heavily either R or D, they just don’t want to be considered one or the other. I would answer that poll “independent” myself, but my voting record has been decidedly with one party of late.

    BTW, under different electoral rules, this split might have salience, under our current rules, it is irrelevant.

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  42. @the Q:

    Mr. Taylor questions the ability of raising money for “expensive” Senate races. Very true, but then you look at Beto, Bernie, even Jill Stein

    Beto and Bernie raised that money as Democrats. Stein’s money, which I expect was not that impressive, was raised for a national campaign, not a state-centric.

    Beto is an especially bad example for your argument, as he was very clearly garnering support as the Democrat v. the Republican (and had national support to do so).

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  43. the Q says:

    Yes, correct, but you are missing the much bigger picture. 10 -15 years ago, there is no Beto getting money from across the country in such massive amounts. Obama started the trend, technology has greatly expanded to enable it. McCabe got half a million on his gofundme. The couple helping the homeless guy in their hoax got 150k. None of this possible even 5 years ago. You can’t tell me a credible Senate candidate outsider, taking on the two “more of the same” conventional candidates couldn’t raise millions? And really, how much does a Senate race in Wyoming or N. Dakota cost? Barraso in Wyoming spent $6 million on his successful race last month. Kevin Cramer in N. Dakota spent $6 million in winning his senate seat. Heinrich in New Mexico spent $7 million to win. My point being that not every senate race will cost tens of millions.

    The ability to raise astronomical sums for a campaign can now happen. What is crucial is having the right message and capitalizing on the timing. We are going to see a schite show the next 2 years with the Dems out for blood and Trump no doubt going crazy in response. The search for a way out of this bipartisan madness will be off the charts compared to the recent past. If Tom Steyer wasn’t such an egomaniac, his millions spent on vanity commercials could definitely fund some candidates. Also, all it takes is ONE billionaire to support the third party and away we go due to the ridiculous lax campaign finance regulations we have.

    In sum, its never been a better environment to run 3rd party Senate candidates to establish a legitimate third party aimed at gen x/millenials, independents and even that one half of the population which doesn’t even bother to vote or register to vote.

    Forget the Presidential foolishness of a cult of personality candidate. Attack the Senate with only 100 members….5 – 8 Senators out of 350 million can almost rule the country’s agenda as no one will have a majority to pass anything.

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  44. @the Q: I accept that news tools exist for fundraising.

    I am not seeing how that translates into successful third party runs for the Senate (or anything else, for that matter).

    You are utterly discounting a host of structural conditions and incentives for two-party outcomes.

    Get rid of primaries and we can talk.

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  45. Put another way: let’s stipulate that money is easier to raise. That doesn’t change the fact that it is far easier to be elected as a nominee of one of the two major parties. Ergo: even if I can raise a lot of money through new means, I am still highly incentivized to do so as a Dem or a Rep.

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  46. the Q says:

    All points well taken, however, polls show that over 65% of the voters WANT a third party option (all time high) so again, one must seize the moment. The confluence of voter frustration, availabiity of unlimited PAC money, social media ubiquity and weakened party identification, makes all those barriers somewhat surmountable, whereas in the past your skepticism would be well founded.

    The duty of philosophers after all is not to interpret the world but to change it.

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  47. @the Q:

    All points well taken, however, polls show that over 65% of the voters WANT a third party option (all time high) so again, one must seize the moment.

    Well, sure. I want a third party, but that isn’t the issue.

    The polls that matter on this topic are at the ballot box, and all those people who say they want a third party vote overwhelmingly for Rs and Ds.

    I can’t say it enough: the structural conditions of our system shape both voters and politicians in that direction.

    The duty of philosophers after all is not to interpret the world but to change it.

    And if you follow what I write here at OTB, you know I want change, but the first step towards change is understanding what change looks like and what would actually effectuate that change.

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  48. the Q says:

    Mr. Taylor, another poll came out yesterday showing there has never been more division. If you run as a Dem or Repub, a priori “half” the voters will tune you out if you have the D or R in front of your name because there is so much built in bias and anger toward the other side. No way to change anyone’s view

    However, a third party does not come with that partisan baggage and can “triangulate” between the two parties’ policies. How about a “wall” AND amnesty (pathway to citizenship)for example? How about re-negotiating some of our flawed trade pacts without rancor and tariffs? You get the picture. To be continued.

    Thank you and Doug and James for the fine job you do in keeping this site didactic.

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  49. @the Q: Let me try this another way:

    If I am a politician, what is the better route for me if I want to win office: to compete in the primary of one of the major parties or am I better off running as a third party? And by “better off” I mean my chances to win office.

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  50. Mister Bluster says:

    @the Q:…a third party does not come with that partisan baggage and can “triangulate” between the two parties’ policies…

    If by baggage you mean the local, state and national Republican and Democratic parties that will raise the billions of dollars to run a successful campaign for President USA you are correct. I would suggest that the “Big Three” Third Parties, Constitution Party, Green Party of the United States and Libertarian Party will never have that kind of baggage.
    Are you truly suggesting that there are voters who want a wall and amnesty?
    Maybe they belong to the CatDog Party!

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