The Redistribution of Power and the Third Party Threat

If you hear someone talking about the need for a third party or independent candidate for office, in most cases it is likely a safe bet that they are talking about the presidency.  Presidential fetishism and the cult of the executive in the public at large and the media in particular are two major hurdles to effective  independent activism and advocacy.  Independent and third party activists themselves, of course, concede the difficulty of winning the presidency, but often argue that even a moderately successful presidential campaign will bring attention to issues that are ignored by Democrats and Republicans, and to the fact that there are indeed alternatives to the stooges of the major parties.  However, as noted here last week, only "a few dozen successful third party or Independent candidates to the House and just a handful to the Senate" would have far-reaching consequences for the redistribution of political power away from the most dangerous factions in the United States.  The idea may be gaining traction.  From an opinion piece in the Wichita Eagle today:
If there’s a third-party answer to our dilemma, it lies closer to the people, in contests for the Senate and House.  Imagine a third-party congressional effort founded on the principles of compromise whose candidates don’t take pledges about never raising taxes or promise not to touch entitlements but who will relentlessly work at conciliation.

Breaking the traditional parties’ headlock would not require a mass takeover, which is by any accounting quite impossible because of the majority of “safe” seats the parties have secured by distortive redistricting.  In fact, three or four third-party wins in the Senate and only a couple dozen in the House, even if in truly swing districts, would deny either party a certain majority and thus command respect and attention from the ideological hard-liners on both sides, and from the president.
Their presence would provide a rallying point and haven for the relatively few remaining moderates of both parties. Their votes, needed by both sides, could be leveraged against hard-line ideology and form the basis for addressing the nation’s deepest problems.

If those problems were insoluble, none of this would matter. But they are not; the solutions are available and understood. Congressional failure to act reflects the lack of courage to move away from the ideological fringes because of the assumed political costs.  A handful of people with the courage and the political freedom to act could make all the difference now and set a healthier tone for our democracy in the future.


TiradeFaction said...

State legislative seats should by far be our main focus. The Vermont Progressive Party I think shows a pretty good idea of how that can be achieved. If third parties begin to influence actual law making (presumably for the better), that builds a base for the larger elections.

DLW said...

You rock!


Samuel Wilson said...

To an extent the presidency is emphasized by reporters and pundits because it's believed that a third-party candidate can make a difference by being a spoiler and throwing the election to one candidate or the other. That's why we get facetious comments from Democrats about the need for an independent hard-right presidential candidate, for instance. The idea of a third-party becoming a power in its own right by taking just a few seats in Congress should seem nearly as dramatic, but doesn't play that way.

DLW said...

The more important point is that when we obsess about the presidency that we give the advantage to the two major parties and disperse time/energies that could be more productively employed in "more local" elections...

I for one plan to vote strategically in the presidential election and put my heart into pushing for American Forms of Proportional Representation.


d.eris said...

I think there is room at the state level for rational strategies to open up state legislative and congressional seats to candidates who represent people other than the puppet masters of the Republican and Democratic parties. Independent and third party strategists, imo, should (perhaps counter-intuitively) focus on seats and districts dominated by one of the duopoly parties, and in which the other major party will only offer up token opposition or even none at all.