Will there ever be a viable third party in our lifetimes?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Unspeaked, Sep 10, 2008.

  1. Unspeaked macrumors 68020


    Dec 29, 2003
    West Coast
    I've been meaning to ask this question for a while now, but forgot about it until the recent thread about the reason why some people refuse to vote for either Obama or McCain in the general election.

    I am hopeful, but not optimistic, that a third party will claw its way into relevance by the end of the century. The people that support such candidates are few and far between, and too many people who otherwise are open to the idea don't help advance it for fear of "wasting" a vote.

    However, there has been a trend towards independent voting in recent years, and as less and less people identify themselves as "Democrat" or "Republican," it probably means there's a better chance that some more votes will trickle to these other parties.

    Right now, for the most part, it's a major victory if a third party garners 5% in a general election. How long before this grows to double digits or - dare I even say it - a majority, if ever?
  2. atszyman macrumors 68020


    Sep 16, 2003
    The Dallas 'burbs
    I had a theory late last year or early this year that a third party is in our midst we just don't know it yet.

    It went along the lines of someone from one of the 2 parties gets elected and puts together a cabinet with members of both parties and forms a strong bipartisan coalition in Congress that starts to pass legislation that actually does what it's supposed to do and finds decent popularity ratings. When the first term of the presidency is up, or maybe even a year or two before hand (maybe for the midterm Congressional elections if their record is good) they declare themselves a new party outlining how they're combining the best of both parties and run their next elections under that party's banner.

    Of course now that it doesn't appear that there are a lot of GOP party members breaking ranks I'm doubting that this will happen any time soon, but it's probably the only way I can see a viable third party in my lifetime.

    I also had another one about 4 years ago that involved the real conservatives who were not happy with the neocon hijacking of their party going off and forming a nearly viable third party, but obviously that didn't pan out.
  3. leekohler macrumors G5


    Dec 22, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    The only way it'll happen is very slowly, and from the ground up. I really wish independents would focus their time and money on local and state elections and stop worrying about the federal stuff for now. It would be far more productive.
  4. freeny macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2005
    Location: Location:
    You are right on the mark
  5. Much Ado macrumors 68000

    Much Ado

    Sep 7, 2006
    Any political upheaval that sees the end of the current crop of parties would be welcome, here in the UK and in the US too. And if it's going to happen it will probrably happen quickly and come out of the blue.

    FWIW, I still don't believe we'll see any change for a very long time.
  6. imac/cheese macrumors 6502a

    Jun 7, 2007
    I don't ever see us having a viable third party in this country. Too many people find it important to have voted for a winner as opposed to voting for a person they think can actually do the job. Since no single vote has ever won a federal election, my vote really makes no difference except as a show of support. I will not use my show of support for a candidate I have to hold my nose for.
  7. Thomas Veil macrumors 68020

    Thomas Veil

    Feb 14, 2004
    OBJECTIVE reality
    In a word, no.

    Yes, the number of people calling themselves Independents is growing, but they are a melange of progressives, libertarians, and others. They have differing priorities, and certainly not enough unity to form a third party, nor do individual splinter groups have enough mass to make themselves into a viable force.

    Of course, if the two existing parties would give people something to believe in, they'd start to recapture the Independents. IMO the Dems in particular have a pretty good-sized number of progressives who'd return to the party if only the party would show a little spine and live up to its ideals.
  8. fivepoint macrumors 65816


    Sep 28, 2007
    God, I hope so.

    Not sure about the relevance of this... but I always thought it would be awesome to be able to split up the current 2 parties, into four: Social liberals, fiscal liberals, social conservatives, and fiscal conservatives. Once we had it down to four, there would then be room for parties like the constitutionalist party, libertarian party, green party, to actually breathe and have a shot at getting someone nominated.

    I think it is ridiculous how much our elected representatives are forced to vote down party lines instead of voting their own conscience based on the facts at hand.

    I don't know how to change it, just that it needs to be changed.
  9. bradl macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2008
    Just for history's sake, we did have 3 other viable parties in this country, with all three parties actually having sitting Presidents; Whig, Federalist, and National Union. What I find funny (read: interesting) is who the President and VP were for the National Union ticket, as they were aligned with the parties that became the Blues and the Reds. :eek:

  10. miloblithe macrumors 68020


    Nov 14, 2003
    Washington, DC
    But of course that was all a long time ago, and arguably the two party system didn't really exist at points in the 19th century. Since then the best showings for third parties have been Roosevelt in 1912, but in a way he wasn't a third party candidate but more of a second Republican candidate. Socialists apparently got 6% in that election though.

    In 1924, The Progressive Party got 16.6% of the vote.

    In 1948 Strom Thurmond won electoral votes but only 2.4% of the national vote.

    In 1968, George Wallace got 13.5% of the national vote and 45 electoral votes.

    In 1980, John Anderson got 6.6% of the vote.

    In 1992, Ross Perot got 18.9% of the vote, but no electoral votes, although he finished second in 3 states. In 1996, he got 8% of the vote.

    To some degree, I disagree with Lee that third parties need to grow locally first. While I think you're right they're more likely to have success there, I don't think you're going to grow a major party out of local/regional concerns. But then, maybe that's not necessary. If 10%+ of congress were third party members, perhaps that would change a lot of how the government works.
  11. Unspeaked thread starter macrumors 68020


    Dec 29, 2003
    West Coast
    Perot's results were really impressive. That's the last time there was any real parity between a third party candidates and the others; Nader didn't even come close, even in 2000, and was basically ignored by both major parties.

    Why does it seem we've gone backwards since 1992?
  12. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

    Jan 30, 2004
    having a drink at Milliways
    interesting points.

    i doubt there is stable space for a three-party system, but i can see a third party growing and supplanting an existing one.

    for example, if obama wins this round and the GOP continues its rightward drift towards a fully religious party, as underscored by the palin insanity, i could see either the democrats moving even more to the right to fill the void, with the formation of a progressive party to its left, or the independents+ moderate republicans/democrats to coalesce into a central entity built around fiscal responsibility.

    an other important aspects of this would be the long overdue reform of the ridiculously obsolete electoral college system, and in particular of the undemocratic winner-take-all aspects of it.
  13. Thanatoast macrumors 65816


    Dec 3, 2002
    Third parties won't emegre as long as the current two control districting, get free postage, and decide who constitutes a "viable" candidate.

    Best would be a proportional representation system, but again, this would require the current two parties to change the system that keeps them in power.
  14. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    for a third party to become successful, it's going to take some agenda other than just "not" being the Dems or the Repubs
  15. miloblithe macrumors 68020


    Nov 14, 2003
    Washington, DC
    Interestingly though the most popular third parties today seem also to be on the right, like the libertarian and constitution parties. If the Republican party became a more fundamentalist religious party, I think the democratic party would have a hard time competing on the right.

    U.S. political history does seem to be one where third parties are short lived or supplant existing parties, so the idea of a three-party system or multi-party system does seem unlikely.

    It would be interesting to have a four party system representing the "wings" of the current two parties:

    Populist labor party (pro labor, low taxes on working class)
    Progressive Party (socially left, strong on environment and education)
    Christian Fundamentalist Party
    Pro-Business Party
  16. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Oct 9, 2006
    I do not think we will ever had a 3rd party in our life time. The winner take all system in the US just is not conclusive to that happening. Plus when one of the 3rd parties start getting any real attention either the rep or Dems parties will trying to bring them into there respective fold or at least under the party stances. Effectively killing the 3rd party and bring the votes back to one of the 2 major parties.
  17. takao macrumors 68040


    Dec 25, 2003
    Dornbirn (Austria)
    as long as there are still "the winner takes it all" voting systems are in place i doubt a third party can survive long enough in US

    that said we have election upcoming in 2 weeks here too (after the big coalition broke in july) and it's a record amount of parties already: 10

    pretty much all is there for choice.. the christian conservatives, the social democrats, the greens, the right wing populists , the other right wing populists, the liberal party, the communists, "the christians", the "save the country" dreamers, and the regional successful guy trying to win votes in the federal election

    and yet it's still not enough choice
  18. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Yes, there MIGHT be, and we desperately need it!

    I support Obama strongly, and I won't vote for anyone else (like Kucinich!) because they can't win. I also won't abstain in protest--it's too important, and if I HAVE to have one of the major parties, I do like Obama a lot.

    But we need a system where a third party CAN win, and has a fair shot at it.

    That means we need a multiple vote system (such as Instant Runoff Voting) where you can pick more than one candidate but state a preference.

    So I could vote for Kucinich, say and not throw my vote away--Obama would get my vote as second choice.

    Each state could, as I understand it, implement such a system with no need to alter the U.S. constitution. Many countries, and some US cities, already use a multiple vote system and know how much better it can work.

    But the two major parties would obviously fight such a thing unless there was MAJOR popular pressure, and too few people even know such an option exists.

    Therefore, to make the viable third-party dream come true--eventually--the first step is simple:

    Use multiple-vote systems whenever possible at small/local levels, in your company, your club, your school board, whatever. Make people understand it, appreciate it, and let it snowball. In time, it will have enough support to become an effective movement. And it doesn't have to sweep the nation: it can be done one state at a time. When people see how well it works, they'll want it in their own state.

    It would take time, but eventually that's the kind of election change that could break the current two-party stranglehold. And it would make election results reflect the will of the people a lot better.

    It could happen in our lifetime. A multiple vote system would, I feel, be key to solving a LOT of problems we have--the two-party lock and the unethical influence of corporations being just two that come to mind.

    Without such a system, I don't see it happening--unless the right "perfect storm" of scandals hit both parties too hard to be ignored. But that would be a one-time curiosity, not a real solution.
  19. jplan2008 macrumors regular

    Feb 15, 2008
    I find it interesting that people talk of splitting the two current parties up as if that would be a big change. The parties aren't all that different to begin with (but one is much worse than the other, IMO), so splitting wouldn't give much more real choice.

    I agree it has to come from the ground up, and that is happening, but you don't see these local races (of a progressive third-party candidate) covered in the mainstream media.

    I also agree that it will only be possible with a system like multiple votes (since the entire "winner takes all" won't change in my lifetime), and that also comes from the ground up.

    Anyone who thinks NOT voting is some kind of "protest vote" is completely ignorant of reality. Half the eligible voters routinely don't vote -- and that's in the general presidential election -- there's no message of "protest" that has gotten across. Those in power are probably generally pretty happy with those numbers -- the Democrats probably want an increase of a few percentage points of voting, but even they surely don't want participation of the vast majority in this country, who are actually far to the "left" on most issues than either party OR the so-called "liberal media" -- the majority is in favor of universal health care, as just one of many examples.
  20. Unspeaked thread starter macrumors 68020


    Dec 29, 2003
    West Coast
    Can someone more familiar with the election than I explain how Jessie Ventura became governor of Minnesota?

    I'm very interested in learning what chain of events made that possible.
  21. MacNut macrumors Core


    Jan 4, 2002
    The same way Weicker won in Connecticut back in the 90's. A good campaign and promising issues that neither side would. Of course one in office he reversed his stance
  22. zap2 macrumors 604


    Mar 8, 2005
    Washington D.C
    At the very least, Ron Paul, Barr, McKinney and Nader have started releasing comments together...a good start.

    I'd like to see it happen, the GOP and even the Dems are too comforatble. 3rd partys tend to be filled with people who give a damn, which is always nice to see.

    Although I can respect Ron Paul;s and Kucinich's methods, change the parties from the inside out.
  23. MacNut macrumors Core


    Jan 4, 2002
  24. SMM macrumors 65816


    Sep 22, 2006
    Tiger Mountain - WA State
    I voted for Perot when I never would have imagined I would believe, or support a Texas Billionaire. Ross had the right message and the right approach to running the government. Even though I suspect I would find something he and I disagreed about, I felt he would make the right call, regardless of what his initial mindset was.

    I believe he made a critical mistake when he dropped out of the race, then came back in it. He was scaring both Democrats and republicans. Even though negative campaigning was nowhere near the level it is today, he was beginning to get hammered by both sides.

    When he dropped out, it was a gamble. By removing yourself as a threat, you can stop the negative attacks, then come back in with a full blitz and recapture the momentum. That just did not work. He left when he had a great deal of momentum, but was unable to fully recapture it. I believe if the internet would have been at where it is today, I think Perot could have seriously threatened.

    The internet has the real potential to make a third-party candidate more possible than at any time in recent US history. I think the first foundation block to make that happen is a fairly substantial dissatisfaction with both parties. We are close to that now. Then you need the right person to stand-forth. Finally, they need one hell of a strategic plan.

    There is a perception of a raging peasant army rising up to rebellion. The fact is, revolts are not started by the poor. They have few possessions, little means of income, and not a great deal of hope for improvement. So, they whether economic downturns without much issue. The middle-class is where rebellion begins. They are comfortable, but feel downturns rather quickly. The upper-middle class is more able to adjust to downturns, provide they are not really bad, or maintained too long. Right now, I would guess the low-end of middle class is around 40K, give or take. One really stays in middle-class until ~150K. NOT BRAGGING, but my wife and I were making about this amount, the last few years before retirement. I was always puzzled because it never seemed like that much. In fact, I did not feel that worry-free at all. However, seeing people just scraping by, helped me keep a reality check and to be grateful. The point is, this was the combined income from two full-time people and if one, or both of us lost our jobs, we would feel a serious bite. If it went on for an extended period, our lifestyle would take a big hit. So, I think anyone making 250K, or less, is an easy victim of a prolonged recession. That is a great deal of pissed off voters. If they have no faith in both parties, I could see a seriously challenging third-party forming.
  25. solvs macrumors 603


    Jun 25, 2002
    LaLaLand, CA
    The Dems are already far more moderate than some want to give them credit for. Split them into liberal and moderate factions, and the right will win in a landslide. I guess you could add libertarianism, which would split the fiscal conservatives and social conservatives. But they know they couldn't win if split either, so they use the religious stuff to convince people to vote against their fiscal betterment.

    So we get the 2. Not great, either choice, but it's what we get. Vote 3rd party if you want, no one has the right to stop you. But if you relate better with one and really don't want the other to win, you should be prepared for the consequences when your 3rd party doesn't win.

    If there ever was an actual viable 3rd party candidate, you'd think they'd have a shot, but I'm guessing they still wouldn't.

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