After a really irritating back-and-forth on Facebook last night with a Jill Stein supporter (“Both candidates are equally horrible!” gag), I had trouble getting to sleep. I came up with the following plan. The 10-20-30 part is of course shamelessly plagiarized from some antipoverty proposal Clinton was talking about recently, and are otherwise arbitrary numbers, but I think the basic idea is sound, and not particularly revolutionary. I’m putting it out here for debate, as a strategic approach, not necessarily because you agree or disagree with any particular third party.
Run candidates for local office. Continue doing this until you control 10% of the elected positions in a county or parish.
Once you control that 10%, start running candidates for state office from all counties where you’ve reached that goal. Continue running for local and state office until you control 20% of the state legislative positions in a state.
At this point, expand to Congress and the governor, running candidates for these offices in addition to running for state and local offices. Continue along these lines until you control 30% of congress and/or governor offices in the country.
AT THIS POINT, run a presidential candidate.
Do it this way, and your presidential candidate won’t be a vanity run, and folks’ votes for the presidential candidate won’t aid the opposition.
I prefer to suggest that third parties have a different route to electoral legitimacy and success.
First, the third party leader needs to ask a baseball umpire for the key to the batter’s box. Inside the box they will find a dough repair kit that should be delivered to a pizzeria. Once the maestro has patched the holes in the dough, he might need help locating the bacon stretcher for use an an antipasti course.
Then the third party needs to make their way to a theater, where the gels will need washing. Be sure to remove the gel frames using the left-handed screwdriver!
After that, they must tackle the important animal rights issues. First, if the party leader stays up all night on a ship to make sure sea-bats do not get harmed in the cruise, the next task is going to the London subway to guarantee the safety of the gappes that infest every Tube station. Finally, if the party leader can conclude these quests by rescuing a snipe from one of those brutal canned hunts, the leader will have passed the gauntlet and guaranteed his party’s electrical success. (Don’t forget to use the gauntlet grease!)
If these tasks cannot be completed, well… there’s always another election in four years.
Didn’t Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh try something like this in 1982? First, get entrenched in Antelope, Oregon, then spread out to the county level, and presumably, from there, try to get a foothold at state level. IIRC, the whole thing collapsed when his attempt to bus in homeless people to stuff the ballot box for him failed.
The problem with this is that if the Green Party, for example, became more powerful over time due to your plan; they’d be more likely, not less, to become spoilers, thus pushing the country in a direction opposite to their goals.
The Greens would have more success registering and running as Democrats, taking over the local party, then moving up from county to state, etc. according to your plan. Taking over one of the two main parties in this way would be difficult, but not as difficult as trying to get somewhere as a third party, plus it won’t automatically hand power to the opposition.
There would be no way to feel Righteous while making such an attempt.
But seriously: You’re right that taking over one of the existing parties in our two-party system is practical and potentially effective. The trouble is, it involves a lot of work and very little opportunity to feel superior to others, so it’s probably doomed. I do like the plan advanced by Left Hand of Dorkness as it points up the same issue (that work is needed to advance one’s political ideas).
They won’t go for either. They enjoy being spoilers.
It does seem like it’s more about some kind of personal moral purity on their part than any desire to actually accomplish anything. They love to talk about “voting your conscience”. For me voting my conscience means voting in a way that will best serve my goals, which means looking at what’s possible in the real world and then choosing accordingly.
Like I said in another thread, those who insist on all or nothing will almost always get nothing. All the hand-waving about lesser evils still being evil doesn’t change that.
To an extent, you have described Bernie, except he never tried to start a party.
In Canada, a new party took over a whole province (Alberta), then took over one of the major (the “Progressive Conservatives”) and renamed it “Conservatives” and won a national election. But any resemblance with the old PC party is purely coincidental. However, even the new-fangled Conservatives made any attempt to undo universal medicare. They were, however, immune to facts. Their so-called science minister was a creationist chiropracter. Who tried to get rid of support for “curiosity-driven research”.
My original numbers were arbitrary, but the 30% gateway becomes important: if a third party can take essentially a third of the electorate, there’s a pretty decent chance that they’re no longer the spoilers, but rather represent more of a mainstream than one of the two remaining parties. If (for example) 45% of the nation supports Republicans, 30% supports Greens, and 20% supports Democrats, it’s the Democratic candidate who needs to decide whether to bow out or spoil the election for Greens. In any case, under such a circumstance it doesn’t make sense to call such an entrenched party “spoilers.”
Hmm…I don’t think so. Certainly he ran for local and then national office (did he ever hold state office?)–but the key to what I’m saying isn’t a single person. The key to what I’m saying is the construction of a broad network. If Sanders had helped half a dozen other Socialists gain office in Burlington, and then had worked for the election of a few dozen Socialists to the Vermont state legislature, then he’d be on the path I described.
And yes, Sherrerd, a big piece of what I’m doing with this suggested plan is pointing out how much work goes into a realistic third party. But I’m also serious: as someone on the far left of the Democratic party, I’d vote for Jill Stein in a heartbeat if she ran for my local city council. I’d be thrilled to vote for a bunch of Greens for local government, as long as they were sane and competent (not always a given for any politician). But I’m totally unwilling to vote for Stein for president, even though she broadly represents my views more closely than Clinton does.
She is the default candidate of Bernie supporters who are still upset with the way the Democrats ran their primary.
However, the nominating process for the Green Party is controlled by a small group of people, and you can only vote on the candidate if you make it to the National Convention. On your own dime. There was nothing at all democratic about the Green Party nominating process, which makes their supporters even more hypocritical.
Stein was, and is, the preferred candidate for the very few people who nominate and vote. You could almost call it a “cabal”.
The problem is that you can find somebody who’s willing to make a hopeless run for President. But who wants to make a hopeless run for Town Councilman? Or worse yet, win the election and have to spend the next two years doing whatever it is a Town Councilman does?
People in third parties want to complain about politics; they don’t want to actually do anything about it.
But in that scenario, you’d still have two parties splitting the vote of the less conservative majority and handing the government to a more conservative minority. Just because the “spoiler” label moves from the Greens to the Democrats doesn’t change that. The problem is having 3 or more parties with meaningful support in a system that mathematically becomes less representative with more than 2 such parties.
The problem is with our electoral system. It’s an 18th century system designed by a group of men who warned against political parties. It’s why most of the world’s democracies have parliamentary systems rather than our presidential system.
I actually think the best approach is that rather than trying to compete everywhere, they should pick their spots. Get the right candidate in the right place at the right time. Find a race where the incumbent is unpopular and the challenger unacceptable and insert a talented candidate in the middle. Worked for the Reform Party with Jessie Ventura. YOu don’t need to win a lot of such races before the public starts to notice and take you seriously. A party that enters only 10 contests and wins 5 of them is going to be taken more seriously than a party that enters 1000 contests and wins 5.
I will give the LP credit, nominating Johnson/Weld was their best shot in a race where both candidates are very unpopular. It was exactly the right move and in a world where famous Republicans had an ounce of sense they would have had as many endorsements as Donald Trump and as much backing from the billionaire set.
I’d say to the OP that your opponent probably bothered you because, fundamentally, if the only reason you’re voting for a main party candidate is because you don’t think others will jump ship, then that’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.
If you think that Stein or Johnson or anyone else would be a better president, you should be out there telling people that you’re jumping ship and that they should too and try to convince everyone to ignore everything except finding the right person to lead the country.
Now if, after everyone has split up and decided who they are going to vote for, things look dangerous, then once it comes time to actually vote, switching to a strategic vote makes sense. But during the primaries and election cycle, if you’re holding fast to the party, even when you don’t care for the candidate, then you’re just screwing the nation over.
I’m voting for a main party because I think that’s the action that is likeliest to lead to the best outcome.
Otherwise you’re not even talking about the OP at all. The OP isn’t talking about the wisdom of voting third party president now. It’s talking about long-term strategy that makes a third-party presidential vote viable.
It might be interesting to look at Brexit and the UK Independence party as an example.
Founded by a left-wing economist in 1993, they morphed in 1997(by means of a coup which eliminated the original founder) into a right-wing party drawing support from traditional conservatives. Initially they were very much a fringe party but they fought their way into the mainstream one local election at a time.
Their strategy was very much to win from the bottom up, standing in local council and European Parliament elections. (European Parliament elections sound like a big deal, but hardly anyone votes in them and no-one knows who their MEP is. They do however give the incumbents funding and status.) Competing in local council seats had several advantages: it taught them who their core voter was; it taught them how to organise the fight for election; it helped them refine their pitch to the voter. Increasingly this meant positioning themselves as a general further-right alternative to the Conservatives across a number of policy areas, not simply focusing on the issue of the EU. In particular they began to focus heavily on immigration as an issue.
Electoral success brought its own benefits: increased funding from millionaire donors and grassroots membership; growing national recognition and representation in the media; and increasing influence on mainstream politics. Initially competing mainly with Conservatives for votes, they encouraged/scared a number of right-wing Tory MPs to echo their message. Ultimately this led to PM Cameron, who was not in favour of leaving Europe, promising to hold a referendum in order to keep his own party happy.
(On the topic of mainstream press coverage, it should be noted that UKIP had a major asset in their post 2006 leader Nigel Farage who is an accomplished - albeit divisive - media performer).
When the referendum came, UKIP’s decade of focus on immigration played a big role in shaping the debate; both the Tories and (more recently) Labour had begun to accept that immigration was a major concern without ever formulating stance that wasn’t “UKIP are right; don’t vote for them”. As a result, the mainstream politicians struggled to run a credible campaign while the UKIP-influenced Leave campaign had a running start.
To emphasise the value of the grassroots approach, it’s worth taking a moment to count the number of UKIP MPs in Parliament: One. Without ever winning significant representation in the national legislature, still less getting close to the executive, UKIP have - uniquely, I think, in politics - achieved everything they ever set out to do.
So in short - yes. Building up a foundation of local successes enables you to attract funding, form the infrastructure and develop the skills needed to win at higher levels, and even shape the debate in a way that a “big bang” approach doesn’t.