Thursday, May 6, 2010

About That Third Party

I have seen some discussions about conditions being favorable for a third party in the United States to rise up and challenge the Democrats and Republicans. Much is made of the rise of Nick Clegg and Britain's perennial third place finishers, the Liberal Democrats. Miscues by the Tories and Labour's Gordon Brown, who famously called a long time Labour party voter bigoted, would seem to have put the wind at the back of Mr. Clegg, who performed well in televised debates. Additionally, references are made to Ross Perot, and his self financed campaign that garnered just under one fifth of the vote in 1992 and may have cost George Bush the election.

However, I think the results that are coming in from Britain, and Mr. Perot's efforts show what an uphill battle it is for a third party to make enough in roads to be more than a bit player. The Lib Dems seem set to place a distant third in these elections despite polling very close to 27% of the popular vote in the run up to the elections. They may yet be part of a coalition formed by the Conservatives, but if so, will be a very junior partner.

What is the lesson? I think that the Tea Party can be very effective at driving the direction of the debate and adding energy to politics, but forming an independent political party actually fritters away our strength. By shaping primaries and forcing politicians to cater to our concerns, we have more influence than through actually electing candidates. I think Sarah Palin has missed the boat on this by endorsing Carly Fiorina. We should use our influence to move all politicians in our direction. I know that Temple of Mut is disappointed by Sarah's endorsements. But when the general election comes around we need to unseat liberal Democrats, even with moderate Republicans. Look at how Nancy Pelosi passed Obamacare with Blue Dog votes. I think fears that Carly won't be Republican enough if she wins the nomination aren't well founded.

Click here to stay up to date with electoral returns from "across the pond."

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