People are clamoring for a third party to “save” the American political system. But it seems to me that the third party moment has come and maybe gone and no one was impressed.
Both major political parties had non-party candidates running for President. One actually received the nomination and the other pushed the eventual nominee right up until the convention. “Third” party candidates have been extraordinarily influential this election cycle.
Our political parties are actually private entities. They can choose their nominees any way they darn well please. This is why we have the mishmash of various caucuses, primaries and such.
Bernie Sanders has always run as an independent in his elections. While he does caucus with the Democrats in the Senate, he has not run as a Democrat, except for President. It would have been quite possible for the Democratic party to have said to him, “Sorry Bernie, you can’t run for President as a Democrat, you are simply not one of us.” The Republicans could have said the same thing to Donald Trump. “You are not really a Republican, you are not welcome in our nominating process.”
Either stance may have caused problems either in the short term politically or in the long term, but both parties could have done this.
So, it certainly seems to me that if Donald Trump could just hold a press conference, announce he is running for president as a Republican and they put him on the ballot, there is nothing to stop Gary Johnson from doing the same thing. Jill Stein could do the same thing on the Democratic side. If Bernie Sanders can, why can’t she?
Now, before you say, “Johnson and Stein don’t agree with those parties on many issues,” I say, “So what?” Sanders has a different view of things than the Democratic party and Trump has a different view of things from pretty much every thinking human being on the planet. Sanders has certainly helped shape the Democratic message during the general election. Trump IS the Republican message.
So, you might say, “Surely the party regulars and officials would work hard to scuttle a third party candidate.” And they did. Some people say the effort worked in denying Sanders the nomination. Of course the Republican “establishment” failed miserably in stopping Donald Trump.
So, if you are thinking that the Ds and Rs could use a shot of third partyism, the answer now is clear, put on your party hat and run.
If Jill Stein can run the country, surely she could figure out how to get herself in the Democratic primaries. Bernie did. And let’s face it, Bernie’s news coverage in the primaries was a million times more effective at getting his message out than Stein has running for president as a Green.
I can think of a few people here in the Midwest who might have been Greens, but put on their party hats instead. Russ Feingold, Tammy Baldwin and Al Franken would probably fit in very well in the Green Party. But instead they ran as Democrats and actually won their elections (Russ soon to do so again) so they can actually make policy, not just talk about it.
While I agree that third parties have a harder time in the US, I am not at all sympathetic to the idea that there is a conspiracy against third parties or that they would in any way “save” us.
The problem that third parties have is that there is no “minor leagues” for them. Because they are not well organized at the grassroots (there are more people on the Democratic party committee in my county there is for the state Green Party) those parties don’t have battle tested people to run for office.
Which shows in the “other two” candidates this year. Gary Johnson is an amiable doofus and Jill Stein is only a boutique protester. The only reason that people are thinking of voting for them is that they nothing about them. Had they run in the major party primaries they wouldn’t have lasted very long. Sanders would have eaten Stein for lunch. He has many of the same policy ideas, but can actually articulate how they might be accomplished. Johnson would have been shouted (and laughed) off the stage by Trump like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie were. If Johnson and Stein had been in the primary process, no one would think they were going to “save” our political system.
We seem to be not very tolerant of people’s faults lately and the more we get to know them, the less we like them. Joe Biden gets high marks now, but I am pretty sure had he gone through the primary process (along with a few Republican congressional investigations) people would think no more of him than they now think of Hillary Clinton.
Even if, say, Elon Musk were to run, after getting Foxified, investigated and found to have (most likely) gotten some preferential treatment from some government agencies somewhere, his positive poll numbers would go down as well.
But aside from personalities, if third party candidates want to make a splash and possibly take over American politics the way to do it is to run as either a Democrat or Republican. If they lose, they get lots of publicity for their positions and perhaps push the party in their direction. If they win, they can start to carry out their program — with the support of one of the major political parties!
So, if that is you wanting a third party revolution, sign up to run for office — any office — as a whatever party you think you can get the most votes in.