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Electing a third-party president for dummies

Every now and then, someone else announces "the death of the two-party system" and calls for the creation of a third party. The last time I heard that, it got me thinking of a possible strategy where a third party could actually win the presidency.

The first step for that to happen is for them to forget about the presidency.

At least, forget about it for several years. This is gonna take a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of luck. Money won't hurt, either.

The first step is to start some serious grass-roots movements in a couple states -- preferably some low-population states. New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont would be a nice starting point -- small populations, and geographically contiguous. Toss Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming into the mix. Establish a strong presence in about five or six states, and start getting politically active.

Then, once your group's established, start running candidates for the House of Representatives. That's essential for later -- forget the Senate, focus on the House.

Once you get a couple members in the House, then latch on to the party that's closer to you ideologically. Work with them closely, support them whenever you can, let them start to take you for granted and view you as "cousins" in the House.

While you're building up your House seats, start running candidates for other office -- Senate, governorships, even a presidential candidate. But don't put too much effort into any of those except the gubernatorial races -- that's the only one that really matters, and even that one not too much.

But don't take your eyes off the House seats. Keep growing your presence in the House until your people hold a majority of the seats from several states. Seven states have only a single representative, five have only two, and five more have but three. That means that if your party can get as few as 27 seats, they can dominate the delegations of 17 states.

Also, in a lot of states, governors get to appoint people to fill vacancies in Congress. It's pretty rare when a senator or representative dies, resigns, or goes to jail, but it does happen. And if it happens to a Democrat or Republican from a state where one of your people is governor, there's another seat you just picked up.

Once your party has a majority of several states' delegations, it's time to get moving. That's when it's time to start putting forward serious candidates for president.

And this is where you start seriously gaming the system. According to the Constitution, as everyone has been so recently reminded, it's the Electoral College that really votes for President. Each state has an equal number of electors as to its members of Congress -- Senators and Representatives. The candidate who receives the majority of electors' votes becomes President.

But what happens if no candidate gets a majority of the electors? Let's say the Democratic nominee gets 265, the Republican 261, and your guy gets 12. According to the Constitution, it goes to the House of Representatives.

But it's not a simple majority vote. Each state gets a single vote, and it takes a majority of the delegation to cast that state's vote. Those 27 seats I mentioned above constitute barely 6% of the total House membership -- but control a full third of the available votes for President. With a block of that force, it should be very easy to wrangle some serious concessions from one party or another in exchange for their support.

If negotiated carefully, those concessions could build even more strength for future presidential elections. And eventually your party might be the one trading concessions for votes, and your guy (or gal) could be the one to finally take the Oval Office.

Yeah, it's a hell of a long shot, and it's probably more fantasy than prognostication. But it was a damned fun bit of mental exercise.

J.


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Comments (15)

We have at least a three pa... (Below threshold)
bullwinkle:

We have at least a three party system as it is. The primaries only narrow it down to something manageable. Excluding incumbents, like Bush in the last election, we usually have more than one candidate for both parties. They may run on close to the same theme but there always differences, like more centrist or farther to to the left or right. In the last election we had six or seven degrees of leftist crap on the democrat side, the primaries narrowed it down to Kerry, but all were running for president, at least until forced to dro out of the primaries. Of them only Kerry could convince a large enough bloc that he was capable of winning. Bad theory (SUCKERS), but anyway the left had several choices, socialist, socialist lite, and what claimed to be socialist free (only 1 calorie!). Forget ever running a successful third party in our lifetimes, the democrats have effectively split their party, but both sides need the support of the whole party to win. Someone like Nader will never be able to pull the support to get on enough ballots to do much more than dilute the vote for the democrats until the DNC finally disentegrates entirely, then whatever comes out of those fragments will be the second party. And we'll be right back to the primaries settling on which tow parties are running in the national election.

Well, although this won't l... (Below threshold)
John:

Well, although this won't lead to a 3rd Party President anytime soon, the following senerio has crossed my mind of late.

The Democrat leadership keeps moving to the extreme left as witnessed by the party chairmanship going to Howard Dean. They no longer represent the majority of people in their own party.

The Repulicans move to appeal to disenfranchised Democrats in an attempt to become the centrist party of America. There are two things I believe point to this being a possibility. One is less than conservative conduct by GWB despite what the MSM would have you believe. The other is that all the well-known names for Repulicans in '08 are the Left of the litter. People who would fit the description "Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative" which includes Guiliani, McCain, & Arnold (if they can only get rid of that pesky constitution detail).

Much of the Conservative base of the Republican Party would be taken for granted and appeal focused on becoming the centrist party. This would potentially create a split. A split which would only strengthen the Republican's claims of being the centrist party. Considering American's perception that the center path is the correct path or that compromise is a virtue, many many people would be attracted to support a centrist party. The Republicans would cement their authority and control of the government for generations. Even if they controlled less than 1/3 of the congress, they would be the deciding vote, so to speak as the other two parties would be polarized on the issues. Making them the true power brokers of the three parties.

If someone only cared about cementing the party called 'Republicans' as a significant player in America's future and was willing to abandon many Conservative positions, this might be a desired senerio for them.

/end of tin-foil-hat theory

Sorry for any early morning grammar and spelling mistakes.

The surest way to get to a ... (Below threshold)
Rod Stanton:

The surest way to get to a 3 party system is for one of the 2 parties to become irrevelant. This happened 160 years ago and with the Dems pushing Boxer, Pelosi, Reid, Teddy and JFK at us it may be happening now.
Then a third party becomes viable; but only as a third party for a short time. The old major party dissapears - Whigs.

I agree mostly with you.</p... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

I agree mostly with you.

You have to make a third party viable at the local/state level before you are going to make it viable on the national scene.

I don't know about making one party irrelevant though, that doesn't create a viable third party, it sort of just replaces the non relevant party with a different one, and it is still a two part system.

My honest belief is that we probably won't end up with a viable third party-our thinking is too focused on the two party system.

I see a third party emergin... (Below threshold)
Jeff Dawson:

I see a third party emerging as a single issue party in the metropolitan areas of the country and that single issue is education. Education will become more important as technology makes borders irrelevant in job competition in all but manufacturing and some service industries.
At some point, city residents will realize that neither party is addressing their educational needs. The Dems have sold their souls for NEA dollars and President Bush has allowed Ted Kennedy to write the education reform bill which throws more money at the public school monopoly.
Education rerorm cannot take place until the public schools are forced to compete in the education market. A grass roots movement will rise up to address this issue, competing for schoolboard seats initially. Success in any one city will cause similar organizations to rise up in many other cities. Again, the organizations will only be competing for schoolboard seats initially.
Success in the schoolboards will force a move against city council members who will still be dependant on NEA dollars and unwilling to address the issue of public school choice. This will prove unsatisfactory to the parents of school age children unwilling to have their children consigned to the same educational hell holes that the parents attended. Education reform will spread like Dostoevsky's fire of the mind in city governments. I expect that the outgrowth of success in city government will be a rule excluding all who have accepted NEA funds from seeking office in many education reform movements.
Success in city governments will lead to competition for House seats and the Dems will still be the NEA party which will make them unacceptable to parents of school age children. Parents will continue to push education reform up school policy chain in local, state, and federal governments.
This will result in a fatal splintering of the Democrat party with only the serious moonbats remaining. The educational reform parties will coalesce into a single national party that more closely resembles the Republicans as its constituents are more conservative in belief than the Democrat party of today.

Jay Tea:An interes... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea:

An interesting intellectual exercise, if nothing else, but I think you're way, way off in terms of the starting point. Don't think Congress.

Think city council, mayor, and state legislature.

--|PW|--

I like the way you think, M... (Below threshold)

I like the way you think, Mr. Tea. If only the Libertardians were half as smart as they think they are, they'd have you in charge of their national strategy. As is, I think the next big third party will come from the Democrat Party split.

Never happen. Anything pop... (Below threshold)

Never happen. Anything popular enough to get someone elected is co-opted by one of the major parties.

As I mentioned in the earli... (Below threshold)

As I mentioned in the earlier thread, this will never happen because the major partoes co-opt the winning ideas, which works out for everyone because without a majority you can't pass anything anyway.

Third parties also fail because they are subject to what I call the "Law of Third-Party Partisan Perversity," which states that any success by a third-party will hurt every cause they champion by taking away voters from the major party more sympathetic to their cause.

Remember, Ross Perot's "Reform Party" gave us Clinton - twice. And Nader has been credited with putting Bush over the top in 2000.

I don't think this is the o... (Below threshold)

I don't think this is the only way. A third party could be started by a celebrity winning the presidency or governerships like Ross Perot or Jesse Ventura. The thing about running for President as a 3rd candidate is no one knows or respects any of the "other" candidates. But if someone like Tom Hanks got up and ran for President and really was a good speaker, I think he could captivate America and win. He then for 4 years or 8 if he does a good job, continuously tout his party and they would instantly become a viable force in American politics.

Great thought that the Demo... (Below threshold)
t.joel:

Great thought that the Democrat party is going to be left in the dust, but another strategy is brewing, I believe. The left, with Dean, will be allowed to take over the party, and disaster will strike again in 2006. After much introspection, wailing, and knashing of teeth, a white knight, or rather knightess, will ride to the rescue for 2008... Hillary.

Look at her move to the center in the past month, saying what the focus groups and polls say are the "right" things. She's decided to do the same thing that Bill did in 1992, move to the center and take over. Beware, it's a cunning strategy. The Dems aren't dead yet.

Nick has it right. The onl... (Below threshold)
McCain:

Nick has it right. The only scenario is a sudden break-through candidate. Hint: Teddy Rosevelt. Without proportional representation, an approch that builds from the bottom up is doomed, as has been clearly demonstrated by the empirical evidence.

It would really help if we ... (Below threshold)

It would really help if we had a "ranked" voting system. (1) Nader, (2) Kerry, (3) Jesus

If your first vote doesn't win, your vote goes to the next guy, and so forth. That takes away the "danger" of voting for a third-party candidate.

Pennywit has it right on th... (Below threshold)

Pennywit has it right on the head.

If a third party really wants to take strong hold in national politics, they'll do it at the state and local levels. That's where they'll build the grassroots support and political network they'll need if they ever hope to go farther.

More than that, though, having firm footings in the State governments will guarantee that the other parties have to deal with them, not as nuisances, but nearly as equals. If the Dems or Repubs want to win a state, they're going to have to do it only after gaining the cooperation of the large and powerful third part there.

I've thought a lot about this and all my thoughts run toward forgetting every Federal office save House Representative and going full out for the state and local offices.

Not gonna happen that way. ... (Below threshold)

Not gonna happen that way. House seats are the hardest for third parties due to gerrymandering; too many of them have a solid majority for one party. Only in statewide elections do you have enough swing voters to carve a bloc out of people disaffected with both parties, and it seems these days the number of states without a clear majority party is also dwindling.

Third parties will continue to be periodic market corrections, not a permanent feature of the system unless the Democrats collapse.




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