Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

The Rebuttal

Posted by Adam Graham on March 15, 2004

I wrote a column in December entitled, “The Case Against Third Parties” where I laid out a detailed argument against Third Parties as a solution to Conservative problems. I received a number of responses on different forums, and so I’d like to respond.

1) Emotional responses:

“No, it explains perfectly what a bunch of bleating sheep those who vote for the two one-party Republicrat system are!”

“Baloney. I’ll vote “the destructive waste of time.” I’ve had it with the Republican Party. The two party stranglehold has got to stop and there is only one way to do it…vote ’em out. Independents, take heart. OUR numbers are growing fast! Conservatives have left the RP.”

Posts like this made up a pretty small total of what I actually received with no substantive response whatsoever..

2) Illogical/Incomplete Ideas

One person had an Interesting idea to make third parties more successful:

“One thing which would help immensely would be a constitutional amendment requiring runoff elections for all public offices, i.e. a guarantee that nobody holds any office with less than 50% of the vote, and nobody ever fears to vote his first choice, at least in a first ballot. “

There was a problem with this as I pointed out. “In order to pass the Amendment you have to gain power and if you could gain power, the Amendment would be irrelevant.”

“Sorry, until the GOP nominates a Constitutional conservative who is for America’s best interests in morality, trade, and foreign interventions, I intend to vote third-party. How else can you move the pile when both major parties are merging into one on these issues?”

The huge logical problem here is if Conservative Constitutionalists will boycott Republican primaries and only vote Republican in the general if a Constitutional Conservative is chosen, how will one get chosen in the first place?

Thought not responding to my column directly, WorldNetDaily’s Vox Day wrote regarding the Constitution and Libertarian Parties:

“Ultimately, both parties must eventually merge into one Freedom Party, which will certainly require some level of initially uneasy assimilation. Some libertarians will need to accept that abortion is a violation of the unborn child’s unalienable right to life, while conservatives will need to recognize that drugs are not an appropriate target of federal warfare. Christians will have to understand that using the state to enforce traditional morality will always backfire in the end, and everyone will have to wake up to the fact that government largesse is nothing more than poisoned bait.”

Now if the Third Parties could just compromise, change their minds, and realize that they’re wrong, they wouldn’t be in third parties. 70% of the Libertarian party is pro-abortion, 90% of the Constitution Party is pro-drug war. How do you merge that together? You don’t. Even if they did merge, that would make up around 0.5% of the vote.

3) Debatable Points

One reader suggested that third parties could be successful at a state level:

“3rd parties lack money, grassroots, and political infrastructure needed to wage effective statewide campaigns. However if the electorate falls into an anti- incumbent mood, then a 3rd party candidate could win a Governor/Senate race if the party recruits a multi-millionaire willing to self-finance his/her campaign. NJ Senator Jon Corzine is a perfect example. He spent 60 million dollars of his own money to win the Senate race in 2000. “

I think we know from what the Jesse Ventura administration was like in Minnesota, how hard it is to govern as a third party. Plus, I’ve not seen any millionaires lining up to be candidates of these third parties. If you’re out there, speak now or forever hold your peace.

“I don’t think you get it. In a lot of states we can safely vote for a Libertarian and the Republican will still win (moving the Republicans hopefully).

“In a lot of other states, electing a very Liberal republican can be worse than him losing. Right now they will sell their vote for pork spending – if we had a divided house there is less damage being done as they can’t pass anything.

“I think we would have been better off with the republicans gridlocked during the BUSH term. With the Republicans in a bidding war busy robbing Peter to buy Paul’s vote, it would be better if neither party has the keys to the treasuries vault.”

Third Parties can be good for moving Republicans rightward. Example: 1994 in Kentucky an open-race occurred between a pro-abortion Democrat and a pro-abortion Republican. The Democrat edged out the Republican, while a pro-life third party candidate got 14% of the vote. Next election, pro-life Republican Anne Northrup was elected.

Does it always turn out that way? No. In my first column, I mentioned how Bob Dornan was defeated by 936 vote in a race where a member of Operation Rescue got 3600 votes as a third party. The Democrat who won that race has become an entrenched advocate of abortion and an anti-family agenda.

Someone disputed my point regarding the Socialist Party:

“The Socialist Party didn’t win a single election, but managed to get every plank in their platform turned into reality in the next 50 years. If that is failure, it’s good to fail.”

When do Third Parties really get their agenda passed? When they’re providing a philosophy radically different from the major parties. Look at the Perot ’92 platform and see how much of it has been implemented. Thanks to Ross Perot, we had balanced budgets in the ‘90s and campaign finance reform now. These were his big issues. The same thing happened with Socialism in the 1900s.

Major Parties co-opt third party ideas when the third party ideas are radically different from those of either party and when the third party is growing large enough to pose a threat. Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 effort was the greatest third party campaign ever, yet it didn’t accomplish much for the nation because his Progressives were a break off from the Republicans just as the Constitution Party, and to a lesser extent, the Libertarian Party are. Their ideas are not original and they’ve failed to draw substantial votes, so they won’t be copied.

4) Constructive Ideas:

I found one person who had a constructive idea for third parties:

“Third parties should acknowledge that they will never elect anyone outside of a dog catcher on their own and work within the two party system, through state primaries, to elect their candidates. The Republican Liberty Caucus is a good example of this, the Federation of Republican Assemblies another. But these groups can do more and they have to be willing to be more independent if they are to be more effective. The LP and CP should make common cause and coaltions(sic) with such groups.”

This is a brilliant strategy for the two minor parties and their leadership would do well to listen. The Constitution Party members have a home in the party in the FRA, and the Libertarians have a home in the Republican Liberty Caucus, groups that are much larger than either party.

There has to be a willingness on the part of these groups to seriously consider backing a third party move of some sort in an extreme case (examples: Lincoln Chafee or Arlen Specter as the nominees.) This is something moderates are quite willing to do against Conservatives. Consider the 1994 Independent candidacy of Marshall Coleman, which was engineered by John Warner to stop Oliver North from winning a Senate seat.

In general, it is best to use this tactic as little as possible, for reasons stated earlier in the article.

5) Missing the Point Entirely:

To close my last article, I wrote:

“When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by many of these third parties and even considered voting for them. That fascination has faded as I realize that members of these parties are wasting valuable time and energy that could be used to restore America rather than tilting windmills. Like Saint Paul, when I became a man, I put aside childish things. It is far past time for third party members to do the same. “

Someone responded to this as follows:

“The last paragraph is perhaps the most revealing. The person it seems saw the end goal as too hard to obtain and simply gave up. That type of thinking is not what built this nation. That would be like a young Washington, Jefferson, Henry, or others saying the following:

“When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by many of these things called freedoms and even considered fighting for them. That fascination has faded as I realize that those wishing to dissolve the bonds of the Crown are wasting valuable time and energy that could be used to persuade HRH to change his mind rather than tilting windmills. Like Saint Paul, when I became a man, I put aside childish things. It is far past time for those colonist(sic) to do the same.”

First, the comparison to those three great men honors me even though it is very strained. Second, the founding fathers began with a reasonable position, not wanting to separate from England. As England hardened its resolve, men began to see the need for a break.

You’ll note though, that John and Sam Adams didn’t run off alone and decide to start a revolution. Consensus through the movement grew that their needed to be a revolution. When that consensus was reached, it happened.

What’s happened to Conservatives is that Howard Phillips and a few others have gone off by themselves and left the great bulk of conservatives behind. Rather than being like Washington at Valley Forge, America’s third parties are like Don Quixote fighting a windmill.

It is an insult to the vast majority of Conservatives who are working within the Republican Party to suggests we lack dedication to the principles of freedom, liberty, and justice. I seek those things, but I know that the election of John Kerry and the destruction of the Republican Party will not bring liberty. There may be a time when I’d consider joining a third party, and a great many conservatives with me. However, prudent Conservatives will be patient and wise. They will not, as the Constitution Party asks us to do, rebuild from scratch when we have other options available.

Every third party supporter who responded on the numerous forums this appeared on and who e-mailed me has failed to answer the ultimate question that I asked, so now I put it plainly and challenge them to give me a convincing answer:

“If, with your numbers, you can’t take over the Republican Party, how do you hope to gain control of the Country to effect your changes?”

If they claim that they can do this by reaching out to disenfranchised voters, I ask, “What has your party been doing to reach out to these voters?”

I’ll be waiting for serious cogent responses that explain how third parties will achieve their grand success and keep the promises they’ve been making over thirty years without ever once delivering upon them.

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