Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Grim Irony of Third Party Movements

Their brochures are similar. "People say a third party vote is a 'guarantee for defeat'; or it's 'tossing your vote away.'" "But," they insist, "not this time! Americans are finally ready for real change!"

And they are. But that change rarely works out for the quixotic third party runner. Here are some reminders.

Election of 1912
Rebuffed by conservative Republicans, the popular progressive, Theodore Roosevelt started the Bull Moose Party. There are those who argue socialist-elite Woodrow Wilson would have won anyway. After all, the incumbent Howard Taft was better known for rotundity than profundity. That and tossing out the first baseball. Yet, at the very least, Teddy sealed the deal.

Results: Wilson (Dem.) 41.8%, T Roosevelt (Bull Moose Party) 27.4%, Taft (Rep.) 23.2%

Election of 1992
In the early 90's third party candidate Ross Perot dazzled the electorate with his unending federal deficit graphs and opposition to NAFTA. Turns out that "giant sucking sound," as he called the loss of jobs under NAFTA, was him siphoning votes from the Republican Party as he assured the election of the unknown Gov. from Arkansas.

Results: Clinton (Dem.) 43%, GHW Bush (Rep.) 38%, Perot (Ind. Party) 19%

Election of 1996
While Clinton tumbled in the polls and Dole stumbled off the stage, in 1995, Perot rushed in with just enough residual clout to slick the way to Bill's second term.

Results: Clinton (Dem.) 45%, Dole (Rep.) 44%, Perot (Reform Party) 8%

The percentages are a sobering lesson. Everybody was thinking "yeah, let's change things!"

But too often third party voters, with visions of reform, propel their own nightmares into a four year, high def reality. Like the symbolic serpent, swallowing its own tail, the group seeking reform may be the one most likely to choke on the very changes they promote. Each believing, this time the outcome will be different.

This time it is different. This time the stakes are higher and the winning is tougher.

Never before has our legislative body attempted to hamper the authority of all future Congresses. Never before has the US Congress attempted to force Americans, by virtue of their existence, to purchase services or face severe penalties. Few Congresses have ever so blatantly flouted the will of the American majority. If allowed to continue unabated, the 111th Congress will forever redefine the boundaries of Americans' individual rights and the walls between the legislative and executive branches. The stakes are high.

Perhaps in less critical times a third party might be viable. These are unordinary times.

In a massive reformatting our electoral system, the President has promised to legalize illegal aliens and George Soros' dollars have seeped into local elections. ACORN, whose Director of Project Vote, Michael Slater admitted his group submitted 400,000 fraudulent voter registrations, has been re-funded by the government. Even though polls show most Americans disapprove of the President's and Congress' actions, the coming races will be tough to win. Too tough to fracture and fragment efforts in the gamble of building a new political superstructure.

Conservatives have hopes of winning big in 2010, but only through unity. In 2008 the electorate was unified in their dislike of anything Bush. In 2009 Barack Obama briefly molded that dislike into a unified hatred for American symbols of success. As this divisive strategy has faltered, it has created a vacuum for victory.

But, to win, independents, conservatives, Tea Party Groups and the Republican National Party will need to set aside whatever differences exist. Threats of a third party won't return errant Republicans to their principles, but together gathering behind a cause will.

Recently, RNC Chairman Michael Steele met with representatives of some of the largest Tea Party organizations in the country. Meanwhile, conservative groups across the country are uniting behind a renewed dedication to the principles of the US Constitution.

While a third party may seem like a passionate and needed endeavor, as Syrus said over 2000 years ago, "Where there is unity, there is victory." Right now that unity is forming between those groups who stand solidly behind the principles upon which our nation was founded.

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