Gary Yarus: Is a Third Party Needed?

In 2012, just prior to the November presidential election. I wrote in RP, a closing argument on behalf of my chosen candidate, Jill Stein of the Green Party. I asked readers to try to imagine a political party really wanting America governed progressively. Imagine its platform stressing the environment, social justice, human and civil rights, peace. and disarmament. I had concluded, the two-party duopoly, may claim they support advancing these values, but the truth, upon closer analysis, proves they do not.

The election results showed only about 1.8% or 2.3 million of the combined popular vote were cast for  any third-party candidate. All third-party campaigns had been predicting a better turnout than in the past, but like most, I knew, at this time, a third-party candidate would not win the election. Nonetheless, I felt good about my pragmatic and principled vote for Jill Stein.

The control exerted by the present two-party duopoly leaves third-party candidates little hope of being elected to a major office, until fundamental changes in our electoral process occur. Such candidates have continued to run and by doing so, have influenced election outcomes while often shifting national conversation.

gary-yarus-1953e8f7beThe question remains, has anything changed in America since the 2012 presidential election, which would improve third-party chances in the future?  Do the majority of Americans, regardless of party affiliation, think a capable and robust third-party is needed?

The Gallup organization, for the past 10 years, has been asking this question.  In October 2013, they reported their latest’s poll results. Perhaps it was  a surprise to some, but voters polled have said “yes!.   The majority of Americans, now believe a major third-party is needed.

Presently, Americans see dysfunction, by both political parties, in the way government works is within a point of it’s all time low, suggesting, Americans are fed up with the way the major parties are handling things, even going as far as saying the best solution is a major third-party initiative in 2016.

Lookin at the numbers: 26% of Americans say the two major political parties are doing an adequate job, yhgt 60% say the two major parties are doing such a poor job that a third party is needed. Is that a big change from previous polls?  Not really, although that 60% the highest Gallup has ever seen on this question over the last ten years.

Also, for the first time in U.S. history, Gallup found, given the inability of the Republican and Democratic parties to agree on the most basic of government functions, 52% of Republicans and 49% of Democrats believe a third party is needed to adequately handle today’s problems. Expectantly, 71% of independents support a third-party initiative.

How about other demographics?  You might expect young voters to favor a third-party. You would be wrong!  Young voters, aged 18 to 29, perhaps due to difficulty finding a job paying a living wage, the pressure of going to college, then trying to payoff exorbitant college debt has caused them to take their eye off of politics. According to Gallup, this demographic polls the highest, saying the current system is OK.  It’s the 50 to 64 year olds, probably worrying about healthcare, Social Security and Medicare who most want a third-party choice.

Also, what about the idea of divided government? Most of us, along with some pundits and commentators, have come to the conclusion having divided government, as it is now, with the Presidency and Senate controlled by the Democrats and the House of Representatives by the Republicans lead to the kind of paralysis we are seeing in Washington.  But, the Gallup poll found there is no pent up demand by the American public for one-party control of all three branches. It is just the opposite.

25% say it is better for the country to have the same party in control of the Presidency and Congress,

38% say the political party of the President and the Congress makes no difference, and 28% say it is better to have the President and Congress of different parties.  Matter of fact that 25% is, by a few points, the lowest interest in having a single party government in the 10 years the Gallup organization has been conducting this poll.

Similarly, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, the current Congress is not just bad, it is terrible. Two-thirds of  Americans think it is clearly the worst Congress in their lifetime.

CNN wrote: “That sentiment exists among all demographic and political subgroups. Men, women, rich, poor, young, old, all think this year’s Congress has been the worst they can remember,”  “Older Americans, who have lived through more congresses, hold more negative views of the 113th Congress than younger Americans”.

Amazingly, despite the terrible results of these two polls, well over 85 percent of the current members of Congress are expected to be re-elected in 2014!  Upcoming columns will explore the question, is there not something wrong with the design of an electoral system when the connection between job performance and election outcome can be so weak?

Just hope and desire for a third party is not sufficient to ensure there will be another successful one. Unfair structural factors contrived by the two-party duopoly for the presidential and congressional elections and the parties’ own abilities to deceitfully, yet skillfully, adapt to wavering public opinion and preferences, then altering their campaigns, helped the Republican and Democratic parties remain the dominant parties for more than 150 years. Emerging third parties have challenged their dominance but not been able to sustain any degree of electoral success.

All hope for a third-party presidential victory may not be lost. It has happened before in U.S. history. Do you know which President was the last successful third-party candidate?

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Gary Yarus is a student of political movements, a progressive populist, a Green Party pro-democracy advocate and the curator of an online magazine, covering democracy, ecology, peace and social justice called “The Beacon” ( http://bit.ly/TheBeacon ). Email: gyarus@me.com

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