One of the things coming out of last week’s Tea Parties is resurgence in the number of conservatives considering a third party. I use the term “third party” to refer to any of the many parties presenting themselves as alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats.
Third parties play an important role in our political system; I myself am a member of the Conservative Party USA. However, if the effects of a third party are to be positive and not negative, it is important to take a cold-eyed, objective look at just what the party can actually accomplish and what its role should be.
There are always a number of third parties in play in any election. On the left today, there is the Green Party, the Democratic Socialist of America, the Socialist Party USA, and the Communist Party USA. On the right, there is the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party, the Conservative Party USA, and the American Conservative Party. There is also a multitude of local and regional third parties that I am not aware of.
No third party candidate, identified as such has ever been elected on a national ticket—I consider congressional elections to be state elections. Few, running on a third party ticket have been elected to the Senate or House. The only one I can think of offhand is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (DSA). I’m sure there are a few others, but the fact remains, third party candidates are almost always “also rans”. The electability of a third party candidate becomes even more unlikely at the national level.
Our winner-take-all-system is not conducive to a successful third party. The stronger a third party, the more destructive it becomes to its own ends. In national elections, the strongest third party candidate always contributes to the election of the candidate least favorable to the policies they advocate. That has been the consistent pattern for the past 150 years since the two major parties came into prominence.
Some will no doubt point out that the Republican Party began as a third party in 1854 and elected Abraham Lincoln President six years later in 1860. The political climate today is quite different, however from that in 1854. First, the political parties of the time did not have the power they have today. The Whig Party, replaced by the Republican Party had only been in existence twenty years at the time and was not an exceptionally strong party.
Second, the slavery question had not yet been settled and was a major source of discontent during that period in history. The Republican Party was a coalition of former Whigs and disaffected Democrats who agreed with their anti-slavery ideals. Opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act was the catalyst that allowed the fledgling Republican Party to survive and prosper. Abraham Lincoln, himself, was a leader in the Whig Party of Illinois prior to the Republican’s first national convention at Jackson, Michigan in 1854.
Another common misconception of history involves Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party. Roosevelt was a leader in both the Progressive Party and the Republican Party. He was elected Vice-President in 1900 on the Republican ticket with William McKinley. McKinley was assassinated in 1901 and replaced by Roosevelt. In 1904, Roosevelt won reelection as a Republican. In 1912, he attempted to retake the Presidency from his former protégé William Howard Taft, as a Republican.
He lost the nomination to Taft and attempted to run as a third party candidate on the Bull Moose Party ticket, resulting in the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson. His third party try pulled so many progressives out of the Republican Party that it was dominated by conservatives until after the ‘32 election of Franklin Roosevelt.
In spite of the lack of electoral success at the polls, I am still a strong supporter of the third party movement so long as it does not carry out the role of “spoiler”. To determine what third parties should be doing, let’s take a look at what works.
If asked to name the most successful political party in America most people would answer either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. Both would be wrong. The most successful party of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is the Democratic Socialists of America. They control both houses of Congress and the White House, and without fielding a single candidate under their banner, for national elective office. They spend their time and money promoting their principles and supporting candidates who advance those principles, usually Democrats.
It does not matter to the DSA leadership if the man in the White House or the leaders in Congress are labeled Socialists, Democrats or Republicans so long as they work to implement the socialist agenda and implement socialist policies. As someone once said, “It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
Conservatives need to develop the same attitude. We should be spending our efforts in educating the public about the conservative principles of limited government, low taxes, and capitalist economics, while identifying and supporting candidates who will promote those principles and defend the natural rights of life, liberty and property identified in the Declaration of Independence. In other words, we should be promoting the founding principles of America and supporting candidates who do likewise.
To attempt to run a conservative candidate in opposition to Republican Party candidates in the general elections of 2010 and 2012 will insure the continuation of socialist/democrat dominance for generations to come. Instead, we need to identify solid conservative candidates and encourage them to run in the Republican Primaries to replace RINOs currently holding the office. The Republican Party is the natural and historical home of conservatives. We just need to take it back from the linguini spine, constitutionally illiterate, “moderates” currently masquerading as Republicans.
I believe this is the best way to take back the Party and our country. The alternative is tyranny, servitude to the state and a declining standard of living for everyone.