Could a third-party candidate win the presidential election? To be honest, this is the major question surrounding third-party politics.
The most popular argument against electing a major third-party candidate is the belief that there aren’t enough voters to support a third party. While this argument is a valid one, I find it hard to believe that either of the two current parties truly believe they represent the majority of Americans.
For a third party to succeed, it is imperative that its candidates, and more importantly, the party as a whole, break away from the traditional issue-oriented campaigns with polarized views. In other words, what is needed is a party that is more flexible than what we have now.
Most Democrats and Republicans choose their party based on a few key issues: The fiscally conservative will always tend to lean toward the Republican Party and the socially liberal will lean toward the Democrats. Beyond these general areas are more specific issues that shape the parties. Abortion, religion, labor, the economy, wilderness preservation and big business are a few of the issues that can propel someone into either of the two parties. These issues account for many of the primary differences between the parties’ respective candidates.
Fortunately, not everyone falls into line with every traditional Republican or Democratic ideology. Thus, we have a vast wasteland of independents floating around like logs in the Mississippi. These lost souls may have conservative tendencies regarding money and the family, but may also believe in preserving the wilderness at any cost and legalizing drugs. These diverging views will turn this person away from the two main parties and leave him or her thoroughly confused come election time.
The problem? In this fast-paced, media-driven society, we voters are fed the issues and told on which side of the fence each candidate resides. Single issues severely cloud the slightly larger issues of trust, direction and emphasis. Thus, the successful third party will thrive on a foundation of fiscal conservatism (not spending more than we make), and social responsiveness — following what the people are doing and acting accordingly.
By pushing these values ahead of the smaller issues, a candidate from a third party may, for example, step away from the good versus bad abortion debate and ask the question of when a life is a life, and how we measure the value of a woman able to bear children against the unborn child she is able to bear. This is not avoiding the issue or being political to salvage a few votes, this is common sense. An issue like abortion that remains so complex has good arguments on both sides and deserves more than a plus/minus response.
The current political climate resembles a pizza parlor more than an arena for electing our representative officials — most of us go down the list of nominees and search for the ones with the toppings we like. For example, perhaps Clinton’s anti-smoking crusade makes you ill, or Dole’s age factor doesn’t sit well with you. Do you want to pick the lesser of the two evils and hope for the best?
This is not to trivialize those who do vote on single issues because for many that particular issue is important enough to forgive a stance on other issues. But if all Americans voted on single issues, we would have a majority and no need for another party. Fortunately, most Americans vote on multiple issues.
To further the independent cause, students can get involved. You don’t have to run for an elected position or put in 40 hours a week, but simply giving your support to the Green, Grassroots, Libertarian or Reform candidates will go a great distance in pushing forth the independent cause.
Currently, there are a number of third-party candidates running for positions that will directly affect the University population. Alan Shilepsky, who is endorsed by the Reform Party, is running for the Minnesota House position in district 59B (East Bank of the Minneapolis campus); Cam Gorden is the Green Party candidate for district 62A; Tim Davis is the Grassroots candidate running for U.S. Senate.
The independent candidate faces the combined task of getting out their name and platform as well as trying to convince the masses that their party is crucial and should be given a chance. Trying to sway the public away from long-standing parties in an effort to better the nation is a very noble and uphill undertaking, but it is also what democracy is all about — opportunity. The opportunity to vote, the opportunity to run and the chance to make a difference.
By giving your support to the independents, you are sending out a strong message to the two major parties that we the people are not being fully represented and now things are going to change.
The current crop of elected leaders are not representing the majority of Americans. They will not do this until it is made possible for the two-party system to be cut down.
The majority for a third party is here, and it’s just a matter of time before it finally finds a vote.
Eric Hanson is a senior majoring ineducational psychology. He is also the vice president for theMinnesota Student Association.