Third parties deserve more national exposure

With the advent of Jesse Ventura into politics, Minnesota — as well as the nation — is beginning to understand that modern third parties can impact politics. Though many scoff at the campaigns of third-party candidates, Ventura demonstrated victory is possible. As we approach the presidential election, most Americans consider Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush the only choices. On the contrary, we have many options. The Web page of Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan political organization, lists more than one hundred candidates running for president at http://www.vote-smart.org/. Although few will ever gain any momentum or name recognition, these third-party candidates should not be simply brushed aside and ignored.
Despite fundamental differences between Democrat and Republican ideologies, members of both parties have caved in numerous times, voting pragmatically rather than principally. It could be said that politics will corrupt the ideals of anyone. Neither party has done much recently to distinguish themselves from the other. This is partly because Americans have grown apathetic. U.S. citizens rarely demand anything of their representatives after electing them. Without constituents keeping a watchful eye on them, politicians are more likely to sell out to special interest groups.
Even if both parties actually enacted legislation consistent with their ideologies and platforms, third parties offer unique perspectives not represented by Democrats or Republicans. Two parties are not enough to address the multitude of issues and concerns that affect Americans. The two parties’ generally extreme ideologies do not fit every political situation. Americans must stop believing that Republicans or Democrats offer the only solutions.
On the national level, reforms could be made with the Federal Election Commission to create a more inclusive system. The FEC is dominated by the two parties that are naturally resistant to third party involvement. Currently, the agency’s commissioners are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Perhaps if the commissioners were not chosen in a partisan manner, they would be less beholden to the two-party system and could make choices in a more objective manner. Indeed, the Commission on Presidential Debates’ requirement that candidates garner 15 percent in a national poll before they are included in televised debates creates a serious obstacle to a third party’s entry. Five percent would represent a substantial number of Americans, a clear sign that there is organized interest in a candidate.
Many people are Republicans or Democrats, not so much because they are in total agreement with either platform, but because they see no other choices. Thankfully, that is changing. A significant number of Americans are beginning to see that there are alternatives. Enshrined in third parties is the commitment, drive and enthusiasm to revive politics. As fewer people engage in, or even keep up with politics, Republicans and Democrats might realize that the solution to this does not lie in their parties. Their stranglehold on politics is a deadly one. Hopefully our nation will throw off the misconceptions we have about third parties before it is too late.