Fighting for the table scraps

The third-party presidential debates will be a battle over zero Electoral College votes.

Ronald Dixon

There has been a lot of hype over the past few weeks about the debates between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, as well as the vice presidential debate between Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Vice President Joe Biden.

Not that many people, though, are talking about the third-party presidential debates Oct. 23 and 30. They will not be covered by any major news network; instead, a few foreign news agencies and some Internet streaming websites will provide coverage.

But will the electorate watch the debates between Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Virgil Goode (Constitution Party), Jill Stein (Green Party) and Rocky Anderson (Justice Party)? The answer is no. The agenda set by the media is simply not going to include them or attract any real attention to them, apart from some loyal third-party partisans.

A more important question, though, is whether the electorate will actually vote for anybody that isn’t either a Democrat or a Republican. At least within the American electoral system, the people will simply not take the gamble. This is explained through Duverger’s law, in which Maurice Duverger, a French political scientist, asserts that in a nation with single-member districts and plurality voting, third-parties are usually going to be discouraged. The logic holds that, because the same two parties usually come out the strongest consistently throughout legislative districts, the party that consistently places third will not obtain seats. Therefore, this discourages people from voting for the party member that they know will more than likely lose. They often perceive it as a vote for the party that they are the most against.

I view these special debates as a battle over the remaining table-scraps because even if these candidates do gain some support from the debates, it would hardly enable them to gain a significant share of votes and approximately zero Electoral College points.