Third Parties Lack Votes Not Creativity

The United States is two-party system, meaning that in an election, one of two parties will have the best chance of winning almost every time.  This has been true since the birth of this country’s political parties when the first two parties, the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists, vied for public support.  This does not mean that there aren’t other parties competing in the electoral arena.  Third parties have sprouted up from time to time and have influenced electoral outcomes at the federal, state, and local levels.

However, victories have been few and far between for many third parties in the United States.  This is due to in part to formal rules and informal practices that hinder the chances of a third party succeeding.  A formal rule deals with ballot access.  In order to gain access to a ballot, third parties must gather an inordinate amount of signatures on petitions in comparison to their major party counterparts.  These rules differ between states and have been created by members of the state legislature who, alas, belong to one of the two major parties.  An excellent website that describes how ballot access laws work in the United States can be found at Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News site.  Another example of a formal rule is one that is set up by the federal government during the Presidential elections.  In order for third party Presidential candidates to receive federal funding for their Presidential bid, the third party candidate from the previous Presidential election must have received 5% of the popular vote.  Five percent also ensures equal ballot access protections for third party candidates (i.e. automatic ballot access).  However, no third party candidate has received more than 5% since Ross Perot in 1996.  No third party candidate received 5% in 2012.  Libertarian Gary Johnson received 1% of the popular vote.  Therefore, third party candidates in 2016 already start their Presidential bids at a ballot and monetary disadvantage.

An informal practice that stunts the growth of third parties is that our nation’s history has always been a two-party system.  It is what the public is used to.  From the Democratic-Republicans vs. Federalists to Democrats vs. Whigs and Democrats vs. Republicans, the country’s pedigree eliminates the need for third party involvement in the political process.

What can third parties do to compete on a somewhat level playing field?  At the state level, third party candidates have turned to humor and unconventional ads to promote their political messages.  Here are two examples:

In this 2009 ad, two actors portraying then-New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine (D) and Chris Christie (R) find themselves trapped on an escalator.  Only Chris Daggett, Independent for Governor, can save the day.  The ad won award in 2010 for its creativity.  Daggett, who won the endorsement of the largest newspaper, the Newark Star-Ledger, finished with 5.8% of the vote.  Christie won the election.

Musician/Actor/Entertainer/Businessman Kinky Friedman ran a spirited campaign for Governor of Texas in 2006.  Friedman’s Independent campaign, modeled after Jesse Ventura’s successful 1998 bid for Governor of Minnesota, was as colorful as his professional and personal background.  Friedman finished fourth with 12.43% of the vote, behind Rick Perry (R), Chris Bell (D), and another Independent, Carole Keeton Strayhorn.  A candidate from the Libertarian Party finished fifth.  

What from these commercials would appeal to an undecided voter who may be considering a vote for a third party candidate?  These commercials may be unconventional, but are they too unconventional, in that they may turn voters off because of their style?  Should more commercials like these be produced by third party candidates to help gain interest in their campaigns?

After all, the two-party system is tough to crack.  Third party candidates need any advantage that they can create for themselves.

For more information about the creators of the ads, please visit the site for North Woods Advertising.

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36 responses to “Third Parties Lack Votes Not Creativity

  1. Shannon Siaperas

    To an undecided voter these commercials may be appealing, because they can relate to the average person. And yes these commercials are unconventional, however I believe commercials like this would catch the voters attention. Third party candidates should make more of these commercials. Instead of the usual boring campaign commercial, doing something to catch a voters attention would only benefit them.

  2. Although these fresh ideas and new ways of attempting to manipulate voters into choosing a specific candidate are cute and honest attempts at pointing out faults of our current system, they do very little to distance themselves effectively from “the rest of ’em”.

    It has become overwhelmingly apparent how disapproving we are of the current congress, what astonishes me is the result seen at the opposite end of the spectrum, that is everyone LOVES their OWN congressman or woman. “Oh its not OUR senator/representative/mayor.. its everyone else’s!”, while this sentiment helped to shoot the likes of Ross Perot and Ralph Nader up the poles, the same sentiment has eroded into something very different today. It seems all politicians have been thrown into the same lot, “they’re all the same” people are saying today.

    To effectively distance oneself from this sentiment they attempt to show that they are “different”, but are these commercials really doing so? At the surface yes, but what causes people like myself to be turned off by individuals such as this is that they really aren’t. In the former ad we see a slanderous ad portraying the status quo government as either too lazy or too incompetent to lead, isn’t this yet another form of negative advertising in politics? Haven’t we had enough of that? We know there’s a damn problem dude, what are YOU going to do to fix it besides try to make us giggle?

    In the second advertisement we hear a great political message from a past celebrity (This has never been done in politics before..), yet another way they fail to distance themselves from the past, they effectively bulk themselves in with the rest of the politicians in the viewers now politically fed up and narrowed mind, which then makes things real easy for the voter because who wants to vote for more of the same when we already know they can’t win anyway? Sure they might seem like they are “different” but when we analyze the material we realize we are just being tricked yet again.

    Politicians throwing out cute or emotionally stirring images and phrases that polarize us from one another in an attempt to gain political power and advantage. More of the same to me, if they really want to be seen as “different” then actually be different. Don’t sugar coat the same message political scientists have been warning us of for years and act like you have all the answers.

  3. Third party politicians are not very well known, and the media does not really give them enough attention or support. Since America is a two-party system and has been for so long, people don’t want to spend their energy and resources on something that will lose anyways. However, if putting the third party on the ballot becomes easier, media covers their efforts and ideas, and people start expanding their knowledge on political candidates, then new doors will open to solving some of our countries unanswered questions.

  4. I find when I’m engaged in discourse with my friends, and I have more than 15 to communicate with them, they’re always astonished to learn that when it comes down to it… they’re more Libertarian than they ever realized. They usually don’t want more governmental oversight in their daily lives, they would like less taxes (after a discussion on basic economic principles that have propelled our company to the zenith of human achievement thus far), so on and so fourth. However the biggest problem for Third Parties isn’t found in any law book regarding ballot access. It comes down to being muffled and neglected by the electorate at large. What needs to happen is for a third party candidate to come through and run on the concept of individual liberty, which is usually mentioned but altogether trivialized over the course of the two major parties campaigns. To lay out, and crystallize the concept of our truly unique American ethos. To rally everyone under the banner of freedom, not political affiliation. And it’s not an easy task. It may take a hundred years, it may never have a chance to occur. But should that person make enough noise and get himself noticed, ballot access aside, I have to pray to hope they could gain the Presidency. History loves movers and shakers.

  5. Both of these advertisements are different than other political adverts I’ve seen on the TV. The first, featuring Chris Daggert, shows a high energy ad showing the counterproductive thought process behind the two big parties. Daggert swoops in ready to save everybody. Though this is a good advertisement and he may have had potential as a Governor, I do not think that people are ready to elect third party candidates for important political positions.

    Friedman also had a nice ad, especially mentioning that his main concern is not winning, but to help the future children of Texas. His attention grab at the beginning was a joke, which seems uncommon among political ads.

    I believe that third party candidates should continue making ads like this and running for high positions. They seem effective at grabbing people’s attention and connecting, but I am only a young college male and there are many other demographics. Though people may not be ready to accept an independent or some other party for a positions, they should eventually at least warm up to it. Some people may also want to vote for a third party candidate, but feel it is a wasted vote. I would have voted for Gary Johnson for president, but I voted for Obama instead because I felt it would be a waste. Next time, I’ll vote for who I actually want because it may motivate more third party candidates to continue campaigning.

  6. This post made me realize how the Third Party tries to stick out, when people including myself have just focused on the rivalry between Democrat and Republican. I think the commercials that had humor to it was unique, and if each politician did that then it would be tough to choose who to vote for. I think the Third Party has to stick out because it is catching the attention of people who are undecided or don’t like who is running so the Third Party would be the “go to” man.

  7. i think that we are more likely to pick the two party system, because as americans we are scared of change. As the post has stated we have always been a two party system, even though the parties have been switched up over the years, it has not really changed. I think that when most americans see these humorous commercials, we realize that the third party is trying to stick out, but some people might take it as they dont really take this seriously and it may turn them off to the third party.

  8. In America, people do tend to vote for one of the two major parties. To the few who are ready to face the unknown and follow one of the third parties, the commercials may not be appealing. To those who are undecided, the commercials may be very appealing because of the appeal to the persons sense of unity with their town and their want of togetherness. Putting myself in the shoes of an undecided voter seeing one of these commercials, I would definately look into the person who was in the commercial more just because of the way they present themselves. As someone who had already decided on which person I was going to vote for, this commercial may cause me to think that the third party candidates were not as serious as one of the major candidates. Personally, I would greatly enjoy seeing more commercials like this. The unconventional commercials are the ones people remember longer.

  9. I agree with this post as well. I feel that our country loves competition and the two sides will always be in effect. This will always be in effect due to the way we love feeling that our beliefs are right and whom ever we choose is correct and opponents point of view are irrevelant to us. Third party candidates do not even have a chance due to our ignorance of trying to understand their reasoning.

  10. I have always supported third party candidates. The problem is that they are too small and arent known. It’s true that they do try to stick out, but they are almost always dwarfed by the Democrats and Republicans because of the amount of funds they have and by what they can do. These commercials did stand out, but they need to keep in mind that people want a candidate who appears professional about this position.

  11. I think that unconventional commercials can help the Third Party gain votes from undecided voters because they stick out more than the repetitive Democratic/Republican commercials that we usually see. The unconventional commercials tend to grab more attention than the usual political commercials which could help come election time. The Third parties best way to gain voters attention is through the media, but having a funny commercial isn’t necessarily going to put you ahead of the race and it might make the candidate seem unprofessional rather than business like. Its a shame that most of the Third Parties go unnoticed come election time and that the spotlight is always on the Democratic or Republican parties. Third party candidates have some great ideas but they need to find a way to get to voters or else its just going to be seen as wasted time and money.

  12. Since social networks and technology are a huge part of society today, third party candidates should really do their best to promote themselves on such websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The first commercial seemed a little cheap, run-down and cheesy. The second commercial wasn’t as bad but it also wasn’t convincing. In order for third party candidates to really stand out they need to address multiple issues they could take charge in if their elected and really be passionate about what their standing their ground for. Mentioned in a previous comment, there is a lot of ignorance in the world so in order for a third party candidate to stand out and stand a chance, they need to overcome a lot of judgement and stereotypes.

  13. I think that if third party candidates want to sway both the votes and the approval of the public in their favor, an approach aside from the conventional one should be taken. Generally, politicians are labeled as manipulative and deceptive by the vast majority of America, some Americans referring to them as ‘crooks’ or ‘shams’. This being said, I could see why third party candidates such as Kinky Friedman and Chris Daggett would want to be seen in a different light that would set them aside from the traditional Republican and Democratic parties. Realistically, if a third party candidate was to be mentioned and introduced by the media through the same exact means as the two major parties, he or she would not stand a chance at being elected into office and either the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate would win. As a result of third party candidates acknowledging this, we see two examples where they take a different approach through levity and humor.
    While I do understand their incentive behind producing such commercials and agree that they must do something different from their competition to be remembered and considered, I think that the commercials are too unconventional and are, in a sense, even distasteful. Any candidate, regardless of their political party, should strive to be taken seriously, and I don’t think that these commercials represent the sincerity or formality that we as citizens look for in a political leader. The majority of America does not take third party candidates seriously and fails to consider them as credible factors in an election to begin with. With this in mind, candidates saying things such as, “I’m too young for medicare and too old for women to care,” may not help their case. A happy medium must be sought after by the third party candidates, a modus operandi that will set them aside from their competition while maintaining a professional and appealing image to as many undecided voters as possible.

  14. Many Americans feel their vote is wasted if they do not vote for one of the two major parties, even if they feel betrayed by both. Or they feel that most third party candidates lack knowledge or are too radical. How can we increase our alternatives? I seriously doubt any third party candidate can win and will only detract from the Republican candidate.

  15. Magdelena Kurnat

    The two party system has been around for much of America’s past. By reading this article, it seems as third parties have been set up to fail since the beginning. There are two powerhouses in American politics, and if a third party tries to go up against them, most of the time they fail. So, they try and go out there way with humorous commercials, which are not your typical ad campaign. Third parties scramble for any vote they can get to try and compete in any way they can.

  16. I think that some of these funny and unconventional commercials might be appealing to some voters but I would not vote for them, they turned me off. I feel like I would want to see someone serious to be my president or governor. I’m sure that it must be tough to compete with two major political parties so I can see that third parties candidates do whatever is possible to gain voter’s interest.

  17. An undecided voter may view these commercials and find them appealing due to being able to identify with the candidates. Both candidates on the videos were down to earth. Also, the candidates were positive and showed that they cared about the citizens instead of basing their commercials on bad-mouthing opposing candidates. I think that the unconventional sytle will acutally draw more attention because their commericals will not blend in with the typical election commercials. Producing more commercials like these for third party candidates would definitely help gain interest in their campaigns. These commercials were unique, positive and had a common man feeling to them.

  18. When it comes to third party candidates opting for more unconventional media, I think “why not?” These candidates have such a small chance at success from the begging what’s to say this new and creative form of media direction will be a detriment to their campaign? I think using these methods is a good way to grab voters attention and then once the their curiosity has been peaked it’s a perfect way to educate people and make them realize that they don’t have to vote one of two way, but a third indeed does exist. I think it’s a little sad that the system has set up third party candidates to be doomed from the start and failure is always the end result, and so that’s why I think these unconventional methods aren’t a problem. I mean worst case scenario an American flips on his television sees a commercial like Daggett’s, becomes a little curious, does a little research and doesn’t vote for the third party. At least now he’s educated a little about a third party candidates in the future whether he votes for them or not.

  19. Kevin Toussaint

    As an undecided voter in the last election, I was looking for a third part to put my vote into. Unfortunately, I did not get to see these or any other third party commercials and did not know about these candidates. I believe if more knowledge about the third party candidates was known, they would garner more of the popular vote. At the very least, the two primary parties could learn a thing or two from these candidates’ unique style of campaigning.

  20. I am from Poland, and in Poland there are so many third party systems. They fight between each other and they don’t want to work together. In America we only have two; Democratic and Republic and they can’t come to agreement most of the time. I think that if we would allow more party systems in America it would be worse. Instead of two parties fighting between each other, we would have three or more, just like in Poland. By living in Poland, I noticed that this is a really big flaw in the Polish government. More doesn’t necessarily mean better.

  21. Third party candidates are hidden to the public because of their small numbers. Some people don’t even bother to look at the third party candidate. They are too new and foreign to be noticed. Tradition has become a disadvantage to third party candidates. It’s hard for people to change their ways. Another problem is that the third party has too many smaller sub-parties. In each city or town alone, there’s probably 3 or more smaller parties which are the third party. There’s too many variations for people to pay attention too.

    I believe that using these types of commercials are an advantage for third party candidates because it catches the people’s attention regardless of how cheesy it is. These commercials act like the common person in that it is not a too exotic commercial such as those from the Democratic and Republican parties that you can tell they went all out on. It’s as if the commercials are walking in the public’s shoes.

    Sure these commercials are unconventional but it’s because of that unconventionality that appeals to voters. With that in mind, I believe that more commercials like these will help third party candidates be more noticed and recognized.

  22. Alejandro Medina

    To be honest this is the first time i ever see a video of a third party candiate. In my opinioin i believe these videos were put very poor effort into them. I beieve the reason being is because they dont recieve as much funds as the Republicans and the Democrats. I hardly ever hear anyone speak about the third party, if they want to be taken more serious and more recognized they should work more on there comercials and try to be more professional.

  23. In order to present the society with a new party, other than the two already established parties. Members of the third parties must show society an ideology, principles originals basis of which they can support. The third parties must be original including in their names and not duplicate of the existents parties and pointed the errors of the Democrats and Republicans. To be an original party they must attract the attention of the society with new ideas, new people and not attract the attention just with commercials unconventionals.

  24. Prospects of a third-party seem nonexistent or perhaps nearly improbable in today’s world due to the foothold the Democrats and Republicans currently hold. Both parties fear a third-candidate because they can be the make or break moment in an election depending which candidate’s base they are trying to pull votes from. But there is more to the discussion of another party than who wins an election. John Adams once proclaimed:

    “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

    Why would he believe this? Look at the political system today – we have two choices. We have the quick road to big government, Democrats, or the slightly slower path to big government, Republicans. Nobody is solving the issues on our debt, and the tags on most political figure names are merely logos. In order to get elected, many use societal issues because they know such issues are important to many people and cause them to get uptight and “in the game”. The problem here is that many are voting on emotions rather than fact, and this is dangerous because it divides the country against itself. We already know from Abraham Lincoln’s speech that a “house divided against itself cannot stand”. We also know where we are in terms of a divided nation, so the real questions we should be asking is how long will it be until we restore principles to our government, and if we don’t, one must ask themself how long until our system collapses.

  25. These commercials may be appealing to the public with their “I’m just like you” vibe, mostly the second one. They try to connect with the voters in that way. It may also come off a little unprofessional to some undecided voters.

    They are also at a disadvntage by the media pressence they recevie. Without the federal funding like the two main parties, they are forced raise their own campain funds/donations, handcuffing them somewhat. I think they should steer away from the humor side of these commericals and probably focus on their ideologies and beliefs. Unless these commericals are just simply made to try and get 5% of the undecided (and probably uneducated) votes.

  26. I don’t think I have seen a third party commercial. Now that i have seen them, it lets you know that there is a third option when choosing a candidate. Although we have always dealt with a binary between Democrats and Republicans, I feel like third parties are pointless. It does create that choice to pick a different party besides the two already given if you don’t like either of them. But people always usually go with the Democrats or Republicans. The third parties usually get low votes, so why even have them. Also, third parties are low funded thus making them uncompetable with the two bigger parties.

  27. The third party to me is the open-minded party, they have to be unique and give the voter some semblance of hope and change. The two major parties are always going to dominate for the simple fact that for just as many people who agree with a parties stance on the issues, there are TWICE as many voters who are undecided and making decisions on their candidate because he shops at the same stores they do or because they have the same birthday or zodiac sign or another trivial trait. This makes it extremely hard for the acceptance of a Third party.

  28. I personally don’t think that third parties are that of value like the other two parties we have, Democrats and Republicans. Although having a third party helps the voter decide which party they prefer, but I think its always going to come down to either the Democrats or Republicans. It’s always been a binary and having that third option is weird. Third parties are usually low funded and get low votes thus making them uncompetable with the other two parties. So if the third parties want to be more noticeable, they will need to start having more commercials in order for people to view their ideas.

  29. Katherine Didier

    It does not seem strange to me that America is hesitant to elect a third party candidate. Americans tend to label things as good or bad, right or wrong. This leads to everything else being labeled “complicated”. In the midst of an economic crisis it is easy to understand why Americans want to stay with what they know, even though what they know has failed them in the past. However, I found it shocking that there were such extreme handicaps on the third party monetarily. Without this support it is surprising they make any progress at all considering the power money has in our society.

  30. These both were very creative commercials. The problem with them is that they wernt really telling the voters what exactly they were going to fix. They both lacked alot of details which would help the voter understand what exactly they are planning to help thier state with. I believe that a third party struggles with winning over the voters due to the lack of funding. Sure both parties made one unspecific commercial, but that alone just is not enough. You would need minimum of 5 commercials and plenty of ads. This would allow the canidate to be more well known. The more people see your face the more they want to know about you, and what you have to offer. This can be fixed by doing more of said commercials and ads. The problem with that is most third parties finicially just can not compete with the other two parties.

  31. These unconventional commercials can help the third party out because it grabs an audience’s attention and it can be an eye opener to how the other two typical parties can be. I also think since they are not as known the third parties should start off with conventional commercials so they can get residents to take them serious. Once they have a number of followers they can show their unconventional commercials to show their points and goals and keep their followers interested.

  32. Jessica Meldazis

    I find these commercials appealing because they are unconventional. That makes them memorable. I cannot recall a single ad for Obama nor Romney this past election but I know that I will remember at least the escalator ad you posted. For some though, they might find them too “weird” for a presidential, or even a governor election. People want stability and reliability and they might see these ads as being too out there for what they want.

  33. Fernando Moctezuma

    Even though the message in these commercials may actually appel to many Americans, most will never really take the person in them seriously. Third party candidates do not receive the same media attention as Republicans or Democrats. Third party candidates can try and spend more money to hopefully give them a bit of an edge and have their name out there but when it comes down to it they are fighting a losing battle. Even if third party candidates do spend more money and are seen more in the media the one contest they will never win is the popularity contest and when it comes down to it the more your are liked the better chance you have to win, something that i believe can never be compared to the Republicans or Democrats.

  34. Both of these commercials attempt at showing it views that people are focusing on the big issues and promising to make changes on those issues. The commercials are giving an example about little issues, issues that can be resolved with a few changes rather than a lot of them. To an undecided voter they may consider voting for a third party candidate because they see the candidates taking baby steps rather than jumping the gun right away. It shows progress rather than a empty or vague promise for solutions. These commercials may be unconventional, but they are attempting to give their viewers a sense of hope. It may be in a humorous way but it does catch the viewers attention and by doing such it is getting their viewers to listen. If third party candidates are going to produce more commercials and more advertisements I definitely think they should expand on their audience and how they are appealing to their viewers.

  35. I think the average American does not know that there are more than two parties. Even if he did have the knowledge i do not think they will even talk the independent party serious because the media portrays it as if they are not important. Its sad to say but to get more votes they have to appeal more to the media to make a bigger name for themselves.

  36. Funding is clearly a major issue as far as the third party is concerned but,the third party has failed for many reasons other then funding first off as far as mass media is concerned most major news and radio stations are controlled by a one of the two major political parties, leaving very little wiggle room for even the wealthiest of third parties.Secondly, a vast majority of voters only pay attention to one the two powerhouse parties, one can argue this is because they cannot get enough publicity to gain enough public support. This is true spreading your image is one thing but, a third party candidate has more to face then just getting publicity he has to jump through many hoops, just to fight two titans who have a tradition of running our government. For a third party candidate to win he would have to first overcome all the political adversity, then win public support so much so that he can sway the norm of how people would normally vote and get the voter to break free from the two safe voting parties The Republicans and The Democrats. I say safe because majority of voters like to float in the middle as far as political views and republicans and democrats are in this middle the third party is a stretch for many right off the get go.

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