Tag Archives: Libertarian Party

Debate Inclusions

Let’s use a hypothetical situation for this post.

There are four candidates running for Congress in 2014.  One candidate is a Democrat.  One is a Republican.  A third is a member of the Libertarian Party.  A fourth candidate represents the Green Party.  All four candidates have petitioned to be candidates and have received the required number of signatures needed to be candidates on a ballot.
The United States, politically, is considered to be a two-party country where one of two parties usually wins an election.  Those two who usually win are the Democratic and Republican parties.  During the fictional campaign, both the Democrat and Republican campaigns ask that they debate each other without the other two candidates.  Media organizations and other political groups oblige and only invite the Democratic and Republican candidates to their sponsored debates.  Some groups even go as far to say that the other two candidates, the Libertarian and Green, have no shot at winning, and since they little chance of being elected, they won’t be invited.
My question:  Should all candidates who are ballot qualified be invited to debates regardless of their chances of winning an election?

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2012 Congressional Results

According to results posted by the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the voting results for Congress in 2012 were as follows:

Democratic Party candidates – 59,626,252 votes
Republican Party candidates – 58,212,650 votes
Libertarian Party candidates – 1,365,721 votes
Independent candidates – 486,887 votes
Green Party candidates – 369,221 votes
Others – 2,285,289 votes

Yet, even with the Democratic candidates receiving more votes than Republican candidates on a nationwide basis, the Republicans still held the House of Representatives by a 234 to 201 seat count.  What matters more:  The number of votes on a nationwide basis or the number of seats won by a party?

The Race Has Begun?

Recently, C-Span, the cable channel devoted to covering federal government affairs, began covering the 2016 Presidential race for its Sunday evening series entitled, “Road to the White House.”  For political junkies, this could not have started soon enough.  To casual political observers, the race for the White House does not begin in 2013, but in 2016.  However, imagine yourself as a political insider for either the Democratic or Republican Parties (or for that matter, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, or other third parties/Independents).  What would you be looking for in a candidate at this time in 2013?

Which Party Best Understands America?

Parties and Ideologies

Would it be fair to call the Democratic Party, a “liberal party”?  Would it also be fair to call the Republican Party, a “conservative party”?  Probably not, because not all members of the Democratic Party are liberal and not all Republicans in their party are conservative.  In the United States, the major parties are “indistinct” in their makeup.  This means that the party’s label does not necessarily equate to a party’s ideology.  For instance, the Republican Party is made up of conservatives, libertarians, and liberals, while the Democratic Party is made up of liberals, socialists, and conservatives.  Many ideological perspectives fit under each party’s label.  Contrast that with the major parties in Canada or in the United Kingdom.  Each country has a Conservative Party, a variation of a Liberal Party (in the UK, it is called the Liberal Democratic Party), and a Labour Party, which leans in the direction of socialism.  You know where each party stands in regards to their ideology.  Parties that have definitive ideologies are called “distinct” parties.  There are those parties in the United States that are distinct in their ideology.  Among those include the Libertarian Party and the Socialist Party USA.

Why aren’t more political parties in the United States “distinct” in their makeup?

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.

2012 Presidential Election Results (Updated)

Here are the 2012 Presidential Election Results (Popular Vote) as of Sunday, January 13, 2013.  Not all votes have been tabulated at this point.

2012 Presidential Election

Barack Obama (D) 65,899,583

Mitt Romney (R) 60,928,966

Gary Johnson (Libertarian) 1,275,821

Jill Stein (Green) 468,907

Virgil Goode (Constitution) 121,754

Roseanne Barr (Peace and Freedom) 67,436

Rocky Anderson (Justice) 43,088

Tom Hoefling (America’s) 40,624

Others:  288,664

What are your thoughts on these updated totals?

Source:  Dave Leip’s Atlas of US Presidential Elections