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.
The Republican Party during the 2012 campaign season suffered from a gender gap problem. That is, the differences between men and women in their views regarding the Republicans and their candidates were so great that many women who turned away from the Republican Party and voted for Democratic candidates became the deciding factor in many national and state races. Exit polls show that nationally Democrats did well with females on the whole, but also with single women at the polls. Republicans tended to do well with married women, but mostly with white men on Election Day. However, female voters make up a majority of the voting population, and single women put Democrats over the top in many elections. For instance, single women helped President Obama defeat Mitt Romney.
There aren’t any exit polls available regarding the United States Senate race in Texas between Ted Cruz (R) and Paul Sadler (D) and how women voted in that election. Pollsters tend to conduct Election Day surveys on races that they consider to be competitive or worthwhile. Many did not think that Sadler had a chance in this race, as Texas is a Republican state that leans conservative on many economic and social issues. Therefore, pollsters just skipped this race.
Judging by this commercial, however, Cruz was not taking some votes for granted.
Based on the visual content of this commercial, do you think Cruz knew that the Republican Party had a gender gap problem? Do you believe that the Republican Party has a gender gap issue?