Tag Archives: third party

This Week’s Campaign Ad — Ross Perot ’92

The following is an ad from the Ross Perot (I) campaign for President in 1992.  Perot finished third to then-Governor Bill Clinton (D) and the incumbent President, George HW Bush (R).  What are the highlights or lowlights of this ad? Critique it.

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Time for Another?

One of the biggest outbursts that people have about the two major parties in the United States is that Democrats sound like Republicans; Republicans sound like Democrats.  It can make your head spin.  As mentioned in class and on this blog, the nation was founded on a two-party system, where each party differentiated itself from the other on the issues.  When the country began, Federalists who believed in a strong, centralized government battled with Democratic-Republicans (Anti-Federalists) who believed that more power should reside in the hands of the states.  There was a clear delineation as to where each of these parties stood on the issues.  Today, many argue that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.  Some from that group will argue even further that the parties are not ideological enough.  Those who aruge this position believe that the Democrats should be more liberal and Republicans should be more conservative.  Do we have two moderate parties in the United States or are they more ideological then we make them out to be?  Is this the time for a third party to emerge in the United States?  If so, then what should that party look and sound like?

The Problems That Third Parties Face

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?

Do Political Parties Matter At The Local Level?

Please explain your answer.  Do political parties have a purpose at the local level?

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?

Political Party Identification

Cory Booker and Primary Challenges

There was a lot of talk surrounding the 2014 US Senate Exploratory Committee formed by Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker this past week.  If Booker decides to go ahead with a full-fledged campaign, we will have to go through Frank Lautenberg to earn a shot at the Senate seat.  Both Booker and Lautenberg are Democrats.  Booker, 43, is a much talked about politician who may represent the future of the Democratic Party.  Lautenberg, 88, is a stalwart of the party and served (with a brief retirement from 2001-2002) in the Senate since 1982.  When he has faced primary challenges, Lautenberg has vanquished them quite easily.  Booker, however, will be the Senator’s toughest challenge yet.  His entrance came with the requisite not-so kind words from the incumbent’s camp.

One must remember, however, that with incumbency comes its rewards.  Lautenberg has a widely known name recognition, a considerable Senate record, the ability to fundraise, and a wide assortment of Democratic allies at this disposal.  Something else going against Booker is the lack of successful primary challenges since Lautenberg became Senator in 1982.  Since 1982, only eight incumbents have lost to opponents in primary elections.

1992:  Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL) defeated Sen. Alan Dixon

1996:  Sam Brownback (R-KS) defeated Sen. Sheila Frahm

2002:  John Sununu (R-NH) defeated Sen. Bob Smith

2006:  Ned Lamont (D-CT) defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman

2010:  Joe Miller (R-AK) defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Mike Lee (R-UT) defeated Sen. Bob Bennett; Joe Sestak (D-PA) defeated Sen. Arlen Specter

2012:  Richard Mourdock (R-IN) defeated Sen. Richard Lugar

There are some interesting caveats with these challenges though.  In two of those cases, the incumbent party ended up losing the seat to the opposition (2012 – IN; 2010 – PA).  Two other cases found the incumbent who lost in primary end up keeping the seat in the general election.  Lieberman ran as a third party candidate in his general election, while Murkowski ran as a write-in and won.  In Frahm’s case, she was appointed to the position after Bob Dole resigned in order to run for President in 1996.  Bennett was defeated in a Utah Republican Party state convention vote and finished third, not only to Lee but to small businessman Tim Bridgewater.  Sestak defeated Specter who previously switched from the Republican to Democratic Party in 2009.  John Sununu defeated a weakened Bob Smith, who flirted with Presidential ambitions as a member of the US Taxpayers Party.  Out of the eight primary challenges, only two, Moseley-Braun and Mourdock, ran against two strong incumbents.  You could argue, however, that Dixon’s vote for Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court Justice hurt his re-election campaign, and that Tea Party activists outside of teh Republican Party establishment contributed heavily to the Lugar’s defeat.

That is what makes Booker’s run against Lautenberg so interesting.  Lautenberg is considered to be a strong incumbent by New Jersey Democrats.  He does not have the same baggage or problems that weighed down and subsequently defeated other incumbents in their respective primaries.  If Booker does win his primary fight, then it is highly likely that the Democrats will hold that seat after the general election, as the Republicans do not have a strong bench after Governor Chris Christie.  If Booker should lose to Lautenberg, then the Booker brand as a future standard bearer of the Democratic Party is diminished.  Booker must run a spirited campaign against Lautenberg in order to give himself a fighting chance.  After all, recent history tells us that it is very difficult to defeat an incumbent in a primary election.

What are your thoughts on this race?