Comment | Ron Radosh

Ron Radosh

A Comment About

The Follies of Thomas Friedman’s Third Party

February 21, 2012 - 7:17 am - by Ron Radosh
2012-02-22 04:28:09

A proposal like Friedman’s comes up every time we have strongly ideological candidates for President. (And he’s right about Obama and Santorum, they both have hard-line ideological stands, neither of which appeals to me either.)

But at the national level, the Electoral College acts as a strong barrier to third-party or Independent candidacies.

Because many states have a winner-take-all rule: The candidate who wins just a plurality (not a majority) of that state’s popular vote wins ALL of its electoral votes.

Thus a fledgling political party would have to win pluralities in many states the first time it campaigns, a herculean task. In 1992, the Reform Party candidate Ross Perot got 19% of the popular vote–not bad for a flaky candidate and a brand-new political party–but he got ZERO electoral votes. And that was pretty much the end of the Reform Party.

The best way to build a new political party is bottom-up. You have a much better chance of getting third-party candidates elected as city councilmen, mayors, representatives, even senators. Bernie Sanders for example. There are Green Party officeholders in a number of cities too.

But guys like Friedman never try to push for a third party in off-year elections when they could score in local and state races. It’s only this perennial snort of disgust during an election year when they don’t like the Presidential candidates.

When young people ask why we only have 2 parties and why there aren’t more parties, I always tell them that they have to do the hard work to build a party bottom-up and start winning local races in off-year elections. Since that’s not as much fun as working for a cool Presidential candidate like Adlai Stevenson or Obama to Change The World(tm), they hear that and flee.