The recent death of two time Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne got me to thinking about how hard Harry worked to create a viable third party on a national level.
Browne received 0.5 percent of the vote in 1996 and 0.367 percent, in 2000. Suffice to say, momentum was in the wrong direction.
As a former card-carrying Libertarian, I agree with much of the party’s platform, but that’s neither here nor there. The Constitution Party also shows intellectual promise and perhaps will score limited local successes–but will get nowhere on a national level.
Third parties, be they Libertarians, Constitutions, Greens, Socialists, Communist, Workers, Jedi, or any other, can’t and won’t make big gains nationally. Why? For the same reason that a dog can be surrounded by Alpo and yet starve to death– an inability to open the can.
Here are the drastic, and perhaps to them somewhat unconscionable measures third parties need to find national success.
Since a good number of Socialists and others to the left have already infiltrated the ranks of the Democrats and even the Republicans, for now we’ll keep the focus on those third parties with philosophies closer to my own; Parties like the Constitution and Libertarian, both of which promote smaller government, limited taxation, and generally like to keep nosiness and government sponsored pickpocketing to a minimum.
Since it’s difficult to design a political system for people who loathe political systems, being a small government third party is tougher to manage than most other political philosophies. Like a group called “Humans Against Heartbeats,” to some, its very existence tends to contradict its own cause.
For political parties with a desire to reduce the size of government and restore the vision of the Founders, there is one unpleasant reality requiring acceptance: Accomplishing this goal will first require not circumventing the existing system, but rather becoming part of it. The most expedient way to do this would be, of course, to disguise themselves as members of the existing system. Unfortunately, much third party philosophy precludes this.
It takes big bucks to run for political office. Huge and often obscene amounts of money are poured into the coffers of candidates, much of the cash is to cover media expenses, which is, and will continue to be, the best tool for any candidate to use to get his or her message across.
As long as viable third parties refuse to first take part in the existing two-party system to get the money to put themselves in a position to change it all back to the way the founders intended, they face continued national irrelevance.
The best way for third party candidates to get in a position to obtain a high elected office in our current system would be to collectively attempt to climb inside a “Trojan Horse” of sorts and infiltrate one of the major parties.
If third parties stick to continued refusal to infiltrate the existing system in the existing vehicles, they’ll be forever sitting on an airport runway, refusing to get on a 747 because they’re convinced they can build their own out of some two-by-fours, glue, mason blocks and the motor from a weedwacker.
Raising money requires sucking up to people and corporations, and making promises you know you’ll never be able to keep. The Constitution Party, Libertarians, etc., in the recognition that this is often a corrupt and unconstitutional way to run the government, refuse to take part in doing business that way. This noble and honest belief is also their downfall.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul has done it the proper way. Paul is a Libertarian, but was elected and serves as a Republican. If the more conservative third parties could manage to sneak in a couple dozen more Ron Paul types as Republicans, then they could split off into an already established and powerful third party with a solid footing in Washington.
The Constitution and Libertarian Parties, having a firm grip on economics, believe in free markets, and as such should be familiar with the important concept of “critical mass”.
Third party refusal to collectively stow away on the S.S. Status Quo and then, once at sea, take over, condemns them forever to a life of 8 p.m. meetings in the back rooms of Applebees restaurants across the country dreaming of what might, but almost certainly never will, come to be.
Harry Browne 1933-2006