Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On Third Parties and Polling

In a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, 58% of respondents said that it would be good for the United States if there were a truly competitive third party. Only 23% said no.

Here we see a perfect example of the inherent flaw in polling. Polling is hypothetical. If we asked, for instance, "would you consider voting third party in 2008?" I guarantee that we would not see 58% of respondents saying "yes." And on Election Day, I guarantee that we'd see an even fewer amount of people actually following through. So, this poll would lead us to believe that 58% of Americans support the notion of a legitimate third party. However, I think it is fair to assume that they would not support an "illegitimate" third party (e.g. the Green Party, the Constitution Party, etc.). However, the only way for a third party to become legitimate is by gaining more supporters. And that's the problem with building third parties. No one wants to support a loser. I'm one of those people. Despite the fact that I may agree with Ralph Nader on many things, I would more readily vote Republican than vote Green.

So, in other words, people want an established third party, but do not want to work to establish a third party. How can we fix this? Well, first of all, the image of the third party has to change. We envision all of the wackos whose only goals are to legalize marijuana or to ban sodomy. But, we should look to Joe Lieberman. The only way a third party will be effective is if it is moderate. A liberal third party simply pulls votes away from Democrats, letting the Republicans win (remember 2000?), and a conservative third party would pull votes away from Republicans, letting the Democrats win. So, we need a moderate third party, pulling votes away from both parties, allowing itself to win.

Easier said than done, of course. But, I think Lieberman's victory last November might be cause for optimism. Seeing moderate politicians bite the dust in favor of ideologues is sad, even when I agree more with the ideologues. The moderate Democrat and the moderate Republican are dying breeds. Lieberman had to go independent, Lincoln Chafee lost his seat, in 2004 Arlen Specter faced an extremely close primary fight. I could probably count the number of moderates in the Senate on my two hands.

And that's absurd. Americans are a moderate bunch, but the two party system caters to ideologues. We desperately need a moderate third party to ease the constant political stalemate in Washington and to bring more rationality to our government. I think a Bloomberg independent run in 2008 might spice things up a bit. I don't think he'd win, but we need more moderates running as independents to get the American public used to the notion that independent doesn't mean crazy.

Don't get me wrong; I'm registered Democrat, and I'll probably always vote Democrat, but I think that a moderate third party (regardless of how I vote) would benefit our political system greatly. Of course, the electoral college would need some reworking (run-off elections?), but we can deal with that later.

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