Monday, September 22, 2008

Response to Blogs on Third Parties

It is election time again and it is time for people to start bashing Third Parties again. So, it is time for me to defend them again as a vital part of the process. One might could even argue as restrictions against third parties got tighter, the country as a whole got worse.

Rev. Mark Horne has a post up about his problem with the logic of Third parties. I could spend some time arguing about immigration and wondering if Rev. Horne is confusing the duty of the church to welcome people when they are a stranger and the job of the state, but that is a side point in this blog. Rev. Horne contends that to be a member of a Third party one has to renounce any and all compromise and thus any minor point of disagreement should chase one from that party. I am not sure that is the real motivation for Third parties. Are all members of the Constitution Party or the Libertarian Party saying that they agree 100% with their party and they would never deviate at all? Need I remind you that Congressman Bob Barr beat out super liberal Mike Gravel for the Libertarian Party nomination. These two do not exactly see eye to eye. In fact they are simply joined together by a fundamental commitment to the government staying out their personal business. Hardly the situation Rev. Horne describes. Besides, I think it also a leap in logic that one who accepts compromise must then accept so much compromise as to be stuck supporting one of the two major parties. Could he not support compromise and see that he compromises less by supporting Constitution Party? Is it not better to compromise less by only compromising on immigration and voting for the Constitution Party than compromising on taxes, ethics, foreign policy, the size and role of government, and executive power by voting for the Republican Party?

Andrew Sandlin also has an article up against Third Parites. His article is actually a quote from someone else. The claim is that Third parties are irrelevant. The author admits that these Third Parties do only two things. One is cipher off votes from the major candidates. And the second is stated as "they may provide an issue or a voting block that one of the major parties successfully woos before the next election."

YES!!!!! Someone finally gets it. It is amazing to me that this is listed in an article against Third Parties because this is the critical point. Third parties can reform the major parties, but only if you vote for them. Third parties call the major parties back to their roots. If the parties do not listen then they are eventually replaced. Most of the time they will listen. Take for example Ross Perot. He clearly cost George H.W. Bush the election in 1992. Perot ran and took votes out of the conservative base by running on governmental reform, lower taxes, balanced budgets, and less spending. Clinton gained the White House because people “threw away” their vote on Perot. However, in 1994 a bevy of new Republicans took control of the House and Senate on the Contract with America, which called for governmental reform, lower taxes, balanced budgets, and less spending. The House, which was the new guys for the most part, delivered on every part of the Contract. Eventually the budget was even balanced and a surplus created under Clinton. Do we really think that Perot had nothing to do with any of this? Clearly, at least Newt Gingrich was listening.

In the end, I think Third parties are not just the domain of the crazed fringe. Rather it should be the place that people run when the major parties ignore them and drift from their ideological roots. It is good to have these ideology-based parties so that the people can always have a voice. It is not all about winning. That is hard for a lot of people to believe, but it is not. The State will always be the State in the long run, and the Christian’s responsibility to the state is the same whether it is to Nero or to Constantine. It will never bring any real change. However, we do have an opportunity to make sure the candidates continue to focus on what is important to us by voting on what is important to us. That may mean voting for a Third party from time to time or


Jay said...

So is your third party argument ultimately practical or ideological? A little of both, of course. But would you recommend voting for a third party if you had strong evidence that it would not affect the position of the major parties in subsequent elections? Or, to put it another way, would you recommend voting for a major party if you thought that one of the major candidates was so bad on a some issue that it was more important for that candidate to lose than for your third party to have another vote (a vote that would, in my hypothetical, make it more likely for the "bad" candidate to win)?

Moreover, if voting for a third party candidate is as strategic an act as you make it out to be, it must be important to clearly identify the reasons you're voting for the third party, so the major parties will know why they're losing your vote. For example, are you voting for the libertarian party because they're anti-war, because they favor lower taxes, because they favor legalization of drugs, or more generally because they're in favor of less government intervention? Anyway, this is an interesting line of thought.

Lee said...

I guess I consider my position a ideological position driven by practicalities. The main point is the ultimate victory of the idea, not a particular party. And I think it is okay for the really bad candidate to win if in the long run the other party accepts my idea, or position. In fact, I think it often has to happen.

And I would recommend voting for a third party even if strong evidence existed that it would not change the major parties. Because it has to start somewhere. It may not affect this election or the next, but sooner or later it will. And if neither party listens it may just lead to a new major party.