Defending Third Parties

We don't get a lot of comments, unfortunately, here on the 13th Floor. But I did get a couple in response to my post the ...
by | November 6, 2006

We don't get a lot of comments, unfortunately, here on the 13th Floor. But I did get a couple in response to my post the other day about Peter Hutchinson's longshot bid for Minnesota governor. I suggested that Hutchinson's chances as a third-party candidate, never strong, were unfortunately further hampered by his serious, all about good government approach.

Steve Struthers objects. Now, Struthers is Hutchinson's campaign manager (which he neglects to point out himself). Cheap shots about him having time to respond to blogs during the last week of the campaign aside, I think his argument is worth refuting.

Here's the conclusion of his comment:

I reject the term "spoiler" - since when did the votes cast for a third-party/independent candidate "belong" to one of the other two parties. When thousands of our soldiers are fighting (and dying) to bring multi-party democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan, I find it a bit insulting to suggest that giving voters here in the States a similar kind of choice is somehow inappropriate unless they win.

First of all, I never suggested that Hutchinson didn't have a right to run or that he should step down. But the fact is that at this point in the campaign, if you're polling at single digits, you're not going to win, endorsements from the University of Minnesota student paper notwithstanding.

Voters sense this intuitively. This is the reason why John Anderson, who was polling at about 20 percent for much of the 1980 presidential campaign, was lucky to finish with 7 percent. Once he started slipping and people knew he had no shot, they decided to go with Carter or Reagan. Conversely, the fact that Jesse Ventura was polling well, although not leading, right until the end in 1998 made people feel confident that a vote for him wasn't going to be wasted.

For this reason, I would guess that Hutchinson will finish even weaker than he's been polling. With the race so close, people may want to feel like they're having some say in the outcome, rather than voting for a sure loser.

That's true, no matter how cold it was for our  boys at Valley Forge. I've written a fair amount about how the political game is rigged to favor the two major parties. That's an issue worth discussing, but I don't think it has much if anything to do with defending our troops or their missions, to be quite honest.

By the way, I don't think all third-party votes "belong" or would even necessarily fall to Democrats or Republicans if minor party candidates dropped out. I don't think Chris Bell, the Democrat in the Texas governor's race, for instance, would pick up all of Kinky Friedman's support if Friedman were to drop out and endorse him today (which won't happen). People do like "none of the above" candidates, even when they aren't going to win. Some people, anyway.