If you ask me “If a third-party wave is coming in 2012” I would have to answer that in two parts. One is it possible for a third-party to make a succesful run for the Presidency. Two can there be a succesful wave of the third-party’s in the Congress?
My answer to the First question is no…there will be no succesful run by a third-party candidate for the office of President. If a strong third-party is formed on either side of the aisle the party most closely aligned to that third-party will lose the Presidency. For example the second most succesful third-party candidate for the Presidency was Ross Perot, but thanks to Perot’s success with his Reform Party he cost the Republicans not one but two elections against former President Bill Clinton. If Perot’s message had not been so succesful President George H.W. Bush would have won his re-election against Clinton. Now the second election I know Perot hurt then Republican challenger Bob Dole in his bid to unseat the sitting President Clinton, wether or not Dole could have beaten Clinton without Perot in the race I’m not sure. Looking at the results from that race President Clinton had 49.2%, Bob Dole 40.7% and Mr Perot had 8.4% of the votes that year, if we assume that all 8.4% of the votes would go to Mr. Dole that would have made it President Clinton 49.2% and Mr. Dole 49.1% of the total vote. This would be a statistical dead heat and of course the election would have been decided not on the percent of votes but what percent of the Electoral College each man would have won.
The most succesful third-party attempt came from President Teddy Roosevelt and his Bull Moose Party back in 1912. Roosevelt actually beat the sitting Republican President 9 out of the 12 states that were using the Primary System at the time. Roosevelt was the clear winner of the Republican Primary’s but Taft and his people were able to gain a large enough majority in the Republican National Committee to get him appointed as the party’s candidate. With the “voice of the people” denied Roosevelt and his supports broke from the Republican Party to run as the Bull Moose Party. That year’s election resulted in Democrat Woodrow Wilson being elected, former President Teddy Roosevelt coming in second, and for the first time the Republican party’s candidate came in third. So looking at history one thing seems pretty clear to me and that is if a former and popular President cannot run third-party and win it is an almost impossible situation to happen. The only reason President Wilson won office was because Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican vote enough to allow a untied Democratic voting block to win.
Now for the second part of the question…Could we see a third-party wave victory in the Congress? I have to say I can see one way that this maybe what happens. If the Republican Party takes back one or both branches in the Congress and they fail to live up to their promises to slow down the juggernaut spending in Washington DC I would not at all be surprised if the voters punish both the Democrats and the Republicans by voting in an unusually large number of third-party candidates. The first challenge any party must overcome (and this includes the two main parties) is getting on the election ballot. Each State has its own rules regulating how you get on the ballot, for example in Georgia you must submit a petition with 5% of the registered voters to be placed on the ballot.
So lets assume for the moment that enough candidates can get past these regulations and find themselves on the ballot I believe that we could then see a strong protest vote by the people against both parties. If these parties run on one or two issues, such as reducing spending and getting people back to work the people may choose to risk their vote on something different. If this happens though and a large number of third-partiers win how many would it be? I’m just going to offer up a guess based on nothing but my own opinion but I would not be shocked to see some where in the neighborhood of 12-30 seats in the House and 1-3 in the Senate. I believe that we could see a larger number of House seats be temporarily lost to a third-party because of the sheer number of seats that are up for election, plus the fact that the winners would not serve more than two years. In the Senate I believe people would be less likely to trust a third-party candidate to serve in such a long-term seat of power, and thus we could see a much lower number voted into power in the Senate.
If a third-party “wave” was to come in 2012 I believe it would be a temporary political statement made by the People, but it would be an important one that would offer up a warning to both parties to get their political acts together. If at anytime a third-party wave happens it will be a temporary “fluke” of history…i.e. a protest vote. The third-party’s would have to find a home in one of the two parties if they are to have any influence over committees and bills that are brought forward for a vote. They would need good relations with one party or the other if they are going to get anything through themselves. Ultimately the people would become disillusioned with a third-party because they would find that they have no significant influence over how business gets done in Washington.
What I believe is far more likely to happen is a continued house cleaning in both political parties. The TEA Party influence will likely still be there in 2012 and more RINO’s will find themselves on the outside looking in. As for the Democrat Party sooner or later the Conservative Democrats will find their own TEA Party movement to clean out some of the Leftist in their party. In the end the two parties will actually grow closer together not because they have moderated their views, but because the views of the majority of Americans are more closely inline with one another then what the two parties are currently giving us.
Will there be a Third-Party wave??? I do not know but if one does happen it will be a short-lived but historical moment in American politics.
A list of some of the third-party’s in the US past and present:
Constitution Party; The Green Party of the United States; Libertarian Party; American First Party; American Independent Party; American Reform Party; Boston TEA Party; Communist Party USA; Freedom Socialist Party; Green Party USA; Labor Party; Modern Whigs Party; National Socialist Movement; Socialist Party; U.S. Marijuana Party; and the World Socialist Party of the USA. (for mor about each party and links to their individual sites go to: http://www.politics1.com/parties.htm)