Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Time for a Third Party Candidate? I: What is a "Third Party Candidate"?

As the election draws nearer, and the candidates withdraw further and further from the needs and concerns of "ordinary" people, there is more talk about the viability of a third party. Which "third party" may be an issue, but as long as it's not Republicrats or Democans, they'll take it.

Of course, the usual argument against this sort of wild talk is to declare that voting for a third party is throwing your vote away because there has never been a viable third party candidate, and that voting for a third party candidate ensures that whoever you dislike today will be a shoo-in tomorrow. Let's consider these claims individually. Today we'll look at the claim that there has never been a viable third party candidate.

Really? I suppose that depends on how you define "third party." According to the Wikipedia, we've had three or six (or seven) — depending on how you count — and definitely one "almost and should have won":

George Washington is the only person elected president without a party affiliation. We cannot tell a lie. We don't know whether to count him.

John Adams was the only Federalist president.

The Whigs managed to get in William Henry Harrison. John Tyler, elected as vice president, succeeded Harrison. Tyler started out his term as an independent, but became a Whig once he assumed the presidency . . . but was never elected. Zachary Taylor was succeeded by Millard Fillmore, also elected as vice president . . . Whigs seemed to have a talent for dying in office.

Andrew Johnson was elected vice president as an independent, but became either a Democrat or a Republican (it's complex) on succeeding Lincoln.

Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive Republican while in office, then became an official Progressive when the moderate and liberal Republicans left the G.O.P. in disgust over what they viewed as Taft's betrayal of America.

And you thought this election was confusing.

#30#

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