[Marxism] Scrambled by Third Parties

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Tue Apr 20 00:25:43 MDT 2004

It will be great if both the Democratic and Republican Parties get 
the lowest shares of the votes in the history of duopoly, scrambled 
by third-party candidates receiving votes of all the determined 
anti-occupation voters:

*****   Commentary  > Opinion
from the April 20, 2004 edition

Third-party threat: It's not just Nader
By Lawrence R. Jacobs

ST. PAUL, MINN. - The hot topic in handicapping the presidential 
election is whether independent candidate Ralph Nader will be the 
spoiler - again - by winning a small but decisive percentage of the 
vote in an evenly divided country.

But Mr. Nader is not the only third party candidate who could sway 
the electorate significantly enough to change history - as he did in 
2000 by siphoning off liberal voters from Al Gore and as Ross Perot 
did in 1992 and 1996 by taking conservative votes from the GOP 

A Humphrey Institute Survey found in February that 20 percent of 
voters are disaffected fromthe two major parties, and a significant 
number of them could be tapped by gifted candidates running as 
independent or Libertarian - if these candidates received the kind of 
press attention that Nader has attracted.

While Nader hurts the presumed Democratic nominee John Kerry, voters 
open to conservative third-party candidates who promote small 
government and criticize ballooning government budget deficits pose a 
significant threat to President Bush's reelection effort. Pundits 
have ignored the importance of the third-party swing vote, but the 
White House has not, working hard to head off damaging defections.

Indeed, these small-government conservatives who are disenchanted 
with the major parties made a real mark in the 2002 elections: 2 
percent or more of voters in 15 gubernatorial and US Senate elections 
in 2002 cast their ballots for the Libertarian Party. And candidates 
running as independents cleared the 2 percent mark in seven other 
states. Numbers like these could be a decisive factor in a close 
contest between Messrs. Bush and Kerry.

Third-party candidates will have their greatest impact in critical 
battleground states in this year's presidential election.

While recent successes of the Green Party in New Mexico, Oregon, and 
elsewhere dominate political talk of Nader as a Kerry spoiler, far 
less attention has been devoted to the potential of Libertarian and 
independent successes to drain conservative votes from Bush in swing 
states. In Wisconsin, where Bush narrowly lost in 2000, the 
Libertarian candidate in the 2002 gubernatorial context took an 
impressive 10.5 percent, enough to help Democrat Jim Doyle break the 
four-term Republican hold on the state house. In Nevada, where the 
president prevailed by just 3 percent in 2000, the Libertarian and 
two candidates running as independents took a total of 4 percent of 
the vote in the 2002 gubernatorial race. Bush took New Hampshire by 
about 1 percent in 2000 - but votes for Libertarian candidates in the 
2002 gubernatorial and US Senate races there totaled more. And in 
Missouri, another battleground state expected to be narrowly decided 
in November, the Libertarian candidate's 1 percent in the 2002 US 
Senate race nearly upended Republican Jim Talent's razor-close win 
over Democrat Jean Carnahan. In Ohio, the US Senate candidate for the 
Natural Law Party took 4 percent in 2002. Minnesota's unusually 
strong support for Ross Perot's campaigns in the 1990s and its 
election of Jesse Ventura as governor in 1998 far surpass Nader's 
showings there.

These recent elections demonstrate an overlooked but potentially 
decisive reservoir of support for third-party candidates who run on a 
small-government platform.

Third-party candidates pose quite different threats to Kerry and 
Bush, according to the Humphrey Institute's February poll conducted 
by the University of Connecticut. Bush perhaps has the most to lose 
in the third-party trend because a conservative third party would 
erode his GOP base of support. Meanwhile, the threat to Kerry is less 
to his Democratic base than to the critical base of independent 
voters who might otherwise swing toward him in the absence of a 
third-party candidate.

The poll showed that in a one-on-one race with Kerry, Bush would win 
87 percent of the GOP vote. But when given the option of Bush, Kerry, 
and a conservative third-party candidate, GOP support for Bush 
dropped to as low as 75 percent.

Surprisingly, the poll found that in a Kerry-Bush-Nader race, Kerry 
lost relatively few votes among Democrats - he'd win 72.8 percent of 
Democrats in a two-man race and 70 percent of the Democrats when 
Nader was in the race.

In a three-way race, the poll found Nader damaged Kerry most among 
independent voters. In a two-candidate race against Bush, Kerry 
enjoyed an eight-point lead among independents. But he came in 
slightly behind Bush among independents when those voters were 
offered Nader as a third choice. Even the mention of a generic 
third-party candidate sapped Kerry's support among independents by 
about 19 points; it depressed Bush's share by just 12 points.

The support of voters for third-party candidates from across the 
political spectrum raises three challenges for pollsters, 
journalists, and other critical players in the presidential election.

First, pollsters who fail to offer voters the opportunity to indicate 
support for conservative third-party candidates run the risk of 
missing the dynamics of the race and providing an inaccurate picture 
of the evolving campaign.

Second, the press should expand its coverage to encompass the 
campaigns of potentially influential third-party candidates besides 
Nader. Access to state ballots is a telling issue that the press has 
yet to investigate seriously. Nader was able to get on only 43 state 
ballots in 2000 and is struggling again this year to qualify on all 
state ballots. But by contrast, the Libertarian Party successfully 
placed its 2000 presidential candidate on the ballots of every state 
and is likely to have its candidate on many more state ballots than 
Nader will this year. And, if there's a question in the media - and 
within the Presidential Debate Commission - about whether Nader 
should be included in the debates, then the Libertarian nominee most 
certainly should be considered, too.

Third, conventional assumptions about the electorate as polarized 
Republican and Democratic camps misses the trend of the last three 
presidential elections - third-party candidates are tipping the 
outcome of presidential elections.

Expect the 2004 election outcome to be scrambled by liberal and 
conservative third-party candidates.

* Lawrence R. Jacobs is the McKnight Land Grant Professor and 
director of the 2004 Elections Project for the Humphrey Institute at 
the University of Minnesota.

<http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0420/p09s02-coop.html>   *****

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