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Why 3rd Parties Always Fail

A Quick Primer

Ed Stephenson

on 13 July 2016

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Transcript of Why 3rd Parties Always Fail

Why Third Parties ALWAYS Fail
A Quick Primer
Don’t worry about being co-opted by the system
In other words, do we really want to be like Italy?
So, the real result of forming a third party in the United States is that you defeat your own interests.
So, with a single-seat plurality voting system people who want to win actual elections must organize the entire opposition behind a
candidate, in order to have
chance of winning.

Therefore, there are only two parties. The party of the person in office, and the opposition. Over couple hundred years this has entrenched into
It is called the
Single-seat Plurality
voting system.
Most of the above is based on the work of the late Professor William Riker of the University of Rochester who was a pioneer in the use of game theory in analyzing election dynamics.
Do all these things while maintaining an identity and cohesiveness that allows you to wield power WITHIN the major party you agree with
Think about the things the major parties can do to win elections:
So, Now What?
So, what’s the conclusion to draw if you want to change politics in the U.S.?
So, Now What?
Keep in mind all this is not necessarily a bad thing:
But, but, but….
Lastly the majority of voters are lazy, and the majority of voters are in the middle. The energy and zeal it takes to form a third party out of whole cloth is more commonly found at the edges.
Here's the Thing...
Even if they are extraordinarily successful for a third party and gain 30% of the vote, (taking even more votes from the Right Party) they will still lose.
If they form a third party to the right of the “Right” Party, some of their support may come from people who do not normally vote, but much of it will also come from people who normally vote for the Right Party

To understand why first past the post drives us to only two parties, imagine what happens when a group of voters on the right perceive that both parties have moved too far left for their tastes.
But Why Two Parties?
The span of time, the range of circumstances, and the inconsistent political philosophy of the parties make any sort of Dan Brown/secret decoder ring/evil cabal explanation difficult to believe.

Particularly when there is a much simpler explanation.

So, go find the people who think something like you do and convince them to think more like you do.
The party organizations (Democratic & Republican) have remained the same, however the meanings (and labels) of right or left have changed over time.

Political Spectrum
Two & Only Two
Not only that, for the last
160 years
they have been the
same two
political parties
For the vast majority of our nation’s history we have had two and only two influential political parties
Meanwhile, in that same 160 years:
In the United Kingdom:
The Whigs
Were replaced by the Liberals
And Labour
replaced the Liberals
(who are now back, sort of)
they have had five or six
entirely different governments
While in
(not counting invasions)
So, why are political parties in the U.S. so stable?
This is what the parties in the United States generally look like on the “political spectrum”:
One center “right”
One center “left”
The philosophy of the parties moves around from time to time (we’re in one of these times), but they keep, in essence, coming back to this stasis.
This dynamic in the U.S. has survived through
three major wars,
numerous smaller conflicts,
and countless economic collapses
When you stand for election in the U.S.
to Congress,
or for Governor,
or for most state legislatures
Single-seat Plurality is the voting system used.
These are the elections that have the greatest effect on government and will tend to drive the political landscape.
Here's how it works:
In any given election district
There is only one person who represents that district
To win the election for that district all you need is more votes than anyone else running.
No matter how many people are running.
And no matter how narrow the margin of victory.
This is also known as the "
first past the post
" method.
With 15% of the vote they will obviously not win any elections
However, even if they attract only 7% of the Right Party vote, they will doom the Right Party in the election
Even though there is something (an issue, a scandal) that divides the 3rd party voters from the Right Party, if they were to choose between the two major parties, they would overwhelmingly,
and probably vehemently,
support the Right Party over the Left.
But by forming a 3rd party that takes votes away from the Right Party, they guarantee the
Left Party
will win the election.
How do we know this is the case? History. Famous examples:
Teddy Roosevelt, 1912
Ross Perot, 1992
Ralph Nader, 2000
Why not form a party in the middle?
It is one of the few ways that a 3rd party might succeed, but it would be extremely difficult for a few reasons:
The major parties know they win when they get more of the middle, so they are good at fighting for it
The voters at the dividing line between right and left are often in one party or the other because of family history or geography, things a 3rd party isn’t likely to change
We have one of the most stable and longest lasting democracies in the world
The representativeness and stability of our two party system is a strong contributor
Compare that to countries with proportional representation where coalition politics forces government to act on views outside the mainstream
You MUST do it from WITHIN one party or another.
Pick the one you more agree with and work with them.
So, Now What?
The Tea Party
“Third Way” Labour
It isn’t a conspiracy that gives us only two parties in the U.S. It is a basic dynamic that arises naturally from our voting system.
The Founding Fathers’ greatest gift was the ability for us to control our destiny. There is power in the ballot box.
They were also wise (or lucky) enough to ensure that change occurs gradually and with effort. It occurs from within.
Go co-opt it
Pick up voters who don’t normally vote
Sell those issues with the energy and zeal that brings new people to the polls
Discourage the opposition into not voting
Be loud and public about the failings of the opposition
Capture more of the middle
Figure out how your issues are important to the “middle” voter
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