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Monday 10 April 2017


Unlucky Number's Three

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 15th August 2016

Yes, there are third parties in US electoral politics, but they have been conspicuously unsuccessful in gaining federal representation. Herein lies a tale.

The Green Party of the United States has been tainted for the last decade over the wrecker candidacy of Ralph Nader, an environmentalist and consumer affairs advocate who acted to divide the centre-left vote and insure that George W.Bush won the 2000 US federal election by default. This has led to considerable resentment by progressive voters against the GPUS and the party's voter share collapsed after Nader's candidacy. In 2004, David Cobb only attracted 119,859 voters- only 0.1% of the total voter share, and in 2008, Cynthia McKinney hardly did any better, only attracting 0.12% of total voter share- 161, 680 voters. Under Jill Stein's leadership, the party recovered slightly in 2012, attracting 0.36% of total voter share (469,627 voters).

It has been unable to achieve significant electoral success since 2000 then, and many progressive voters are determined to avoid the mistake that indulging Nader and the Greens led to back at the turn of the milennium. Even when the Libertarian and Green Party leaders, and Jill Stein, are factored into presidential candidacy questionnaires, Stein is not significantly affecting Hillary Clinton's voter share, indicating that progressive voters are unwilling to indulge the Greens and that Nader's legacy still prevails in this context. It is significant that leftist former Independent Senator Bernie Sanders chose the Democrats, not the Greens, as his political vehicle for his presidential candidacy. The Greens party platform includes campaign finance reform, and it has black, Latino, Lavender (LGBTI), womens and youth caucuses. It has never won a seat at the federal level, within the House of Representatives or Senate. At the state level, they have elected individual state legislators in Maine, California and Arkansas, but none of them have lasted very long in office. California and New York have Green mayors and city councillors, but that is all. GPUS has ten core principles- grassroots democracy, social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom, nonviolence, decentralisation, community-based economics, feminism and gender equality, respect for diversity, global responsibility and sustainability. Jill Stein is a medical practitioner, with backgrounds in the green and peace movements, campaign finance reform and the introduction of the single transferable vote option of proportional representation within the United States. She supports an end to student debt, renewable energy, slashing military spending, and a moratorium on genetically modified organisms. She is also anti-vaccination, leading to raised eyebrows on the more orthodox US left.

As for the Libertarian Party, it was founded in 1971. Whereas New Zealand libertarianism has been tainted by anti-feminism and entryism by religious social conservatives under 'false flags' and authoritarian populists, US libertarianism is more resolutely directed toward social liberalism as well as its fiscal conservatism. As one might guess, it supports tax cuts, decreasing the US national debt and welfare privatisation. Its more progressive policies include comprehensive drug decriminalisation, supporting marriage equality, decriminalisation of sex work, gambling and polygamy (!) and ending the death penalty, although it opposes gun control as well. Alaska, Vermont and New Hampshire have all had Libertarian Party state legislators. It supports free trade and unrestricted immigration to and from the United States, but would pull the United States out of NAFTA, CAFTA, the World Trade Organisation and NATO. Unlike former "Libertarian" social conservative Ron Paul, current leader Gary Johnson is pro-choice when it comes to abortion rights. As for total voter share, the Libertarian Party has never polled more than a single percentage point of voter share (1980), although it came close in 2012 (0.99%).

If asked, most US and other libertarians that I've talked to about US libertarianism blame Ron Paul for damage to the party brand, especially when it came to his outspoken social conservatism- he was resolutely anti-abortion and eventually joined the Republican Party, whose platform has an element that would prohibit abortion outright. After Ron Paul ran in 1988, the party voter share halved in 1992, indicating pro-choice disgust at Ron Paul's 'statist' anti-abortion stance. However, Gary Johnson is more progressive when it comes to social issues. The former New Mexico Governor left the Republican Party in 2011 and multiple candidate presidential preference polls indicate that he has ten percent support compared to that for Clinton, Trump and Stein. It seems to be the case that libertarian ex-Republicans are sufficiently incensed and alienated to consider voting for him and his party. He also runs Cannabis Sativa Inc, a medicinal cannabis distribution company based in Nevada. He is also strongly committed to pulling US troops out of Iraq and Syria and slashing US military expenditure. This isn't as odd as it sounds, given that the party was born partially from protest at the Vietnam War, military conscription and the US military state infrastructure in the seventies.

The final party in this article is the Constitution Party, founded in 1991 as the US Taxpayers Party, and renamed as the Constitution Party in 1991. It is resolutely religiously social conservative, and has expelled pro-choice party members from the organisation. It is opposed to strong central government, except when interfering in abortion rights, sex work, recreational drug use, assisted suicide ad nauseum. It is also protectionist when it comes to free trade issues, opposes illegal immigration and favours greater restrictions on legal immigration, as well as opposing marriage equality, gambling and pornography. The party also contains numerous conspiracist elements who regard mainstream US politics as run by 'socialist' advocates of a 'new world order.' US Christian Right anti-abortion activists have applauded the party's hardline stance on women's reproductive rights. Unlike the Green and Libertarian Parties, the Constitution Party only has two low echelon representatives in elected office- one within the Montana House of Representatives, and the other in a Louisiana parish school board. It is lucky to poll 0.1% of total voter share, and sometimes has polled considerably below that. There is considerable overlap with the far right of the Republican Party.

And thus, one witnesses the apparent stranglehold of the two-party duopoly on US federal and state politics. However, the main contest this November 2016 will be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Democrat and Republican candidates. Little else and no-one else matters in this context, except when it comes to Gary Johnson and the possible spoiler effect that his candidacy appears to be having on the Republican Party and Trump's candidacy. When it comes to US politics, it still seems three is a crowd.

Recommended:

GPUS: Green Party of the United States:http://www.gp.org

Libertarian Party:http://www.lp.org

Constitution Party:http://www.constitutionparty. com



Craig Young - 15th August 2016

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