Third Party Blues: The Truth and Consequences of Two-Party Dominance

Third Party Blues: The Truth and Consequences of Two-Party Dominance

Third Party Blues: The Truth and Consequences of Two-Party Dominance

Third Party Blues: The Truth and Consequences of Two-Party Dominance

Synopsis

More than many areas of American politics research, studies of minor party competition and success are often overly driven by normative concerns that do not hold up to empirical scrutiny. This concise book presents a concerted effort to analyze the barriers in election law, such as ballot access restrictions and single member districts with a plurality rule, that prevent third parties from gaining a durable hold in American politics.Rather than trudge through yet another history of third parties in America or polemical arguments for minor party inclusion, Schraufnagel provides empirical grounding for the claims of third party backers. This thoughtful analysis demonstrates that the inclusion of third parties improves electoral participation rates and that third party involvement in the legislative process is linked to landmark legislative productivity. In the end, the work provides thoughtful suggestions on the types of reforms that would lead to greater third party success in American elections.

Excerpt

I was born in 1959 and socialized to support the Republican Party by my business-owner father. But, my maternal grandfather was a pro-union Democrat. I recall my father defending Richard Nixon, but I also remember his younger brother saying good things about John F. Kennedy and I was confused. As a young boy of about six, I got out the encyclopedia one day and tried to show my Democrat grandfather that all of the famous presidents had been Republican. The encyclopedia listed Thomas Jefferson as a Republican and neither grandpa nor I knew that this was not the same Republican Party in existence in the 1960s. I continued supporting the Republican Party up through most of Watergate in the early 1970s. Those of you that can remember know it became very difficult to be a vocal supporter of Richard Nixon in 1973–74. Yet I was. I remember arguing with classmates about the virtues of President Nixon and biting my pillow at night screaming in my head—“burn the tapes,” “burn the tapes!” A reference to the tape recordings that were found to exist and likely contained information that would find Nixon culpable of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” grounds for impeachment.

As an 18-year-old college freshman in 1977 I was convinced that we needed a third party in American politics. Jimmy Carter was president and he was advocating for a Selective Service System (SSS) that would require 18–26 year olds to register with the national government so that information could be maintained on those potentially eligible for military conscription. Vietnam was very fresh in my mind and I had begun to view military violence with a great deal of suspicion. I vaguely sensed the crippled Republican Party (postWatergate) would not do much to stop the Carter initiative from becoming reality. So I joined the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (RCYB), which was planning to demonstrate against the selective service program. The RCYB rhetoric also entailed the overthrow of the national government, which seemed a bit harsh to me, but at least they expressed a fresh point of view and I liked that. When the police showed up at a RCYB rally at Kent State, which was intended as a protest against the planned construction of a gymnasium on the site where students had lost their lives five years earlier, I broke from the formation of RCYB supporters and decided this kind of violence was not for . . .

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