Giving up the third-party dream

Back in the Jesse Ventura era, a local political pundit — it might have been Sarah Janacek — quipped that the IP (Independence Party) should be referred to as AP for “avoid primary.”

Politicians, the pundit theorized, had no real allegiance to the idea of a party separate from the doctine of either the Republicans or the DFL; they were simply looking for an easy way to get on the November ballot without having to go through the party machines that control the two main parties.

The theory seemed weak as real alternatives — people like Jim Gibson, who ran for Senate in 2000; and Robert Fitzgerald, who ran for Senate in 2006 — emerged and made decent showings, considering that the face of third parties in Minnesota — Ventura — had no real interest in the philosophy of third parties; he was mostly interested in the philosophy of Jesse Ventura.

These new alternatives, though were young, they were new, they were whip smart, they forced campaigns to consider serious issues, they were willing to pursue a lost cause in the apparent interest of long-term political change.

And they were quickly gone.

Their appeal is they weren’t professional politicians and they apparently had other things to do with their lives.

Taking their place were party insiders from the Republican and DFL parties, a recipe for a short-term romance. And now, MinnPost’s Doug Grow suggests today, the IP is dead.

The Independence Party has a gubernatorial candidate (Hannah Nicollet) who has almost zero name recognition and was unable to clear the barrier that would have made her eligible to receive vitally important public campaign subsidy. Under qualification rules, Nicollet would have needed to show that she had the support of at least 700 people donating $50 or more to her campaign. She didn’t have half that total when she hit the July deadline, meaning she is not eligible for more than $200,000 in public support.

And the bad news keeps on coming.

The IP’s gubernatorial candidate of four years ago, Tom Horner, who collected tons of impressive endorsements from pols and the media but won just 12 per cent of the vote, announced this week he’s supporting Jeff Johnson, the GOP’s candidate.

Beyond that, the party has disavowed U.S. Senate candidate Steve Carlson, a fringe gasbag, who defeated the IP’s endorsed candidate, Kevin Terrell, in a low-turnout primary. The party had high hopes that the thoughtful Terrell would actually turn heads — or at least five per cent of the heads — in the U.S. Senate race.

Curiously, the lack of traction — indeed, the decline of any traction — coincides with an increase in dissatisfaction with the two political parties, polls suggest.

Why the disconnect? The IP — or any other third party — can’t escape the reality that people think they’re wasting their vote.

Maybe that explains why some of the bright lights in third-party movements and moved on to other endeavors. If people don’t care about changing politics, why should they?