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?

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    The IP needs something better than being a little bit Republican and a little bit Democrat. No one is ever going to rally to a half-arsed ideology.

    • We want full-arsed ideology!

  • Kassie

    I vote third party every chance I get. Last governor election I voted for Dayton and have regretted it ever since. Long live 3rd parties!!!

    • Dave

      Why do you regret it?

      • Kassie

        I think he’s a terrible governor. Sure, I’m sure he’s better than Emmer would have been, but I hoped for so much more.

        • Dave

          I hated how he handled medical marijuana, but otherwise I think he’s done a great job. He’s handled taxes and education exactly the way I wanted.

          What haven’t you liked?

          • Kassie

            Because of the job I have, I think it is best I don’t outline all my grievances.

          • Robert Moffitt

            That’s good advice for anyone, K.

          • dedegold

            He took the easy way out on marijuana. He is a wuss.

  • Robert Moffitt

    I’m used to picking the lesser of evils. Rarely have I seen an independent candidate I was willing to waste my vote on.

    • andy

      Or as Ralph Nader once said; “….the evil of two lessors.”

    • Kassie

      No cast vote is a wasted vote.

      • Dave


  • Dave

    Three gov elections in a row, the IP candidate spoiled it. Pawlenty would have lost both times, and Dayton would have lost in 2010. They also likely spoiled the 2002 senate election.

    1998 was an anomaly, and it was a very long time ago. They cannot win an election. Isn’t that the point of running a campaign? To win?

    • Well, we’ve heard this often, most often when Ralph Nader allegedly put George Bush in office.

      I’ve never quite understood it because it suggests that other voters somehow owe YOU something, and somehow your values should somehow trump their values when it comes to deciding whom to vote for.

      Assuming a typical campaign, the people you say could’ve knocked off the guy you didn’t want had the opportunity to convince voters that they were the person deserving of the vote and they failed.

      To me this is the underlying arrogance of politicians and their most partisan supporters — that somehow a voter has an obligation to give a vote rather than a politician has an obligation to work to get it.

      This arrogance is one of the reasons I don’t vote for people who duck debates as part of a political strategy. I won’t vote for someone I don’t consider a “stand up” person and one of the way you prove that to me that you are is to actually, you know, stand up.

      They don’t HAVE to debate. They’re under no obligation to debate. You’re under no obligation to agree with me. But I’m under ZERO obligation to “throw away” my vote by spending it on someone who hasn’t proven to me he/she/it is worth having it.

      • Dave

        “that somehow a voter has an obligation to give a vote rather than a politician has an obligation to work to get it.”

        Part of the blame does fall on the voters, especially ones who are rigid and not pragmatic. You aren’t going to get the perfect candidate; it’s an unfortunate system, but if you truly care about the issues, you have to play the game. If that makes me a partisan, so be it.

        Voting for a candidate with no chance does not send any kind of lasting message. The winner won’t take it to heart. The recent history of the IP bears this out.

        Runoff voting would help.

        • You don’t get to decide what rules the voters have to play by. The burden for failure by politicians rests on politicians.

          One of the reasons that people have lost the ability to change things is because politicians assume they get a vote because, hey, who else would you vote for? So their issues don’t get addressed and politicians aren’t influenced because, hey, who else ar eyou going to vote for?

          The third party and a candidate in a third party who can tkae votes is one way to actually change a major party.

          I mean you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say a third party has no ability to send any kind of lasting message and then complain that a third party candidate has caused the election of major party candidates.

          there’s a lasting message there. It says if you’re not speaking to my issues, you’re not going to win.

          if a politician is too clueless to get that message, that’s on him/her/it.

          ANd the other part of the problem is politicians have learned to game the system. Primaries are virtually a thing of the past because the political parties have worked hard to eliminate them in the favor of “party unity.”

          • Dave

            I guess I must have dreamt the 2008 Democratic primary. And this year’s MN GOP gov primary. And Eric Cantor’s defeat. In fact, primaries are about the only thing GOP candidates fear (at least the incumbents).

          • BJ

            90% of incumbents win (federal, but number run very close in local and state as well). Of those incumbents that lose, most loose in primary, the others lose to a first time candidate.

        • kevinfromminneapolis

          You had me right up until the last sentence!

          • Dave

            What is your issue with runoff?

          • A onetime political operative for the GOP would favor the notion of a burden on the vote to support one of the two major parties? I’m astonished. :*)

          • kevinfromminneapolis

            I confused it with ranked-choice voting. I feel less strong about runoff voting. It would open the door to the possibility of more useless elections like we have in Minneapolis where the candidates are virtually identical. But whatever.

      • Dave

        Primary debates have some value, but general election debates are almost worthless. They’re nothing but talking points and platitudes.

        Did you listen to today’s MPR story about the guy running against Collin Peterson? Did that guy espouse one single original thought in that interview?

      • Kassie

        Having voted for Nader three times, I agree with with a lot you say here. If the Democrats want my vote, give me a candidate I can vote for. I hated Kerry. I dislike Gore and Obama is just the disappointment I expected. I’m glad I never voted for any of them.

  • I think this is more specific to the IP than to third parties in general and I agree with Kevin that the IP’s biggest problem is that they have not developed any sort of real ideology to support.

    My general preference is to vote Green and if that’s not an option, vote for the candidate who comes closer to meeting that ideal, even if only incrementally.

    • BJ

      Wrong. you have not looked into the ideology. I bet you would be surprised if you looked at the DFL and GOP ideology.

  • BJ

    ack. I want to say so much about this.

  • PeterTharaldson

    Am I an the Groundhog Day movie? Its the same story. Death, downfall, wait…what? Tim Penny stated that he is very much with the party today…yet not covered?

    Here’s the deal. We all have lives. I have a job, others do too. We don’t have staffers and paid hacks. We do have a strong message, but its interesting how it take money to get that message through.

    Even if the party were to become minor this year, and I don’t think it will be, the fade meme referenced is something much shorter than 22 years.

    What the IP needs to do is understand strategic voting and how to counter it. It is done by becoming the credible second party in fortress areas. The Repubs don’t matter in Minneapolis or the Range. The dems don’t matter in SW MInnesota. Research on strategic voting in our type of election system says this is the way to go.

    …but then again…we all have lives too. This party is durable, very durable in fact for a third party. As far as ideologies and parties, I am pretty damn sure the U.S. and Minnesota doesn’t need one more. What does need is reform, and the party needs to go back to that clearer message. I think it will be okay this year.

    BTW- it’s low point, by far (without a doubt) was in 2004. THen it had to sue to get all its candidates on the ballot.

  • A Fresh Eye on the News says, “If people don’t care about changing politics, why should they?” Fresh? – Stale.

    • Especially when you clearly don’t understand the question.

      • One could make the case that a shot across the bow is wasted ammunition, too. A vote for the IP may affect how both parties view their status among voters. A vote for the IP may be least wasted vote; 42-36-22 changes the policy landscape a lot more than 46-44-10. The two parties are always looking ahead for independent voters – hence Johnson courting Horner. And the reporters never get in their way.