Count me among those who’ve long felt there’s a place for a viable third party in America. Or maybe even a fourth. Some place my positions won’t immediately be lost in tactical compromise. Some place I’d feel more identity than I’ve long sensed in the so-called representatives serving in most of the places I’ve lived.

To date, though, what I’ve observed is that most of the minor-party advocates and candidates have cast their eyes exclusively on the biggest prizes – the White House, especially, or perhaps a governorship or U.S. Senate seat. If you consider the scope of the Executive Branch and the number of qualified appointments to be filled, however, you soon realize there’s no way these individuals are prepared to take on that level of leadership. These are things that come out of big party organization and contacts.

At the other end of the spectrum, the reality is how rare the two-party dynamic is in most locales – it’s usually long-term control by one or the other – meaning the national parties are really just coalitions of 50 state parties. I happened to grow up in a state where regular sweeps of the state offices, from one party to the other, tended to keep things clean, especially in the voters’ welcome of mavericks.

Even closer to home, though, is the reality that getting candidates to run for local office is often a challenge. They don’t even have to be good – just a name willing to attend the meetings, if elected. Yet this is the bedrock of democracy and community.

Party affiliation – apart from ideology – can soon disappear in the practical decisions of garbage collection, fire protection, and street repairs. A Socialist city councilor did a top-notch job for our district, as is the plumber we keep reelecting.

An effective third party, then, would need to be built from ground-level up, not top-down. And that, I assume, would also mean region by region.

How else do you think it would shake out?




  1. I’m not that political, aside from voting. I live in the most corrupt state (Illinois) where usually the second term a politician serves here is in prison! It’s tough here. Chicago is Dem and the rest of the state is Rep. Nothing gets done here. We finally got a Rep. Governor, but the Dems won’t allow any fixing of the budget. Watch… we’re the next Detroit!

    • I’ve heard some rough stories from colleagues who moved on to the Windy City and have had to confront some of those bureaucrats. It’s always been a tough town. As for the rest of the state?

  2. That’s really the only way to build a third party. A strong grassroots movement built on a sustainable path through local and state elections. I imagine that, as more and more Americans get fed up with polarization and gridlock, more moderates willing to compromise will begin to band together.

    Or maybe that’s more hope than reality.

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