Back on June 4, when I posted “That Third-Party Allure,” or October 29, when it was “Still Looking for a Better Party Fit,” there was plenty of room to doubt a major political earthquake would actually tear through the American scene. Not so now, with up to a fourth of the potential voters declaring “Other” in regard to the two major-party nominees for president.

As I’ve observed, the biggest challenge third parties face is in establishing themselves at a local-government level. How do their policies and practices differ when it comes to delivering police, fire, education, trash removal, streets and highways, and a host of other public services? And especially, how do they differ in paying for these? (Somehow, it always comes back to taxes.)

As I also noticed, running for the top spot is no guarantee a candidate can govern as an executive, much less put together a Cabinet or fill other administrative positions. How many seasoned leaders can you recruit and count on, in the end?

Thus, the potential appeal of a third-party candidate in attracting those “Other” voters takes on major consequences in this presidential election. And this time, there are visible options on both the right- and left-side of the political spectrum.

The fissures in the Republican Party are not the cleanly anticipated division into establishment, tea party, and principles-driven conservatives. Donald Trump has made things far more complicated than that. The question has been how many will hold their nose in hopes of saving their institution, and how many will flee to safer ground? The assumption would have been that might mean the Libertarian Party, at least for the Ron Paul slice of the GOP.

But the Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson, may be too much of a hippie for traditional Republicans to embrace. He’s an avid pot-smoker and advocate, for starters. And while that may appeal to Bernie-or-Bust diehards, his positions regarding public service are often the opposite of Bernie’s democratic-socialism.

Johnson’s personal life has me returning to the experiences I relate in my novels Hippie Drum and Hippie Love – and this time I see him as one kind of dazed hippie in sharp contrast to the social-issues activist Bernie Sanders. Quite simply, not all hippies were as open or honest or peace-loving as I’d like. Some were out-and-out moochers, and a few were even narks. Yes, there was a strong streak of live-and-let-live in the movement, along with collective action on issues like the Vietnam war or civil rights. I’m not saying Johnson was guilty of gaps there. Rather, while Bernie’s secure in his credentials, I’m not sure where I’d put Johnson on this scale.

If Johnson pulls only from the Republicans, I’d be happy. But he really remains an enigma in sneakers.

Meanwhile, Jill Stein is another matter. I still blame Ralph Nader for our Supreme Court mess, and I can’t imagine anyone from an anti-science, anti-climate reality, anti-environmental, pro-SUV cheap-gas fracking camp (just listen to the GOP) rallying to her cause. In other words, she’s no haven for Republicans, no matter how desperate they are for a refuge.

So maybe it’s still up to Bernie to sway the forces to assure he gets his justices who will overturn Citizens United, as promised. I’d love it if he’s ultimately the one to save the day.



  1. Third party candidates have several handicaps–with the two major parties, you know the big picture of their platform. With a rogue party, we’d have to read their entire manifesto to find out where they stand–and even then countless issues would be undefined. Another drawback is that a 3rd-P Prez would deliver a state of the union before a congress of dems and gops–not necessarily against him or her, but not really for them either–and with no incentive to help them advance their new party’s agenda. If a 3rd party is really going to challenge the status quo, they have to plan eight, twelve years ahead–and offer more than just the one presidential candidate–in fact, a serious 3rd-party would build from the ground up, with local and state offices, so their prez candidate wasn’t just out there, flapping in the wind.

    • Yes, yes, yes. As things stand now, at least.
      One alternative scenario might have a large number of congressmen and state officials switching to Independent and then caucusing with one major party or another or, more centrally, caucusing together to break the current gridlock. I’m not holding my breath, but this year’s been full of surprises. Please stay tuned, as they used to say.

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