Third Helpings

Where’s Ross Perot?

(No, not “when we need him.”)

I was just wondering, because it seems like the batty billionaire (or manic multi-millionaire, or whatever exactly he is), has been pretty quiet this election cycle. I did find some not-nice words he said about McCain in January. Among other things, Perot labeled the GOP’s finest as “the classic opportunist.” And Perot still has his old panache with charts. As far as Perot and Obama – seems at least one person on the Internet is fascinated with the fact that they both have big ears. (No, no link, and that person should be forced to use dial-up with a 2400 baud modem.) But otherwise, lots of silence – just like the mainstream media on the people running for president who are trying to pull a Perot and make a splash as third-party candidates.

What, you say – the who trying to do what?

Yeah, it’s not easy to find about out third-party candidates this time around. Probably because none of them are as rich as Perot, or as famous as Ralph Nader (wait, one of them is Ralph Nader…), or as smart as John Anderson (who won the first ballot I ever cast for president).

Whatta guy

Whatta guy

First debate comes and goes, no third-party candidates. Expect the same in the upcoming debates, and I suppose the news blackout will largely continue until November 4.

I know, third-party candidates never have a chance. But is it because they have a lousy message, or because the media and the Commission on Presidential Debates and the League of Women Voters can’t be bothered with them? And don’t forget the states that make the candidates fill out forms in blood and promise their organs as requirements for getting on the ballot.

(A local – sort of – note on the obstacles third-party candidates face: Those fine ladies at the Connecticut LWV said no dice to third-party candidates on the ballot for Congress in three House districts. Because the candidates didn’t fit their criteria as credible. Thanks, gals, that’s real democracy. At least the host of one of the debates has some principles. Central Connecticut State University said it would not host the debate unless all the candidates could attend.)

Lest we forget, Ross Perot was a viable candidate. (He also gave us James Stockdale, the seemingly most unviable vice-presidential candidate until McCain topped Perot this year.)

Who was he? Why was he there?

Who was he? Why was he there?

Teddy Roosevelt was a viable third-party candidate – he took more popular and electoral votes than his Republican buddy William Howard Taft. And of course, Abraham Lincoln won in a year when four candidates were on the ballot. Did all four have an equal chance of winning in 1860? Nah. But all of them won electoral votes. And to really give you a good pre-Halloween scare, remember that George Wallace won 46 electoral votes running as an unabashed racist; no third-party pol has won more than 1 since.

Even if they’re not viable, third-party candidates can still play an important role, for good or ill. Democrats will insist that Nader cost Gore the 2000 election in Florida until they’re in their coffins. I think the Supreme Court cost him the election, and maybe some not-so-good politicking along the way, but that’s all moot now. (And in retrospect, Gore’s choice of veep candidate wasn’t so hot either. Oy, you people in CT who put Lieberman back in the Senate…) Third-party candidates introduce different ideas and perspectives. They can, if the powers-that-be give them some credit, keep the major candidates on their toes. Those candidates also do something that should be at the heart of a republic – they give voters another choice.

A whiter-haired Mr. Whipple?

A whiter-haired Mr. Whipple?

Time to hang it up?

Time to hang it up?

It’s clear from how this campaign is progressing that no one thinks Bob Barr is credible. He’s the Libertarian candidate, by the way. He was also in Congress for 8 years and is, by some accounts, a bright guy. I don’t agree with many of his party’s stances, but don’t we all deserve a chance to know exactly what those are? But forget about seeing him at the debate. Or Nader, who – pathetically – is running again. And I mean “pathetically” in the nicest way. I voted for him in ’96, have always applauded his defense of consumers, and think he has the country’s best interests at heart. But enough already!

No matter what I think of Barr and Nader, or what you or anyone else thinks, when candidates gets on the ballot in most states, they’re viable at some level. Take them seriously. Let them be heard. Make the Dems and Repubs have to consider ideas outside the box, and fight challenges to theirs from someone new. Can it really be any worse than the election process we have now?

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~ by mburgan on October 1, 2008.

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