To facilitate discussion of the affect of third parties on the total national ballot, CP-Idaho submits the chart below for our readers’ esteemed consideration.
The chart shows the approximate percentage (very roughly calculated) of the total national ballot return by third parties over previous presidential elections going back just shy of a half century. The chart gives the standard colors of the incumbent duopoly party occupying the White House at the time of the election–red for Republican; blue for Democrat.
In general, the incumbent party lost the White House whenever the 3rd party return percentage exceeded 3.5% of the total national vote. There are of course exceptions as is always the case.
Exception 1. The only time this was not the case was in 1996 under Clinton, who was reelected despite a significant third party ballot (over 10%) that year. This “anomaly” in 1996 might be attributable to a hangover effect of the Perot campaign from the previous 1992 election when in terms of popular vote Perot smashed modern records. That, and the fact that Senator Dole did not exactly run a dynamic race.
Exception 2. In 2008, the White House changed duopoly party hands even though a low relatively low third party percentage took place. In this particular case, it was somewhat out of the ordinary–the incumbent Vice President was not running, the only instance of this occurring in the 48 year record. So in effect, the office was open in 2008.
Admittedly, this condition was also somewhat true this year in 2016, but in a modified version. Mrs. Clinton had been a visible (if not domineering) and key part of the Obama Administration as Secretary of state–for good or ill. As is often said of the Clintons, they suck the oxygen out of the room.
In 2016, a distinct separation of the incumbent party’s candidate from its Administration did not exist nearly to the same extent that the McCain candidacy differed from the previous Bush Administration in the 2008 contest. As proof, readers will recall that McCain was often a vociferous opponent (a self styled “maverick”) of much of the Bush Administration’s actions.
In any case, the chart shows that strong third party presidential returns (here defined as being greater than 3.5% of the total, are associated with the fate of the incumbent party in the White House.
This observation runs counter to the incessant Republican refrain every four years, which more or less goes like this:
“A vote for third party candidate __________ is a vote for the Democrat.”
(In fairness, ever since Ralph Nader’s run in 2000, Democrats are also known to mimic the reverse of this election year anti-third party mantra.) And while CP-Idaho may chafe at the indignation of the accusation that a third party vote is “wasted,” some merit (as the chart shows) to the charge that third parties alter the national outcomes exists.
In roughly five out of thirteen immediately previous presidential races could a plausible case could be constructed that third parties altered the outcome. We certainly believe that this is the case in 2016.
For example, in Wisconsin where Mr. Trump upset Mrs. Clinton, the Libertarian Johnson/Weld ticket alone pulled in 3.5% of the state total ballot, and the Green Party’s Dr. Stein pulled in over 1% of the state ballot. Result? Trump won Wisconsin with a plurality–47.3% to Clinton’s 46.5%.
In Arizona, Trump also won on a plurality–49.3% vs. 45.4% for Clinton. The Libertarians picked up about 4.1% of the state ballot, and the Greens picked up 1.3%. And of course other third parties were competing in these and other states in 2016.
By CP-Idaho’s way of thinking, the 2016 results were definitely shaped by America’s third parties, no question. Whether this constitutes “success” or not, we leave to the reader’s judgment.
Historically, 1968 was by CP-Idaho’s interpretation the last successful third party run for President. Governor George Wallace actually took electoral votes–46 in all. This run absolutely altered the national election. In fact, we would argue that it established the conditions of the present modern partisan landscape in America. Our younger readers may not know this, but the South used to Democrat, and California used to vote on occasion for the Republican.
Briefly, in 1968 Wallace won in the Deep South–Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He also forced several other very close calls in the “Dixie-crat” Mid and Upper South. Nixon carried Tennessee with only a 37.9% plurality, and North Carolina with a 39.5% plurality and South Carolina with a 38% plurality.
Here, our point is that despite the accusation and the vehement denunciations against us as third party “spoilers” we are nevertheless often the power that forces the decision. Third parties are the mechanism by which change is brought, and the chart above alludes to that fact.
Invariably, that worn out refrain (and most especially from Republicans) that a third party vote is “wasted” does not ring true. It is not “giving a vote to the other guy”…which according to the Republicans implies that vote transferring to the Democrats.
Four out of the past five “shift changes” when strong third party ballots affected the outcome, went Republican. If anything, the Republicans should be thanking third parties. Republicans certainly cannot win elections based entirely upon their administrative and legislative successes, to be sure.
We congratulate our fellow third party voters in 2016. Whether you may realize it or not, it was you who brought about the change. Now, it is up to you to continue to apply pressure in the form of cogent, clear, sensible legislative proposals. Be engaged.
It would be a mistake to go back to the Rip Van Winkle condition. Rip awoke to a United States, something he did not recognize.