Stephen Speicher

Are we almost ready for a third political party?

42 posts in this topic

In another thread, Rose Lake wrote:

The political strategizers in both major parties reveal the worst possible aspect of American culture. They are fighting amongst themselves to see which party can sound most collectivist. The choice on offer: subjective or mystic collectivism.

How much worse can it get? [Don't answer that.] The Democratic party is employing individualism as a smear-word! I refuse to call such people "liberals" as they are referred to in the article. Liberal is far too clean a word for such man-hatred. And the Republican party as supposed defenders of liberty is too depressing to consider.

Political 'choice' = Tweedle-dum? Or tweedle-dumber? ;)

I wonder if the frustration expressed here may be echoed by a large enough percentage of the population as to soon make a third political party viable? Ross Perot garnered about 19% of the popular vote in his 1992 candidacy, and the prospects for 2008 may be even more dismal than in 1992. Besides, an alternative party may not only tap into the dissatisified Republicans, but perhaps some core element of the Democrats too. Not to mention the independents.

Is a third political party at all possible in the coming years?

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Ross Perot garnered about 19% of the popular vote in his 1992 candidacy

And that was after that bizzare situation, if I recall correctly, in which he withdrew -- claiming the secret service threatened to disrupt his daughter's wedding -- and then re-entered the race.

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Ross Perot garnered about 19% of the popular vote in his 1992 candidacy

And that was after that bizzare situation, if I recall correctly, in which he withdrew -- claiming the secret service threatened to disrupt his daughter's wedding -- and then re-entered the race.

And after he re-entered the race, prior to the debates, some polls at least showed him quite a bit ahead of both Bush and Clinton. The debates may have cut his support in half.

But, the main point is, if a strange creature like Perot could garner such support, could a decent third party candidate do even better right now, or in the near future? I don't mean an Objectivist candidate, just a decent person with some reasonable foreign and domestic policy views.

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I think a good, or even just an honest, third party candidate would have an excellent chance, considering that we are presented with such dismal choices in both major parties. We don't even have anyone with the political savvy of a Bill Clinton. I think if someone plain-spoken came along, they would have the best chance yet of any third party in recent history. People have had it with politics as usual.

If the Dems take Congress in November, I think we'll see just that. What else can we do after two years of the likes of Pelosi and Reid running the House and Senate, and Charles Rangel running major committees like Ways and Means. They have already promised to end the economic recovery by ending tax cuts, and without Bush to bash, they'll be bereft of anything to say about national security. After two years of that, and with the short-term memory of a disillusioned Republican base still intact, a run by almost anybody could throw the election into chaos.

We do live in interesting, and sometimes very frightening, times.

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I think a good, or even just an honest, third party candidate would have an excellent chance, ... After two years of [Democrats back in majority], and with the short-term memory of a disillusioned Republican base still intact, a run by almost anybody could throw the election into chaos.

We do live in interesting, and sometimes very frightening, times.

The time is right for a third party, imho. It should be an Objectivist, or a sympathizer, because we have the ideas. I wrote about it but haven't published yet. I propose a name: Ratio Audax, for audacious reason. I will post again later, this is my placeholder.

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Now the nominees of the two major parties are chosen through a process of compromise -- a sort of "averaging" process. Wouldn't a "third" party be a centrist party, that is, an average of averages? Why in principle would such a party have anyone or anything better to offer overall than either of the two major parties?

One might hope that the Centrist Party candidate would want to restrain government growth (supposedly, but not actually a characteristic of modern conservatives) and offer greater personal freedoms such as choice of abortion and freedom of speech (supposedly, but not actually characteristics of modern liberals).

However, hopes are not facts. We might end up with the worst of all possible political worlds: a left-wing fundamentalist Christian as a compromise of compromises.

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However, hopes are not facts. We might end up with the worst of all possible political worlds: a left-wing fundamentalist Christian as a compromise of compromises.

If there can't be an Objectivist as President now, I've thought that there could be a tactical short term virtue to an otherwise dismal prospect, if the President were an ardent fundamentalist Christian who really hated Islam (for the wrong reason - as a competitor to Christianity.) It might be worth suffering him for 4 years (or until he was impeached) if he militarily finished the job that recent administrations have been too cowardly to even start. With any luck, he'd nuke the primary centers of Islam, then get Christianity branded as cruel and brutal for doing so.

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What's the necessity for a separate third political party? Both the Republican party and the Democratic party are ad-hoc groups (in contrast to something like the Libertarians). As such, there is no fundamental principle that defines them, and what unites members into one party or another is the force of tradition and some loosely-defined slogans. This ad-hoc basis for organization can be seen from the fact that both parties have wholly shifted their courses many times throughout American history, without any necessary contradiction to some intial founding principle of each. The Democrats were once for laissez-faire, now they're not. The Republicans were once heavily isolationist, now they're not. This is how one can find both secular, semi-Christian, and fundamentalist members in the same one Republican Party, without there being necessary contradiction between the members. A founding principle is what what the two parties don't have, and don't necessarily need to have either. Ad-hoc groups are fine.

But what the parties do have is the organization, on a nearly unimaginable scale, to get men they support elected. Just think of the organization needed to elect a member of the House, in merely one district; Cheney had just come up to New York to support the election of a House member, merely one district in a massive anthill of dozens of districts like NY. Can a third party get the Vice-President come cheerlead a mere measely House spot? Then consider the organization needed to elect all or majority of such districts in one state -- motivating local people to get out and staff offices, hand out flyers, propose local petitions, stage rallies, all done not by hired workforce but by local people out to support you. Then imagine this organization wielded to get your people into state assemblies, state senate, gubernatorial positions, etc. You will need to win all those too. And, in some states, a massive political organization can be mustered to elect your men into mayor positions, in key cities that almost count as states themselves (the mayorship of New York City comes to mind, having produced at least two Presidents).

And then zoom out from this microscopic organization that demands hundreds of people in every pocket of America, and consider the incalculable scale of rallying all of this enormous army across the entire nation, tens of thousands of people coming out to volunteer for you and to get your men elected nationally, all working in synch, across the entire continent as large as all of Europe. These aren't merely employee drones you hired, these are grass-roots folks, who have to believe in your cause, thousands, tens of thousands of them, waiting for your beck and call about what to say in their next op-ed to a local paper, to plaster your the next campaign slogan on their every wall.

The scale of American political organization is unmatched anywhere in the world. To compete with it, you will have to build a competing organization, of equal size and from scratch, and not by merely hiring bunches of indifferent employees but by getting tens of thousands of men and women to spontaneously come out and devote parts of their lives to getting your choices elected. That's why I see nothing wrong with using the already existing apparatus for your advantage, given that the parties are ad-hoc associations; all you need is the endorsement of key common issues that unite as many members of the party as possible. No moral compromise will be needed for you to come out with your own stand that nevertheless coincides with the views of many Americans, who might have voted otherwise if not for your new and unique take on old problems that others simply could not solve.

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I have several thoughts on this.

I have always felt that there should be an active political branch of the Objectivist movement. This could have been part of the Republican or Libertarian parties, but in the current set up, I don't think any of those would be compatible. Therefore, it would need to be a separate party. In my opinion, the only proper name for such a party is the Capitalist Party of America, or some variation on the Capitalist theme.

I think such a party would be a powerful way to communicate key ideas with individual voters. It would create a real alternative and therefore some excitement in the media. By asking questions no one bothers to in the DP or the RP, it would bring front and center the key values of the US Constitution. It would be a vehicle to communicate with and empower voters who might be allies of Objectivism without having the interest to study it from the ground up.

In my opinion, it should have a clear and set doctrine, and be protected against hijacking (e.g., there should be a clear charter specifying the party's position on key issues specifically, and an independant board with overseeing powers on membership).

With all this said, I don't think it would be likely to obtain much power early on. Posts in this thread seem to imply that there's a huge disconnect between the population and the current parties, and I disagree. I think we have exactly the parties that match the current philosophical mindset in the US population.

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I think a good, or even just an honest, third party candidate would have an excellent chance, considering that we are presented with such dismal choices in both major parties. We don't even have anyone with the political savvy of a Bill Clinton. I think if someone plain-spoken came along, they would have the best chance yet of any third party in recent history. People have had it with politics as usual.

Your words here echo my unfiltered thoughts, which is why I brought up the topic. But, then I read Burgess' comment:

However, hopes are not facts. We might end up with the worst of all possible political worlds: a left-wing fundamentalist Christian as a compromise of compromises.

What a scary proposition that one is!

Generally speaking, we know that politics is a very derivative area, and I have always thought that a large philosophical change must occur in our society before a rational politics is possible. I still think that is true. But, within that broader change a somewhat smaller change may be possible, one that at least corrects for some of the more gross inanities that we have been subjected to in the past decade. Let's hope Burgess' "left-wing fundamentalist Christian" is more an idea for humor than for reality.

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But what the parties do have is the organization, on a nearly unimaginable scale, to get men they support elected.

But doesn't that just underscore the need for a third party? If the Democrats and the Republicans have become just unprincipled election machines, then maybe a more principled party would siphon away their support. And among that support might be the best of those organizers for the Republicrats.

Free Capitalist, by the way, yours was a very nicely presented post. I thought you made a good argument, from several perspectives.

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I'm not sure why an Objectivist politician could not be elected today. I think it would largely depend on emphasizing a rational agenda while avoiding political landmines. Perhaps the crux of the question is: would an Objectivist politician need to perform actions which, in a freer society, would not be rationally justified? For example, the issue of voting for the continuation of slavery in the late 18th century in order to form the United States from the original colonies.

I think one factor that is commonly ignored in such judgements is whether the current state of the country (particularly, the U.S. federal government) constitutes an emergency situation. Arguably we *are* in an emergency situation - there are potent, real threats to the survival of the country from known enemies that are going *completely* unaddressed in actual proper action (vs. words, vs. appeals to the U.N., vs. fighting the wrong war, vs. actions that turn the U.S. into a police state but leave our enemies untouched.) So, an Objectivist President who did not veto a tax increase from Congress, but who went to open war against Islamic theocracies, would have the correct priorities in place, justified by the fact that the enemy threat is a real short term emergency. I think it would take an Objectivist to grasp that it is rational to preserve the survival of the country, even if it means temporarily placating the vacillating altruists of both the Left and Right whose priorities are elsewhere.

I would far rather have a man in office who knew the correct course of action, both foreign and domestically, and always strived to get his way unless he had no alternative, than somebody who *doesn't even know* what to do in a given situation.

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I'm not sure why an Objectivist politician could not be elected today. I think it would largely depend on emphasizing a rational agenda while avoiding political landmines.(Emphasis added)

It is a lovely thought, Phil, but I don't think an avowed Objectivist running for the presidency could manage to avoid being skewered and roasted by the media, Christians, academia, opinion writers, the blogosphere of both lefty moonbats and right-wingnuts, you name it. I think it would be Chamber's National Review everyday. There wouldn't be an idea that would survive unscathed. It would be the Brandens and Kelleyites writ large. There must be many more in the population who possess first-hand familiarity with Objectivism to fight the avalanche of lies, damned lies, and Big lies that would bury the candidate.

I hope I'm wrong, but as Burgess said, hope isn't reality.

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It is a lovely thought, Phil, but I don't think an avowed Objectivist running for the presidency could manage to avoid being skewered and roasted by the media, Christians, academia, opinion writers, the blogosphere of both lefty moonbats and right-wingnuts, you name it. I think it would be Chamber's National Review everyday. There wouldn't be an idea that would survive unscathed. It would be the Brandens and Kelleyites writ large. There must be many more in the population who possess first-hand familiarity with Objectivism to fight the avalanche of lies, damned lies, and Big lies that would bury the candidate.

I don't think a candidate could run *as an Objectivist* today and get elected. But I think an Objectivist could get elected. I hope the distinction is clear.

I remember John Alison saying once that he had been approached by North Carolina Republicans trying to entice him into running for governor, for example. That suggests that they, at least, thought he had a realistic chance to win. Alison wasn't interested, but the point stands.

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I remember John Alison saying once [...]

Who is John Alison? Is there something online that would show the radical nature of his ethical and political views?

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Who is John Alison? Is there something online that would show the radical nature of his ethical and political views?

Although by now funding for Objectivism in education has hopefully expanded, for a while I thought he was funding, practically single-handedly, most educational programs related to Objectivism. His business is banking.

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....

Is a third political party at all possible in the coming years?

Since assorted third parties of cranks already exist (e.g., Green, Libertarian, "Natural Law", Reform), I assume you mean to exclude those.

So I take this question to be about a third party that would be run by normal people and would have a chance of capturing a large part of the vote.

My question would be: why would people form a new third party? Why would they do this, rather than try to get the nomination of the Republicans or Democrats? And my answer is: they'd form a new party if they thought that they had good ideas that could win votes and a candidate(s) that was electable, AND they thought there was some reason that the other two parties would never nominate their candidate.

But, if they had a good, electable candiate, why would the other two parties not nominate him? Political parties are always looking for winning candiates, so it would have to be the case that this candiate was somebody who was not acceptable to the present Republican or Democratic parties.

In other words, it would have to be the case that both the R and D parties were out of touch with what the voters really want. I.e., that these parties' ideologies didn't really represent the thinking of most Americans. They'd have to be so out of touch with reality that they would BOTH refuse to nominate a winning candidate.

And I don't think this is the case today. I think that the two dominant parties today are providing voters with exactly what they want. And I think that's almost always the way it works - political parties in a free country evolve in order to win elections, so we don't very often see a new party that lasts.

If one or another of the Republicans or Democrats were really losing touch with the voters today, then our elections would be getting more and more lopsided, because it would be unlikely that BOTH parties would be losing touch at the same time. In other words, if the Democratic party were really dying, Republicans would be sweeping the country with landslides, and have lopsided majorities in congress. Same argument for if the Republican party were really becoming obsolete. But this is not happening. We have two parties that are close to equal in strength - so close that it's often difficult to predict the outcome of elections.

.....

I think it's way too early to predict any improvement in US electoral politics. We have the current choices of bad and mediocre politicians because our culture is dominated by bad philosophy today. Until and unless that changes, we'll get the same mixture of altruism, pragmatism and msyticism, whether it comes from the Republicans and Democrats or from another party.

If I'm wrong and a good candidate from a third party comes along, I'd be happy to vote for him.

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Since assorted third parties of cranks already exist (e.g., Green, Libertarian, "Natural Law", Reform), I assume you mean to exclude those.
With rare exceptions, third parties are where cranks have to go. The reason is that a two-party system leads to both parties vying for the voters in the middle and that the American Constitution leads naturally to a two-party system.

The Electoral College works against third parties because a candidate has to win enough votes in enough states to win the Presidency. That means political parties have to be national parties yet offer a broad enough agenda in every state, despite regional differences. In addition, the way the rules of Congress have evolved, with important committee chairmanships and presiding positions going to the majority party, also works against splinter parties.

My question would be: why would people form a new third party? Why would they do this, rather than try to get the nomination of the Republicans or Democrats? And my answer is: they'd form a new party if they thought that they had good ideas that could win votes and a candidate(s) that was electable, AND they thought there was some reason that the other two parties would never nominate their candidate.

... or promote and implement their good ideas.

The last time a party broke through the resistance to third parties in our two-party system was when the Republican Party was formed to promote the abolition of slavery.

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It is a lovely thought, Phil, but I don't think an avowed Objectivist running for the presidency could manage to avoid being skewered and roasted by the media, Christians, academia, opinion writers, the blogosphere of both lefty moonbats and right-wingnuts, you name it.

Well, they would TRY. They tried to defeat Reagan and, gosh knows, they hate Bush, but both Reagan and Bush got re-elected with Reagan, being the better man, with a huge landslide.

I think it would be Chamber's National Review everyday.

So what? It didn't stop Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand sells more books than ever and I daresay hardly anyone knows who Chambers is nor cares about his opinion on anything.

There wouldn't be an idea that would survive unscathed. It would be the Brandens and Kelleyites writ large. There must be many more in the population who possess first-hand familiarity with Objectivism to fight the avalanche of lies, damned lies, and Big lies that would bury the candidate.

Observe Kelley's and the Brandens' waning fortunes and influence. Reality is catching up with them. In the meantime, Ayn Rand and ARI are doing just fine, thank you.

I hope I'm wrong, but as Burgess said, hope isn't reality.

But, fortunately, reality IS reality.

And reality is on our side.

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Wouldn't a "third" party be a centrist party, that is, an average of averages? Why in principle would such a party have anyone or anything better to offer overall than either of the two major parties? [...]

We might end up with the worst of all possible political worlds: a left-wing fundamentalist Christian as a compromise of compromises.

There is another possibility: consolidation of the two major parties into one party, in practice if not in name or particulars of organization.

As C. Bradley Thompson has shown in his article (link), "The Decline and Fall of American Conservativism," in the Fall 2006 issue of The Objective Standard, liberal welfare-statists and conservative welfare-statists have much in common, their philosophy of compassion. The following article (link) in the LA Times shows one possible thread in a fabric of common interests.

Evangelicals Ally With Democrats on Environment

Religious leaders hope the global-warming campaign sends a message to the GOP.

By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer

October 19, 2006

Democratic strategists are joining forces with conservative evangelicals to promote a faith-based campaign on global warming, in an improbable alliance that could boost Democratic hopes of taking control of Congress.

At a news conference today, the president of the Christian Coalition and a board member of the National Assn. of Evangelicals — both groups closely tied to the religious right — will announce Call to Action, an effort to make global warming a front-and-center issue over the next three weeks for Christians in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado and several other states with pitched election campaigns. [...]

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Is a third party viable? Not over the long-run, for reasons that Free Capitalist stated eloquently in his post. Can a third party candidate be elected President? I believe so.

Bringing in a prior example, Ross Perot was briefly ahead of former Presidents Clinton and Bush Sr. in a national ABC/Washington Post poll before dropping out, re-entering the race, and displaying his paranoia for all to see in 1992. If I recall correctly, his lead in the ABC/WP poll was on the edge of the margin of error, and the other two prominent national polls had him vying for the lead, but not ahead. The polls consistently placed him behind in electoral vote count, given the Democrats lead in California and New York, and the Republican lead in Texas.

Numerous trends are favorable to a third party candidacy:

1. An increasingly large pool of non-voters who, if properly motivated, could provide support for an outside candidate. The fact that they are difficult to mobilize is counter-acted by the fact that neither major party appeals to these non-voters. To court them, a candidate needn’t expend much in resources explaining why the major parties don’t deserve the vote, only why he does.

2. An increasing number of registered independents, a powerful sign of disaffection amongst those who are more likely to vote, yet aren’t enamored with the major parties.

3. Party loyalty is declining. Voters of today are more willing to cross party lines or decline to vote altogether when they dislike their options. Voting is less commonly viewed as a duty. A candidate who is perceived as a serious contender could strip many soft-leaning voters away from the major parties; precisely what Perot did.

4. There exists a ready-made assortment of (very) unpopular “villains” for a third party candidate to run against. “Big Oil”, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs, Bill Gates, and others offer a potential candidate excellent opportunities to attract support by attacking the “villains” while leaving his own prescriptions for the countries future vague. Demonizing the above groups at opportune times would be an effective tactic for attracting votes.

5. The old-guard factions have lost much of their clout. The emergence of the Religious Right and the growth of “environmentalism” have opened the door for a realignment of factional alliances and loyalties. The corporations are increasingly under attack, and can no longer count on Republican support and protection. The unions have withered away. The Old Left lost its direction and its supporters in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union and as a by-product of their own successes. The list of reasons to vote for the Left got shorter and shorter as each welfare program and regulatory agency came into being.

A third party candidate would be ideally suited to forging a completely new coalition, with few existing loyalties to hold him back. I agree with Burgess Laughlin that a successful third party candidate would almost certainly be a compromise between the Republicans and Democrats, combining the more popular elements of economic and religious statism. He would probably be wealthy as well.

Speaking to supporters of creating an Objectivist political party, what do you see as an effective strategy that takes into consideration both short- and long-term objectives? What is the end goal and how do you get there? I can not see how the creation of an Objectivist political party now or in the near-future would be anything but self-destructive.

The creation of an Objectivist political party at this time would violate numerous principles of effective strategy. In lieu of preparing a full article detailing the strategic options best suited to long-term success and those that will lead to failure, I have enumerated some of the relevant strategic principles below:

1. Battles of attrition are wasteful and dangerous. Prepare the field, maneuver yourself into a position of strength and your opponent into a position of weakness. Victory will naturally follow.

2. Your every expenditure (time, money, effort) should be an investment, returning the principle with interest.

3. Deny your opponents a clear target, especially if you are weaker than they are.

4. Conceal your intentions, only revealing the entirety of your plans as they are being executed.

5. Strike rapidly and with overwhelming force, leaving your opponents no time to react or effectively respond.

I believe these and other principles provide good guidance on how to win the war, even if some battles are lost or bypassed altogether.

I’m in agreement with Betsy Speicher that the Ayn Rand Institute has done some incredible work promoting the spread of Objectivist ideas. While there is much "bridging" work to be done before Objectivists begin to run for political office, ARI is off to an excellent start. They have developed a well-thought out and integrated plan for success.

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There's another potentially significant factor for a third party that hasn't yet been discussed: the almost 50%(*) of non-voters in the 2000 election. It's been assumed by many that the Democrats and Republicans cover all of the existing bases, but if so, 50% is a pretty big exception. A third party/candidate who appealed to half of those people, plus a bit over 13% for each of the Democrats and Republicans, would have a majority vote, if all of those people cast a vote (though with the electoral college, that wouldn't by itself be enough to be elected President.)

Another appeal of a new third party is that there are probably people who would be less reluctant to vote for them than an "enemy" party, e.g. Democrats voting for Republicans and vice-versa, if they are not enthusiastic about their usual party's candidate.

(*) http://www.yvoteonline.org/noshows2000.shtml

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But what the parties do have is the organization, on a nearly unimaginable scale, to get men they support elected.

But doesn't that just underscore the need for a third party? If the Democrats and the Republicans have become just unprincipled election machines, then maybe a more principled party would siphon away their support. And among that support might be the best of those organizers for the Republicrats.

I wouldn't agree that the Democratic and Republican parties have become any more unprincipled than they've ever been. Individual Democratic and Republican candidates have become more unprincipled; the parties have remained as ad-hoc as they've ever been. As I said before, they've never been philosophical parties but merely ad-hoc associations for people with related beliefs. This underscores the fundamental moral difference between the Republican party and the Libertarian party, where the Libertarian defense of capitalism is immoral (or at least dishonest) on a party-wide scale, whereas only individual Republicans here and there are culpable for their mistakes.

So much about the parties themselves being unprincipled. I'd agree with the unprincipled judgment being made of philosophical parties, such as the Libs, but not of the Democrats or Republicans. What are reasons for joining one of those two? I reiterate the point of organization. The organization is almost inconceivable in its scale, scope, influence, and funding. You have to have hundreds of people staffing offices; answering phone calls; volunteering their time and money for your cause; donating office computers and equipment; persuading their peers in your favor; attending local shows and events for your promotion; engaging in marketing campaigns with leaflets, flyers, phone calls, your face and slogan plastered on every wall and window; not to mention the candidate himself working from dawn to dusk travelling and endlessly meeting the people, making speeches, attending town-hall meetings, debates, rallies, local TV events, radio promotions, and endless other things that I probably can't think of at the moment.

And all this only to try for just a minor Senate seat or a moderate-sized House seat, without guarantee of any sort of success. What about the sort of work required to win contested Senate seats, State governments, the national presidency -- and taking all these levels of government all at once? Can an Objectivist party started right now do that? A Republican party can. So can the Democrats.

The Founding Fathers weren't stupid -- you really have to be known by the people, and not just here or there but everywhere, in order to make any dent in politics, let alone having any hope of getting elected. That's why there are incredibly difficult hurdles such as the electoral college that the Founders put in place, which have to be overcome also, and which make a third party even more difficult.

One reason to start a third party is for rhetorical reasons, that "we don't want anything to do with those two", which might sit well with some of the voters, although it will certainly alienate others too. So it's a toss-up. The rhetorical advantage might be of some help, though it definitely won't carry the campaign by itself, and you'll be giving up incalculable advantages of promotion and organization of a national (almost continental) scale. So it's up to the person who decides to run. But I'd say in this case the following is more true than in most: beggars can't be choosers. Especially when concerns of morality or principle are not an issue.

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But what the parties do have is the organization, on a nearly unimaginable scale, to get men they support elected.

But doesn't that just underscore the need for a third party? If the Democrats and the Republicans have become just unprincipled election machines, then maybe a more principled party would siphon away their support. And among that support might be the best of those organizers for the Republicrats.

I wouldn't agree that the Democratic and Republican parties have become any more unprincipled than they've ever been. Individual Democratic and Republican candidates have become more unprincipled; the parties have remained as ad-hoc as they've ever been. As I said before, they've never been philosophical parties but merely ad-hoc associations for people with related beliefs.

Well, yes, of course they are not philosophical parties, as in having a main purpose of dispensing philosophical ideas. They are political parties and their main purpose is to offer viable candidates for election. But each party can still have guiding principles by which they are differentiated, an umbrella made of principles wide-enough to embrace your "associations for people with related beliefs." Without such guiding principles then indeed these would be "ad-hoc[sic] associations" bound primarily by pragmatism, which is exactly what I meant when I said that "the Democrats and the Republicans have become just unprincipled election machines." (I do admit to some hyperbole in lumping them together, but not too much.)

Perhaps you are judging by what you have seen in your own lifetime, in which case your view would be more understandable. But, believe it or not, at one time political parties actually expressed ideas by which they could be differentiated as a matter of principle. These ideas were not necessarily explicit philosophical views, but at least sentiments born of an implicit philosophy that could relatively easily be grasped by voters. Just browse through the political party platforms of generations ago, and the difference from the tripe of our current political platforms should become apparent. For instance, take the Preamble to the 1952 Republican Party Platform:

We maintain that man was not born to be ruled, but that he consented to be governed; and that the reasons that moved him thereto are few and simple. He has voluntarily submitted to government because, only by the establishment of just laws, and the power to enforce those laws, can an orderly life be maintained, full and equal opportunity for all be established, and the blessings of liberty be perpetuated.

And, the Platform makes charges against the past generation of Democratic rule:

We assert that during the last twenty years, leaders of the Government of the United States under successive Democrat Administrations, and especially under this present Administration, have failed to perform these several basic duties; but, on the contrary, that they have evaded them, flouted them, and by a long succession of vicious acts, so undermined the foundations of our Republic as to threaten its existence.

We charge that they have arrogantly deprived our citizens of precious liberties by seizing powers never granted.

We charge that they work unceasingly to achieve their goal of national socialism.

We charge that they have disrupted internal tranquillity by fostering class strife for venal political purposes.

We charge that they have choked opportunity and hampered progress by unnecessary and crushing taxation.

They claim prosperity but the appearance of economic health is created by war expenditures, waste and extravagance, planned emergencies, and war crises. They have debauched our money by cutting in half the purchasing power of our dollar.

We charge that they have weakened local self-government which is the cornerstone of the freedom of men.

We charge that they have shielded traitors to the Nation in high places, and that they have created enemies abroad where we should have friends.

We charge that they have violated our liberties by turning loose upon the country a swarm of arrogant bureaucrats and their agents who meddle intolerably in the lives and occupations of our citizens.

We charge that there has been corruption in high places, and that examples of dishonesty and dishonor have shamed the moral standards of the American people.

We charge that they have plunged us into war in Korea without the consent of our citizens through their authorized representatives in the Congress, and have carried on that war without will to victory.

Underlying virtually every charge made, there is an implicit if not explicit principle. And, to see just how unprincipled the current party has become, most charges made then against the Democrats apply equally well to the unprincipled pragmatism of today's Republicans.

Look, I am not arguing that political parties are philosophical institutions, but to relegate the very notion of political parties to mere "ad-hoc[sic] associations" is to effectively remove the importance of principles as a guide.

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