Rich Galen

During the Q & A section of my speech to the Chamber group here last night, someone asked what I thought about the concept of a third party to counter the influence of the right wing of the Republican Party.

If there were a true independent third party in the U.S. House and Senate of, say, 10 percent of the membership that would mean 43 Members in the House and 10 Senators.

It is unlikely that either Republicans or Democrats would have enough votes to organize either Chamber without the buy-in of the independents.

Or, put another way, both Rs and Ds would need the votes of the INDs to elect a Speaker or grant majority status in the Senate.

INDs would get a share of Committee and Subcommittee chairmanships, office space, staff, and all the rest in return for their support.

On major legislation, neither side would be certain of victory without bringing the INDs into the negotiations.

Sounds like a pretty good idea, right?

Actually, I had been thinking about that during the drive up from Alexandria, VA earlier in the day, so I was ready for the question.

My answer was: Bad idea.

Here's why:

A legitimate third party - not the Green, nor the Libertarian but a party of moderate Republicans and Democrats would largely come out of current Republicans - RINOs as they are known; Republican In Name Only.

In the general election in most states - and I say "most" I know Louisiana requires the winner of the general election to get more than half the votes cast - you don't need a majority to win the general election. You might have a runoff in a primary election, if no one gets 50 percent +1; but general elections are typically won by the person with the most votes even if it is a plurality and not a majority of the votes.

Let's call our national third party the "New Way Party" and, for the sake of argument, say that candidates for the NWP qualified for the ballot in all 50 states. In elections for Congress and U.S. Senate, that would mean one Republican, one Democrat, and one NWP candidate in each race.

Most of the people who voted for the NWP candidate would probably have otherwise voted for the Republican, in effect splitting the non-Democrat votes between two candidates. If there were 100 votes available under the current system, the Republican might get 55 and the Democrat 45. Winner: Republican by a pretty big margin.

But with a third party candidate in the race, that tally might go 40 for the Republican, 15 for the NWP, and 45 for the Democrat. Winner: Democrat.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at