Is it Only the Left that Loves Third Parties?

Posted: Dec 11, 2009 7:25 AM
The disdain for the U.S. two-party system and the yearn for powerful third party challengers has been a uniquely left-wing phenomenon in recent years. Chalk it up to Europhilia or lack of party discipline or a more generally anti-establishment nature of the Left or conservative lessons learned from recent Reform party shenanigans, but it is true that the Left prefers to dabble outside of the two-party system.

Could that be changing? As Meredith reported this week, a generic "Tea Party" is now favored to both a Democratic party and the GOP. Can our system allow for the rise of a new viable third party, even if it only exists to replace one of the existing dominant parties?

Matt Yglesias takes on these concerns in a post about why the two-party system prevails. (Spoiler: it's not because of evil corporations!) His points are correct, though I think that his explanation should be weighted for "90% Duverger's law" and "10% "other factors."

However, this leads to a more interesting question: could a third party rise to power in the United States, and could we even go through the mid-19th century transitory period into different dominant two parties nowadays? [# More #]

We have weak national third parties. But it seems that localized third parties are far more effective. Anyone who looks at a New York State ballot will be thoroughly confused by the multitude of parties and the multi-endorsement system. A joke around D.C. is the complaint over the limits of the only two parties: the Democratic Party and the D.C. Statehood Green Party.

It seems much easier to build third-party machines at local and state levels. But is it even possible to create viability given entrenched state interests? TH readers, are there any viable third party mechanisms where you live?

A post-script: I like the Free State Project and its noble yet monumentally difficult goals. They have the explicit purpose of trying to build a state-level third party using national promotion techniques (short version: enlist enough libertarians to move to New Hampshire to elect Libertarian representatives). But so far they have produced no results, though they keep trying. Then again, libertarians never did like being told what to do...