The delusions of relevance held by third parties is again before us. This time they’ll make a difference in deciding who’s President. Nader is running again from the Left, former Georgia GOP Congressman Bob Barr is running as a Libertarian from the right. It won’t matter.
Full disclosure. Disgusted with the Nixon presidency, a squishy Gerald Ford, weenie Country Club Republicans, and conflicted with a few locals, I took a walk on the GOP in 1976. I helped invent the local Libertarian effort for presidential candidate Roger McBride and hung around for three more cycles because by then I was pretty much running the whole national operation, making it hard to leave.
To no avail. The LP’s Ed Clark got over a million votes in 1980 using the personal checkbook of his VP running mate David Koch. Independent John Anderson got almost six million votes, also proving … nothing. In 1984 the LP partially imploded, the losers moving off to things like the Cato Institute, giving America genuine relevance with one of its greatest think tanks and the LP with declining vote totals and never again breaking a million.
An incorrect assumption is that Libertarian candidates draw from the right and hurt Republicans. It’s counter-intuitive, but studies show they don’t. Clark got 2 percent of the vote in Pima County — close to 3 percent in many heavy Democrat precincts, less than 1 percent in heavy GOP ones.
Libertarians consistently draw from the left about 2-to-1. Many right-wing LP members often vote GOP. Democrats should worry more about Barr than Nader, assuming Barr can get nominated by the current Libertarian leadership who four years ago dumped their real candidates for a geek who lived at home with his mother.
Nader did not elect Bush in 2000. That along with believing in the validity of exit polls is one of the biggest myths in American political history and based on one-dimensional analyzation.
In 1992, former Governor Evan Mecham was so hacked at John McCain that he ran against him in the general election as an independent. The Democrat was Claire Sargent, a nice, ineffectual liberal. Mecham got 10 percent of the vote. McCain still beat Sargent by 20 points. Proving if you are so mad at John McCain that you’d vote for Evan Mecham, you probably weren’t going to vote for McCain anyway.
The 2001 Ward Three Tucson Council race was between Republican Kathleen Dunbar, Democrat Paula Aboud, and Libertarian Jonathan Hoffman, who’s often more Republican than I. Dunbar was concerned Hoffman would take votes from her, but she won handily. Four years later Dunbar was defeated by Democrat Karen Uhlich in a two-way race. LP candidates hurt Democrats.
In 2000, most Nader voters wouldn’t have voted for Gore absent Nader! Many would’ve voted for Bush, or just left it blank. That’s based on something obvious in the McCain-Mecham-Sargent race. Vengeance trumps ideology.
There have been exactly two major impacts made by third party candidates in presidential elections in the last hundred years, George Wallace in 1968 and Ross Perot in 1992. Wallace got over 13 million votes, Perot over 19 million. Estimates as to how those would’ve split minus their candidacies vary, but one thing is obvious. They would’ve split.
So would the minuscule vote totals gotten by Nader and all other third-party candidates. To believe they would have somehow voted en masse for any one candidate absent the choice they made and somehow changed the outcome of anything defies logic and history.
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