Saturday, December 6, 2008

On Third Party Personality Disorder

via Lee at A Secondhand Conjecture, raises an important question about the electoral impotence of third parties: their candidates.

Have you taken a look at the sort of personality types who third parties typically nominate for general elections? Absent the Jesse Ventura or Kinky Friedman relative successes, there is definitely a common form and a common effect. Generally nominees are ideological activists, with limited prior experience in public policy (or even limited interest in government itself), who in everything from physical appearance to rhetorical art condemn themselves to extreme fringe appeal....

I’m frankly tired of hearing the LP and other third-partyists blame the general electorate for their own candidate personality disorder. Third-party popular appeal is contingent on popular personality. The trouble here is that the sort of person who is ordinarily attracted to third parties tends to be of the cognitive sort. The notion of a personality driven candidate is something that many, perhaps even most, third-party activists might identify as a nullifying characteristic of the two-party system to begin with. Thus nominees tend to be of their own type. That is the real Catch-22 that goes unstated.

There is an awful lot of truth in this indictment, which is why I continue to argue that Libertarian (or any other third party) success has to be won in the long-term from the bottom up, by people willing to build a credible resume as being knowledgable in policy issues, rather than merely spouting the free market equivalent of talking points.

On the other hand, however, those who hold that the best way to advance a Libertarian agenda is outside the political process make a few points that Lee glosses over, like the careful rigging of electoral rules and State-supported campaigns, which are, after all, just for Demopublicans.


Zafo Jones said... mean, hell yes. The Democrat and Republican parties are too much associated with "real" success and "real" progress and "real" legitimacy that the Libertarians get lost in the scuffle between the two. Put up someone who identifies with both "legitimate" governance and Libertarian philosophy and I think that would be a much better recipe for success and change agency.

Delaware Watch said...

I believe there is less truth to the indictment than you think. I believe that if every presidential, federal office, etc. political debate had 3rd party candidates participating--if there were a REQUIREMENT that they be included--and if elections were publicly funded, it would take little time before we'd see 3rd party candidates elected to powerful offices. We seem to think that the only part of elections that require legal regulation is voting (whose eligible to vote, etc.) when in fact every part of the electoral process is important to electoral outcomes.

I do think that Libertarians have a particular tough row to hoe because their foundation is in part the idea that government is necessarily inefficient, that it can't be made to work FOR citizens, that at best it can and should only be restrained, and that when the government acts for the public good (a phrase that makes Libertarians skin crawl)it is really a nefarious statist plot against liberty--all that is a message that doesn't sell well w/ the public. Who wants to vote for someone whose basic message is "Don't expect me to make this government to work for you?" It's a self-defeating platform.

ChrisNC said...

I get tired of this "blame the victim" rhetoric. Ballot laws are stacked in favor of the government party. Since incumbents have influence to sell, the money goes to the government party. And most news outlets succumb to rent-seeking (in the Misesian sense), so they black out information about alternative candidates. Here in NC, the overwhelming majority of coverage for our LP gubernatorial candidate came from GOVERNMENT television (yuck!). The main talk-radio station in my area, a station of which that same candidate BOUGHT time, held online polls with only the D and R candidates.

Steve Newton said...

Actually, Dana, I think you raise a valid questioning--as much in terms of campaigning as in terms of governing, and I plan to try to answer it sometime soon (way too long for a comment answer).