Let’s Have a (3rd) Party!

On a recent broadcast of the legendary CBS television news “magazine” 60 Minutes, Howard Schultz, former CEO of the ubiquitous coffee shop chain, Starbucks, admitted to giving serious consideration to running for President in the looming 2020 election. The reaction, particularly from the Democratic party, is one of stark, bone-chilling terror. Why? Because the DNC assumes that Howard’s name on the ballot, as a 3rd party independent (as Schultz framed his possible candidacy), would siphon off votes that would otherwise go to their candidate, whomever he or she may be, and thus allow Trump to get re-elected.

In addition to the official Democrat response, beaucoup Americans, who consider our current President to be a dysfunctional, politically incompetent, buffoon, also likely fear Schultz could tip the election in favor of D.T. Of course many think that way. And why shouldn’t they?, since the current, entrenched 2-party system, and the mainstream media have been insisting 3rd party candidates will never win a national election. This mantra/meme is given bullhorn pronouncements each and every time anyone floats the idea of a 3rd party run for the highest office in the land. However, this mantra is inherently a bullhorn spewing bullshit, a self-serving/preserving version of the Big Lie that drives propaganda 101. It’s a form of brainwashing, in a way, since a 3rd party candidate obviously CAN WIN if that 3rd party candidate gets enough voters to choose him or her over the standard Democrat or Republican. To keep insisting that it is a fool’s errand to seek high office running as a non Dem or Repub defies simple mathematics.

In the 1992 national election, one Ross Perot ran as a 3rd party candidate and garnered 19 million votes, a bit less than half of Bill Clinton’s winning total of 44 million. The political and media “spin” from that outcome was that Perot’s candidacy siphoned votes mostly from George H.W.Bush, allowing Clinton to come out as the winner. While one might conclude that is exactly what did happen is to misinterpret the election’s real message: 3rd party candidate’s are indeed capable of attracting significant followings and by logical extension, can indeed someday attract more voters than either traditional national political party. The fact that Perot was a player at all in that election should be considered a victory of sorts. Rather than being a “I told you so” conclusion by the powers-that-be and their corporate media cheerleaders, Perot gave credence to the notion that a 3rd party candidate can run–and WIN.

How so? Consider: In spite of Perot’s being dismissed early on as having only one influence on that election–that of “spoiler”–as well as the usual implicit and explicit media drumbeat of voting 3rd party is a wasted vote, not to mention his rather non-telegenic look and sound, as well as his distinct, folksy Texas twang, he did have a chance of winning that election during the polling cycles that lead up to election day. Perot, a billionaire, was only able to take part in the debates owing to his being able to buy enough media ads to get his name and ideas out to the public, and qualify by getting a minimum of 15% in those polls. The fact that a 3rd party candidate, automatically condemned to a virtual media black-out from the onset, and the framing of any such candidacy as a wasted vote, has to get that 15% polling number to be allowed to speak to we the people in those debate speaks volumes about how rigged our current 2-party system is. Perot bought the media coverage he needed to get his proposals into the public’s mind, at the same time that the major news outlets repeated that “wasted vote” Big Lie, which certainly didn’t help with changing the minds of those for whom–aside from the 19,000,000 who did vote for him–might have grown tired of the usual Frick or Frack donkey or elephant choice always being shoved down our electoral throats.

So, back to Schultz. He has a net worth of close to $4 billion. Certainly, he can buy the airtime to deliver what certainly sounded to be a refreshingly progressive agenda (comparatively speaking, in contrast to the hard-core political ideologies of both Democrat and Republican gatekeepers). And, after what Bernie Sanders did in 2016, running as a Social Democrat (!), with virtually no money to spend at the onset of his candidacy, as well as the mainstream Democratic party’s blatant anti-Bernie strategies, and corporate media’s near refusal to cover his candidacy in any meaningful manner, it sure lends further viability to what an “outsider” with a popular platform, and a sincerely humanistic persona can do. It’s my contention that if Sanders had run as a true 3rd party candidate, untethered from the we know how to lose Democratic National Committee, he might have won even more primaries and supplanted the cardboard cut-out candidacy of Hillary Clinton.,

Schultz’s wealth (not required, but as noted the system is seemingly rigged for those with deep pockets when running for office), his very real success as CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world (as opposed to the Grifter-in-Chief we have now), his fairly progressive proposals, and with a bona-fide progressive running mate, could replicate both Perot and Sander’s insurgent influence on a stale and failed 2-party system that has brought us to where we are at this very moment: a plutocracy with ugly, racist, elitist warts all over it. Can he do any worse than what we’ve had that passed for leadership and serving the “common good” over the past 50 years or more?

I feel–in my apparently ultra simple-minded understanding of our body politic–that maybe in 2020 an actual cardboard cut-out candidate (hey, think Peter Griffin, Homer Simpson even…) should be more appealing a candidate than Benedict Donald. But that media, and the two failed national parties, have got to be put in their place for once. Certainly, in my world, the Republican Party has now become a clear and present danger to not just life in the U.S. of A., but planet Earth itself. However, it’s not as though the party “on the other side of the aisle” hasn’t been complicit in this downward spiraling of life for the working class. Reagan “democrats”, Bill Clinton? Barack Obama? Real reformers, right...

Admittedly, there is a new faction of the Democratic party, voted into congress in the 2018 mid-terms. Women. Women of color. Muslim. LGBT. But I keep hearing their party elders tell them to “slow down, be realistic. Wait your turn”. They should all just announce they’re leaving their party to form a new one. Bernie, Liz, Sherrod, now you have a significant number of brothers and sisters who know it’s time for real change. I don’t think they can change the Democratic party from within anytime soon, as in 2020 soon.

Even I will admit this is a pipe dream about Howard Shultz. But it’s not as though history is bereft of precedent for a 3rd party surprise other than Mr.Perot. His name was Theodore Roosevelt. He was almost elected President in 1912. The name of his 3rd party…?


About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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1 Response to Let’s Have a (3rd) Party!

  1. It seems that the same people who characterize third party candidates as spoilers bemoan choosing between the lesser of two evils every election cycle.


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