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August 11, 2006

You're Invited to Our Party! Bring Friends!

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

In my travels through the blogosphere, I've encountered lots of people who have some interest in third parties.  This includes jedmunds (wherever he is) and some people at Shakes' place -- though perhaps not Shakes herself.  Especially after the exciting events of this week, I'd like to offer them some advice and an invitation.

Any movement big enough to make a third-party candidate remotely competitive in a general election can easily win a Democratic primary.  This is mostly because there are far fewer Democratic primary voters.  283,055 people voted in Tuesday's primary; 1,253,571 people voted in Lieberman's 2000 general election victory.  Democratic primary voters, furthermore, are more accepting of left-wing views than general election voters are.  So if you have a movement that's big enough to be competitive in a general election, you can easily swing through the Democratic primary and pick up the nomination on your way.  When the general election comes, you'll get the votes of all the straight-ticket Democratic voters, and you'll be the clear choice for every left-of-center voter.  It's a lot easier to take over the Democratic Party and win elections that way than it is to build a successful third party. 

Look at how it happened in Connecticut, where Ned Lamont is going to be the Democratic nominee.  He'll most likely win the election. Over the last half-century, 24 incumbent Senators have been denied renomination in primaries.  None have gone on to win the general election, which bodes pretty badly for Lieberman.  The only one who tried to keep campaigning all the way to November got 11% of the vote.  Instead of sending your third-party candidate into the general election, go for the Democratic nomination, and make these numbers work for you. 

There's an important flip side to this.  If a left-wing candidate can't win a Democratic primary, that candidate clearly doesn't have a movement big enough to win a general election.  Then there's no point in running a third-party candidate in the general.  The Democrats won't move left to prevent a third-party candidate from stealing their votes -- for them to break even with this strategy, they have to win 2 votes on the left for every one that they lose in the center.  (Losing a centrist voter to the Republicans means they need one left-wing voter to make up the loss and then another left-wing voter to match the Republican gain.)  And while moving left will turn out Democratic base voters in larger numbers, it may turn out the Republican base in larger numbers as well, and Democratic incumbents know that. 

Running third-party candidates in general elections, then, won't substantially change Democrats' behavior.  But especially with Lieberman's defeat fresh in their minds, the possibility of a primary challenge will.  Take a look at this post from mcjoan, where she talks about how Jane Harman came out against war with Iran and warrantless wiretapping after Marcy Winograd challenged her from the left in a primary.  That's a strategy that can succeed in several different ways, and it's one that I invite progressives who are unhappy with the Democrats to try. 

August 11, 2006 | Permalink


Excellent post. I agree with every word.

Posted by: Christmas | Aug 11, 2006 8:32:01 PM

Fascinating. You are always good for interesting ideas.

The more I think about it, though, this is what happened to the GOP. We can see this most clearly with school board elections. The ultra-conservatives have long targeted these races because of the low level of interest and the high level of potential mischief they can get into.

The religious conservative dominance of the GOP is the result of years of these people percolating upwards in the party hierarchy.

Posted by: Stephen | Aug 11, 2006 9:22:12 PM

I like this. I said something mildly dismissive of Greens in a recent post and got a long, serious and thoughtful argument from a commenter on why they were a GOOD THING. Doesn't work for me; you've said why, succinctly. They only way I can understand third parties is that they are for people who are trying to do something other than win power.

Posted by: janinsanfran | Aug 11, 2006 11:16:41 PM

My longstanding practice of voting for third party candidates in every presidential election came to an end in the wake of 2000. Not that it mattered -- I lived in Oklahoma, which will be red until the rapture, then moved to Maryland, which is decidedly blue. I cast my third party votes in the belief that helping a strong third party take root would good for the country.

As someone who has at least had college level polisci, I look back on this as profoundly stupid. In a coalition government with several strong parties this is fine, but it doesn't fly here. There's room under the Dem tent for populists, greens. and lots more. The same goes for the Republicans -- what else could explain the bizarre melding of fiscal conservatives and evangelicals?

The lessons to be learned are 1) learn to live with the two party system, and 2) ignore anything I say about politics, since I'm obviously an idiot until beaten over the head.

Posted by: Jon Parker | Aug 12, 2006 7:48:11 AM

"Ned Lamont is going to be the Democratic nominee. He'll most likely win the election."

I'm no longer sure about that most likely. Lieberman is up by 5 points in the new poll.

Lieberman has higher favs than Lamont and lower unfavs.

The question of whether or not Lieberman can raise the necessary dough still exists, and the question of whether or not the GOP nominee will remain a joke still exists.

So I'd continue putting Lieberman's odds of a win at .40. But if both those questions get answered in the affirmative, I'd move those odds up to .55.


I share Neil's welcome to folks to make a home here, but unless you're a large army of visigoths ready to swamp both the party and general election, be prepared for the long, slow slog of getting your points across through coalition politics.

Of course, that slow dance of coalition politics is how all sane people accomplish their political goals, so you ought to be here already.

Posted by: Petey | Aug 12, 2006 11:10:40 AM

I'm not as pessimistic, Petey. The heavy campaigning for Lamont by big Dems hasn't started yet, and Lieberman's still got name recognition on his side for everyone who hasn't been paying attention to the race up until now. I think that five point lead is about as good as Lieberman's going to get, and with a +/- 4.5 margin of error, that's not terrible for Lamont.

I suppose Lamont's campaign could really screw the pooch somehow, or some other unforeseen factor could enter into play, but I don't think it looks that great for Lieberman - especially since he seems to keen to play up his support for Iraq, which seems like political suicide. Lamont's opposition to the war isn't some crazy fringe view; it's the view held by the majority of Connecticut voters. Lieberman's goal should be to try to get people to vote for him despite his support for the war, not because of it. The more he associates himself with Iraq, the more he's going to tank.

Posted by: Christmas | Aug 12, 2006 11:53:04 AM

Christmas, I hope that you're right about 46% being Lieberman's maximum, which will only go down from here. But I fear the media's constant repeating of the Republican message that Lamont is a wild-eyed, weak terrorist-sympathizer isn't going to go away, and will spike with every new terror alert or war development as the election approaches.

The recent surprising comments from the likes of Rahm Emanuel and Hillary Clinton have encouraged me to believe that one of our problems, the spinelessness of many Democratic politicians, may be improving. But I continue to believe that the media is our biggest problem, and we haven't found a solution to that one.

Posted by: KCinDC | Aug 12, 2006 12:33:10 PM

Lieberman is up by 5 points in the new poll.

Considering he was up by 24 points in the previous (pre-primary) three-way poll, I'd have to say that it looks like Lieberman continues to have Joementum on his side. Lamont's got to be happy that the initial numbers show him within striking distance for the general.

Posted by: DJA | Aug 12, 2006 2:16:49 PM

Neil, I think even Shakes herself is going to leave the Democrat Party, she's pissed. I don't blame her after losing all of these elections for all these years. Jeb Bush thinks just like Shakes too, in some ways. Its so bad here in Florida that the Democrats are all broke except Senator Nelsen. Nelsen is lucky Katherine Harris doesn't want to save Social Security, a ponzi scheme, like every other Republican in America. Katherine Harris and Bill Nelsen both pander to rich Florida Medicare Millionaires. Jeb Bush hates her. Jeb said, "Katherine Harris can't win," and Jeb himself I bet will vote for Bill Nelsen, a very Liberal Democrat, once he is in the booth and no one knows. Jeb will always error on the side of life and Katherine Harris does not have much life, that's for sure.

Jeb Bush also said yesterday, "They're kicking me out the door in about 144 days." When asked to explain how $19 billion in tax cuts produced below 3% unemployment in Tampa Bay Jeb replied, "That money has been kept in the pockets of small businesses...where they can invest in their own dreams and create higher paying jobs." Then Jeb pointed his finger at one reporter and said, "That philosophy is a good philosophy. It works. It drives the Liberals crazy." Jeb's best quote is, "Democrats are pathetic. We risk losing the two party system."

Skates said herself, "...because all I really want is to ride the train in peace, with some decent healthcare coverage..." See Neil. I bet Shates will demand FREE Medicare in a couple of years and my son will become a taxpaying zombie for Shates' free drugs. I bet Shates has been to a few rodeos. I bet Shakes "must" close that Rx donut-hole in Medicare though. Shakes will want totally free drugs in a few years. That's what shates means by the term, "Decent health coverage."

Some people must remain Democrats or they will have to close up shop. Bill Nelsen will probably be the last elected Democrat Senator in America.

When one man fights for what is right and a million more agree, there is no Great Society.

Vote Republican / Like Jeb says, "Democrats are pathetic." and "Drive Liberals crazy."

I suggest starting a new party because Democrats can't win anymore.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Aug 12, 2006 2:39:48 PM

Ron Greiner wrestled him a bear when he was only three. He got eaten by that bear, but his regurgitated bones and hair got excellent health coverage through his HSA - the roughin'est, toughin'est HSA west a' the Mississipp'.

Posted by: Christmas | Aug 12, 2006 5:57:35 PM

Christmas, Jeb called the Dems pathetic after the IRS closed down the Democrat Party's bank accounts in Florida for stealing their own employees' Social Security tax. Some of these employers are crooks.

Howard Dean loaned the Democrat Party of Florida $100,000 so they could pay their rent and beg for more money.

Democrats should start a new party who can raise some cash.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Aug 12, 2006 7:27:30 PM

Wow, someone who uses the phrase "Democrat Party" without irony and expects his arguments to be taken seriously. Crazy, man.

Posted by: Hank Scorpio | Aug 12, 2006 10:33:07 PM

Brilliant. By this logic, since Republicans have been winning elections, we should all vote for Republicans. We can't risk splitting the vote, can we?

Posted by: FoolishOwl | Aug 12, 2006 11:17:59 PM

Uh, Foolishowl, did you actually read the post? I don't think I said anything about splitting the vote. (Though there are some things to be said about that issue.)

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Aug 12, 2006 11:28:26 PM

FoolishOwl, soon we won't have to worry about splitting the vote, you will be the only Democrat left.

Even Shakes says Democrats are monkeys.

After a while people get tired of losing and start thinking about when President Bush said, "You're either with us or you're against us."

Hank, Karl Rove urged us to say Democratic Party, I'm just following orders. This comes from the top.

Neil, Big Brother is a natural born killer. You know this. We can either feed the beast or starve it. The Democrats love feeding the beast, the IRS, or what some people call Big Brother. The Democrats get their marching orders from Blue Cross, a giant monopoly that is too politically connected because of lobbyists up the wazoo in every state and in Washinton DC.

Blue Cross gives more money to Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), 3rd ranking Democrat Senator, than any other US Senator.

Some Democrats are dangerously incompetent. This November, vote for competence, say no to Democrats. www.dangerousdebbie.com

Employees: This "open enrollment" stand up and scream, Employer-Based Health Insurance can be Mean!!

Voters: Everytime you see a politician stand up and scream, Employer-Based Health Insurance can be Mean!!

Until the Democrat Leadership Council (DLC), at dlc.org, stops their crack whore addiction to dangerous over-priced employer-based health insurance and start caring about the security of American citizens, mothers and children instead of how fast Blue Cross CEOs can make a dirty crooked buck, I don't think the Democrats can win. But of course that is just my opinion. Edwards is a trial lawyer, maybe he would disagree.

If you don't vote Republican, start a new party. Call it the, We-Are-Not-Democrat Party (WAND). That will get you some votes right there. Trust me Neil, people get tired of losing after years and years of it.

Say No to Democrats and enjoy the feeling of winning again.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Aug 13, 2006 9:11:04 AM

I believe Ron Greiner fits all the relevant definitions of being a disruptive troll. I say this as someone with a pretty high tolerance for Republican commenters on lefty blogs.

I could be wrong, but I believe TypePad has tools to ban commenters by IP address.

Posted by: Petey | Aug 14, 2006 2:28:37 AM

Come on Petey, don't be so cold hearted. Banning people with alternate points-of-view is not your answer. Your answer is ideas.

Democrats in the old days said that MSAs were a tax dodge. That didn't work because everybody wanted to know how that works. So the Democrats just censored the MSA. If a newspaper reporter wrote an article about Republican health care reform, individual HSA insurance and a tax free HSA VS their own newspaper's employer-based health insurance, they would be fired. But censorship didn't work either because President Bush changed the name to HSA and passed them for all Americans.

Petey, censorship is the old way that doesn't work because then Liberals don't even know what they are up against. Censorship is a propaganda tool. The problem with propaganda is that people automatically know the truth when it comes strolling along.

The Packers never said, "Hey, Pittsburgh can't play Lynn Swann." Thats just stupid Petey. The President is putting Lynn Swann in the political game this week. I'm sure the President and Lynn will tell these Harley employees all about tax free HSAs. That's what is happenning Petey, open your eyes.

I wish President Bush would say in the Keystone State, "Hey, where is the Harley HR fruitcake? Oh, there you are. I just have to ask you, if these Harley employees get cancer and can't work, can they keep their health insurance?" Then, when that non-licensed shrew says, "NO," the President should scream, "Employer-Based Health Insurance can be MEAN!!"

Everytime you see Hillary you should shout it out. Hillary is addicted to Employer-Based health insurance thats why she won't be the first female president, sorry.

I think Lynn Swann will be the 1st Black President. What do you think Petey?

Hey Petey, at least today you can research the tax free HSA. The MSA was so under wraps that all Gooogle could produce was: Muslim Student Association. I used to tell people, "Just trust me." That works. Every 2 years the MSA was ending. I used to advertise, It's like a government special on tax free money.

Petey, save premium, eliminate taxes, build wealth, become informed and empowered. Its the new thing. Everyone knows that the best tax cut is NO TAXES and its TIME for your HSA.

But of course you might have an alternate point of view, and I respect that Petey, kinda.

Posted by: Ron Greiner | Aug 14, 2006 8:54:22 AM

"Come on Petey, don't be so cold hearted. Banning people with alternate points-of-view is not your answer. Your answer is ideas."

I repeat that you're a troll, Ron.

I sincerely hope the proprietors of this blog avail themselves of the tools at their disposal to prevent you from sliming up future threads.

Posted by: Petey | Aug 14, 2006 9:15:20 AM

Petey, at your website you lie about the HSA too. 2/17/06 article says, //And, as Elisabeth Bumiller pointed out in the New York Times, a $5,000 contribution to an HSA would have saved a couple with two children and a combined income of $40,000 just $630 on their 2005 federal income taxes. (And that assumes the couple could have afforded to put away the whole five grand, which is unlikely.)//

There is no payroll tax on employer HSA deposits. So they have 15.3% in tax savings right there. Then if a couple is in the 25% combined Federal AND State income tax bracket (Not rich) that's a total of 40.3% tax saving on the $5,000 HSA deposit or over $2,000 tax savings per year. Petey, many families have HSA insurance for less than $2,000 a year. In other words, they save more in taxes with their HSA deposit than the cost of their health insurance.

So you and your so-called "One America For All Of Us" are just a bunch of hozemonsters who must ban the truth, pathetic.

I hope ezra has more honor than you.

Lets ban Petey for being a cry baby with no ideas.


Posted by: Ron Greiner | Aug 14, 2006 11:57:21 AM

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