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What’s the Story Behind Third-Party Candidates?

August 29th, 2012

The U.S. has had a two-party political system for hundreds of years — ever since the Federalists and the Republicans started duking things out in 1791.

But every now and then, a third-party candidate comes along and shakes things up.

In 2012, Ron Paul certainly made a splash — even though the Libertarian technically ran as a Republican.  Now that he’s out of the race, Gary Johnson is trying to mount a campaign against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Before that, we had Ralph Nader in 2000.  And, of course, who could ever forget Ross Perot in 1992?

Historically, third-party candidates don’t get a ton of votes in Presidential elections, but they can do a lot to derail the other guys.

Just look at what Ross Perot did…

Even though he officially dropped out of the race in July of 1992, he clearly siphoned off votes that would have otherwise gone to George H.W. Bush in November.  But even more importantly, Perot spent his entire campaign drawing lots of attention to the national debt — something that incumbent Bush was responsible for.  So, when Bill Clinton came along and said tax increases were the only way to close the deficit, people were more willing to listen.

So, where did the idea of third-party candidates come from?

The names may change over the years (after all, America has seen everything from the Free Soil Party, to the Southern Democrat Party, to the Reform Party, to the Green Party, to the Libertarian Party), but the purpose is always the same — to focus on what they believe are the “right” issues and to make sure that these issues are dealt with properly.

What do you think?  Do these parties deserve more credit?  Do you think they could ever replace one of the “mainstream” parties?

How Important Are Political Conventions?

August 29th, 2012

Thanks to 24-hour news cycles, constantly-updating polls, and things like Twitter and Facebook, the suspense of finding out who’s actually going to be nominated by a party to run for President is gone.  These days, even running mates are picked well before the convention!

We also get to see candidates’ platforms sooner.  After all, millions of dollars are spent every month in TV and radio ads to tell us what candidates think and how they would handle certain issues.  We also get to see the candidates go head-to-head — without all of the fancy graphics and witty copywriters — in debates.

So, have we outgrown political conventions?

Absolutely not!

Here’s why they’re absolutely essential to our Presidential elections:

–        They give each party a chance to appear on primetime TV

The exposure conventions get is much bigger than any exposure candidates could hope to get from a TV ad or a well-written press release.  For a few days, they get the exclusive attention of the big TV networks.

–         They give lesser-known members of the parties a chance to shine

When Barack Obama spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, it was the first time many Americans had even heard of him — and clearly he made an impression on them!  The same can be said for Sarah Palin — who Americans didn’t know much about until her convention speech in 2008.

–         They get people excited

Political conventions are like pep rallies.  They don’t necessarily determine the outcome of the election (or of the big game), but they give everyone a morale boost.  And when people are excited, they’re more likely to talk about the issues and the candidates with friends — meaning more people get involved in the political process.

So, what effect will Hurricane Isaac have on the Republican National Convention this year?  The Republicans already had to cancel the first day of their convention.  Now, they’re splitting primetime with hurricane coverage.  Will this affect their chances come November?

 

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