Independence Party: Fad of Yesterday or Wave of the Future?

I’ll preface by saying this: Since I have a degree in political science, it’s hard for me to determine the difference between wonky political blather and deep, interesting political discussion. I hope this is the latter.

You read this blog, so you are likely aware of the third-biggest political party in Minnesota: the Independence Party. Like the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, the IP is lumped into a group known as “third parties,” which are also commonly known as “perennial time wasters.” While they certainly voice very necessary, diverse positions each election cycle and give a sense of political representation–at least in the campaign–to significant numbers of people, they rarely win.

So here’s my question to you: is the Independence Party viable in your eyes? I mean, will they ever be taken seriously? Can they win elections on a regular basis? How long will that take? If they’re so well positioned in the political spectrum, why can’t they win now? I don’t need scholarly answers. You’re the people; you tell me.

But before you do, consider the following relevant information:

The reason third parties, the Greenies and the Libbies anyway, never win is because Human Political Thought has a bell curve distribution, with 80% (source: out of my ass, but only sort of) between left of center and right of center. In other words, the vast majority of people are moderates, and those who aren’t are generally satisfied with one of the two Major Parties. So, important though they are to the process, third parties are generally not viable (unless you’re Milwaukee and love Socialism) because there just isn’t the mainstream base needed to get elected.

But it’s tricker with the Independence Party: They are a self-proclaimed Centrist Third Party, which means, in theory, they cater to the apex of the bell curve, not the fringes. You’d think they would be the most viable party ever, taking the best ideas that everybody loves so much (which is to say socially liberal and fiscally conservative) and building a party around it. But this has not turned out to be the case–yet.

Ok, world’s shortest history of the relevant parts of the IP: they were formed in 1992 and the Minnesota Chapter of the Libertarian Party in support of Ross Perot, changed in the 1990s to the Independence Party (because the Libertarian party is pretty crazy), and then Jesse won in 1998. In 2002, Tim Penny was actually polling ahead of both Major Party candidates for significant periods of time, until Paul Wellstone died. Penny got 16% of the vote in 2002. In 2006, Peter Huchinson got in the mid-single digits. They had one state legislature election victory, one convert, who came from one party, passed through the IP, and then went to the other party. They do not currently have any members in our state government.

NOW you can tell me what you think.

5 Comments so far

  1. Aaron (s4xton) on August 7th, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

    Long story short, I think the IP is a great idea. I support multiple parties and I’m a vocal supporter of IRV (which gives a more equal playing field to all parties) but this season, the IP folks are putting up some very weak candidates at the top of their ticket for Senate. For it to be successful, you gotta have some solid people. I think Penny and Huchinson were good guys but the IP ticket sucks this year.

    I think Ventura screwed the IP this year too because he teased folks with running pre-convention and some people voted for no-endorsement for that reason. Everyone instead should have been concentrating on endorsing the best guy to run.

    Full disclosure: I’m a Franken supporter and I write at MNpublius.

  2. drivel on August 7th, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

    Third parties are always tough to support. The fall victim to an obvious vicious circle. No one votes for them because they don’t feel they have any chance to win, and they never win because of that. I’m not sure what would break us out of the two-party system, though I believe we desperately need to. That was readily apparent during the last Presidential election. I really wanted a viable third-party candidate to vote for instead of John Kerry.

  3. David (jacc) on August 7th, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

    Fad of Yesterday, for sure. The occasional candidate may come along and get elected, but the reality of politics is money and there’s no way the IP comes close to raising the kind of cash that the other two parties raise.

  4. kevinfromminneapolis on August 7th, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

    Fad. Third parties aren’t viable because they can’t build a base of core voters to sustain them the way Democrats and Republicans can. The kinds of issues that drive those voters are the issues third parties build on, and the issues that might draw people to third parties aren’t strong enough to keep them there.

    But I do take issue with the author’s assertion that there is a difference between wonky political blather and deep, interesting political discussion. To me, they are one and the same.

  5. Aaron (s4xton) on August 8th, 2008 @ 8:57 am

    A related piece at Minnesota Campaign Report this morning:

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