View Full Version : Third-party observation

10-31-2009, 3:45 PM
As always, a big-picture observation, probably without practical value.

I've said a number of times in this forum that the winner-take-all geographical district system essentially requires a two-party system. Generally, I think that is true, for all the structural reasons I've mentioned. However, it seems there may be a factor I had not considered.

Consider this article about Hoffman's amazing run on the NY Conservative party ticket:


Minor parties are apparently fairly viable in NY, at least as a way to influence the major two. This contradicts my general thesis, but the article offers a reason: you can run on the ballot line of more than one party. I've never heard of such a rule, and the article says that it's unique to NY.

I find this believable. The idea that you have to run on only one party ballot was essentially an unstated assumption of mine, as I'd not heard of another possibility.

The significance of this is that we have persistent calls for abandoning both major CA parties on this forum. Most of the structural features that keep them in power are so fundamental that it would take a ground-up rewrite of the rules, which isn't going to happen. But if the article is right, then there is one way to do it with a relatively simple change to election law: adopt the NY rule.

I'm not advocating for or against doing so--the barriers would still be nigh insurmountable (you need politicians successful in the current system to vote to adopt a new system they might be less successful in), and in California I'm not sure it won't pull the politics farther to the left and make gun control *more* popular in Sacramento (politicians can run as both Democrats and Green or Peace and Freedom, for example). But for those who find the two-party system to chafe severely, it's worth considering as the least-infeasible change that lowers the bar against third parties. The ability to run as both Republican and Libertarian or whatever would have interesting, but unpredictable effects.

The most interesting question is whether it would make it easier to spank the Republican party for running Democrat-lite candidates of no observable usefulness who use gun control as their litmus test of being moderate.


10-31-2009, 7:11 PM
As a former New Yorker, I'm saddened to say that this race is one of the only ones I've seen where the quirk you point out has made a difference. In most elections, there are always a few candidates floated by the Working Families Party and the Peace and Freedom Party or whatnot, but 99% of the time they're all but ignored if they don't also happen to be running as Democrats or Republicans. It's certainly a nice rule, but I wouldn't count on it being a game-changer.

The bigger problem is ridiculous gerrymandering. (Shortest Splitline Algorithm FTW! (http://www.RangeVoting.org/SplitLR.html))

10-31-2009, 7:16 PM
I believe Senator James Buckley (brother to William F.) was Conservative Party of New York. I think he was endorsed by the Republicans some of the time, but not all.

10-31-2009, 7:40 PM
Family in New Yuck pretty much echoed pointedstick's comments when I asked them about 3rd parties