"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Wasted Vote

The Washington Post reports that angry Democrats are collecting signatures in a petition drive to form a far-left party in opposition to centrist "Blue Dogs" who voted against ObamaCare.
Now, some of Obama's supporters are mounting a defiant strike against the president's party.  The nascent third party, North Carolina First, could endanger the Democratic congressional majority by siphoning votes from incumbent Democrats in November's midterm election, potentially enabling Republican challengers to pick up the seats.  Organizers say they are so fed up with Democrats who did not support health-care reform that they simply do not care.
Yesterday, the Post ran another article comparing the conservative and libertarian Tea Party movement to the independents and Republicans who supported Ross Perot in the disastrous election of 1992.
The Perot movement is an obvious starting point to try to understand the tea party movement.  Both movements began during times of economic distress and were built on growing distrust of, and even anger with, Washington and the federal government.  Each shook up the established political order, forcing the two major parties to adapt.  Many of the tea party activists are new to politics, as were many of those who supported Perot.
While third party candidates do occasionally win statewide office, such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, no third party candidate has ever won the Presidency.  Left-wing radicals, conservatives, libertarians, and even moderates all have good reasons to resent the current policies of the national parties, but forming breakaway third parties will not benefit their cause.

As the elder Bush famously said of Ross Perot, "A vote for him is a wasted vote."  Despite the pundits who cling to the intellectual conceit that a vote of conscience sends a message, the reverse is actually true.  By supporting a third party, voters inevitably aid the candidate who stands in opposition to their ideals.  Tea partiers and socialists alike would do well to remember this.

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