No More Third Parties?!?

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Tue Sep 12 09:09:32 MDT 2000


Tuesday September 12 4:06 AM ET
Bleak Future for Third Parties

By EUN-KYUNG KIM, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The splintered Reform Party is the only minor political
party eligible for federal campaign funds for its presidential candidate
this year. And it may be the last to get any government money, at least for
awhile.

``I doubt very seriously that any third party in 2004 will be qualified for
any federal election funds, based upon this year's race,'' says David
Gillespie, a political science professor at Presbyterian College.

``Short of having another Ross Perot, with his multimilllions, I don't see
much of an immediate future in terms of the third-party horizon.''

With the Reform Party split by infighting and the Green Party's Ralph Nader
down in the polls, the future of third-party politics in America appears
bleak.

The Federal Election Commission meets Tuesday to decide whether $12.6
million earmarked for the Reform Party nominee should go to Pat Buchanan or
rival John Hagelin. Government auditors said last week that only Buchanan
has met eligibility requirements.

But there may be no money to fight for in 2004. A candidate needs at least
5 percent of the general election vote to qualify their party for funding
in the next presidential election, and Buchanan has mustered only 1 percent
or 2 percent in recent polls.

In California, his ratings were so low ``we actually lumped his support
together with all other third party candidates,'' said Mark DiCamillo,
director of the state's Field Poll. Hagelin, meanwhile, rarely gets
mentioned in public opinion surveys.

Buchanan joined the Reform Party last year, bolting from the GOP where he
had run for president in previous years. Some of his views, particularly
against abortion and homosexuality, have caused rifts in a party that tries
to stay out of social issues.

Nader initially appeared to be the best hope for those yearning for
third-party options this year. Polls placed support for the longtime
consumer advocate as high as 8 percent at one point, but the numbers since
have dwindled to 3 percent or 4 percent.

Many attribute the drop to Democrats who favored Nader but did not want to
help Republican George W. Bush by voting for Nader, who has a slim-to-none
chance of winning, rather than Democrat Al Gore.

The current economic prosperity also makes it difficult for third parties.

``There is very little of the anxiety that is required to move people from
the regular parties to the third-party options,'' said Cal Jillson of
Southern Methodist University. ``All of that concern with budget deficits
and fiscal irresponsibility in 1992 invited Perot with an opportunity to
gather votes. That's not here this time.''

Perot burst into the 1992 presidential campaign, winning 19 percent of the
vote, the most for a third-party candidate in nearly a century. But even
the Texas billionaire couldn't match his own benchmark the next time
around. In 1996, he received slightly more than 8 percent.

Gillespie said the hurdles against outside candidates ``are just absolutely
awful.''

For example, the Commission on Presidential Debates requires a candidate to
gain 15 percent in national polls before earning a spot in the debates -
criteria being fought in courts by Nader and Buchanan. And many candidates
spend much of their effort just collecting petition signatures to get on
state ballots.

``Probably a majority of the money Ross Perot spent on his 1992 campaign
was spent just getting on the ballot,'' Gillespie said.

He said Americans increasingly have shown they yearn for third-party
alternatives.

``We elected more third-party governors and people into office on
third-party tickets than anytime since the Great Depression,'' he said.
``The culture favors the emergence of a third party. Unfortunately, the
cards are stacked against it.''
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