US presidential election confined to two parties

The lack of competition for the Republican presidential nomination and the increasing likelihood that Howard Dean will be the Democratic nominee seem to be feeding renewed talk about third party candidates. It is being fuelled by a belief that the Internet has helped make the major parties obsolete, says Bruce Bartlett of the National Centre for Policy Analysis..

Although the Internet has made insurgent campaigns easier to run within parties, Bartlett says it hasn't done much to aid third parties. The reason is that the Constitution demands that the president receive an absolute majority of the Electoral College.

According to Bartlett:

  • It is virtually impossible to elect a third party candidate as president.
  • In practice, this has tended to make third parties unworkable at the state level as well.
  • Also, various state laws, such as those making it difficult for third parties to get on the ballot, reinforce the dominance of the two major parties.

    In short, he says, the Constitution would have to be amended and the election laws of every state would have to be drastically revised to make third parties viable even in the Internet age.

    The recent California election is evidence that there is no real demand for third parties. Despite the fact that anyone with $3,500 could be on the ballot for governor and with 135 people running, 95.5 percent of the final vote went to candidates openly identifying themselves as either Republicans or Democrats, explains Bartlett.

    Source: Bruce Bartlett, Third Parties and the Internet, National Center for Policy Analysis, December 22, 2003.

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    For more on Government & Politics

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 6 January 2004
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