Gary Johnson and Third Parties: Why The Two-Party System Fears Them

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Ever since Ralph Nader’s infamous impact on the 2000 presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican parties have feared an influential third party candidate. While third parties provide hope for independent voters, the establishment is worried about the threat to its power. Party leaders see the grim possibility of the spoiler effect, in which a minor independent or third party candidate draws votes away from a major candidate, affecting the outcome of an election.

The two major parties also fear that an influential third party will permanently damage their base of supporters. This election cycle, those fears are beginning to focus on Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for President.  Both Republicans and Democrats have reasons to worry about Gary Johnson. Republicans fear Johnson because of his track record of fiscal conservatism, which appeals to fiscal conservatives worried about Romney’s perceived moderate stance. The Club for Growth reports that as governor, he had an excellent record on fiscal issues.

“Governor Johnson was one of the most anti-spending governors in New Mexico history. Governor Johnson set a state record for vetoes as Governor, earning the title ‘Governor No’ after 742 total vetoes of bills over two terms.”

Johnson has promised to present a balanced budget in his first year in office, a stark contrast to most Republican proposals, which do not balance the budget for decades:

“Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson says he would veto any legislation that doesn’t balance the federal budget if he’s elected president… He also vowed to submit a balanced budget to Congress in 2013. ‘I am promising to veto legislation that does not balance the federal budget.’”

Not surprisingly, Republican leaders worry that Johnson could draw voters away from Mitt Romney. Michigan’s Republican Secretary of State is fighting to keep his name off the ballot in Michigan, using an obscure law to justify this action.

“On May 3, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican, sent a letter to the Michigan Libertarian Party, saying she would not print Gary Johnson’s name on the November 2012 ballot as the Libertarian nominee for President, should the party nominate him.”

This is based on a “sore loser” law, which states that candidates who had previously appeared on a primary ballot for one party cannot appear on the ballot in the general election as a candidate for another party. The application of the law in a presidential election is dubious and contrary to state precedent.

“In 1980, John B. Anderson formed the ‘Anderson Coalition Party’ within Michigan, and his name was printed as that party’s presidential nominee in November 1980, even though Anderson had run in the Michigan Republican presidential primary on May 20. Thus, a precedent was set that this law does not apply to presidential primary candidates.”

Gary Johnson’s candidacy demonstrates the Republicans’ fear of third party candidates, and its use of ballot access restrictions to prevent candidates who offer independent voters real choices from appearing on the ballot. While some Democrats secretly rejoice at the prospect of a prominent Libertarian Party candidate, they have reasons for worry as well. Johnson strongly supports many issues usually associated with the Democratic Party.

“On civil liberties, drug laws, defense spending and foreign wars, he outflanks President Obama from the left.”

He poses a threat to President Obama, because of his tremendous appeal to independent voters.

“The danger for Democrats isn’t that Johnson will win a significant percentage of the Left’s vote. The danger is that he’ll peel away a sizable share of the much-prized independent voters, who tend to be fiscal conservatives and social liberals, and who might feel, understandably, that Obama hasn’t played it straight with them.”

The bottom line is that both parties fear third party or independent candidates, simply worrying about their power base. They refuse to examine whether the appeal of these candidates might demonstrate that the main parties have lost their way. Gary Johnson brings new ideas to the table, ideas that appeal to voters across the political spectrum.

But partisan politics is no longer about the will of the people or the common good. Such ideals have been surrendered for a dogged defense of the status quo. Independent voters relish the thought of real choices, third party candidates who are refreshingly different than the candidates turned out by the two party system. However, the establishment is not above using ballot access tricks to lock these candidates out of the election. Such actions may safeguard party power, but they hurt the American people. It is time to forget our fear and focus on the issues, not party affiliation. Americans deserve real options for a change.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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  1. Philip Since 2000? You have a short-term view of history. Look up the impact of Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 election and attempts by both Republicans and Democrats to keep him out of the debates. He gained FAR more votes than Nader did.
  2. John I have noticed an appreciable amount of coverage for Gary on the major networks over the last couple of weeks. These are encouraging signs for Gary as well as freedom in general. The fact that he will be on the ballot in all 50 states has helped. I really want to see a full frontal push to get him included in the debates this fall. The voters will realize they have a superior choice to tweedle dee and tweedle dum.
  3. fredfawcett Both the democrats and republicans share the guilt for running our standard of living into the dirt. The older you are, the more clearly you see how badly things have deteriorated. Our ability to earn a decent living has been so badly battered it's hard to remember that things were once pretty good. Our individual freedom and our civil liberties have been severely curtailed. We let the government take 7.5% of every penny we ever earn and they work full time trying to find an excuse not to pay us the promised benefits. Things have been going downhill for average Americans for a long time now. Since 9/11, opportunists have accelerated the pace of our national descent. If we let either of the two major parties continue to hold power, we can kiss the free America we love goodbye. Governor Johnson will save us from the united efforts of the two major parties. Let Governor Johnson govern us in democracy or the two parties will govern us in Fascism.
  4. Adam Gibson http://www.change.org/petitions/american-voters-allow-the-libertarian-candidate-to-be-part-of-the-presidential-debates Please help me get Gary into the debates. He will be on the ballot in all 50 states and shouldnt be ignored. His record speaks for itself.
  5. Blake We all talk about minor and third-party candidates… What's we truly have are two OLD parties that have failed us, we need to look to NEW parties to help guide us towards the future… this year I'm voting LIBERTARIAN! If you want to eliminate the spoiler effect, visit approvalvotingUSA.org. There are examples of how approval voting will help create more civil elections and eliminate the spoiler effect!
  6. Caitlin They SHOULD get rid of the Dept. of Education because it's inefficient and not doing it's job! There is over a trillion dollars of student loan debt, and the HS drop-out rate is still climbing; not to mention widespread illiteracy. Did you know that we are behind MONGOLIA in Education? Why should we save this department that isn't doing their job to educate our youth and young adults? You do realize that this man RAN his own business successfully when he was a college student? You do realize that this man balanced New Mexico's state budget and left it with a 1 Billion dollar surplus (where other states are CUTTING 1 Billion+ from their budgets)? You do realize that this man is more *qualified* for the job as President of the United States, than any other candidate offered? Our current government shouldn't be hounding any American citizen for any kind of debts before it clears its own bad spending habits!
  7. William It sounds like your understanding of "net neutrality" is incorrect.
  8. viccrist In reply to those that think "The Affordable Care Act" has anything to do with health care should read about the law. It is THE biggest power grab from our government of all time and it will not improve health care. As far as Gary Johnson getting rid of the Department of Education, the department if ineffective to say the least like so many inefficiently run government departments. We need to keep our government and our money local to be effective. Central planning has never worked Melissa. Read more please, perhaps your views are a result of government schooling.
  9. Bill and what benefit is the federal Department of Education in your view?
  10. J That would have been great, but it is Judge Jim Gray for VP. (I am loving the very American names these two have!)
38 comments
Philip
Philip

Since 2000? You have a short-term view of history. Look up the impact of Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 election and attempts by both Republicans and Democrats to keep him out of the debates. He gained FAR more votes than Nader did.

John
John

I have noticed an appreciable amount of coverage for Gary on the major networks over the last couple of weeks. These are encouraging signs for Gary as well as freedom in general. The fact that he will be on the ballot in all 50 states has helped. I really want to see a full frontal push to get him included in the debates this fall. The voters will realize they have a superior choice to tweedle dee and tweedle dum.

fredfawcett
fredfawcett

Both the democrats and republicans share the guilt for running our standard of living into the dirt. The older you are, the more clearly you see how badly things have deteriorated. Our ability to earn a decent living has been so badly battered it's hard to remember that things were once pretty good. Our individual freedom and our civil liberties have been severely curtailed. We let the government take 7.5% of every penny we ever earn and they work full time trying to find an excuse not to pay us the promised benefits. Things have been going downhill for average Americans for a long time now. Since 9/11, opportunists have accelerated the pace of our national descent. If we let either of the two major parties continue to hold power, we can kiss the free America we love goodbye. Governor Johnson will save us from the united efforts of the two major parties. Let Governor Johnson govern us in democracy or the two parties will govern us in Fascism.

Blake
Blake

We all talk about minor and third-party candidates… What's we truly have are two OLD parties that have failed us, we need to look to NEW parties to help guide us towards the future… this year I'm voting LIBERTARIAN!

If you want to eliminate the spoiler effect, visit approvalvotingUSA.org. There are examples of how approval voting will help create more civil elections and eliminate the spoiler effect!

J
J

Another vote for Gary Johnson. I think I convinced my bf and I am working on my family right now too.

Daniel
Daniel

I yearn for the day when there are both third and fourth party challengers. That is why I am doing my best to get both Gary Johnson and Rocky Anderson recognized. In both of them I see people who, though, of different politics will both commit to the protection of American individual's rights. You know, what they defined the purpose of government as when they fought the British for doing the same things our government does now.

fl10thamendment
fl10thamendment

Gary Johnson is the only choice for Ron Paul supporters if Ron is not nominated. The time is long past for the duopoly to be challenged and ultimately, hobbled. The two party dominance has given us two criminal organizations in charge of our local, state and federal governance. It has led to the destruction of our once federal system and replaced it with a national monolith, the latter being aggressive abroad and despotic at home. Thinking any change will come by swapping out the musical chairs in D.C. from one insider to another is futile.

John
John

We have 3 votes in our household for Gary Johnson. Neither candidate from the two major parties has earned our votes. whereas, Gary has addressed the major issues of the day both forcefully, as well as competently. He also has the experience as well as the leadership required to become President.

Gracemarie Collins
Gracemarie Collins

Gary Johnson supports the FairTax HR25 legislation. This bill will save our Country. www.fairtax.org

John Shuey
John Shuey

The hell with the Republicrats and their dirty tricks -- I'm supporting, donating to, and voting for Governor Gary Johnson.

Shane
Shane

If Ron Paul is NOT on the ballot come November, Gary Johnson get's my vote! I will NEVER again vote for the the establishment's hand picked candidates!

because it's smarter
because it's smarter

Better choice? If I recall correctly, this is the guy who turned the biggest welfare state in the nation into an even bigger welfare state. When he took office NM already took $1.95 in spending for every dollar they paid in taxes. When he left they were taking $2.03 in spending for every dollar paid in taxes. So all he did was shift the state taxes down and cover the costs by pulling in more federal spending. If Libertarians want to be major players as a 3rd party they need to get their act together and take a real look at the candidates they offer up and not just listen to the noise they make. If your party had some one worthwhile to offer, people would look. Especially today.

john
john

If there is a place for honesty in government, it is time for a real man like Johnson. He told me, I want to be governor and he became such with no previous up through-the-ranks experience. Prior to that he told me he was going to climb Mt. McKinley and he did and later Mt. Everest. He told me he would retire when he could live on $2MM, and he did but with $6MM. He gives a choice to those of us who are fiscal conservatives and social liberals.

Eve
Eve

What the two party duopoly should really fear is if Ron Paul doesn't get the GOP nod and then BAM! Johnson chooses Paul as his VP.

THAT would be the ticket!

EJB
EJB

Excellent article. The "don't waste your vote" premise is really propaganda of the two-party system, used to divide voters from their values and adopt a horse-race view of campaigning, or sports team form of partisanship. "You are either with us or against us" is pure partisanship, which many deride (especially the media) yet never seem to abandon.

Gary Johnson represents exactly the kind of third-party, or third-way option that is necessary for our broken polity. He is balanced, has the ability to identify the core problems, identify the solutions, and has the track record to prove that he can govern in a mixed party system. As the Governor of New Mexico, he had fantastic results while working with a legislature which was approximately 2 to 1 Democratic (he served as a Republican). He isn't a hidebound ideologue, yet has values to guide him from which he doesn't waiver. That is, one can have a political philosophy yet still govern for the benefit of all the people and can recognize that some compromises must be made while governing. That's the kind of representative of the people I want in the White House.

Steve
Steve

Tired of the two party lock on the voters? Tired of cronyism and corruption in the two party system? Liberty is about freedom of choice; the two party system really isn't a choice. Lobbyists know who will win every election (the 2 parties) and affect their stance accordingly. A third party might actually address our needs, not corporate ones.

Jim Lewis
Jim Lewis

Once again, I choose to vote my values in our Constitution rather than a party. Problem is, too few so-called citizens have any clue . . . and that means either MR or BO.

Suzanne Cavalier
Suzanne Cavalier

Of course it has to be fear, we can not all think he is not qualified to be President, can we?

John Vasilakis
John Vasilakis

Melissa sounds like a Democrat to me. All of those so called programs you listed are unconstitutional and should not be forced on the tax payers.

Dan Zeller
Dan Zeller

No on corruption, no on partisan politics!!!

Bill Jurkovich
Bill Jurkovich

Fear of the known evil, as opposed to the fear of the unknown evil. From the frying pan, to the fire.

Kent Schisler
Kent Schisler

As an INDEPENDENT for decades, I agree. MOST IMPORTANT, we need to TRUST our CANDIDATES, right?

jeffjustice
jeffjustice

The 2party system is disgusting. Time to un-occupy the 2party system.

2012 Presidential Debate Of Alternative Parties

or

Alternative Party Presidential Candidates Conversations 4 Connecting Full Interview

MootsaGootsa
MootsaGootsa

The third party should be the main party. This year lets just look for the best man running. The new improved Ron Paul, Gary Johnson.

MootsaGootsa
MootsaGootsa

Romney and Obama should look over there shoulder otherwise they will never see it coming. Gary Johnson flying down the stretch as we get closer to election day.

John Shuey
John Shuey

You are off by a mile. The Governor left NM with a One Billion Dollar surplus, after inheriting a deficit. He was not only elected by a 12 point margin in a heavily Democratic state, but he was reelected as well.

J
J

That would have been great, but it is Judge Jim Gray for VP. (I am loving the very American names these two have!)

Caitlin
Caitlin

They SHOULD get rid of the Dept. of Education because it's inefficient and not doing it's job! There is over a trillion dollars of student loan debt, and the HS drop-out rate is still climbing; not to mention widespread illiteracy. Did you know that we are behind MONGOLIA in Education? Why should we save this department that isn't doing their job to educate our youth and young adults?

You do realize that this man RAN his own business successfully when he was a college student? You do realize that this man balanced New Mexico's state budget and left it with a 1 Billion dollar surplus (where other states are CUTTING 1 Billion+ from their budgets)? You do realize that this man is more *qualified* for the job as President of the United States, than any other candidate offered?

Our current government shouldn't be hounding any American citizen for any kind of debts before it clears its own bad spending habits!

William
William

It sounds like your understanding of "net neutrality" is incorrect.

viccrist
viccrist

In reply to those that think "The Affordable Care Act" has anything to do with health care should read about the law. It is THE biggest power grab from our government of all time and it will not improve health care. As far as Gary Johnson getting rid of the Department of Education, the department if ineffective to say the least like so many inefficiently run government departments. We need to keep our government and our money local to be effective. Central planning has never worked Melissa. Read more please, perhaps your views are a result of government schooling.

Bill
Bill

and what benefit is the federal Department of Education in your view?

J
J

Ok... Then how about Rocky Anderson? There are other choices than the "perceived main two."

davidring
davidring

So who is? Oh wait, the only two choices left are Goldman Sachs and Goldman Sachs. Have fun voting for the fake black guy that holds the record for most kids killed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner!

John Shuey
John Shuey

These things are what make him a viable candidate.