Sunday, August 07, 2011

Today's RTD: 'Third-Party Resurgence Seems Unlikely'

A couple of weeks ago (July 26, to be precise), Coy Barefoot invited me to be a guest on his WINA-AM radio program, "Charlottesville Right Now."  The topic we agreed to discuss was the prospects for a third-party presidential candidate in 2012. (Podcast here.)

In preparing for the show, I realized that, despite the wishful thinking of pundits who -- as they have prior to so many elections in past years -- predict that a "third-party moment" is upon us, owing to the deep dissatisfaction of American voters with the two major parties, the Democrats and Republicans.

What has sparked this latest round of prognostication was the "dysfunctionality" perceived in the long congressional debate about raising the debt ceiling, an issue that has largely gone unnoticed in the previous dozens of times it's come under legislative consideration.

I realized that the pundits are going to be wrong once again when I examined the facts about Virginia's "off-year" elections in 2011.  (We election officials cringe at the use of "off-year" to describe Virginia's elections, because every year is election year in the Old Dominion, and every election is equally important in the effects it has on the lives and governance of our citizens.)

What I found out is that there are only about a dozen third-party and independent candidates for the 140 seats up for election in the General Assembly -- 100 in the House of Delegates and 40 in the Senate.  I also discovered that the majority of those seats will be fully uncontested -- there is only one major party candidate in 62 of the House elections and in 15 of the Senate elections.

If there were really a strong desire for third-party representation in government, we would see demand for third-party and independent candidates to emerge in this year's Virginia elections.  But we don't see that.

This is all a long way of getting around to pointing out that, once I got my thoughts in order, I put them on paper and submitted them as an op-ed to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which published the piece in Sunday's commentary section under the headline, "Third-party resurgence seems unlikely".

The article's central argument is this:
Because Virginia holds its state elections in odd-numbered years, out of sync with most of the rest of the states, it is widely seen as a bellwether of the country's political mood.

In 2009, for instance, Republicans swept the top three statewide offices here, anticipating the landslide return in 2010 of a GOP majority to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Four years earlier, Democrat Tim Kaine won the governor's mansion, followed in 2006 by the Democratic Party regaining control of both chambers of Congress.

In 1993, Republican George Allen's come-from-behind victory in the governor's race portended the first GOP takeover of Congress in 40 years.

If the electorate's mood really favors a third-party surge, we would be seeing it in Virginia. There would be a demand for third-party and independent candidates for the General Assembly, and candidates would rise to meet that demand.

Yet according to records available through the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), there are only seven independent candidates seeking election to the 100-member House of Delegates this year. There are four independent candidates for the 40-member state Senate.
Check out the Times-Dispatch today at your local newsstand or look it up online. Comments and questions are welcome, there or here.

I just hope that nobody thinks the photo accompanying the article in the RTD is a picture of me.

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1 comment:

Vivian J. Paige said...

Wait - that picture wasn't you? :)

Seriously - good column.