Independent candidates, true or otherwise, strengthen democracy
It has been fun watching people try to figure out the “radical” move by Florida Governor Charlie Crist to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent. They want to know if this is a trend.
What they don’t realize is we’re making this stuff up on the run.
There is no blueprint for what Crist and others are doing. And this isn’t much different than Arlen Specter switching parties. This is all about staying in power.
The two major parties have always enjoyed an advantage in that the system is set up to thwart independent or third party attempts. And if you have two major parties, you don’t have to work as hard since you’ll likely get 35%-40% of the vote, regardless of how well you do.
Having a well-established third candidate in a race makes all three people work harder to get people’s votes, even if they need fewer votes to win. Think back to Dean Barkley, the third party candidate in the Senate race from Minnesota, and his rock solid 15%.
What Republican and Democratic politicians fear from a third party candidate is that each of their candidates faces two people criticizing them instead of one.
The intriguing question is whether it matters if the third party person leans liberal or conservative. For whatever you may think about Crist, he is still more conservative than the Democratic candidate. And Barkley was to the left of Norm Coleman.
People from other countries look at our system in the United States and wonder why we settle for two candidates. And often the choice isn’t even that good. We love having choices whether it be three different kinds of meat with our pancakes or having 500 cable channels, even if we only watch fewer than 100 of them.
But when it comes to politics, we want two choices because it’s easier. Well, politics is more important than potato chips, no matter our obesity levels.
More choices require more research and more work, but democracy in the end is still worth the time we spend on it.