Third party voting in California abysmal

If any state would be expected to have a big third party vote, it would be California, as it has several third parties and the outcome for the presidential vote was never in doubt.

But the opposite happened. Third party voting was nearly non-existent. The AIP, Green, and Libertarian parties got substantially fewer votes than their number of registered voters. Peace & Freedom did get more, but only because Nader ran on their ticket, not because he is a member.

California third party registrations, Oct. 15 2008 (pdf)

AIP                     370,405,   2.14%
Green                  118,416,  0.68%
Libertarian            83,574,  0.48%
Peace & Freedom   56,350,  0.33%

California presidential votes 2008
Barack Obama           6,286,024, 61.1%
John McCain             3,828,147, 37.2%
Alan Keyes  (AIP)            30,433,   0.2%
Cynthia McKinney (GP)   28,337,   0.2%
Bob Barr    (Lib)              50,896,   0.5%
Ralph Nader (P&F)          80,695,   0.8%

Sure, it’s hard to run against the two major parties and to get the message out. But remember Ross Perot in 1992? He got 18% of the vote. Sure, he could self-finance and that helped hugely. But he also had a message that resonated with many. That’s what third parties needed in 2008 and didn’t have.

One optimistic note for third parties:
Cindy Sheehan got a quite respectable 17% against Speaker of the House Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi     126,073, 71.6%
Cindy Sheehan    29,951,  17.0%
Dana Walsh        16,149,    9.2%
Philip Z. Berg       4,024,     2.2%

  • But remember Ross Perot in 1992? He got 18% of the vote. Sure, he could self-finance and that helped hugely. But he also had a message that resonated with many. That’s what third parties needed in 2008 and didn’t have.

    Oh please, that’s utter rubbish. Third parties in 2008 had every bit as much and actually much more message that could have resonated with voters, had they heard it. Perot got the vote because of A) his money, and B) his participation in the debates, which resulted from A; and C) his lackluster opposition. In this election, the overwhelming majority of people (such as yourself) thought there was too much at stake, and were too disgusted with the previous eight years, to even consider voting for a third party, plus the Democrats had an actual attractive candidate. It had nothing to do with the lack of relevant message from the third parties.

  • Right on Eli! I’ve been involved in third party electoral politics for decades — the Greens, feral independents and socialist lists — and there is one absolute rule of thumb: when you have polarised election the third party vote will always go down.

    So much sustenance was fed under the Obama campaign that — at least in my memory , and I’m in Australia — I cannot recall such a mythic groundswell since Eugene McCarthy’s run for the Dem nomination in 1968. And that wasn’t enough nor were there that many millions involved in running it.

    The coincidence of that and 40 years since the 68 Democrat convention in Chicago is very much to the point I think.

    It also suggests that there’s something afoot in the way that this time the Dems weren’t offering a Hubert Humphrey but something else. I think that suggests a contradiction because what you’ll d find I think is that the “war” is more opposed today than it was in 1968. The crucial missing ingredient is that radicalised cutting edge, that passion for activism and a sense of demanding something else.

    In one aspect that shrill cry exists in the form of that Obama spin and packaging. But if he doesn’t delver , what then?

    This candidacy has bought more people into politics I expect in a way that may make the future uncertain for the US ruling elite. They wallowed lazily in Bush and simply utilized a lock down approach rather than engage people ideologically . As Gore Vidal has said they were willing to destroy the republic for the sake of neo liberalism and political fundamentalism…and this war.

    In one sense, the end of Bush — and we are having such parties here in Australia celebrating the fact– combined with the economic collapse marks the beginning of a new period in not only US but world politics.

    It’s hard to get a marker on it but I’m sure there are many contradictory elements in play.

    For now the crippling need to pull together a third party force relating absolutely to working people has been set back — not just because of the vote but because of the fact that Obama will be allowed a honeymoon and what that means is that the Dems credibility will have risen.

    But for the 12 percent of the US population who are Afro American — God knows what dynamic may unfold. “We have the pres but we still nothing!”.

    But to denigrate the third party offering, to indulge in “Democratism” gets no one anywhere. Here we refer to the absolute commitment to the Labor Party as “Laborism” — to describe a large current that cannot imagine the genesis of anything else to the left of the ALP. The same applies to the Dems I’m sure — “Democratism” — as it’s a pervasive ideology.

    But the reality is that the tied has shifted variously in countries around the world and other forces are now emerging. Your problem is your rotten electoral system which is as democratic as a Marines boot camp.

  • How was saying the third party vote was abysmal denigrating them? Or say that the meme that Perot unquestionably launched got traction fast? Bloomberg, another billionaire, tried running this year and got nowhere. So it’s not just about money.

    Seems to me the Left needs to try some some new approaches because the current ones don’t seem to be grabbing interest much.

  • Steve

    Sorry, but you all wrong. I’m ‘non partisan’ and I have voted for 3rd party candidates many times.

    But this time, I think more people where interested in voting the Republicans OUT. And the only way you could be sure that was going to happen is to vote for Democrats.

    I wasn’t really scared of John McCain himself, even though I think he sold his soul to the dark side of the Republicans to get Bush’s endorsement.

    But I was extremely afraid of the group of people behind Bush. We literally had sociopaths running this country. And the same group of people would be in a McCain administration.

    There was no alternative.

    Now that we have sane people running the country, we could start looking into building a 3rd party.

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