The writer of a recent Star Tribune commentary (09/14) “Do third-party supporters now understand spoiler risks”, William Cory Labovitch, shows both a clear disdain for third parties and a lack of knowledge as to their commitment and efficacy.
Quality alternative candidates do not run with a thought of “tipping the scale”, they run because they believe (and often are) the best choice in a race. In 2010, Independence Party candidate for governor, Tom Horner, secured the endorsement of nearly every major newspaper in the state (https://minnlawyer.com/2010/10/18/horner-picks-up-a-spate-of-newspaper-endorsements/). And, winning is not a “fluke”, there have been several victories over the last two decades. Jesse Ventura is well-known but there have also been numerous non-partisan city council and mayoral wins as well as wins with a partisan label attached including Sheila Kiscaden under the Independence Party line for State Senate and several Green Party candidates in Minneapolis.
It is also far from accurate to say that alternative candidates “get votes just by slapping their names on the ballot.” The reality is that Republicans and Democrats (the major parties) are the ones that get to “slap” their name on the ballot by simply paying the filing fee. All those minor party and independents actually have to work their tails off collecting petition signatures within a narrow two-week window (or less in the case of special elections). I can tell you from personal experience – I’d rather pay the cash than hump up and down a parade route making sure you have correctly filled out a petition line.
It is clear that alternative and independent candidates are dedicated even though the structural barriers in place are designed to keep them from succeeding. We are committed enough that for 2018 we decided to, metaphorically, stop playing by the rule book set up by Democrats and Republicans. There was no “wake-up call in 2010” telling us to pull back on candidates. Rather, it is largely by design that you see only one statewide Independence Party, one Green Party and two Libertarian candidates on the ballot this year. We worked together (how’s that for something we don’t see often these days) to parcel out races so that we could all have a solid chance at successfully garnering major party status. Not only are we not actively competing against each other, three of the candidates: William Denney for Secretary of State under the Independence Party, Paula Overby for U.S. Senate from the Green Party and the Libertarian’s Chris Dock for State Auditor are trying to support each other under a “Purple Movement” moniker.
Victory can present itself in several forms. “Winning” can be influencing policy as the Socialists did with Women’s Suffrage and Child Labor Laws, the Populist Party with the 40-hour work week or Ross Perot bringing budget deficits and trade issues to light. Winning can also be gaining major party status. Contrary to Mr. Labovitch’s belief, it is no service to the electorate to stifle choices at the ballot box.
You should “keep an eye on third-party candidates” and you should vote for the ones you like, such as William Denney, Paula Overby and Chris Dock. I’ll tell you what happens when you vote for third parties – you get more voices in the system, more choices at the ballot box and a better chance at a truly responsive and representative government. You spoil nothing by giving people choice.