In 1992, both of the major parties had fielded uninspiring candidates for president. It seemed to be a promising year for a solid third party candidate. Instead Ross Perot entered the race, left the race, and then entered the race again. The result was that any genuinely independent movement had its energy taken over by a solidly establishment third party candidate.
In 2000, both of the major parties had fielded uninspiring candidates for president. It seemed to be a promising year for a solid third party candidate. Instead Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan balanced each other out with Buchanan destroying what was left of the Reform Party and Nader giving Democrats solid reason to reverse their prior opinion of third party “interlopers.”
In 2010, in California, both of the major parties are fielding uninspiring candidates for governor. It would be a promising year for a solid third party candidate, so all of the third party energy is being focused instead of Chelene Nightingale as a way to vote for someone other than Meg Whitman (R) or Jerry Brown (D).
There really is only one truly solid and independent third party, only one that can honestly claim to be equally distant from both of the major parties. Although “wasted vote” is a fallacy, almost all of the third and minor parties can be considered more closely aligned to one of the two major parties. The Libertarian Party is exceptional in that regard in that it honestly is not closer to either party.
Although neither will mention the subject, both the major parties are cognizant of the special status of the libertarian party. That may be why, whenever there is a third party threat, it appears than an effort is made to find a third party contender that is not a member of the Libertarian Party.
A third party candidate who is more closely aligned to one of the major parties can be more easily accused of stealing votes. A third party candidate who is more closely aligned to one of the major parties can have the constituency more easily reabsorbed. A third party candidate who is more closely aligned to one of the major parties does not challenge the status quo as a whole. And if the third party candidate is eccentric, all the better.
That may be why, whenever both the major parties field weak candidates at the same time, the press is even less eager to cover libertarians. Andre Marrou was more serious than Ross Perot. Harry Brown was more serious than Patrick Buchanan and Ralph Nader. That’s why Ross Perot, Patrick Buchanan, and Ralph Nader got all the press.