The case against either-or politics

I was walking through the grocery store the other day — through the soda aisle on my way to the dairy coolers, to be precise — when it struck me. I have more options to choose from when I’m thirsty than I do for President of the United States.

Or so the mainstream media and the establishment hacks of the Republican Party would have me believe.

And, if you listen to their blather long enough, you start to get the impression that’s the way it’s always been: two parties, two candidates, in an “either-or” political dichotomy. You can’t choose someone outside of the two parties, or your vote won’t account.

Or, more likely, they tell you it will guarantee the Democrats win the White House.

If that’s true, then how do you explain our very first election as a nation? George Washington was an absolute shoe-in to become Commander-in-Chief, and won all 69 votes in the Electoral College. Under the system as it was back then, however, second-place became Vice President.

Anyone who knows their history knows that John Adams was that runner-up. But what you probably never learned was how many candidates he was going up against. Mind you, we didn’t even have political parties, yet, just two diametrically opposed political views on the breadth and scope of the federal government.

To answer the question, however, it was eight.

That’s right. John Adams won the vote in the Electoral College while going up against seven other men, including six who were politically aligned with him (he and they were all “Federalists” who envisioned a strong central government). Technically, he didn’t win a majority (he got 34 of 69 “second votes” from the electors), but the majority clause only applied to the President, not to determining Vice President.

But, that was a long time ago, and it was the first General Election, the RINO hacks might counter. By the time Washington had left office, there were two very distinct political parties, they would argue. And, technically, they would be correct.

So, let’s look at the first General Election without George Washington — the Election of 1796. In the race for President, there were two clear-cut leaders: John Adams, representing the Federalists, and Thomas Jefferson, representing the Democratic-Republicans.

But they were not alone on the ballot. In fact, there were more candidates on the ballot in 1796 than there were in 1788. The Federalists put up six additional candidates, while the Democratic-Republicans put up four more, for a grand total of 12 candidates for President of the United States.

Adams won, Jefferson took second (and the Vice Presidency), and there were still two political parties. But to assume that was the way it would remain forever is certainly intellectually dishonest, at the very least.

To make my point: when was the last time any of you voted between a Federalist and a Democratic-Republican? Yeah, I didn’t think so. So, let’s fast-forward just a handful of elections to 1824.

Republicrat establishment hacks, this is your cue to say, “Uh, oh,” or words to that effect.

You see, in 1824, we didn’t have two political parties anymore. We had three. Andrew Jackson, the eventual winner, represented the Democratic Party in their first-ever national election. His chief opponent was John Quincy Adams, a National Republican.

William H. Crawford came in third place. He was a Democratic-Republican (wait a minute, I thought the Democratic Party claimed Thomas Jefferson as one of its founders… how can that be when the Democrats and Democratic-Republicans were political opponents?).

Democrats, this is your cue to say, “Uh, oh,” or words to that effect.

Oh, but there’s more. You see, the National Republican Party was still playing by the old-school rules. In addition to Adams, they also put forward another famous face: Henry Clay. And, even though he came in fourth place, he collected more than 14 percent of the vote in the Electoral College — and prevented any one candidate from achieving an electoral victory.

Despite winning a plurality of the votes in the Electoral College, Jackson didn’t win the “run-off” election, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Speaker of the House Clay — who detested (and that’s putting it mildly) Jackson — threw all of his support behind Adams.

“Q” became President of the United States by virtue of winning 13 of 24 state delegations in on the first ballot of the House vote.

Of course, the two-party hacks would probably love it if that was the only time a third-party candidate played a role in presidential politics. Probably. But, history has a different story to tell. In all, 12 presidential elections — including four contested after 1900 — involved more than two “viable” parties when it came time for the Electoral College vote.

That means I didn’t include John Anderson in that count.

One of the more notable elections would be the Election of 1872 in which six political parties put forward eight presidential candidates. Six of them won at least one electoral vote; three of them would meet today’s “viability” standards for their respective parties to remain on most states’ ballots until disbanded.

But, it should also be noted each of the candidates put forward were strong candidates for their time and place in history. While we may not know them very well now, if we were American voters in 1872, we certainly would have then.

And that gets me to my final point.

A third-party candidate has just as much chance to win an election as does the candidates of their two “mainstream” parties. The key is for the third parties in question to put forward strong, viable candidates who are instantly recognizable and who champion their movement 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Enlisting Joe the Plumber, even if he is the most conservative guy on the planet, isn’t going to derail what is increasingly becoming a coin-flip proposition with a two-headed quarter. For conservatives this election cycle, there is still time — still a chance — to win, if they find a bona fide conservative champion who will, as Steve Deace likes to put it, be our Huckleberry.

Otherwise, I suggest you just vote for “Tails” in November.