Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I apologize for my careless lack of updates. I have been circulating ideas and have come up with a couple. I try to keep these posts from being about myself, but I will inform you as to how I come to write the posts. Today's post comes from a common theme that comes up when I find myself in conversations regarding politics. Often, when people learn that I usually vote for a third party candidate in elections, they say something to this effect: "You're ("your" if they type it on facebook, but that's another matter) throwing your vote away!" The common assumption is that America's is an irreversible two-party system. Having heard that for years upon years, I decided to do some fact checking.
My focus for this post is on the past 100 years of presidential elections in order to avoid skewing the data with elections from the earliest American elections. In the 25 elections I looked at (starting with 1912), there have been 5 significant examples of a third party candidate making a significant impact on the election, a couple even making a good run for the office.
Important Electoral Gains
In the election of 1924, Robert M. La Follette, Sr., a senator from Wisconsin, left the Republican Party for the Progressive Party. La Follette was disappointed with the two major candidates - he believed both the Democrat (John W. Davis) and Republican (Calvin Coolidge) were too conservative. He polled well with Labor Unions and progressives, receiving over 16% of the popular vote (nearly 5,000,000 votes), but only won his home state of Wisconsin, thus receiving 13 electoral votes.
The 1948 Democratic National Convention saw the passage of a newly minted platform that included Civil Rights planks. Angered by this, a number of southern delegates, including then-governor of South Carolina Strom Thurmond, left the party and formed their own "States' Rights" Democratic Party - also known as the "Dixiecrats." The Dixiecrats did not expect to win the election, but rather hoped to create a stalemate, sending the election to the House with the hopes that they could use their electoral votes as bargaining chips for pushing their segregation policies. They, like almost everyone else, underestimated the popularity of Harry S. Truman, who famously defeated Thomas E. Dewey. When all was said and done, Strom Thurmond had received only 2.4% of the popular vote (~1.2 million votes), but took four states and one of Tennessee's electors (39 total electoral votes).
Twenty years later saw a very similar situation. Rejected by the mainstream Democrats for his pro-segregationist views (views he would later reject), Alabama governor George Wallace formed his own political party, the American Independent Party. Wallace also hoped to push his views by sending the election to the House. Richard Nixon, however, won enough electoral votes to carry the election. Wallace finished with 13.5% of the popular vote (9.9 million votes) and carried 5 states for a total of 46 electoral votes.
Ross Perot and the Popular Vote
1992 pitted incumbent George H.W. Bush against up and coming Democrat Bill Clinton. Frustrated with the federal deficit, national debt, and the increase in "professional politicians," Texas billionaire Ross Perot decided to fund his own independent candidacy. Perot connected so well with the American people that a poll taken in June showed Perot ahead of both Bush and Clinton, polling at 39% of voter support. Perot briefly ended his candidacy in July, only to return several weeks later. This odd move hurt Perot in the polls (he was later to blame Republican operatives for brief pullout). When all was said and done, Perot had received zero electoral votes. He had, however, won nearly 19% of the popular vote (19.7 million votes nation-wide). As a result, Clinton was the only candidate to win over 40% of the popular vote (a very rare occurrence).
Four years later, Perot would run again, this time receiving 8.4% of the popular vote (8 million votes)
"Strong as a Bull Moose"
This is the preeminent election for third party proponents. Progressive Republicans rejected the Republican National Convention's nomination of incumbent William Howard Taft. They formed their own Progressive Party and nominated former president Teddy Roosevelt. As is to be expected when a party splits, the remaining unified party won the election, making Woodrow Wilson president of the United States. It was not, however, Taft and his Republican Party who finished second. Rather, Teddy Roosevelt's brand new Progressive Party took the silver in the 1912 election. Additionally, a fourth party - the Socialist Party of America - won a sizable amount of the popular vote.
When the dust had settled, the 1912 election finished thusly:
Woodrow Wilson - 435 electoral votes, 6.3 million popular votes (41.8%)
Teddy Roosevelt - 88 electoral votes, 4.1 million popular votes (27.4%)
William Howard Taft - 8 electoral votes, 3.5 million popular votes (23.2%)
Eugene V. Debs (Socialist) - 0 electoral votes, 901,551 popular votes (6%)
As I hope to have showed, third parties have not always been in the background of American presidential elections. In fact, they have played major roles in elections and have even made their own legitimate runs at the presidency. They made a difference and didn't consider their work part of a throwaway vote.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I decided to drop some more truth-bombs regarding common-held misconceptions. Today's ideas came to me after reading some of the media reports regarding President Obama's trip to the Middle East, specifically his speech in Cairo.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
"Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Leave Here" or How Reading Dante Can Counter Modern Chronographo-prejudices
My apologies for the verbosity of the title of this entry. Consider it practice for when I begin publishing articles and writing books.
Don't worry, this won't be as mentally rigorous as the title may suggest. I wouldn't be a graduate of the Baylor Honors College if I didn't write something about Dante. That's just how it works.
After reading Dante’s Divine Comedy, I became keenly aware that within the Comedy are counter-arguments to many of our pre-conceived notions of how things worked in medieval thought.
For example, we are often told that the adherents of Christianity and Islam have always held an intense hatred for each other from the very beginning. The Crusades are often used as the primary example of this idea. As a result, I find it very interesting that Saladin is given a place among the virtuous pagans; men like Socrates and Plato. In fact, there are a number of medieval accounts roughly contemporary with Saladin’s time that are quite complementary of the kind of person Saladin was, despite the fact that he was a Muslim enemy.
Dr. Wood (Baylor University professor) pointed out to a class of his that Dante includes a man who committed suicide in Purgatory. I find this enormously interesting. Inferno seemed to have taken care of all suicides, which was widely condemned as the elusive “unforgivable sin.” Yet Cato, who committed suicide rather than see the Roman Republic fall, is named as the last denizen of Purgatory to be purged of his sins and granted access to Paradise. All too often we assume that “doctrine” and “dogma” (veritable four-letter words in our modern culture) were set in stone and left no room for debate or furthered understanding. Cato’s presence in Purgatory seems to refute this.
Finally, I find it insulting to the Ancients and Medievals that we teach our children that, until Christopher Columbus, all people thought the world was flat. I could point to Greek writers to disprove this, but I will stick with the Dante theme I have already established. It is clear that Dante has a clear idea of a spherical world. Mount Purgatory is on the opposite side of the world from Jerusalem. Dante’s entire conception of space in Inferno and Purgatory depends on a round earth.
Dante is replete with examples of the vitality and creativity of the Medievals. These are just a few of the examples that stand out to me. Perhaps the problem is that the only people exposed to these ideas are upper-level university students.
It is a shame that we ignore these facts in favor of an “historical” account that discredits all civilizations before the 15th century as the village idiots of human existence.
But that, my friends, is a subject for another day.
Shall we begin?