"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance"

--James Madison--

"The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries, but between authoritarians and libertarians"

--George Orwell--

One Party, Two Party, Three Party, Four

First posted at The Smirking Chimp on August 25, 2007.

...five party, six party, seven party...more?
There has been a lot of talk here about alternative ("third) parties lately. I just want to share my thoughts on this, as something of a veteran of third party politics.
I want to provide some advice, based on personal experience, to those who would get behind or even start an alternative party. Or, for that matter, would like to help individuals run who are not affiliated with a party at all. Strategy is important, and so is perseverance. If any of these alternatives are to succeed, it will take a lot of work, and a lot of time.

One of the hardest parts of alternative candidacies is getting on the ballot. In most states and localities, only the two established parties are guaranteed a slot on the ballot. Usually, anyone else needs to get on the ballot by petition.
This is easier to accomplish in local elections. Start by helping someone run (or run yourself) for your state legislature, city/county council, auditor, dogcatcher, whatever. A position that is determined by the electorate of a relatively small geographic area.
Doors will need to be knocked on. Shopping center parking lots will need to be worked. You will need to collect many more signatures than required, because the person verifying the signatures will probably be an elected official of one of the established parties. Or even just a sympathetic party member. They will be out for blood. They will do everything they can to disqualify as many signatures as possible. Anyone who has ever worked on a petition drive, especially for a referendum on an unpopular issue, will be familiar with this.
Direct mail and hand distributed fliers can also help, and are relatively cheap. Do what the established parties do. Lawn signs and bumper stickers really can make a difference in terms of awareness.
Don't get discouraged, and don't give up. Some of those people that you got to sign the petition will likely still be sympathetic the next time around. More can be converted each time around.
Another thing you will need to work on will be to get your state election laws changed, to get other parties recognized and guaranteed their own ballot spots. Such a law already exists here in Colorado, but it imposes an almost impossible hurdle. The new party must gain at least 10% of the vote in a statewide election in order to be recognized. After the 1992 election, the Reform party was recognized here in Colorado, but only for one election cycle. They never delivered the 10% required again.
State legislators who are tied to one of the established parties will be unsympathetic to your cause. But anything is possible if you work hard enough.
The highest hurdle of all.
First step is to push for public financing of campaigns. The two established parties get all of the money. The only way for independents to get their message sufficiently out is to level the campaign financing playing field.
Another requirement is to do away with the Electoral College. No independent or third party candidate for President will ever have a chance otherwise. No runoff elections, either, since that would definitely work in favor of the established parties.
The media has to work with you, too. One of the reasons that Perot did so well in 1992 was the fact that he got a lot of media attention. Running a loony like Perot gets attention, but I'm not sure that it's a great strategy either.
All of this is only scratching the surface, but you must start somewhere. You must keep at it, too. You have to start by changing one mind at a time, and work from there.
Me, I'm done with it, at least for the time being. I might knock on doors for Edwards, to try to get him some Colorado delegates. I'm also focusing most of my efforts on very local issues, things that affect my neighborhood.
But I'm always open to alternatives, as long as they seem realistic and there are enough people willing to work hard to achieve it.
To anyone here who undertakes such a challenge, I wish you well.
Even if I don't like you, don't agree with you, and wouldn't vote for you, I still wish you well. Really I do. Good luck.