The U.S. political system is broken. The Democrats and Republicans have stopped talking to each other. Our legislatures lurch from one party rule by Democrats to one party rule by Republicans. We could really use a new political party, one capable of winning enough seats in Congress so that no party has a majority. Then our legislators would have to talk to each other instead of at each other.
Congress has a horrible approval rating overall, yet individual Congresshumans get re-elected as a matter of course. Our incumbents need some real competition in November to keep them honest and connected to The People. A viable third party — or several — would be very helpful.
The pendulum swings between red tape and environmental neglect, high crime and overflowing prisons, budget busting new programs and budget busting tax cuts for the rich, sloth-inducing welfare programs and mean-spirited benefit cuts. Who can we vote for to get a balanced budget? Who will give us environmental protection using sound economic principles? Who will simplify the tax code without more giveaways to the super rich than they even want? We need a new political party.
So why don’t we have a viable third party in this country? Why do new parties regularly fail to get off the ground? Why are we limited to zombie third parties that are too radical to win elections?
The answer: The U.S. political system is rigged against third parties. The Two Party System is built into the way we count votes.
But here is the good news: I have found a loophole. Two loopholes, actually. It took two decades to find them; two decades of exasperating argument, arduous effort, expensive experimentation, and humbling defeat to find these loopholes.
You can find these loopholes simply by reading this book, an effort thousands of dollars and hours cheaper. (Maybe I should charge more…) Exploit the loopholes within and you have a chance at creating a viable third party.
Politics is a competitive game. You still need to play it well in order to win some races. The rest of this book contains a large collection of wisdom to help you do just that. I played the third party game for a quarter century, and got to pick the brains of many an experienced activist, including quite a few national chairmen. I have some lessons for you that you can learn the hard way, or learn from a book…
A Quick Political Resume
My claim is audacious. Perhaps some credentials are in order.
I played the third party game for a quarter century from many positions: solo activist to party meeting regular, obedient volunteer to local leader, callow radical to heretical reformer. I have planted signs, dropped literature, knocked on doors, worked booths, chaired a campaign, chaired a county party, and launched a PAC. I have done experiments, written polling software, and designed outreach literature. I have served on several national committees, and towards the end led a reform effort that caused a rewrite of the national platform. (Look up “Portland Plank Massacre of 2006.”) And along the way I had the privilege of discussing ideas and strategies with a wide variety of experienced activists.
All this was within the Libertarian Party, but don’t let that stop you if you aren’t a libertarian. This book is meant to be a general purpose guide. I want to see some third party Representatives in Congress even if they are members of a party I disagree with. (That said, many of the examples in this book do come from my Libertarian Party experiences.)
I also have a bigger hope. Since I left the Libertarian Party a decade ago, my own views have drifted considerably from true libertarianism. Though I still love liberty, I am game for certain active environmental and egalitarian measures. I am hoping some of you reading this book will succeed in creating a party I can enthusiastically join.
This book is divided into seven parts, with multiple chapters in each:
- Political Science and Third Parties. Herein lies the Secret Sauce, the two loopholes that allow third party success despite some political science theorems that indicate otherwise. Heed the information here and you have a chance at success. Ignore the constraints, and failure is almost guaranteed — unless you start with a charismatic billionaire celebrity candidate.
- Branding and Positioning. Put on a well-tailored suit, have a three martini lunch, and light up some cigarettes; it’s time to go into Madison Avenue mode. Here we look at several possible market positionings that take advantage of the loopholes found in Part 1. What kind of people are likely to be an early adopter for your party? How do you reach them economically? How do you craft a brand that appeals to both your early adopters and future swing voters? Many possible party names are revealed. Feel free to commandeer one if you are serious. Or use the examples to inspire your own brand.
- A Strategic Framework for Third Parties. To truly succeed, you need be to between ten to a hundred times better than existing third parties. I’ll show you how this is theoretically reasonable using a bottleneck analysis. And we’ll explore ways to measure which bottleneck is the tightest.
- Lessons Learned in the Libertarian Party. High level strategy is all well and good, but the basic nuts and bolts of lower level strategy and tactics are still extremely important. Some things you can readily learn by trial and error. Other lessons require millions of dollars of experimentation. Fortunately for you, the Libertarian Party already spent the millions of dollars. I’ll give you a large collection of useful tips I picked up working with them. (The LP has a wealth of the nuts and bolts wisdom within. The party struggles because its base refuses to heed the lessons of Part 1 as a matter of principle.)
- Persuasion, Mindset, and Political Platforms. A quick sampling of persuasion “magic”, and suggestions on where it works and where you need to actually resort to rational argument. This is followed by tips on the art of crafting a viable platform and general outreach messages.
- Intent vs. Effect. Are you a progressive who likes to subsidize the rich? A conservative who likes breaking up families and increasing crime? A free market capitalist who looks forward to hyperinflation or another great depression? A libertarian who looks forward to war and dictatorship? An environmentalist who likes SUVs? If so, you can skip this part. Otherwise, read carefully to avoid mistakes common among political thinkers from all over the map. And you can find some creative solutions waiting for a new party to make them happen.
- Starting from Scratch. Some parting thoughts on how to get off the ground when you are starting with just a few people and extremely limited resources.
Promises and Caveats
If you are truly serious about starting a new political party, this guide can save you a great deal of time, money, sweat, and heartbreak.
- The principles and examples in Part 1 and Part 2 can make the difference between creating yet another zombie political party, and creating a party that has a future of winning partisan elections.
- The strategic insights and case studies in Parts 3-5 can save your party thousands of dollars in the early stages, and millions of dollars later on.
- Should you actually succeed, the ideas in Part 6 can save the country trillions of dollars in counterproductive policies.
So how can you get all this at such a low, low price??
Answer: I cut some corners. This is a self-published book. Editing is limited.
- This book does not conform to Egbert Quillfellow’s Anal Retentive Guide to Academic Style.
- Capitalization conventions are archaic and inconsistent. Microsoft Word does not approve.
- Citations are often imprecise or to secondary sources.
- Some of the ideas are merely introduced. Further reading is required.
- There is humor within. If you recently time traveled here from the Victorian Era, have a degree in Modern Indignation Studies, or devoutly believe that this country is secretly run by a coalition of Jewish bankers and lizard men, I will offend you.
- There are at least three significant errors within. It is left as an exercise for the reader to find them.
The principles within follow readily for the philosophically trained thinker who starts with the correct a priori assumptions…NOT!!
True wisdom comes from a mix of reason and lots of expensive Trial and Error. The dedicated activists and donors within the Libertarian Party put in the millions of dollars and many thousands of hours trying out ideas in the field. Even where I criticize their current strategies, they deserve credit: it takes trying out ideas — while doing enough other things right — to find out what doesn’t work. Many thanks to Libertarians across the country with whom I have had the chance to argue strategy in person and online over the years. This includes ye radicals who disapprove of this book and my actions leading up to it. (Though I have left the Libertarian fold, I’d love to see ye elect 50 Libertarians to the House of Representatives. But are you willing to make the necessary adjustments?)
Special thanks to the Libertarian Party affiliates in Northern Virginia and Buncombe County North, Carolina. Thanks for the real world experience and for making my experiments possible. And thanks for the good times.
As for the ideas in Part 6, thanks need to go out to a very wide array of people. They are the result of testing ideas in recreational debate with people all over the political map: liberals, socialists, Republicans, gun activists, environmentalists, hippies, Democrats, Libertarians, and more. Ye forced me to reconsider ideas and hit the books many times — though sometimes a few years after certain discussions…
And finally, thanks to my family for patience while I wrote this book.