Now that we’ve all had our fill of the mid-term election results, the celebrations or somber walks home, and of course, the non-stop rounds of talking heads telling us how this is the start of a bright new era or the end of world as we know it; we can actually pause and consider something rather of an enigma in the history of American politics: a Third Party.
Well, more correctly, not really a third party but a third way of thinking. My personal opinions aside, the Tea Party has presented a phenomenon rarely seen in US politics – the powerful third option. Ralph Nader was a pioneer of one movement, Ron Paul the symbol of another, the Know-Nothings were present in the 1840s and 1850s. Several other examples occur throughout the years as well, but those are some of the most prominent ones.
This last election cycle saw the rise of the Tea Party as a prominent force in American politics. Tea Party backed candidates ran in dozens of races with multiple races receiving national attention (Nevada, Kentucky, Delaware) and Fox News ran almost continual coverage of Tea Party events. Regardless of views on the actual politics of the Tea Party, it was indeed something of a political spectacle not seen in many years. Neither of the last two political movements (the Greens or the Libertarians) have quite garnered as much attention as the Tea Party managed.
What this signaled, rather than a shift to the right, in my eyes, was a greater dissatisfaction with the two party system and a yearning for more political options than the US political system has traditionally offered as viable alternatives
Unfortunately for Democrats and fortunately for Republicans, the Tea Party happened to be a mostly-conservative movement based on fiscal principles. I have, however, heard many many other reports of individuals voting outside of their normal party lines and crossing into libertarian, green, and write-in candidates.
The Tea Party movement may have fueled the Republican super-victory in the House, and the seat pickups in the Senate and Governor’s Mansions, but I still think that it is more indicative of a rising flow of viable third-party candidates and parties, rather than a simple desire to shift to one of the two major parties.
- Tea Party Plans Next Phase (online.wsj.com)
- Esquire: What Now? The GOP Brass Meets the Tea Party at the Office (esquire.com)
- Voters embrace several Tea Party candidates (msnbc.msn.com)
- A mixed night for the Tea Party (tfa.net)
- Obama Doubles Down On ‘Civility’ In Somber Post-Election Remarks (huffingtonpost.com)