By Mark Wachtler
October 12, 2014. St. Louis. (ONN) Few people in this country have been active in independent and third party politics longer than your author and the founder of Whiteout Press, Mark Wachtler. And I can attest that after 25 years of consistently seeing our candidates limited to vote totals of 0-3 percent, the tide is turning in America toward independents and 3rd parties. But raw data released by Ballot Access News this month reveals a major flaw in third party election strategy.
3rd parties are 10-times more likely to run for national office even though their vote totals are 10-times higher when running for local office. Image courtesy of Zazzle.com.
The following article was written by Whiteout Press author/founder Mark Wachtler and was published yesterday by our sister outlet Opposition News. With the country currently in the closing weeks of mid-term elections, we felt it was worth sharing with our readers as well. For the record, Whiteout Press isn’t non-partisan, we’re multi-partisan. Just as all 500 Wall Street owned US news outlets support the two establishment parties over America’s 15 opposition parties, we support all 15 opposition parties over the two establishment parties. Whiteout Press proudly publishes, ‘independent news for independent thinkers and independent voters’.
Stats reveal major flaw in 3rd party election strategies
Your author has been volunteering, helping and reporting on independent and opposition parties and their candidates for over 25 years. We know a thing or two about what we’re talking about here at Opposition News. So take it from the opposition’s equivalent of Karl Rove and David Axelrod - stop running for national offices with no experience. Run for local office, build an enduring voter base, and watch your vote totals grow exponentially.
We’ve always held that position and the data we recently pulled together proves it. Americans, and voters in particular, don’t trust an inexperienced candidate running for Governor, US Senator or even US Representative. But they will trust them in taking their first step into politics, like a bid for State Representative, City Council, Water Commissioner or even the local School Board. Elected officials are employees of the people. They’re jobs. And nobody starts at the top. Short of being a billionaire or the offspring of the CEO, we must climb the ladder one rung at a time. We’ll have more success that way than forever fruitlessly jumping for the highest rung.
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It’s time for a shift in strategy
Our longtime good friends at Ballot Access News crunched the numbers for the 2014 General Election and published two charts in the October edition of their newsletter. One shows the number of opposition party US House candidates. And the other shows the number of opposition party State House candidates. Each chart is broken out by state and by party. All 436 US House seats are up for election as well as 6,031 local State House seats.
Two years ago, when your author was first pondering the launch of an independent news outlet that only covered opposition parties and their candidates, our very first cheerleader and supporter was none other than the Libertarian Party Executive Director at the time, Carla Howell. While she was gracious enough to support our launch with her sincere and passionate encouragement, she was also wise enough to ask an old political veteran his opinion on what the LP should be doing that it’s not. Your author’s had similar enjoyable conversations with the National Chair of the Constitution Party, Frank Fluckiger, the Veterans Party National Chair Mark Wilder, and even the national campaign manager for the Socialist Party’s Stewart Alexander.
“Stop putting your resources behind running internet campaigns on Facebook for national and state-wide offices and put your efforts behind local candidates and organizing ward-level and precinct-level organizations,” I told many of them, finally getting a multi-decade frustration off my chest, “People will vote for your candidates if they see that their friends, neighbors and relatives are. And the only way to show them that is with local precinct workers, lawn signs and buttons on people they see at the grocery store and gas station.”
People always say, ‘We’re a bottom-up organization not a top-down organization.’ And they say that because that’s the formula that works. When Johnson, Stein, Goode, Anderson and the other candidates ran for President in 2012, their supporters were forced to order buttons, lawn signs and flyers online, because there are few or no local organizations. Their campaigns came and went without creating or building an organizational base. By comparison, do you know what happens when a sincere and energized opposition candidate runs for local office? When the election’s over, there’s a local party organization in place, experienced, organized and ready for the next election.
Comparing candidates for US Rep vs State Rep
Using the data from Ballot Access News, we compared the number of opposition party candidates for State Rep and US Rep this election cycle. What we noticed was that our candidates are ten-times more likely to run for national office than for state office. We then looked into past election results to see how well opposition candidates fared in their respective elections. What we found was that our candidates do exponentially better when running for State Rep than they do when they run for US Rep.
For US Representative, of the 436 seats on the November ballot, Libertarians are running for 122 of them (28%). For the 6,031 State Representative seats across the country however, the Libertarian Party only has candidates in 260 of the races (4%). The numbers are similar for the Green Party and the Constitution Party.
The Green Party has 43 candidates running for US Representative (10%). But they only have 67 candidates running for State Rep (1%). The Constitution Party has candidates running in 13 US Representative races (3%). But they only have 48 running for State Representative (less than 1%).
Comparing election results
Confirming our suspicion, when opposition party candidates run for State Representative, they have much higher vote totals than when they run for US Representative. To prove our hunch, we searched 2012 election results and the first two random states that made their vote totals readily available were Kentucky and Missouri.
In Kentucky’s 2012 election, random vote total samples showed opposition party candidates running for State Rep received votes ranging from 5, 6, 7 and 11 percent. In Missouri’s 2012 election, our candidates faired even better on the local level. Opposition party State Rep candidates there received percentages ranging from 8, 18, 18 and 22 percent. Now compare that to the vote totals opposition candidates for US Representative received in Missouri in the same election. Four Libertarian candidates received 2, 2, 3 and 3 percent respectively. Two Constitution Party US Rep candidates each received 1 percent.
So, why do our candidates consistently try to run before they can walk, only to fall flat on their faces? One reason is ego. Who wants to start at the bottom when they can try and start at the top. Another is knowledge. We all know more than enough about national issues. But few of us are as well versed on local legislation and issues.
Yet another reason is comfort, experience and competition. Anyone can run an impersonal national internet campaign from their home computer, knowing they don’t have the finances and resources to legitimately compete. In a local race, candidates have to actually meet voters in person and it’s far more likely to get media attention and press coverage. That can be scary for a first-time citizen-candidate. But that’s what local races are for.
Local races give our candidates the experience, credibility, precinct workers and name recognition that are required to compete competitively for higher offices. As long as America’s opposition parties skip the requisite lower offices, we’ll never have any success and never be taken seriously by the voters. Start local, build your precinct organizations and get to know the voters. People won’t vote for our candidates if they think they’re the only ones doing it. Let them know they’re not alone, not even in their own little neighborhoods.
The above article was originally published yesterday by Whiteout Press’ sister publication Opposition News - voice of America’s political opposition.