Mark Wachtler Examiner.com | After 20 years of slow, barely noticeable growth for political independents and third parties, America’s political opposition saw their numbers devastated in 2008. Thanks to a cult-like whirlwind of support for the iconic Barack Obama, independents of all shades flocked to the establishment’s brand of hope and change. At the conclusion of last week’s election, the opposition took some of its support back.
Compared to 2008 Presidential vote totals for third party candidates, 2012 saw support more than triple for the opposition. The only problem is, from 2004 to 2008, those numbers dropped substantially. So the gains, while impressive and hopeful, barely made a dent in getting independents and third parties back to where they were at the turn of the millennium.
The 2012 election wasn’t without its bright spots however. The Green Party reports that at least 20 of its local candidates were elected or re-elected to office. The Libertarians tout Presidential nominee Gary Johnson’s 1.1 million votes – a record for any Libertarian Party Presidential candidate. And even the Socialist Party USA announced a local win by one of its candidates. While disappointing on the national level, with no opposition Presidential candidate cracking 1%, things were brighter on the local level.
The biggest victory of the election came in Maine, where independent US Senate candidate Angus King won handily. Previously an independent Governor of the state, King promises to be a voice for independents and a bridge-builder between the stubborn partisan politics that have gridlocked Washington. “When I was governor as an independent I worked with both parties,” he reminded his constituents, “I worked sometimes with Democrats and sometimes with Republicans.”
As detailed by Green Party Watch, ‘At least 312 Greens ran for public office in 2012, with at least 20 victories on November 6.’ The publication also touts that the party is still Washington DC’s number two political party, having bested the Republicans yet again among residents of the nation’s capital.
The biggest election victory for the Green Party came in Arkansas where former Harlem Globetrotter Fred Smith won a seat in the State Legislature. In Colorado, Green candidate Art Goodtimes won his race for San Miguel County Commissioner. And a host of other candidates won in local races for offices such as district school board.
By volume, Texas and California had the most Green candidates on the ballot November 6th. In Texas, they ran for 41 offices. While in California, they challenged 22 more. Out of those 22 races, the Greens won 8 of them. In Maine, they added 3 more victories. And in Arkansas, led by Smith, the party won 3 contests including State Representative, County Clerk and Justice of the Peace.
The Libertarian Party is also promoting hefty gains after last week’s election. Its Presidential candidate, former 2-term New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, received 1.1 million votes – just under 1%. While pre-election polls showed the candidate garnering as much as 7% nationally, the campaign was hoping to at least hit the 5% mark. So while 1% was disappointing, it was actually three times the number of votes the party’s 2008 candidate received and an all-time record for Libertarian Party Presidential candidates.
The party also had its share of local election victories, however the Libertarians haven’t released the specific details yet. Instead, party officials are touting the strong showing their candidates had in hard-fought, but losing bids for Congress.
In Massachusetts, the Libertarian candidate garnered 16,668 votes – more than four-times the margin of victory of the Democrat over the Republican in that race. In states where the party’s nominee ran against only one opponent, the final vote totals were encouraging. Those races occurred in Kansas, Louisiana, Texas and Arizona. In Kansas’ CD 3, the Libertarian candidate received over 90,000 votes while capturing 31%.
Socialist Party USA
The two major opposition parties weren’t alone in their celebrations last Tuesday. Even the Socialist Party USA had at least one win in last week’s General Election. In New Jersey, a SPUSA candidate won election in a local school board race garnering 1,033 votes.
SPUSA co-chair Billy Wharton released a post-election analysis that hits the nail on the head. “What is most remarkable about the 2012 socialist candidates is not the overall vote total, but the sheer number of people willing to present themselves as candidates,” Wharton explains, “In past years, our party has struggled to identify candidates. Being a socialist was a quiet thing – an identity you were proud of but only selectively revealed. A combination of the 2008 economic crisis, the previously mentioned electoral efforts and the political space created by both the radicalism of Occupy Wall Street and the drift of the Democratic Party far to the right have made being a socialist a very public position to promote.”
Speaking of the thousands of Socialist Party volunteers that stepped forward this election to help out local socialist candidates, SPUSA co-chair Wharton says, “This time, doing so wasn’t just a way to register a vague protest against the system. It got someone elected.”
Campaigning just as hard, but with none of the glamour and media exposure, were the rest of America’s 14 major political parties and their candidates. With little organized infrastructure within each party and with a black-out in place by America’s mainstream media, it’s difficult to report any specifics regarding last week’s General Election. There were however, some interesting details.
The Libertarian Gary Johnson, the Green’s Jill Stein and the Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode all finished as expected – 3rd, 4th, and 5th respectively. In the Constitution Party’s case, their limited effort appeared concentrated mainly on the national level with only a handful of candidates running for office on the local level. The party hasn’t updated its website yet with any commentary or results from the election.
Showing the larger parties how it’s done were two smaller parties – one from the left and one from the right. The Socialist Equality Party and its Presidential nominee Jerry White campaigned tirelessly from one end of the country to the other, paying particular attention to the country’s rust belt. With limited ballot access, White finished 27th in the Presidential race.
The other party making a name for itself this election was the American 3rd Position Party. What was previously a political cause has now become a full-fledged political party. Presidential nominee Merlin Miller also campaigned hard, helping to establish new, state A3P chapters in the process. Also with limited ballot access, Miller finished tied for 15th.
It’s questionable if the Peace and Freedom Party’s strategy to use the name recognition of actress and comedian Roseanne Barr paid off. As the party’s nominee, Barr finished a strong 6th and helped spread the party’s message outside their home base of California. On the downside, she garnered only half as many votes as the party’s 2008 nominee Ralph Nader.
The Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson didn’t fare as well as many thought he would. As one of the top 6 candidates by ballot access, the former Salt Lake City Mayor finished 7th behind Barr. In his defense, the Justice Party is new and lacking the experienced, organized ground game of the other major parties.
In typical Reform Party fashion, the party managed to nominate no less than 3 Presidential candidates, splitting their own party’s vote. Most notable, and successful, of the three was Andre Barnett who finished 16th.
All in all, the number of voters who voted for Democrats went down compared to 2008, and so did the number of voters voting Republican. America’s third parties however, saw their vote counts increase exponentially. So while an incredibly close race between President Obama and Mitt Romney drew most independent voters to the two establishment parties this election, the four-year trend shows third parties increasing their numbers by 400 percent over the next 4 years. And that’s encouraging.