Nathan Newman nathan.newman at yale.edu
Sat Nov 27 11:34:28 PST 1999

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-lbo-talk at lists.panix.com
> [mailto:owner-lbo-talk at lists.panix.com]On Behalf Of Rakesh Bhandari
> It's seems to me that in 92 the reform party was fashioned by Perot to
> steal votes from Bush, Sr to help along the otherwise hopeless
> candidacy of
> Willie (meanwhile the Republicans got Congress). It seems to me the party
> is being demagogically fashioned to steal votes from the Democrats this
> time to ensure the victory of Bush Jr.

Every credible poll showed Clinton leading Bush in 1992 before Perot jumped back in the race, and every exit poll showed the Reform Party voters split between Clinton and Bush as their second choice, so Perot made no difference on the election as far as outcome. Bush was a loser from day one; on the day US troops entered Kuwait City and his supposed popularity topped 80%, over half the American population declared that his economic policies were taking the country in the wrong direction. No one gets reelected to the Presidency when the population dislikes your economic policy so much.

And the Dems kept control of Congress in 1992; it was not until 1994 that they lost Congress.

As for Pat and the Reform Party this year, at the moment it is far more likely to steal pro-life and Christian Coalition working class folks from the GOP than from the Dems. That may change depending on how Pat plays the economic nationalism issues, but I can't think of a serious third party candidacy this century that was an artifice designed to deny either of the opposing parties election. They have mostly been personal vehicles of politicians who have lost internal fights in their own party and who out of either peevishness or principle have sought to provide an option for the disaffected. And I can't really think of any that threw the election one way or the other, except possibly Wallace in 1968 (since most of his voters would have gone with Humphrey) but I'd have to recheck the numbers.

In fact, since I have a relatively high faith in the strategic intelligence of voters, third party candidates have the greatest success specifically when they are seen as having the least effect on the actual outcome. This is why centrist third parties have the most success, not because they are moderates but because they draw votes from both parties, a vote for them is seen as less of a "spoiler" vote helping your least favorite choice.

In an odd way, Buchanan may be able to attract more conservative votes by running in the center than as a rightwing candidate. Because his conservative supporters will see Democrats voting for him as well, they won't feel like Buchanan's candidacy is a spoiler against Bush, so they will feel more comfortable supporting him.

What the net effect of a Buchanan run will be is unclear and it will probably be rather small unless the main race is extremely tight. If I had to make a guess, it would be that Buchanan will take about 12%, with about 8% from GOP voters and 4% from Dems (but a chunk of them being folks who would not have voted at all if Pat was not running). That could hurt Bush quite a bit in a close race.

Actually, if Nader runs, I think he will benefit quite a bit from Buchanan. Since Buchanan will be getting a lot of media attention bashing the WTO and trade deals, it may energize anti-neoliberalism liberal voters to look around, get repulsed by Buchanan as a candidate and notice Nader as an alternative. The anti-spoiler instince will restrain Nader's vote but he could get 3-4% if things go well (and Nader actually campaigns).

Which in the end would mean that Buchanan could end up taking a net of 4% from Buch and Nader could take nearly the same from Gore or Bradley and the end electoral result would be close to the same as if none of the third party folks ran. However, the issues raised by Buchanan or Nader may get far more play on the public agenda, which is often what third party voters want, especially when they recognize their person is unlikely to win.

-- Nathan Newman

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