Third party politics

By Jack Stevenson - Contributing Columnist

Vice President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt became president in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinated. “Teddy” Roosevelt was a popular president. He was re-elected for a second term. Roosevelt promoted William Howard Taft as his successor in 1908. Taft was elected. But Roosevelt became dismayed with Taft’s performance.

In 1912 Roosevelt sought the Republican nomination, and, although Roosevelt was very popular, the convention re-nominated Taft. Roosevelt then accepted a nomination from the Progressive Party. The news media called it the “Bull Moose” ticket. That split the Republican Party. Their Democratic opponent, Woodrow Wilson, won the election. Wilson got 6.3 million votes. Roosevelt and Taft collected 7.6 million votes, but because they split the Republican votes, Wilson received more votes than either Roosevelt or Taft. Who would have been elected if Roosevelt had not attempted a third party run?

In the 1992 presidential election, incumbent President George H. W. Bush (R) and Governor William Clinton (D) were the traditional party candidates. But there was also a third candidate, H. Ross Perot. Mr. Perot was independently wealthy and bought enough television time to be a contender as an independent candidate. He developed considerable momentum and even led the polls by a comfortable margin but then dropped out of the race. A few weeks later, he re-entered the election contest. That unexplained behavior apparently lessened his appeal with voters. William Clinton won the election by receiving nearly 6 million more votes than President Bush. But Perot received 19 million votes. Who would have won election if Perot had not been in the race?

The main contenders in the 2000 presidential election were Vice President Al Gore (D) and Texas Governor George W. Bush (R). Mr. Ralph Nader, who had achieved fame as an automobile safety advocate, was a candidate on the Green Party ticket. The vote count between the main party candidates was close, and the decision point was Florida where Bush and Gore were separated by fewer than a 1,000 disputed votes. The decision was transferred to the U.S. Supreme Court. A point of interest, however, is that Nader received 97,000 votes in Florida. Did Nader’s candidacy affect the outcome of the election?

Jack Stevenson is now retired from military service. He served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

By Jack Stevenson

Contributing Columnist

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