Could there be a third party in America?
It is within the realm of the possible given the state of the existing party structures and part of my writings have been concentrating on what the proportions are that would allow this to happen, and some of the instruments.
As I've outlined on this site, any third party will need to step away from the hierarchical model of the current two parties. This site is dedicated to the great oxymoronical concept of The Jacksonian Party as it is a party of just one man, one individual and who seeks no other party allegiance. Why I did this should be clear: it is something that my exercise of liberty allows me to do and it gives me a direct format for putting my thoughts together. To even think of forming a party that is different, one needs to put forward a different schema for it to come about. It does no good, whatsoever, to recreate the exact, same party structure of other parties as we have all been witness to what happens to those structures in the way of corruption and influence over time.
If you bemoan how a party 'elite' take control of a party, then do NOT make a party with a hierarchical structure that concentrates decision making upwards and into fewer hands. To make something different, decision making must be pushed downwards and into MANY hands so that those who are the party make the decision. A non-hierarchical structure then makes putting a party 'agenda' to the wayside and requires a party PLATFORM that all who run as part of the party agree to. Creating a party agenda platform, that uses the platform of the basis of adhering to the party's principles and then requires that individual adhere to that when in power, then makes that PRIMARY for those who run. This requires, then, something no other party has: an ETHICS platform that all who run as part of the party will hold themselves to, also.
To get away from having money in the hands of the few, the concept of a treasury for the party must be ABOLISHED so that there is no till to raid, no strong box to crowbar open and no bank account to be raided for petty, partisan concerns. If you don't like the influence of money on party politics, then get the damned money OUT of any new party and KEEP IT OUT.
That then means that local politics, local concerns and local individuals who seek office become the BACKBONE of the party and they will demonstrate their ability to run and gather such funds and support as necessary from those inside the party, but will not have money funneled THROUGH the party. And each election, then, starts out with the blank bank account: an individual gets rid of the money left over by giving it away, or seeks help in ending such debts from party members. To not do this invites the exact, same party corruption issues that plague every other centralized party on the planet. You want something different, then DO something different and see how it works out.
If that is the party structure, decentralized, having no central money holdings or other elite power system, then who is it you seek to attract to it?
Politics is not a zero sum game between the two parties, no matter what they say or how they imply it. We are now in the era of Slacker America, not just socially but politically as well. The two parties have done such a 'good job' in getting votes, that fully 49% of the electorate did NOT turn out for the last Presidential election. When you multiply 51% turnout by a 52% win you get a hair over 26% of the eligible voting population voting for the 'winner'. And about 25% or so for the 'loser'. This is not a vibrant nor strong representative democracy, it is one in twilight as those elected are now more part of a Zero Party State than a two party one.
In this world of representative democracy, those are *both* losers if you can get 51% of those uninterested in voting to SHOW UP AND VOTE FOR YOU. Of course that will also make it the highest turn-out election in the modern age, but the two parties have been pushing the percent turning up downwards since 1964 when it last hit in the ballpark of near 70%. Yes there were some disaffected, then, with the two party system, and yet our current winning percentages by that of the voting population come close to that of the Civil War, which tells you a lot about where the Nation is headed.
To put this into perspective, Weimar Germany, a Nation that had multiple parties showing up, had elections in 1932 that had an 80% turnout rate and the largest voting percentage for any party was 33% for the NSDAP which, in our perspective, got 26% of the vote from those eligible. That was the German Worker's Party or Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. Yes, the Nazis. Minoritarian government didn't work out too well for Germany, and yet we are there RIGHT NOW, with the same voting percentage and 'popular support' in a TWO PARTY system.
So a third party, just based on those who don't vote, is a problem as it doesn't, on its own, shift winning percentages, although it WOULD get more citizens involved with the Nation and deciding our common fate. That would be all to the good.
It would begin to erode and finally break the two party stranglehold on power in this Nation, and that would be very good.
Because it is decentralized, there is no elite group to be bought off, and as any agenda that cites smaller, accountable and fiscally sane government is not something the other parties can now DO in any way, shape or form, they cannot co-opt the message. Their fiscal, moral and ethical stewardship of the Nation is bringing to the fore a need for a new, third party because they are grossly negligent at the very kindest and horrifically power hungry at the very unkindest, and no part of that spectrum is what anyone could call 'good'.
A third party that has popular support by bringing in the non-voting plurality would begin to shave off support of sections of the prior two major parties. Each of the two parties is now rife with factionalism: a system of spoils and jockeying for adherents amongst party members based on various promises and often on pay-offs.
The Republican Party has three major factions, each with two major sub-parts in them. In both Neocon and FiCon (fiscal conservatives) these sub-factions are quiescent. It is in the SoCon or Socially Conservative area that there is a brewing schism and a fight for others in the party. The Religious Conservatives have been the major part of the Republican SoCon base and continues to be that, even though that is eroding as the concepts of 'Compassionate Conservatism' or 'Progressive' ideas now put religion into a support role OF elected officials. This has come to the point where they are no longer treated as a 'guiding light' in the Republican Party.
The other SoCons are those that are 'Traditionalists'. These are the small government as a 'moral good' for the Nation and who see the benefits of federalism and limited government as a great plus for all religions by keeping government OUT of religion. While there is some cross-over between the two, the 'Traditionalists' are now starting to see an overly corrupt party that is dedicated to Big Government, Big Spending, Big Regulation, and Big Business as an inoperable system. If the Religious SoCons can make peace with intrusive government, the Traditionalist SoCons cannot. As the Traditionalists also support Traditional fiscal policy (sound footing for government, staying out of the affairs of business) and defense of the Nation (a NeoCon venue) as a pure positive, they are the ones most likely to either upend the Republican party or LEAVE IT, dragging some other SoCons, FiCons and NeoCons with them. While that may only be a small portion of the party, say 20% in total, that is 6% of the Nation directly and would add to any Third Party that would adopt principles of Traditionalist venues.
Thus at 50% of those not voting yielding a bit over 25% you then add the 6% that the Traditionalist backers have to get: 31%.
That takes us to the Democratic Party which has seen two major groups show up in the past two years.
The first are those that feel Hillary Clinton got gamed out of the Nomination by those in the upper echelons of the party who helped set up rules where getting the most votes did not mean a 'win'. Primaries in Texas and Nevada, to name two, were set up in a way to hand over a lion's share to the #2 position which was Barack Obama. This caused a rift when 'Party Unity' was called for and the backers of Hillary Clinton found themselves on the short end of the stick. Thus the PUMA group was created, which speaks more to the factional divisiveness inside the party than anything else. While estimates vary, even those who are fiercely partisan put them at 10% of the party (2.6% of the population overall). It is unknown if that group will cohere or not, but another factional portion of the Party, the so-called 'Blue Dog Democrats' being fiscally more conservative, have re-appeared in the post-Clinton era. Their numbers are a bit firmer at 25-35 House members as a core group, and a bit more for hangers-on. Taking their limited size into account, and that many are in districts that can 'flip' to fiscally conservative Republicans, we have a number of districts that can be said to be generally non-aligned. There are equivalents on the Republican side, although they have 'flipped' for the most part over the last two election cycles in the House. If you give it that set of seats, call it 40, as a potential support bloc you can get anywhere from 3-10% of the voting age population as part of that (taking out amounts for non-voters, extreme partisans, etc.).
Pulling off the 'Blue Dogs' by pointing out that they have now enabled the dirty mongrels to get ahold of their party and that a THIRD Party is not aligned to either existing party, may pull off some of those voters and districts. What that does is start to eat into the 'flipping' seats and solidify them outside the realm of two party politics. If the PUMAs have any reason to be disgusted with the Democratic Party and their treatment in it, as well as 'Blue Dogs' not having their issues addressed, that can be as much as a low of 3% and a high of 13% of the voting age population of the US.
From that you see:
Base: 50% of the non-voting plurality - 25% of the voting age population
Republican peel-aways: Traditionalists and their federalists adherents - 6% of the voting age population
Democratic peel-aways: 'Blue Dogs' and disaffected PUMAs - 3 to 13% of the voting age population
Net is between 34% to 44% of the voting age population
Do note this still LEAVES 24% of the population unwilling to vote.
Due to the peel-aways and such, this makes the Third Party the largest in the US without doing deep harm to the other two parties, by the fact that it extends democracy to those feeling disenfranchised.
Now, lets say you get far less than 50% of that non-voting group, say 10% or 5% of the voting age population
That doesn't change the other numbers of 6% and 3-13%, yielding a new party of between 14% and 24% of the voting age population, which WOULD harm the other two parties by dropping their allegiance numbers in a very slightly expanded pool... one just under the 2004 turnout levels.
In either of these, a successful inclusion of disaffected Republican and Democratic individuals would yield a Republican Party below its current standings (now 32-33% dropping to 26-27%) and a Democratic Party changed either slightly or greatly depending on disaffection levels (now 35% approx. dropping to 32% to 23%)
Thus in a Robust Scenario of 50% disaffected the new political atmosphere would be:
3rd Party - 34-44%
Democratic Party - 23-32%
Republican Party - 26-27%
On the Lean Scenario of 10% disaffected for a new political party, the atmosphere would be:
Democratic Party - 23-32%
Republican Party - 26-27%
3rd Party - 14-24%
That last is telling as it is almost EXACTLY what Ross Perot did: peel off parts from the existing two parties and have almost NO outreach to the politically disaffected. His Reform Party didn't last because of party brand loyalty and lack of vigor inside the party, due to it having a hierarchical structure with Ross Perotism as its nebulous basis.
Both of these scenarios place 'independents' in their role of following overall voting proportions, as is currently the case. Independents don't vote as a group, currently, and more closely follow overall party affiliation on a proportional basis, so that would continue to be the case with a 3rd Party. Independents would be attracted just as equally in that direction as the overall percentage of the population is. No one can craft an 'independent' based platform without trying to address the already existing 'leanings' of independents.
With that said, at 34-44% on the Robust Scenario, the 'independents' become a key group as any major swing away from either of the other two parties will tend to drop their numbers out of proportion to a 3rd Party. This is less seen in the Lean Scenario, although an outreach to 'independents' could fruitfully shift a percentage of voting away from the existing two parties. Thus any 3rd Party will want to hit the INDEPENDENT mailing rolls from districts: the people who vote and claim to be unaligned. A successful non-partisan outreach and involvement concept could change even the Lean Scenario as 'independents' are not considered a vital part of either of the two parties and expected to vote by general adherence to the parties within districts.
And if there is a disaffection that is large in the Democratic Party, a feeling of long term abuse by the Elite of the Party, then the maximum for the 3rd Party and minimum of the Democratic Party makes the Democratic Party ripe for strong disaffection. If Part Unity really is not deep or even wanted within the Democratic Party and there is a bloc of voters wanting to just vote for minimal fiscal concerns and throw social concerns to the States and local governments, and get the Elites out of the picture, then that is something that will be a sea change in US politics as the factional fights have brought extreme disunity and favoritism. The answer to that is not more favoritism, but for equal government that is not involved in the things it has gotten into in the social realm.
From this the analysis can be made that the hard outreach to the politically disaffected is the place to go for any future of a 3rd Party in America.
Trying to divide up an existing pie doesn't work so well.
Expanding the pie to bring in those feeling excluded by the two party system yields positive results.
And while both of the current parties are weak, neither will evaporate overnight, and will still be major parts of the landscape. It is the LANDSCAPE that will have expanded to make them smaller.