Electing a third-party president for dummies

Every now and then, someone else announces “the death of the two-party system” and calls for the creation of a third party. The last time I heard that, it got me thinking of a possible strategy where a third party could actually win the presidency.

The first step for that to happen is for them to forget about the presidency.

At least, forget about it for several years. This is gonna take a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of luck. Money won’t hurt, either.

The first step is to start some serious grass-roots movements in a couple states — preferably some low-population states. New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont would be a nice starting point — small populations, and geographically contiguous. Toss Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming into the mix. Establish a strong presence in about five or six states, and start getting politically active.

Then, once your group’s established, start running candidates for the House of Representatives. That’s essential for later — forget the Senate, focus on the House.

Once you get a couple members in the House, then latch on to the party that’s closer to you ideologically. Work with them closely, support them whenever you can, let them start to take you for granted and view you as “cousins” in the House.

While you’re building up your House seats, start running candidates for other office — Senate, governorships, even a presidential candidate. But don’t put too much effort into any of those except the gubernatorial races — that’s the only one that really matters, and even that one not too much.

But don’t take your eyes off the House seats. Keep growing your presence in the House until your people hold a majority of the seats from several states. Seven states have only a single representative, five have only two, and five more have but three. That means that if your party can get as few as 27 seats, they can dominate the delegations of 17 states.

Also, in a lot of states, governors get to appoint people to fill vacancies in Congress. It’s pretty rare when a senator or representative dies, resigns, or goes to jail, but it does happen. And if it happens to a Democrat or Republican from a state where one of your people is governor, there’s another seat you just picked up.

Once your party has a majority of several states’ delegations, it’s time to get moving. That’s when it’s time to start putting forward serious candidates for president.

And this is where you start seriously gaming the system. According to the Constitution, as everyone has been so recently reminded, it’s the Electoral College that really votes for President. Each state has an equal number of electors as to its members of Congress — Senators and Representatives. The candidate who receives the majority of electors’ votes becomes President.

But what happens if no candidate gets a majority of the electors? Let’s say the Democratic nominee gets 265, the Republican 261, and your guy gets 12. According to the Constitution, it goes to the House of Representatives.

But it’s not a simple majority vote. Each state gets a single vote, and it takes a majority of the delegation to cast that state’s vote. Those 27 seats I mentioned above constitute barely 6% of the total House membership — but control a full third of the available votes for President. With a block of that force, it should be very easy to wrangle some serious concessions from one party or another in exchange for their support.

If negotiated carefully, those concessions could build even more strength for future presidential elections. And eventually your party might be the one trading concessions for votes, and your guy (or gal) could be the one to finally take the Oval Office.

Yeah, it’s a hell of a long shot, and it’s probably more fantasy than prognostication. But it was a damned fun bit of mental exercise.


Dawn's Early Write
Baby Steps


  1. bullwinkle February 9, 2005
  2. John February 9, 2005
  3. Rod Stanton February 9, 2005
  4. Just Me February 9, 2005
  5. Jeff Dawson February 9, 2005
  6. pennywit February 9, 2005
  7. Mr. Bowen February 9, 2005
  8. TallDave February 9, 2005
  9. TallDave February 9, 2005
  10. Nick Cotta February 9, 2005
  11. t.joel February 10, 2005
  12. McCain February 10, 2005
  13. Mark J February 10, 2005
  14. Jimmie February 10, 2005
  15. Crank February 10, 2005