I spend a fair amount of my time these days getting calls from both my Republican and Democratic friends complaining that by starting a third party in Texas I am going to help the “other side” win future elections. For Republicans, it has been something along the lines of “we are just barely hanging on in Texas and your party is going to siphon off enough ‘Republican’ votes for Democrats to win.” For Democrats, it has been “We are on the verge of winning in Texas and you are going to siphon off enough of ‘our’ voters for Republicans to hold on.” By the way, I have received about an equal number of calls from each side.
The complaints expose that both sides realize how tenuous their hold is on the voters who normally vote with them. A recent Dallas Morning News-UT Tyler poll found this split when they asked Texas registered voters about their partisan preferences.
Both sides know that they must attract a large number of independent voters to win. But their positions are actually even weaker than this chart shows. When the same poll asked those who identified with one of the two parties whether they felt strongly about their party affiliation, just under 40% on each side said, not so much.
In other words, nearly 60% of Texans are not enthusiastic about the two current choices they have on the ballot. That is about triple the number of ardent supporters of each of the incumbent parties.
If Texans who are not strict ideologues unite, they will become the dominant force in Texas politics. That is what the SAM Party is committed to accomplishing. And it is not a far-fetched idea.
In Texas, there are no run-offs for state or federal offices. So, it is quite possible for a candidate to win an election with significantly fewer than 50% of the votes. In fact, that happens on a fairly regular basis. The most notable example was in 2006, when Rick Perry was re-elected with only 39% of the vote. That year two independents, Carol Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman, got a combined 31% of the vote, with the Democratic candidate, Chris Bell, garnering 30%. Strayhorn won six counties outright.
So even back in 2006, when presented with an alternative, nearly a third of Texans chose something other than the two incumbent parties. And think about how much worse things are today compared to 2006, as evidenced by the ongoing debacle in Austin over the voting bill.
The reality is that in a close race, it might only take a little over a third of voters for a centrist party candidate to win an election. With the current level of disgust with the two incumbent parties, that is a very plausible scenario.
In that kind of a “tri-polar” political landscape, the battleground will not be over the middle of the spectrum as it is now, but on the voters on each side only loosely connected to one of the two incumbent parties. Most importantly, in the November elections Texans would not have to choose between the ideologically extreme candidates that the primaries usually produce.
As pragmatic centrists begin to win elections and introduce some sanity back into the governing process, I predict they will become even more popular. The two incumbent parties will be increasingly reduced to those for whom ideology is more important than actually solving problems.
We have been brainwashed by the two incumbent parties to believe that they are the only alternatives. And they have rigged the system to make it as hard as possible for third parties to compete. However, all it takes to break this duopoly’s stranglehold on our country is for ordinary citizens to say they have had enough. It is time for the rational middle to take back our country from the ideologues.