Notes on third parties: Where Was the Libertarian Party in 1984?

In Political Parties in Western Democracies Leon D. Epstein struggles with and tries to come to an explanation for, the phenomenon of the American two-party system. (Epstein 55-69). This "explanation," however, proves to be not very satisfactory, and even less satisfactory as the years have gone by. Epstein's basic "explanation" is probably more or less the standard textbook explanation. It is that the two American parties stay dominant, keeping third parties from persisting beyond one presidential election or from having representation in Congress, by simply being "flexible."(Epstein 55-69).

However, even from the standpoint of money, the explanation doesn't "wash" insofar as the early years of the GOP (1860-1920), since, as Dennis J. Palumbo notes in American Politics (another standard textbook on American politics), 'The Democratic Party is the oldest existing political party in the world...(while the GOP) was born spontaneously as a sectional protest against the extension of slavery (and has been) regarded as anti-South; and perhaps surprisingly, because now the party is conservative in many respects, it was once considered an extremely radical organization. . . (Palumbo 458-9)."

And one, we might add, which could have been construed by "big money" to constitute a threat to its interests for much of this early period.

It is interesting to note here that David Sarasohn records, in The Party of Reform: Democrats in the Progressive Era, (in his Introduction), that an investigation of financial records of the Democratic Party during the election of 1904 proved that the claims of big money being contributed to the Democrats were false.(Sarasohn vi-xvi ). Their opponent Theodore Roosevelt in the GOP, on the other hand, was shown to have "vast corporate funding." (Sarasohn vi-xvi ). One might also refer here to Richard Hoffstadter's book The American Political Tradition regarding the final break with the banks which occurred under the administration of Woodrow Wilson as a result of the latter\'92s reforms of the banking system (Hoffstadter 258-9). Up until this time, banks had had some influence on the Democrats. (Hoffstadter 258-9). Even so, as Sarasohn notes, this influence had been limited. (Sarasohn vi-xvi.) How, then, could the GOP have kept third parties of conservatives from "cropping up" and staying around?

Certainly, Epstein's "explanation" seems to contradict itself when it maintains that a parliamentary unitary system (as in Britain) is more conducive to two parties than the parliamentary federal system (of Canada). (Epstein 61-62). Epstein writes as if Britain somehow "proved" the unitary parliamentary system produced a steady two-party system. Yet Epstein himself points out that the British Liberal Party--which is a third party--is a "persistent" party.(Epstein 64).

Epstein tries to answer this point by noting that the Canadian system--a Parliamentary and Federal system--is somehow more third party vulnerable than the British.(Epstein 60-68). Yet, how can it be when the British Liberal (third) Party has continued and persisted in British politics and government at all levels for the past several decades?

And, Epstein's "explanation" confronts yet another inconsistency. If the Federal system is more vulnerable to third parties persisting, why is the Federal system in the United States not The fact is, this "standard explanation" for the lack of persistence of America's third parties (whether Progressive or Conservative) falls short. In the early GOP\'92s days, as we've noted, it doesn't provide an explanation for where the money came from or why the money didn't go elsewhere. In the later GOP's days, the very lack of "flexibility" of the two major parties in the years since at least 1968 (a time frame Epstein\'92s 1967 text cannot, of course, address) seems to argue against the idea that the two parties have remained dominant in recent years due to "flexibility."

1968 was an election year in which the two parties seemed to merge, only to be shadowed by a conservative third party, George Wallace's American Independent Party. ( World Almanac for 1969, "Presidential Election Returns".). Since then Democrats have become increasingly liberal, the GOP steadily more conservative. This GOP conservatism might gradually have led third party conservatives to be more interested in it (at least, those of a religious bent). But where were these before that?

While the Democrats have espoused more liberal views, moderates of both parties have often admittedly been left out of the proceedings. Yet these moderates have supposedly given political expression only on a couple of occasions. In 1968, "moderate" Democrats sponsored the Wallace party (assuming it represented "moderates"). And "moderate" Republicans sponsored the John Anderson third party of 1980. Otherwise, the moderates have chosen, for all its mainstream popularity, to remain silent since the end of the 1960's.

In 1984, where is Epstein's vaunted "flexibility" in the two big parties. Looking back on the election scenario, one sees an ultra-conservative Reaganite GOP, with an adoptive-son Southerner, Bush, from Texas--only marginally a Southern state. And, we see, on the other hand, almost the other extreme: a liberal, pro-labor, pro-feminist Mondale-Ferraro ticket for the Democrats. Where is the "merging" here? Where are the moderates? Reagan defeated Southerner Jimmy Carter in 1980 in a three-way race that factored in Anderson, another third party led by ecologist Barry Commoner and a heavy turnout for the Libertarian Party. Then, in 1984, Reagan, with no apologies to the South, kept Bush, the only Southerner on either ticket, only as his vice-president. Carter was a friend, long-time fellow governor and colleague of Alabama Governor George Wallace. Indeed, Wallace endorsed Carter in 1980. Where was the Wallace party in 1984? His party, after all, was born in part to protest the two main parties' keeping southerners off their tickets.

And where were the moderate or Progressive party Republicans of John Anderson? They certainly had no less reason to express their middle-of-the-road views in 1984 than they had had in 1980. Perhaps more than anything else, it is this lack of third party activity in 1984 that makes it appear suspicious.

Nixon's landslide victory of 1972 proved, after Watergate, to be partly illusory. The two parties had not merged enough to the center not to leave room for third party activity. In 1984, this lack of merging was, if anything, even more pronounced. According to Epstein, when the two main parties aren\'92t flexible, don\'92t merge toward the center, third parties emerge or grow. Where were they in 1984 then?

Could it be that third parties either were not counted at all, or counted as votes for the GOP? The presidential elections of 1972, 1976 and 1980 saw a steady increase in the turnout for the Libertarian Party.(World 1973, 1977, 1981).

In 1988, after Iran-Contra was investigated by Congress, third party votes were again up. ( World 1989). This suggests that some type of political machinery was disrupted by the Iran-Contra investigations. This same type of wide-ranging investigation was conducted at the time of the Watergate scandal, in 1973. It appears to have disrupted other illegal cheating activities by Nixon's campaign. The Watergate "plumbers," it became clear, were only one of several political cheating operations by Nixon's re-election campaign. These included Nixon's use of the FBI's "Cointelpro" surveillance of private citizens discovered by the Church Committee in Congress in 1975 and 1976, according to John Loftus and Mark Aarons in The Secret War Against the Jews 210-11).

The data gained by this illegal surveillance was supplied to Nixon\'92s re-election campaign for possible use against its Democratic Party opponents. (Loftus and Aarons 210-11).

Adding to the evidence that this is what happened, third party votes were also up in 1992, and they made a powerful showing in 1996, as well. ( World 1993, 1997).

Only in 1984 did Libertarian and other third party votes supposedly drop through the floor. ( World 1985). This, even though the GOP was dominated by non-Libertarian, Religious Right types during that election as in few before or since. These types were hostile to many Libertarian ideas usually more tolerated within the GOP.

In short, the 1984 election was a ready-made opportunity for the Libertarian (and other third party) turnout to grow as in the previous three elections, and the subsequent 1988, 1992 and 1996 presidential elections. We are supposed to believe this third party vote didn\'92t also grow in 1984. But this research into these election statistics suggests that it Mdid grow, in reality.

And it could be inferred that the failure to record this third party growth in 1984 was the tip of an iceberg of a larger picture. Behind the scenes, in the seemingly placid re-election campaign of Reagan and Bush in 1984, someone was a bit nervous. Someone was desperate to be re-elected. Someone had something to cover up. And it was something much too serious to risk allowing it to be exposed as the result of an election defeat.

I believe that someone was George Bush. If Bush really had the deep, dark secret that appears to be the case, he needed time to further cover his tracks and destroy records of his own illegal activities in World War II.

Having worked closely with Nixon's team during the Watergate era, Bush could have learned all the ropes about cheating. Having seen Nixon exposed, he could learn ways to avoid exposure. And one lesson he had learned was to target a less challenging victim for his political cheating activities. He knew that his own party had originally started out as a third party in 1860. So he knew the potential of a third party.

Yet, cheating against third parties was relatively safe. Their spokespeople were scattered and lacking in access to the media. Small parties, such as that of Lyndon LaRouche, at their various headquarters scattered across the country, complained of having been illegally kept off the ballot in some states. (LaRouche, "November 3, 1984").

But even when they complained of this, or of ballots being printed which otherwise erroneously didn't present their names to the voters, no one paid much attention. After all, taken individually, third party votes didn't amount to much.

But in the aggregate, they could add up into the millions of votes. And those millions of votes, Bush may have realized, might be needed to ensure a Reagan/Bush election victory that year.

Works Cited:

Epstein, Leon D. Political Parties in Western Democracies New York: 1967, Praeger, 55-69.

Hoffstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition.New York: 1948, Knopf, 258-9.

La Rouche, Lyndon. "Why Judge Cacheris's Position On 'Confidential Sources' is Unconstitutional, November 3, 1984". New York: 1984, Executive Intelligence Review.

Loftus, John, and Mark Aarons. The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western \tab Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People. New York: 1994, St. Martin's, 210-11.

Palumbo, Dennis J.} American Politics. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1973. 458- 9.

"Presidential Election Returns." World Almanac, 1969-1997 New York: 1868------. Scripps-Howard

Sarasohn, David. The Party of Reform: Democrats in the Progressive Era. Jackson, Miss: UP,1989 vi-xvi.

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