Friday, August 8, 2008

Independence Party: who are they helping?

Some of Minnesota’s most popular politicians – Paul Wellstone, Tim Pawlenty, and others have won their offices without ever having a majority of votes in an election. Why? Minnesota is fortunate to have a true three party political system. Granted, that third major party, the Independence Party (IP), doesn’t wield the same influence that the GOP or DFL do, but it still is a presence in each major election. Still, a third party who can boast a recent Governor (Ventura), Legislator (Kiscaden), and US Senator (Barkley) – ok, Barkley is a reach – is one that is a factor in local politics. It may not be a heavyweight, but it is a factor.

The name “Independence Party” implies a certain maverick quality. Think of Jesse Ventura, one of the ultimate political mavericks in our state who was so dedicated to being a maverick that it actually got in his way when it came to effectiveness. When you think of the Independence Party, you might be inclined to think of the one-third of the political spectrum in between the left 33% and the right 33%. You might be inclined to think “Independence Party = moderate.”

Not true. The past two Gubernatorial candidates to come from the Independence Party were former Democrats. Former DFL Congressman Tim Penny ran in 2002, and a former Perpich assistant Peter Hutchinson ran in 2006. Both had platforms that diverged from but were rooted in DFL philosophy, although it should be noted that Penny is supporting John McCain for President.

This year, something more interesting has happened – the IP has endorsed two DFL US House candidates, El Tinklenburg in CD 6 and Steve Sarvi in CD 2. This is no doubt great news in the short-term for the DFL. It is quite possible that the IP endorsement could swing four to eight percentage points to the DFL candidate, which in a year like this could be enough to beat the incumbents in those districts.

Upon further review, however, this could really hurt the DFL long term. The identification of the IP as bolt-on to the DFL – willing to endorse DFL candidates when they don’t have their own candidates and likely to run former DFLers in elections – hurts the DFL when there is a legitimate IP candidate. In a year like this, many Democrats might think “it is great that the IP and DFL are uniting like this behind Sarvi”. What happens in two years when the DFL has Sarvi and the IP has a legitimate candidate? Voters remember that the IP tends to act as a subset of the DFL, and the DFL votes are split between the two legitimate candidates. Meanwhile, the GOP candidates have little to lose since people have generally associated the IP as an alternative to only the DFL. Again, the IP party likely won’t win in that scenario, but it could be enough to cause the DFL to lose.

It would be great for Minnesota if the IP truly represented the moderate third of voters, and I believe that moderates represent at least a third of voters. Until then, what the IP is doing will help the DFL short-term but could come back to bite them in 2010 or 2012.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think it will hurt the IP too much for crossendorsing. I think it is a good idea to show support for candidates that are in support of our ideals. I don't think that when re-election times comes that if someone that is from the IP that wants to run may not get that endorsement if the candidate that was previously endorsed is still in line with the party. That is my thinking.