here is a really good reason not to have serious third party candidates

At least, not until we tidy up our Constitution. C.G.P. Grey explains what happens in the event of an Electoral College tie or split vote. Seriously, watch this video — it’s short, and it should put to rest definitively any ideas that the Constitutional Convention was guided by the hand of God:

Holy shit, people.

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5 Responses to here is a really good reason not to have serious third party candidates

  1. Eric says:

    The Constitution is a fundamentally broken document.

    But in this instance, for a change, I’m not sure it’s the Constitutional Convention’s fault. Comparing the system and context we have now with the system and context of the time of the founding is apples and oranges, and this is yet another example of that.

    What I mean is: the Constitutional Convention devised a system in which Presidents would be chosen by state legislatures and the Vice-President would have been whomever was runner-up for President. And the system described by the video clip makes a certain amount of sense when that’s how things are done: if the Electoral College, whose members were chosen and empowered (and perhaps instructed how) to vote by the states can’t make up its collective mind, the election gets pushed over to the states’ usual representative bodies, and nobody’s candidate truly gets left out in the cold (or at least not so much) because split-tickets are incorporated into the original Constitutional design. Oh, and speaking of which: Constitutionally speaking, there aren’t supposed to be political parties. True, the Founders themselves are the ones who screwed that one up, but only after the Constitution had already been written.

    It’s only because we’ve bollixed it up with unitary tickets (by Constitutional amendment), political parties (by history and custom), and the popular vote (by custom and state law) that we end up with apocalyptic scenarios like the ones described in the video. The People aren’t really supposed to pick the President, though, and the Vice-President isn’t supposed to be in cahoots with the President. But we’ve screwed it up. Royally.

    What we need is something like a parliamentary system, of course, and to replace the Presidency with something more like a Prime Minister (whatever we wanted to call it). That won’t happen. And it shouldn’t happen, even though we need it, because our ruling class largely consists of political hacks, greedy sons-of-bitches, and morons; so if we held a Constitutional Convention today, we’d end up with basically the same system of government only with more guns and Jesus.

    • Eric says:

      P.S. I know you know all the history and law stuff, Seth. Loads of exposition were for any readers who wanted a primer, and my apologies if any of it was overly pedantic.

      • thehandsomecamel says:

        Hey, pedantry is welcome here. (Maybe I should put up a sign or something. “Pedants wanted!”) But you’re quite right — the Constitutional Convention isn’t entirely to blame for this one. Still doesn’t seem like the Constitution is quite the “magical document,” as my wife likes to say, that people sometimes pretend.

      • Eric says:

        The Constitution definitely isn’t a magical document, unless by “magical document” you mean, “short-sighted politically compromised workaround based on abstract idealism, some state founding documents that didn’t really scale well, and a weird jury-rigging of the British caste-based democratic system into the context of an essentially casteless frontier society in which the next thing to caste was economic class/ownership status; and the whole thing almost self-destructed at least two times before completely imploding in 1861, less than eighty years from the time it was ratified, but everybody pretended things were mostly the same once the bodies were buried, even though things weren’t”.

        If that’s what you mean by “magical”, the Constitution is more magical than a Siegfried and Roy show, and we’re talking one of the ones where nobody even gets eaten onstage.

  2. Brian says:

    Perhaps, just perhaps, a viable 3rd party would motivate the two dominant parties to actually take the planks in their platforms seriously. As I see it, our problem right now is not the logistics and procedures for selecting the president in the scenarios depicted in the video, but the fact that we essentially only have 2 really crappy candidates to choose from in the election. We’re in bad shape as a nation when our choices are bad and worse, or more government and slightly more government. Maybe a viable 3rd party would make for better quality candidates and parties that were more serious about policy and less about self-preservation.

    Gary Johnson ’12.

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