Originally my topic held a more general focus on post-World War Two third party candidacies. This scope, however, proved to be far too large to fit within the parameters of this paper. I decided instead on a comparison between the campaign of George C. Wallace in 1968 and that of H. Ross Perot in 1992 as both were quite different in policy positions, political atmosphere, personality, and most importantly strategy. Literature and the general mindset seemed to hold Perot as the dominant example of third party success. However,I questioned whether this was true or if it was simply the most recent, and therefore freshest, example.
With Gallup poll data showing a relatively steady desire among voters for a third option when voting in presidential elections, it seems an analysis of what it would take for such a “third option” to succeed would be appropriate. It seemed prudent to draw on historical examples as a basis for this analysis. To draw a conclusion on this, however, requires a definition of “third party success.” Within the current “two-party” system, this cannot be equated to winning the election as such a feat is virtually impossible for a third party candidate. However, they may still achieve recognition and implementation of their policies and goals by influencing the election through alternative strategies. Perot and Wallace approached the goal of “influencing the election” with very different strategies.
When analyzing both campaigns’ plans and the data following the elections, Wallace proved to be superior to Perot in influencing the election to benefit his policies/stances while holding no serious chance of winning the presidency. Wallace’s campaign was more focused regionally, built upon a much more focused base of support, and had a straight forward goal of garnering enough electoral votes away from either Nixon or Humphrey to throw the election into the House of Representatives. The post-election results reveal that Wallace came rather close to achieving this and that, in general, his strategy proceeded the way it was intended. Alternatively, Perot’s support base, though much larger, was also much broader. While also having significantly more financial resources, they were not always spent wisely. Additionally, Perot’s campaign lacked a clearly defined goal/point of “success” and suffered from his quirky, and at time paranoid, personality.
While it is true Perot held more influence in the post-election time period, within the context of the election process, Wallace seems to be the more effective and “successful.” I believe this is important to understand as third party candidates continue to run, the seemingly prevailing idea that Perot is the model of success on which to base strategy and inspiration on is flawed.
Because the topic is more abstract, operationalizing certain elements proved to be a challenge. Additionally, the amount of election data was significantly higher than I originally believed I would have to look through. I am continuing to polish my draft to ensure it is both straightforward and interesting to read.
See ya’ll next week!
Aaron W. Brown
University of North Georgia