Blocking access

This week marks nine years since I moved to Maryland from Ohio. While at the beginning this website delved regularly into Ohio politics as a base of comparison (since that was most of my experience at the time), over the years I have worked away from the goings-on in the Buckeye state. But an article regarding the state’s bid to decimate the third party movement piqued my interest, and shamefully it’s backed by the legislative Republicans – all but one GOP State Senator voted for it.

It’s definitely worth pointing out that, in my estimation and memory, the Ohio Republican Party is more Republican than conservative. John Boehner is a good example of an Ohio Republican in that principles come in a distant second to party. Instead of showing leadership in good government, Ohio Republicans cynically shamed the overall GOP by creating one of the most gerrymandered Congressional districts in the country in order to place two liberal incumbents in the same district. (This used to be my district and part of my family lives there, so I have a vested interest.) I guess it should be expected from a party which bent over backwards to avoid primaries for their chosen, “electable” (read: moderate) candidates.

Of course I understand that third party votes generally tend to be siphoned away from the Republican side as opposed to the Democrats. Libertarians have just enough philosophical differences from the Republicans that they tend to draw support from the GOP pool, whereas the Green Party and Democrats are basically two peas in a pod. It’s noticeable to me that the Green Party in Maryland runs relatively few candidates in our state when compared to the Libertarian Party, despite the fact there’s supposedly far more liberal voters than conservative ones.

Yet the Ohio proposal is very draconian for a group which accumulated less than 2 percent of the vote last year. Yes, much of it probably came out of Mitt Romney’s total and it could have cost him the election. But is that the right thing to do? I don’t think it is.

Aside from the insurgent campaign of Ross Perot and the Reform Party, which proved to be a one-year flash in the pan back in 1992, the last time the two-party structure was challenged was the mid-1800s, when the Republican Party was born. All that movement did, though, was supplant the Whigs, which faded from the scene. In the years since, both parties have found agreement on methods to insulate themselves from the prospect of a challenge from other political parties.

I look at it this way: if the Republicans can stand on their ideas they should not be afraid of any challenge. If they want to prevent the rise of a conservative third party, though, they might want to reaffirm themselves to conservative, limited-government principles.

Haven’t we tried this before?

The other day I received a note from one Charles Faddis, who shared this announcement:

An affiliate of the Reform Party of the United States has been formally established in the State of Maryland. The Maryland Reform Party is now engaged in party building activities and focused on obtaining full ballot access. The Party also plans to begin to field candidates in local, state and federal elections.

The Reform Party of the United States is opposed to the partisan gridlock in Washington, DC, which is preventing us from finding real solutions to the critical problems facing our nation. It stands for limited government, reduced spending, high ethical standards, term limits, an end to ruinous nation building exercises abroad and the revision or nullification of one-sided “free trade” agreements, which have sent our jobs overseas and gutted our manufacturing base.

For those of you who are Millennials or have simply forgotten, the Reform Party entered the spotlight with the meteoric candidacy of billionaire H. Ross Perot in 1992. At one point in that campaign, Perot was polling ahead of both Bill Clinton and then-President George H.W. Bush. While an aborted withdrawal ended his realistic chance of winning, Perot still picked up 19 percent of the vote, including mine. I couldn’t vote for Clinton and didn’t like the direction Bush 41 took us; I read his lips.

Without Perot, who also ran for President in 1996 but failed to crack double-digits in the overall vote, the Reform Party struggled on for a time, in Maryland as they did nationally. While they have never had an official candidate for governor here in Maryland, the Reform Party had Pat Buchanan on the 2000 Presidential ballot (he finished fourth, behind Gore, Bush, and Libertarian Harry Browne) and had party registrants as late as 2003.

And when you look at the party platform, there is a libertarian streak to it. The only noticeable differences (and ones which might make it more appealing to disenchanted Republicans) are the term limits, seemingly isolationist foreign policy, and trade.

But given the hurdle that the Green Party and Libertarians only just cleared – the 10,000 valid signatures needed to be granted ballot space as a minor party in Maryland – the chances of them being on the ballot for 2014 are somewhat slim. They could certainly run candidates as unaffiliated with the Reform Party’s backing, but they would have no party listed and would have to petition their way onto the ballot, which can be done. (Rob Sobhani is a candidate for U.S. Senate who qualified via petition for this year’s election.)

We’ll see how the efforts to re-form the Reform Party go, but it will be a group competing with Libertarians and Republicans for the interests of the TEA Party voter set.