I’m not one of those conservatives who necessarily piddles on third parties. They exist for a reason – or, really, two:
- They provide a place for people who are vastly more into ideology than the mechanics of politics to ply their hobby (see also the Constitution Party, the Libertarians)
- Occasionally, they give voice to protests against some aspect or another of the big parties. Of course, they usually remove the protesters from one of the major parties, sometimes decisively influencing elections (the Greens in 2000
Minnesota’s “Independence” Party, an offshoot of Ross Perot’s “Reform” Part from the ’92 election, has lately been a third category all by itself; “the thing that wouldn’t leave”. An irrelevant collection of wonks lost in the wilderness until Jesse Ventura won the flukey election of 1998, the IP has been clinging to its misbegotten “Major” status ever since.
First Ringer at TvM notes that the IP is has been swirling the drain since Ventura walked offstage pouting, leaving on the the question “when will it die?”
Despite a strong field of statewide candidates in 2006, arguably the best and certainly most experienced IP slate ever to appear on a ballot, the party barely crested the 5% minimum to mantain major party status and thus state funding. And while in 2008, the last minute candidacy of former appointed Senator Dean Barkley gained a respectable 15% of the vote, the same year had the IP only running 13 candidates for various offices – its lowest total since Jesse Ventura’s 1998 win.
The answer, despite the protestations of the IP’s dwindling clot of partisans – the IP was never an independent political party. It was, indeed, never anything more than a small support staff for Jesse Ventura’s vanity project. And they tipped their hat when Ventura was elected to office; the people who pulled his strings, Dean Barkley and Tim Penny, were former DFLers (Penny a former Congressman, from the 2nd District); when Ventura took office, with no legislative traction whatsoever, he ran to the DFL, and governed like a mildly-apostate DFLer. The only other significant IP official, State Representative Sheila Kiscaiden, was a very moderate Republican (some would say RINO, but not me) who’d stabbed the party in the back on many issues and was best parted with.
So what’s happening with the IP today? Ringer has the story, or at least one that doesn’t begin with “who” and end with “cares”:
Since “shocking the world” that November night 11 years ago, the Reform/Independence Party remains fixated on lightning striking twice. Instead of focusing on building from the ground up – the IP only endorsed three candidates for local office in 2008 - the party continues to place its future on the slim hopes that one of its dwindling few candidates for major office will win. This indie modus operandi focus has stayed with the party over its numerous transformations, from one built on personality in 1998, to a way station for misfit pols in 2002 to finally a warming house for center-left policy wonks in 2006.
Perhaps the IP will finally drop out of major party status. Their influence has soaked up far too much Minnesota time, money and spotlight. None of it’s been earned since about 2002.