Vital Signs

Conservative Balance-of-Power

A remarkable yet unreported trend in U.S. politics over the past decade is the balance-of-power held by conservative political parties in federal elections, if we define balance-of-power as a vote total equal to or greater than the difference in votes between the Democratic and Republican candidates in a race.  Some media pundits noted that Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader held the balance-of-power in 2000, both in the overall popular vote and in eight states.  Yet Reform Party candidate Patrick J. Buchanan also held it in five states (Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin) and came within two tenths of one percent of achieving it in the popular vote.

Since the Newt Gingrich-engineered Republican takeover of the U.S. House in 1994, conservatives have held balance-of-power in at least one race in which a Democrat was victorious in each election cycle.  They stood for office as candidates of such third parties as the American Independent, Constitution, Patriot, Right-to-Life, and New York Conservative parties.  The races in which they held balance-of-power, allowing Democrats to win, were in California (District 36), Oregon (1), and Pennsylvania (15) in 1994; Massachusetts (6) in 1996; Washington (8) in 1998; and Minnesota (6) in 2000.  The Democrats who benefited, arguably, from GOP indifference to paleoconservative issues were Jane Harman of California; Elizabeth Furse of Oregon;...

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