John McCain is an economic novice with a tendency to romanticize war. He alluded during an appearance on ABC's daytime chat show "The View" to wanting to make enlistment into some sort of public service, siting the Americorps and the Peace Corps instead of the Navy or Marines to get nods from Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg, compulsory. He is loathed by many conservatives for his positions on immigration reform.
For those reasons alone, there is a good reason for a third party candidate to snatch an opening. Bob Barr, who has served a notable career as a Republican, could be the man to do that. His positions are a laundry list of common sense positions that many conservatives hold but that have been forgotten by the mainstream Republican Party: opposition to the continuation of the War on Drugs, opposition to endless nation building, promotion of the right of states to decide their own positions on issues such as abortion or medical marijuana.
The two major parties have worked hard since Ross Perot got a substantial portion of the vote in 1992 to make sure third parties have an even more difficult time getting on the ballot than they already do. Since that election, there have been only two candidates present at the presidential debates. 2008 will likely be no different, and I don't expect Barr or independent candidate Ralph Nader to get invited to any of the debates.
Both Barr and Nader will be painted as spoilers, and that could likely cause many libertarians and socialist environmentalists to vote for the major candidates instead of the candidate they agree with. Nader, who, though I disagree with him on just about everything, has worked for years to diversify the range of political discourse, is already experiencing another round of bomb throwing from Democrats who blame him for their party's inability to win general elections:
The day after Ralph Nader named Matt Gonzalez his running mate, the two appeared on the KQED radio show Forum. In a nearly hour-long interview with Rachel Myrow, they put forward their agenda and discussed the failings of the Democrats on the war, trade, environment, and workers' rights.
One caller hit a raw nerve by accusing Nader of being responsible for the Iraq War because his 2000 candidacy helped elect George W. Bush. "This is bigotry, and I won't listen to it anymore," Nader erupted. "Stop! This is political bigotry, period ... "
Barr has had this hurled at him as well, though more politely:
Inquirer: Pundits have called a Barr candidacy a possible spoiler for Republicans.
Barr: I'm no more a spoiler for John McCain than John McCain could be a spoiler for me. The notion that Republicans see a third-party candidate as spoiling their chances simply illustrates the arrogance of the two-party system. Republicans and Democrats have come to view themselves as the only ones with a God-given right to choose a president. I want to offer voters something they will not get from the two major parties. If my platform polls well, it will be because the voters contrast it with McCain and whatever Democrat senator wins the nomination. If my platform polls well, its because the agenda I espouse is preferable. By offering a choice, it's something the other candidates should embrace rather than whine about.
A democracy and a free market is about choices, and there is no reason more choices in our elections should be viewed as anything but good for democracy.