KNAPP COLUMN: Third Party Candidates Are America’s Fortune-Tellers

Published 9:30 am Friday, April 26, 2024

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“I’m going to put the entire U.S. budget on blockchain,” presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says, “so that any American — every American can look at every budget item in the entire budget anytime they want 24 hours a day.”
That’s a great idea, regardless of whether or not Kennedy is a good candidate or has any chance of getting elected and implementing it. A publicly accessible blockchain — that is, a distributed ledger protected from alteration by cryptography and viewable by everyone — would let Americans see exactly how tax money is spent and make it impossible to hide fiscal waste, fraud, and abuse.
So, why hasn’t that already been done?
One obvious reason is that politicians don’t WANT you to see what they’re up to and purposely make it hard for you to do so.
Another reason, perhaps less obvious but just as true, is that political establishments are “conservative.” They tend to hold on to old ways of doing things, refusing to make more than minor tweaks to the system, until and unless they’re forced to make real changes.
Historically, those changes have been first proposed by “third party” political candidates, after which growing public support has eventually forced “major party” adoption.
For example, since the early 1970s, Libertarian Party candidates for public office have supported the freedom of consenting adults to marry in any number and any combination of sexes, and an end to the war on drugs. Only in the last decade or so have “major party” politicians started tentatively moving in those directions with legalization of same-sex couple marriage and widespread legalization of recreational cannabis. We’ll get there eventually, and when we do you should take a moment to thank Libertarians for getting the ball rolling.
It’s not just the Libertarians.
In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for president on a platform of balancing the federal budget and cutting the size of the federal government by 25%. But his actual and opposite program in office — the “New Deal” — was largely shaped by the popularity of the Socialist Party’s ideas as promoted by its presidential candidate, Norman Thomas, in 1928 and 1932.
FDR once told a group of citizens lobbying for a reform, “OK, you’ve convinced me — now go out and bring pressure on me.” The electoral pressure from the Socialists was already there when he took office. He simply ran to the head of the parade they started, stealing their thunder for his own political benefit.
I wouldn’t bet money on an RFK Jr. victory, even if you offered me really nice  odds. But if he does at all well in November, I WOULD bet money on some of his ideas entering and affecting the public discussion, and eventually gaining adoption.