In my new column at CJR, I criticize the tendency for journalists to hype the prospects of third parties and third party presidential candidates. Here's how it begins:
National Journal editorial director Ron Fournier is a respected journalist with years of distinguished service as an Associated Press correspondent and editor. So why is he issuing hyperbolic warnings about how “social change and a disillusioned electorate threaten the entire two-party system”?
In a story posted online Thursday, Fournier leaps from a hypothetical 2016 third-party presidential bid by Republican senator and Tea Party favorite Rand Paul to an elaborate scenario in which the survival of the major parties is at risk. He quotes both GOP Rep. Reid Ribble and Democratic consultant Doug Sosnik predicting, in nearly identical terms, the emergence of “third and even fourth parties.”
In reality, while changes to the party structure are of course possible and third-party candidates do occasionally emerge, the rules of congressional and presidential elections create dynamics that make it extremely difficult for third-party or independent candidates to succeed in the United States—and even harder for a third party to exist as a sustained institution.
For more, read the whole thing.