As Democrats and Republicans buckle down in Washington for partisan battles post-election, third parties across the country are talking about where to go from here.
The most popular third-party presidential candidate, Libertarian Gary Johnson, did not win a single state in the election and garnered only 1 percent of the popular vote. This is despite a June Pew Research Center national poll that found 57 percent of Americans surveyed thought there should be a third major political party.
Now third-party candidates and supporters are talking about building a coalition. "We are very interested in working with other parties, and individuals who are frustrated with the lock the two-party system has on the debate," says Laura Bonham, spokeswoman for the progressive Justice Party.
The problem: finding a leader for a coalition of parties with very different platforms. John Kimberling, author of What This Country Needs: A New Political Party, has some ideas. "For any third party to become powerful or influential, they need not so much someone who has what is regarded as extreme views, like Ron Paul," he tells Whispers, referencing the popular Libertarian-leaning GOP congressman from Texas. "They need a centrist, a pragmatic person, and an acknowledged leader with name recognition—like Michael Bloomberg."
But not everyone is on board with the New York City mayor, an independent who endorsed President Obama just before the election. "The mayor would certainly not represent our point of view," says Libertarian Party executive director Carla Howell, adding that Bloomberg doesn't fit the Libertarian Party's idea of limited government.
Bloomberg's office did not respond to request for comment.
Howell says a coalition needs to focus on the common issues third parties face, such as ballot access. Third party candidates are sometimes excluded from ballots because they do not meet the requirements to appear there. Howell cites alleged efforts by the GOP in Pennsylvania this election to get Gary Johnson thrown off the ballot.
The Green Party also worries about ballot access, according to national spokesman Scott McLarty.
"Ballot access laws on the books in many states obstruct the participation of any parties outside Democrats and Republicans," he tells Whispers. "In some states like Oklahoma and Georgia, laws are so grossly unfair they pretty much prohibit participation" by third parties.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied a request to allow Gary Johnson ballot access this election, according to the Independent Voter Network. And a lawsuit filed in Georgia by the Green Party and Constitution Party challenging ballot access requirements was dismissed by a state judge in September, according to Atlanta Progressive News.
Free and Equal Elections, the nonprofit that successfully held the third party debates hosted by Larry King, says they are working to organize conventions to bring third parties together over shared issues. If all goes according to plan, the conventions will feature major third party leaders as speakers, such as Ralph Nader, Ron Paul and Richard Winger. Bloomberg's name wasn't mentioned.
Different parties have different "ideas they bring to the table," Free and Equal Elections spokesman Zak Carter says. "And it sounds like we might form a little alliance."