I tell ya, Minnesota's got it going on. For better or worse, those 'Sodies are willing to elect anybody. Jesse Ventura, Paul Wellstone, Norm Coleman, Al Franken, Michele Bachman. They've done it all.
The Minnesota Independence Party seems to be a symptom of that bizarre tendency. When its candidates actually take positions on issues, they often closely resemble those of the DFL. In addition to issues of democracy and clean government, the IP website emphasizes higher environmental standards, improved public transit and increased education funding.
So why does it exist? Although it takes votes away from Republicans most people seem to think it has done more damage to Democrats in recent elections.
The key difference lies not in its issue advocacy, but in its constituencies, or lack thereof. Third parties, like the IP, are not tied to professional special interests, which allows them more flexibility in determining policy positions. As their education platform indicates, the party seems to support policies that would go against the wishes of the teacher's union, and hence many Democrats.
Moreover, parties who are not interested in getting 50+1 percent of the electorate are less likely to cater to the lowest common denominator, and often enrich the intellectual dialogue by speaking to issues that major party candidates had otherwise calculated as political dead-ends. In 1992 Ross Perot brought up the budget deficit; in 2000 Nader forced Democrats to adopt tougher environmental stances.
In Wisconsin, a good independent candidate might highlight the importance of radically overhauling our criminal justice system.
Ironically, Wisconsin has a legacy of independence in politics, going back to the split between the Old Guard of the GOP and the Progressive La Follette wing. In addition, we've elected mavericks like Proxmire and Feingold. Where is our independence party?
Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg whose money Jesse Ventura says he would need to run an independent campaign for president says an indie can't win the White House.