Sleepwalking in AmericarnBuchanan and Nader Seek the Balance of Powerrnby Greg KazarnF or the third time in our generation, independent votersrncould he the halanee of power in this year’s presidentialrnelecHon. hi 1968, Alabama Gov. George G. Wallace, standardbearerrnof the American hidependent Part), received 1 3 percentrnof the popular vote, a sum greater dian the difference hehveenrnHubert H. Humphrey and the victor, Richard M. Nixon, hirn1992, billionaire entrepreneur H. Ross Perot and his ReformrnParty garnered 19 percent of the vote, greater than the marginrnbetween President George Bush and the w inner, Arkansas Go’.rnBill Glinton. Although it appears unlikely that either ReformrnParty candidate Patrick J. Buchanan or Green Party nomineernRalph Nader will ec|ual the showing of Wallace or Perot, theirrncombined vote, drawn mainly from political independents,rncould reach double digits in some swing states, thus biting thernelection’s outcome and contributing to a long and often oxerlookedrntradition in American politics.rnOne-third of presidential elections since 1824 hae been decidedrnby independent voters and diird parties or candidatesrn(1824, 1844, 1848, 1856, 1860, 1876, 1880. 1884. 1888, 1892,rn1912, 1916, 1948, 1960, 1968, and 1992). hi tvo of those racesrn(1824 and 1876), the independents forced the outcome into thernHouse of Representatives. Neither of those victors (John QuincyrnAdams in 1824 and Rutiierford B. Hayes in 1876) won a majorityrnof die popular vote; in £ict, Adams reccicd less than onethirdrnof tlie popular vote. In 1888, Democratic incumbentrnGrovcr Gleveland polled nearly 100,000 more otes than RepublicanrnBenjamin Harrison but still lost die presidency in tliernElectoral GoUege.rnGreg Kaza nerved three tenm hi the Michigan House ofrnRepresentatives (J995-I998J. He returned to his native Midwestrnrecently after working on Capitol Hill analyzing the votingrnpatterns of members of the U.S. House of Representatives.rn.Although largely forgotten today, George Wallace’s strategyrnin 1968 was to deprie the major parties of an electoral majorih’rnand decide the election in the Electoral Gollege, not thernHouse of Representatives. He obtained affidavits from his electorsrnpromising to vote for Wallace “or whomsoever he may direct.”rnBut Nixon and Humphrev refused to negotiate with Wallace.rnBoth said the election, if necessary, should be decided inrnthe House. Nevertheless, if Nixon had been held to fewer thanrn270 electoral votes, Wallace could have assumed the role ofrnkingmaker. This did not occur, although Wallace did win 46rnelectoral votes in the Deep South. Perot, by comparison, didrnnot win any, nor will Buchanan or Nader.rnYet history shows that third-part)’ candidates need not winrnstates to have an impact on the political process. Wallace’s mostrnenduring influence was in reshaping American politics after thernelection. Nixon and, to a greater extent, Ronald Reagan co-optedrnWallace’s supporters by stressing socially conservative issues.rnThird parties are most powerful when one of the two major partiesrnis compelled to adopt their platform.rnExamples abound in U.S. history, many involving populistrneconomic, trade, and monetan’ issues. The 1892 Populist platform,rnwhich emphasized free silver and opposition to the goldrnstandard, was co-opted four years later by William JenningsrnBri>an and the Democrats. Grover Cleveland, elected presidentrnin 1892 for the second time, was the last pro-gold Democrat.rnPopulist support peaked that year when presidential nomineernGen. James B. Weaver received 8.5 percent of the vote; hernwon four states and cost Gleveland three.rnThe Populists the election, but their ideas prevailed overrnthe long term. The 1892 Populist platform stated:rnThe national power to create money is appropriated tornenrich bond-holders; a vast public debt payable in legalrn18/CHRONICLESrnrnrn