Decision '08: Third-party candidates who aren't lame
But for every third-rate third-party candidate who never made it -- like Eugene Debs, Ralph Nader, or Pat Paulson -- there are success stories. For example, Theodore Roosevelt won 27% of the presidential vote in 1912 for the Bull Moose party. Reform Party candidate and “Predator” star Jesse Ventura became governor of Minnesota in 1999.
OK, maybe “success” is too strong a word.
But the third-party candidates for Channel Surfing’s contest to determine the Greatest TV Character of All Time are different. Like the best independents, they’re free thinkers who do their own thing and don’t necessarily follow the rules all the time. And there’s not a chicken plucker in the bunch.
Aaaay Party candidate: Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli, "Happy Days"
As a candidate, The Fonz would never flip-flop on issues. But he may jump over them on water skis. As the coolest guy in the history of Milwaukee (take that, Daryl Stuermer), Arthur Fonzarelli was so popular on "Happy Days" that he eventually got top billing, even though he started off as a secondary character. But his lady-loving, bad-guy-pummeling, juke-box-fixing ways won the hearts of viewers, and would likely go a long way toward wooing voters as well. Fonzie, played by the now immortally bronzed Henry Winkler, was never overtly political, save for his support of Republican Dwight Eisenhower ("I like Ike. My bike likes Ike.") It was social causes that made the leather-clad hero's motor run, specifically his support of minorities and the disabled. He even had a soft spot for illegal aliens ... as long as they were named Mork.
Logical Party candidate: Mr. Spock, "Star Trek"
We realize there are no political parties in the United Federation of Planets, but even if there were, logical know-it-all Vulcan Spock would be above the partisan bickering. Although many of his principles line up on the liberal side of things – he sacrifices himself for the greater good in "Star Trek II" – it would be most illogical to tie yourself to one party and its beliefs. Spock, played with icy smooth by Leonard Nimoy, may be cool under pressure, but he knows violence is sometimes a necessary means to achieve an end. He’s a true independent who refuses to be blinded by party loyalty to make the decision he thinks is right for the society and the galaxy. Think of him as Jim Jeffords, the Senator from Vermont who switched his party affiliation and tipped the balance in the Senate. Only with pointy ears.
Fuhgeddaboutit Party candidate: Tony Soprano, "The Sopranos"
Gangster. Adulterer. Murderer. And he'd probably still get more votes than Bob Barr. His less-than-wholesome aspects notwithstanding, Tony Soprano is definitely a man used to being in charge. The de facto boss of the DiMeo crime syndicate, Tony (James Gandolfini) juggles his work associates -- a gang of tough, no-nonsense killers -- with a much more volatile group: his family. Surely the maniacs in congress would seem harmless as baby ducks compared to a cranky wife, alcoholic daughter and slacker son. What would a Tony Soprano campaign look like, you ask? Picture his campaign manager, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, gently deflecting any harsh questions from reporters with some sharp psychobabble. Or perhaps his running mate, Paulie Walnuts, making appearances at local Denny's. And the song played at every rally? Why, "Don't Stop Believing," of course.
Serenity Now! Party candidate: George Costanza, "Seinfeld"
George Costanza has no principles, so who better to represent the undecided, free-thinking masses than this bald, slow witted, neurotic New Yorker? Although George’s love of money and success (defined by luxurious bathrooms) is well documented on “Seinfeld,” he has been on unemployment, is technically the executor of dead fiancée Susan Ross’ charitable foundation and doesn’t believe in God (but has no problems converting to the Latvian Orthodox faith for a girlfriend). George (Jason Alexander) will do anything to get ahead, so he’ll easily switch sides if it suits him. He’s the independent swing vote who can’t be pinned down because no one really knows what he believes. Except in himself, of course, because it’s always the season of George.
Anti-Demonic Party candidate: Buffy Summers, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
The only character on our list to have saved the world from Armageddon, Buffy Summers is also one of the most positive female role models of our generation -- and not just for her ability to accessorize. Her supernatural strength and fighting skills in the service of defeating vampires and demons made her the perfect answer for every horror-movie scream queen who ever wandered down a dark alley. So she's got the women's rights thing down. But Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is no girly-girl, violence being her preferred form of communication (apart from snappy one-liners.) Yet she's fiercely anti-military, unless she happens to be dating a hunky (if boring) soldier boy. Above all, she's the epitome of independent thinking, even if she does most of that thinking with the pointy end of a stake.
That's What She Said Party candidate: Michael Scott, "The Office"
Now before you go saying, “wait a minute, are all independents just people who can’t think for themselves?” we’ll introduce you to Michael Scott. The awkward, obnoxious, self-serving boss of the Scranton-branch of Dunder Miflin really can’t think for himself, but that’s not the only reason he’s an independent. Profit margins are important, but the well being of his employees is even more important. He’s touchy-feely but out-of-touch at the same time. In his heart of hearts, Michael (Steve Carell) wants to be a Democrat, to befriend the gays and turn back the time on slavery, but he doesn’t quite have the balls to be a principled fiscally conservative Republican. So he’ll probably just vote for whomever everyone else is voting for. In fact, he’d probably devise some sort of bizarre Election Day party to get his employees to divulge their presidential choices, and then realize he never registered to vote in the first place.
There you go, our third and final primary. Voting is still open for both the Republicans (which currently sees a tie between Alex Keaton and Oscar the Grouch) and the Democrats (tied between Homer Simpson and Murphy Brown). Get your friends to vote, vote again under an assumed name, pull an ACORN and register Mickey Mouse, whatever -- just break those ties! And check back here Tuesday for the final election to determine the Greatest TV Character of All Time.
— Malavika Jagannathan, firstname.lastname@example.org, Adam Reinhard, email@example.com