Speaking to 40 members of an Institute of Politics study group on political campaigns of the 1980s, former Democratic senator and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy said yesterday his 1976 presidential campaign succeeded in opening the electoral process to third-party candidates.
McCarthy said his '76 presidential bid "laid the groundwork for challenges to the Federal Election Act," which discriminates against third-party candidates. McCarthy added he does not anticipate major difficulties placing third-party candidates on the presidential ballot in 1980.
The former senator said he is currently suing in state and federal courts to guarantee that candidates receive equal media access under the Fairness Doctrine of the Federal communications Act. He and his supporters won 14 cases challenging the unconstitutionality of state election laws to date.
McCarthy also encountered financial problems as an independent candidate. "People were afraid to be on the record as giving money to someone who wasn't a Democrat or a Republican," he said.
A "total lack" of media coverage was another campaign difficulty, McCarthy said, objecting to what he termed "the media's attempt to preserve the two-party system."
McCarthy envisions third-, fourth- and fifth-party candidates making an impact on national elections and policy-making.
McCarthy said he finds President Carter's decision to abolish the winner-take-all aspect of the Electoral College encouraging although he would also welcome a modification of the existing system.