Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Are Third Parties Plus Possible in the U.S.?

One of the problems with American democracy --- if we are interested in rule of the people --- is that we are limited to two parties. Both the Democrats and the Republicans to varying degrees are owned by corporations. No matter who we vote for --- our candidate about 90% of the time will have first allegiance to those who paid for his way to office.

As I have mentioned in the past, when I heard Ralph Nader speak at a small local, Catholic college near my home in Ohio in the sixties --- Ralph said that in the long run our democracy had more to fear from corporations than communism. Naturally, there were cries of outrage from the audience. Ralph was right, and, in fact, he is more correct in most things political and economic --- than the vast, vast majority of our politicians.

IMO in would be wonderful if we had -- at least -- a center (whatever that is) party, a party of the right and a party of the left. People need to see some party as representing them. They can't perceive this and that is one reason why so few people vote in the U.S.

Recently, I read a long article by a professor who believes that third parties (and more) won't work in this country. He suggests that those who want a more democratic/humane America should hijack the Democrats.

A summary of his grounds:

1. People just don't believe third parties can win.

2.There just are not enough people -- ideologically -- to make any more than
two parties feasible.

3. Having multiple parties will cause the need for coalitions which may result in a
loss of stability in the nation.

4. Historically, it takes too long for another party to come to a position of power
for this to be a sensible option.

My rebuttal:

1. This argument is based on the supposed past and still present mass psychology of the American people. Very shaky.

2. I think there are more diverse views and values in America than there ever was, and therefore there is a need for more parties to give people a valid vote.

3. This is an old bugbear that is routinely trotted out. Even if there were truth in it -- are we saying that more democratic rule would not be worth it?

4. It's always good to look at history, but times change. The world is not the same as when the GOP was born many years ago.

We have to face the fact that there are many citizens who dislike Bush because he is not fascist enough. Those who think we should nuke Iran. Those who would round up gays and lesbians and put them in camps. I am told by people who listen occasionally to right wing radio --- that there are lots of crazies out there.

Well, I think these deranged people should have their own party. At least we would know where they are, and they could exercise their rights within their own party.
IMO the ability of third parties to get on the ballot is severely retricted in most states. The two major parties have effectively taken over the national debates from the League of Women Voters, and we know the Democrats and Republicans who, for all extent and purposes, run the debates are not going to allow other candidates on the stage. The public might hear ideas and plans that they prefer.

Corporate Power favors two parties. It's easier for them to put some chips down in both sides ---- and come out the real winner --- no matter who wins the election.

Gore Vidal has said "...the United States has only one party -- the property party. It's the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings: one is Democrat and the other is Republican."

The way things are now if George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson or anyone else would run as a third party candidate --- he'd lose.

This all boils down to something I have to admit: it will be difficult to establish viable alternate political parties -- despite my belief it is essential to bring more democracy into our "democratic" nation.

Here are somethings that would help though:

1. Finding a way to have alternate party candidates heard and seen. Guaranteeing some free time on the airwaves (TV and radio). Wresting the national presidential debate organization away from the the two main parties to make sure that there would be more than two candidates on the stage for these debates.

2. Making sure that our votes are properly counted. A few days ago we found out that all makes of electronic voting machines in use in California can easily be hacked. For sure there needs to be a paper trail, and better software. And, the state and national government must demand that the software being used be able to be tested by government experts. We should not let voting machine manufacturers hide behind "proprietary" privacy rights. If that's what they want --- then we don't want their machines -- or business.

3. Something must be done about "big media" which is largely controlled by a few corporations, some of which are not fundamentally media companies. Citizens can only find out what there is to know if they can find out the whole story. That is not happening today.

Perhaps Howard Zinn, the historian, has the essential remedy: social movements that pressure parties.

"When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them... Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress."