Americans, did you realize that last night there was a Presidential Debate? No, I don’t mean Monday the 22nd of October’s sham, billed as the “final” one of three. I’m referring to a completely different production by Free & Equal, along with the living legend Larry King serving as the moderator, that was televised by C-Span with help by Ora TV.
Last night the candidates for President of the United States from four (That’s twice two) political parties met to discuss all sorts of issues. Virgil Goode (Constitution), and Rocky Anderson (Justice) are faces that I’d honestly never really seen before, but Dr. Jill Stein (Green) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian) have already made something of an impact in the election. Johnson had previously run for the Republican nomination, and was even profiled by my colleague Jamie Diamond wayyyyy back in May, 2011. Jill Stein, while probably heading up the most well-known third party, recently broke into the news by getting arrested (along with her running mate) outside of the debates down the block from me, in Hempstead NY.
You can view a recording of the debate on Youtube, and once you’ve seen it you can vote for your favorite candidate to carry into the second debate, one centered on foreign policy planned to take place on October 30th:
While the coverage this debate has gotten is pretty impressive, the fact remains that it is an uphill fight. Even the moderator, King, referred to the four candidates as “Don Quixoties,” effectively calling their efforts well-meaning, but insane. The reason they fight this uphill battle is simple: The vast majority of Americans don’t believe they will win. And why is that?
Because if you’ve taken U.S. History in your high school, you’ve learned that third parties almost always exist just to draw attention to their particular interests, until such a time as the two national parties adopt them. It’s because, quite honestly, as admirable a job as these candidates have done to represent their party, their parties themselves don’t really exist nationally.
How to build a new political party, or three.
Frankly, there’s a reason why the political pyramid in the country looks like this:
You’ll notice how at the higher levels of this Brady-Bunch-Esque pyramid, there’s really only one spot of gray. That’d be Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, in the Senate. In the House of Representatives there aren’t any independents. Further down you have your state leaderships, and – surprise – there are no governors. Only when you get to mayors, state legislatures, and smaller bodies do you find independent parties. Moreover, oftentimes those “third parties” are just local manifestations of larger political entities.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the Libertarians (who I will now call the Grays, because Judge Gray is the VP candidate and, dammit, they need a color!) and the Greens have some presence in the political world. I love that they bring diametrically different viewpoints. I even love how the Justice and Constitution parties have their own nuanced beliefs! But the simple question is this: Where are your local representatives?
I can understand when someone leaves their party over a dispute, as Gary Johnson clearly did. I can grasp when someone with little political experience is tapped, like Jill Stein, because of their intrinsic values as, y’know, professionals in a field other than law or business. However, they find themselves going against a monolithic duopoly that controls such arms of expression as the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Republican and Democratic parties can essentially lock out any third-party participation in the most prominent broadcasts. When they insist on participating, as Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala did before the second one, they are locked up and tied to chairs for hours on end.
Yeah. Is it any wonder why the third party debate, in under ten questions, seems to have focused more on the National Defense Authorization Act than the three red and blue debates?
The bottom line is that at this time, the third parties need to step up their game. This year’s election cycle has allowed them to chip their way into the political mainstream; they aren’t big, but people are hearing of them. Twitter is on fire with their names, at times! So they’ve drawn some attention to their ideals. Now they need to start building an infrastructure.
Nobody is suggesting they copy the Democratic or Republican parties, but they need some sort of non-Presidential-Election-Cycle coverage. They need to run for local and state offices – and they need to win. The Greens, Grays, and others need to be not thought of as little more than idea-kittens meowing for a home at the red or blue mansions. They need to be thought of as serious political parties. This needs to be on both sides of road, by the way – in the minds of the voters as well as the candidates.
Gary Johnson’s videos all end with “Be Libertarian with me for one election.” It’s a good slogan, but it doesn’t advocate for the next one. The Libertarians are often thought of as an extension of the Republican party. Jill Stein cheers on a “Green new deal,” and certainly celebrates the cause of the environment! But what is she doing to directly assault the destructive political forces she is clearly, and nobly, against? It’s hard to tell; and it’s unfortunately harder to judge Goode and Anderson because their parties are even less prominent on the national stage. So how do we change it?
Ending cross-endorsements of “The Other Guy.”
All too often when I go into my local voting booth, to pick a new county legislator or whatever, I see the names of these parties and others attached to “big party” candidates. I see the same person on the rows of four parties, when they clearly only owe their ideological allegiance to the largest one. Therein lies the problem:
Third parties need to be real parties, and need to avoid (except in rare, Ron Paul-Like circumstances) endorsing another party’s candidates. They need to preach, above all else, a simple message: That fear of “The Other Guy” winning. ”That Other Guy” is, today, Obama or Romney. Republicans say to vote for Romney so Obama doesn’t win; Dems say to vote for Obama so Romney doesn’t. After all, they are the greatest threat to Democracy, am I right?! And either way, you’re wasting your vote on a guy who isn’t going to win! So why vote third-party?
Because, as Gary Johnson said, “The vote for freedom is never wasted.” When you allow the fear of “The Other Guy” to scare you into voting for someone you don’t like, that’s called “terrorism.” It’s blunt, but that’s the truth. That could be its whole article, here -When someone tries to scare you into voting for their preferred candidate, it is them trying to terrify you into compliance. That is the textbook definition of terrorism.
Yet, there is something scary about your vote not having a real effect on an election. The scariest thing is that I can’t find a solid Libertarian, Green, or otherwise candidate on my local ballot, most of the time. That’s what’s scary – it’s maybe scarier than only having two legitimate candidates on the ballot!
It’s also why I only have those two choices, and I’m hopeful that the Greens, Grays, Constitutionalists and Justicers (What do you call them?) will soon be taking my advice to heed, and building a third, a fourth, a fifth, or more parties! Because two choices isn’t a choice, it’s a coin-flip.