Friday, January 06, 2006

Stop Thief! That's my article!

Back in the day, I would read Ken Sain's blog and make an occasional comment. Ken had a substantial and, I assume, influential readership. I know, for example, that members of the national GP steering committee read and commented on his blog regularly.

One thing Ken did that I liked was to "steal" from someone, like the Ballot Access News, and post it at his blog. I want to follow in those footsteps today, but sadly, without the author's knowledge. See what you get when you send me something unsolicited? ~Chuckle~ This is a long piece from Martin Zehr. I confess that I have not read the entire thing as yet, but I will, and so can you by hitting the "Read More!" link...

ARE WE TRAPPED IN THE TWO PARTY SYSTEM?
-By Martin Zehr
Albuquerque, NM

There is no political system that does not create the seeds of its own
evolution. Pluralistic systems inevitably create divergent interest groups
that express themselves politically. It appears that we are trapped because
we continue to chose to define the parameters of political action in ways
that do not seek to address the inherent limitations of two party system.
Instead, some prefer to wallow in self-pity and present doomsday scenarios
for the future.

The two party system is the political paradigm that represents the emerging
multi-national corporate state. Its function is to represent corporate
interest, not the interests of stakeholders or citizens. As a result there
remains a significant body of citizens and residents in the US who are not
represented in the decision-making process. The term "marginalization" has
long been used to describe people with no voice in the political process.
Resources are consumed and decimated without those whose ecological niche is
impacted having any say. Democracy is determined by the dollar amount that
one can contribute to the campaigns of candidates.

This transformation of the two major political parties into
contributor-based organizations has resulted in a shift away from
traditional constituency groups. Instead, campaigns consist of fund-raising
contests in which millions of dollars are put on the table in the pursuit of
favorable governmental allocations and regulations for the economic
interests of a privileged oligarchy.

As constituency groups (defined simply as voter blocs) disappear in
significance, there is an increasing convergence of interest of the two
political parties seeking financial support from the same sources. In this
context, the platforms and political policies of the two parties are
increasingly homogenized. Trade policies, monetary policies, entitlements,
the social safety net, foreign policy, and environmental policies become
less based on whom the parties are representing, than who is signing the
checkbook.

As the power of the two parties and their financial supporters increase,
there is less willingness to analyze the circumstances of the body politic,
and more of a desire to obfuscate the dynamic that seeks to preserve the
prerogatives of the few. To do this, new interpretations of Constitutional
law are required and changes are needed in existing language.

THIRD PARTIES MAKE THEIR OWN SPACE

In a survey published in July 2004, the AARP found that 56% of baby boomers
(ages 40-57) support a strong third party, see
http://www.seniorjournal.com/NEWS/Politics/4-07-20Survey.htm In recent
elections for President in 1992 and in 2000 there has been a third party
constituency with representation at the ballot box. Getting 19% of the
popular vote in 1992, billionaire candidate H. Ross Perot demonstrated both
the limited access to the presidential ballot, by using his own fortune for
his campaign, and the constituency that is accessible to third parties. As
the candidate for the Reform Party, he is never tied to the description of
"having been thought by many to have caused the election of Bill Clinton as
President". Getting less then 4% of the vote in 2000, the same can not be
said of the Green Party candidate for president, Ralph Nader.

The election of reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura in 1998 as Governor of
Minnesota is a demonstration on the state level of the potential of third
parties and the electability of third party candidates. The mayoral runoff
of Democrat Gavin Newsome against Green Matt Gonzalez demonstrated that
third party candidates have their own constituencies that represent very
real and present dangers to those vested in the political machines of
duopoly-controlled cities and states. New Paltz, New York elected third
party mayor, deputy mayor and the majority of the city council. New Mexico's
third party candidate for governor in 1992 received 11% of the state vote,
and a third party candidate for Congress received 15% in one election and
17% in another.

From this contention has emerged faint but distinct voices of opposition
from parties that are not completely focused on constituent-based electoral
politics. The Libertarian Party demonstrated itself as a small presence, but
a significant force in the Presidential campaign by the willingness of its
candidate to raise opposition to the war in Iraq in his campaign. The Reform
Party sparked a national debate on the budget deficit in 1992, and gained a
vote sufficient to receive matching funds in 1996. "In 1996--for the first
time in the 20-year history of public funding--a non-major party
Presidential candidate qualified for general election funding before the
election. The Commission certified Reform Party nominee Ross Perot as being
eligible for roughly $29 million on August 22."
http://www.fec.gov/info/arch2.htm

In 2000, Green Party candidate for President Ralph Nader received 2,882,955
or 2.74% of the total popular vote.
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0876793.html A new citizen voice has arisen
out of these campaigns and from the local grassroots engagement in Nader's
state campaigns. There is no question that four years of the ABB public
relations campaign to blame Nader for GW Bush's election produced its
desired effects. In 2004, Nader paid the price for his persistence in
upholding the right of the American people to vote for the candidate of
their choice and insisting on the right of candidates that are qualified to
be given ballot access. This, in spite of, numerous efforts to deny him the
opportunity to be on the ballot through high priced lawsuits. "Moffett says
his group has raised about $100,000 to fight Nader and is relying on pro
bono work from lawyers across the country who have contributed up to $2
million worth of labor."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A26933-2004Aug23

This in spite of maneuvers within the Green Party itself that raised many
ethical questions regarding the conduct of party officials and candidates.
"The Democrats' Anybody But Bush campaign had already become hysterical with
all the usual exaggerations about how this Republican administration (or
candidate in other years) was qualitatively more dangerous than usual -
which includes the implicit (but false) argument that the Bush
administration is so extreme that the capitalist class has lost control."

http://www.unrepentantnadervoter.com/wordpress/index.php?p=148

The point is that the new opposition is a real threat to the two parties.
The anti-war organizations preferred to remain mute and not make a public
display of support for the Libertarian's anti-war position. By abandoning
the effort to swing public opinion as an integral part of a Presidential
campaign, they essentially justified GW Bush's invasion of Iraq through
their silence and acquiescence.

The Reform Party was taken out of the picture by Patrick Buchanan by 2000.
"The party -- which was founded on reform of taxation and government but was
mostly quiet on hot-button social issues -- was bitterly divided between
nominating Buchanan and nominating John Hagelin, an Iowa physicist whose
platform was based on transcendental meditation. Supporters of Hagelin
charged that the results of the party's write-in primary, which favored
Buchanan by a wide margin, were 'tainted'. The (Reform) party's delegates
ignored the election and voted to nominate Hagelin, creating a split in the
party with two camps claiming legitimacy for separate candidates.
Ultimately, Buchanan won the nomination when the Federal Elections
Commission ruled that Buchanan would receive ballot status as the Reform
candidate and some $12.6 million dollars in federal campaign funds secured
by Perot's showing in the1996 election."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Joseph_Buchanan He finished in fourth
place nationwide with 449,895 votes, or 0.4% of the popular vote.

The Green Party was 'disappeared in 2004' in a fashion similar to the
experience of the Reform Party with a nominating convention in Milwaukee
which many challenged as being unrepresentative of Green sentiment.

And Nader had to rely on expensive legal fights for every ballot on which he
qualified. The lesson being what is known from the first step into politics:
"Power concedes nothing without a struggle." Frederick Douglass.

THERE ARE NO SMALL CHANGES WITHOUT BIGGER CHANGES FIRST

The ability of the two party system to dominate is based first and foremost
on structural mechanisms built into the system of election law in the US.
Around the world parliamentary systems have comfortably adapted to systems
of proportional representation without any difficulty. Political parties,
once apportioned their number of representatives, are then able to develop
distinct policies that represent the needs and concerns of their
constituents and advocate on behalf of them. "On November 2, 2004, San
Francisco voters made history when they went to the polls and used ranked
choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting) to elect seven members
of the Board of Supervisors (city council)." http://www.fairvote.org/sf/
Such a giant step in American politics stemmed from the inherent and
deliberate inequities of the American political system. Without a
willingness on the part of American voters to establish new ground rules in
the electoral system, it cannot respond to the new agendas of broad sections
of people.

The same contributors that enable their election tie Democrats and
Republicans into the structure. In Maine, when a third party candidate got
elected to the state legislature, the immediate response of the Democratic
Party was to gerrymander the district to make it harder for his re-election.
"In 2003 redistricting in Maine threatened to unseat Eder by separating him
from his base of support in Portland's West End. The redistricting was seen
by many as a deliberate effort to oust Eder. In response, Eder moved his
residence to rejoin the district he had previously represented and face off
against Democratic incumbent Rep. Edward J. Suslovic. In the end, however,
redistricting helped rather than hindered Eder's effort to keep his spot as
the only Green Independent in the legislature and was the undoing of his
Democratic opponent, who found he couldn't compete against Eder's strong
base of support. Eder won with 51 percent of the vote, compared with 41
percent for Suslovic and 8 percent for Republican Arvina Magno."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Eder

Domination by the two parties extends itself through the large contributor
base of the two parties that is used to dominate elections from the Federal
level down to the local municipal level. Public financing, such as Maine's
Clean Elections Act, is needed to transform that character and content of US
elections. http://www.newrules.org/gov/clean.html As things stand, PACs and
NGOs play an increasingly dominate role in defining candidate's political
agendas and platforms of political parties because of their financial
support.

Ballot access is restricted in many states with the dominant political party
using it to limit and stifle the access of other parties to the
decision-making process. State definitions of political parties and major
party status, state registration laws and regulations, and requirements of
candidates and parties to be placed on the ballot have long been manipulated
by the major parties to control ballot access of smaller parties and prevent
their ability to deepen their base of support in elections.

The effort to democratize the electoral structure directly confronts the
corporate interests whose vote equals its dollar contributions. Their
disproportionate investment skews policy-making and creates a scenario that
continues to marginalize large segments of the American people from having
their voice heard and their concerns addressed. "The elected municipal
officials of Porter Township, Clarion County - a municipality of 1,500
residents an hour north of Pittsburgh in Northwestern Pennsylvania - became
the first local government in the United States to eliminate corporate
claims to civil and constitutional privileges."
http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate_accountability/porter_township_ordinance.html
Such a measure demonstrated the significant change needed to facilitate the
engagement of the American public in the political system and represents the
shot heard round the world for the new effort of the people for
democratization of the American electoral system.

NO PLACE TO CALL HOME

As a result of the marginalization of large constituencies within the US
electoral system, there are many policy proposals that have no policy
advocates within the two party system. Women's groups, labor unions,
environmental groups, drug policy groups, peace activists and minority
groups have committed themselves to working within the Democratic Party.
They have little to show in policy reform for their efforts and
contributions. The question is why they continue to support the Democratic
Party when it provides no results for their constituents.

Growing concerns and new local agendas increase the gap between
constituencies and the two political parties. For the purposes of this
paper, I will focus on those particular issues that are of concern to myself
without exploring those of other groups or political perspectives.

Around the world parties have emerged to represent distinct constituencies,
such as Greens, that have established priorities. It is no wonder that the
US is one of the few industrialized nations not to have ratified the Kyoto
Accords. It is also one of the few industrialized nations in which there is
no established ecological party with elected representatives. As other
nations move forward into new areas of urban planning, resource management,
pollution guidelines and carbon taxes, the US is still attempting to squeeze
the square peg of ecological restoration into the round hole of economic
development and growth. Policy development and implementation by Green
Parties in nations such as New Zealand and Australia, far surpass the work
done in the US. http://www.greens.org.nz/

Each Presidential election comes and goes without any substantive changes
made in the electoral process for electing the President of the United
States. And yet the ones who are accused of being destructive are those who
come to the debate with an original idea, rather then an echo of past
accusations of being a "spoiler". Each election questions of war and peace
are relegated to personality contests to decide who has the "credentials" to
wage the most recent US military adventure, and who can be made to look like
an appeaser or worse. In the meantime, Congress abrogates its Constitutional
war-making powers and countries are subjected to devastation by the US
military without any accountability or responsibility for the deaths and
destruction. Who is leading the call for a Constitutional amendment to
decrease the Presidential war-making powers? No one. Who is advocating that
the US government pay reparations to nations that suffer from US military
interventions? No one.

Every election criticism is heard about the Electoral College, and yet
nothing is done about it. Every time a federal budget is passed "pork"
becomes the political capital of the day, creating its own momentum for
support of US military bases and defense labs in states throughout the US.
But, nothing is ever done that would disconnect allocations to states from
the military budget, just as nothing is ever done to transition the defense
labs to peaceful purposes despite rhetorical reassurances to the contrary.
Why? It doesn't happen because there is no one represented in Congress or
the White House who does not benefit directly from such largess from the
federal cookie jar.

Despite nearly thirty years of rhetoric about cutting taxes, there has been
nothing done to cut taxes on Unemployment Compensation. Why? Because no one
represents the unemployed as a constituency. No one proposes carbon fuel
taxes. Why? Because no one represents the environment as a constituency. No
one proposed a reassessment of property taxes or any proposal to move away
from personal income and property as the foundation for revenues and
preservation of the commons. Why? Because corporations are able to itemize
and elude taxes by writing the bills in Congress.

Finally, as the federal government is increasingly taken out of the picture
in support of local urban and rural needs they are left to fend for
themselves. At the same time, they are tied down by a powerful array of
local corporate interests from innovating or creating new visions for
planning in the future. In this context, it was an extraordinary step taken
by the recent US Conferences of Mayors to implement the Kyoto Accords
locally. "At the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June, 168 mayors from 37
states committed their cities to the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to combat
global warming by decreasing the emissions of greenhouse gasses.

The mayors, both Democrats and Republicans, believe that the growing threat
of global warming necessitates immediate action. Their decision to meet or
beat the conditions of the Kyoto Protocol will require their cities to
reduce pollution from cars and power plants to 1990 levels before the year
2012. Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions have increased by an average of
one percent annually."
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/july-dec05/kyoto_8-08.html

There is in this bipartisan agreement a new consensus at the local and
bio-regional levels that will impact on the future. Smart growth, regional
water planning, urban-rural economic integration between agriculture and
industry, opposition to big box retailers, and focusing on local economies
of scale are having greater impacts on the local political agendas. This
opens up the constituency base to new parties with an agenda that crosses
existing party lines and redefines the political alignment of American
society. As power is refocused at the regional level, the input utilized in
the decision-making will rewrite the definition of politics and commonality
of interests between diverse segments.

Local decision-making is also creating a variety of policies that center on
issues of personal and private morality. Medical marijuana, same-sex
marriage, reproductive issues and physician-assisted suicide play out
differently in different regions and cities. Localized parties with
grass-roots constituencies will have more flexibility than the existing
national parties.

DUOPOLY RULE TWO HEADS-ONE BODY POLITIC

Two party domination is not the same as pluralistic democracy. It is not so
representative, nor is it devoid of the influences of the Prince, but it
seeks to deny its own Imperial nature. To presume that corporatism, or the
corporate state is the same as fascism is to indulge in the duopoly blame
game. Every election one gets to say: "Look, they stole the election" and
the other gets to say "Look, they want us to lose the war". There is no
loser in this game, because they are not competing with each other. Rather,
they are working with each other in a kabuki theatre where every move is
carefully rehearsed.

In states throughout the nation, third parties have been subjected to
numerous measures that seek to limit, restrict and deny them ballot access.
Democratic state officials have sought legislative measures that deny ballot
access, prevent uniform registration for all parties, and establish the
highest possible thresh holds for major party status. State attorney
generals and secretaries of state use the power of their positions to
promote their parties' interests using administrative powers. State party
organizations use litigation to restrict the ballot access of Independent
and third party Presidential candidates.

With power comes the ability to dispense rewards to "friends" and define
punishments for "enemies". The power to make appointments is one such
reward. One candidate for appointment in NM was heard to have been rejected
when it was disclosed that she had made a minor contribution to a third
party. Another reward is the use of the budget appropriations. By allocating
funds to legislators in "friendly" districts, this prevents the
consolidation of substantive opposition.

The two parties utilize every aspect of their election process to siphon
opposition from other sources and channel it within their own structures.
Primaries are used to integrate independents and third party voters. By so
doing these "advocates" for change maintain the foundation of two party
rule. Marginalized as they are from the "mainstream" of the parties, these
factions never had a chance. Likewise, third parties face the superior
financial resources, media access, and full time organizational structures
of the two parties. This is what autocracy looks like!

THIRD PARTIES OF RECENT HISTORY

" 'History in the Making' was emblazoned on delegates' badges at the
founding convention of the Labor Party, on June 6-9, 1996 in Cleveland, Ohio
where some 1400 mostly-union delegates formed a new independent working
class party. A constitution was created, an elementary national structure
was formed, and an unusually progressive platform was hammered out by this
first national union-based 'labor party' since the 19th Century. For about
three years the challenge of a labor party spread widely and enticed many
unions and individuals to it. At its peak in 1998-9 the party had some
15,000 members, 50 local chapters, and several hundred endorsing or
affiliated unions that represented two million workers (some 13 percent of
the unionized)." The Labor Party:Past and Possible Future, Robert H. Mast

The Labor Party was a profound and focused effort within the ranks of
organized labor to build a political party that represented its interests.
In spite of its optimistic beginning, it was unable to fulfill its original
mandate. Instead, it acquiesced to the larger and more powerful Democratic
Party. It never ran candidates, but continued to make noises as if it was
going to at any time. When Ralph Nader ran in 2000, an internal momentum
developed in which much of the Labor Party's base supported his Green Party
candidacy. This destroyed the prior rationale of not running until victory
was assured. It also broke the ability of the union leadership to
demonstrate any form of political leadership or concrete victories through
the Democratic Party. Questions remain as to the original intent of the
Labor party. Was it an effort to deny labor support for the emerging Green
Party? Or was it simply a party that went astray from its original mission?
In spite of Tony Mazzocchi's long relationship with Ralph Nader, he clearly
stopped short of endorsing Nader at the Green Party's presidential
nominating convention.

"The definition of a 'party' ranges widely, from being simply a pressure
group, to directing the policies of a government. A political party
struggles for power, and in a democracy that struggle supposedly is
expressed at the ballot box. Whether or not to be an active electoral party
has been a burning issue throughout the short life of the LP. This widely
debated question has been the source of unease and rancor throughout the LP
system. Being close to organized labor and desiring labor's support, the
founding leadership strongly discouraged early electoral activity. Shortly
after the 1996 founding convention, the energized Buffalo, NY chapter went
into an electoral mode, causing the National to revoke the chapter's
charter. This had a decided impact on the electoral ambitions of other
chapters. It still is unclear whether leaders like Tony Mazzocchi and Bob
Wages ever envisioned the LP being anything but an agitation-propaganda
vehicle. Critics say that the closeness of LP founders to the organized
labor bureaucracy and its pro-Democratic Party policy tarnished their
political judgment and induced inactivity on the independent electoral
front. Adding further complexity, unionists have not been solid Democrat:
nearly four in 10 voted Republican in the 2000 presidential election." Mast,
Robert H.

"LP supporters who wanted an electoral policy undoubtedly numbered in the
thousands and came mostly from left and union democracy backgrounds. Many
were spunky and free-spoken delegates to the 1996 founding convention who
co-mingled with representatives of the more electoral-leaning founding
unions - ILWU (west coast) and United Electrical Workers. Though this
convention turned down an electoral resolution, the ground was laid for the
formation of an electoral commission that came up with a draft of an
Electoral Strategy. This was hotly debated, then accepted, at the 1998
founding convention (http://www.thelaborparty.org/a_electo.html) and is in
many respects a very advanced 'third party' electoral approach. It declares
the LP's independence of the corporations and their Democrat and Republican
political representatives, and it aspires to the working class majority
taking political power. LP candidates for office and LP elected officials
would be strictly accountable to the party membership and platform - before,
during, and between elections. They would run solely as LP candidates (no
fusion with other parties), and the LP would not endorse any non-LP
candidates. Also very advanced was the strategy of "building solidarity in
our communities, workplaces and unions." In effect, the electoral process
would cast an LP unit into a bridging role between various constituent
entities and perhaps as a catalyst for their interaction and unity." Mast,
Robert H.

"But then, along came Ralph Nader who altered the 'third party' balance.
Nader, who had a long relationship with Tony Mazzocchi on common progressive
causes, had addressed both the 1996 and 1998 conventions of the LP. He
counseled the LP to run candidates in the 90 percent of congressional
districts where there is little or no opposition. Then Mazzocchi, already
impressed by Jesse Ventura's win of the Minnesota governorship, was a
keynoter at the 2000 Green Party national convention in Denver where Nader
was nominated as presidential candidate. This reportedly further alienated
the LP from organized labor which disliked the Greens for their alleged
spoiling of Democratic candidates that labor supported. A further
complication resulted from the endorsement of Nader by two LP founding
unions - United Electrical Workers and the California Nurses Association.
The LP was further weakened by an exodus of many staunch activists to work
on the Nader campaign. Many of them never returned to the LP - another nail
in the coffin." Mast, Robert H.

"Many loyal but critical LP activists claim the lack of electoral activity
to be one of the main causes of the party's decline. They look back with awe
to earlier times when local labor organizations across the country were
forming parties independent of their national unions and the two major
parties. These labor parties were fielding candidates and often winning
office. With some good cause, the loyal LP critics believed that the very
act of running candidates would bring many new members into the party and
help it grow. Some loyal critics pointed to the various electoral successes
of the Green Party at the local level (city councils, school boards, etc.)
as evidence that a dedicated body of 'third party' volunteers could win
elections. Many in the pro-electoral camp advocated running LP candidates
only in those districts that would not compete with a candidate endorsed by
organized labor. Opponents of electoralism, also with good cause, worried
that the LP would lose complete credibility if a candidate won only the two
or three percent of the vote of the 'typical' third party. The debate never
was resolved since no LP body ever developed the wherewithal to become
electoral." Mast, Robert H.

In the end the Labor Party lost its raison d'etre, its rationale and reason
for being. If it wasn't running candidates, then what was its purpose?
Unions already had Political Action Committees and labor education and
leadership programs. The AFL-CIO had demonstrated its own official
subservience to the Democratic Party. The rank-and-file were increasingly
voting Republican since the Reagan era. Fusion was once again the death
knell of another third party effort.

Another example of the demise of a third party is the New Party. On its
website stands a banner at the top "FUSION IS THE SOLUTION" Their statement
indicates their lack of willingness to build their own party if it results
in the defeat of progressives. "Our current work and long-term strategy is
to change states' election rules to allow fusion voting - a method of voting
that allows minor parties to have their own ballot line with which they can
either endorse their own candidates or endorse the candidates of other
parties. Through fusion, minor parties don't have to always compete in the
winner-take-all two party system and can avoid "spoiling" - throwing an
election to the most conservative candidate by splitting the votes that
might go to two more progressive candidates (ours and another party's)."
http://www.newparty.org/

It appears as if the Green Party has become split over this issue of fusion,
and its future may very well depend on the ability of its leadership to
realize the cost of undercutting its own potential for growth for the
benefit of the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Many Greens crossed over
during the primary to support Dennis Kucinich, while others continued after
the primaries to support the pro-war Democratic Party candidate, John Kerry.
While the Green Party has built its base from local and state elections,
there is considerable question whether ABB can ever take them any closer to
real political power and ability to influence policy-making. Within the
Green Party, the Greens for Democracy and Independence has been waging an
internal battle for the hearts and minds of green constituents to oppose
fusion and build the GPUS as a stable and viable independent third party.
http://www.greens4democracy.net/The other major third party experience, the
Reform Party, demonstrated that there is indeed a space in the election for
president in 1992. H. Ross Perot using his own resources and focusing on the
budget deficit was able to get 19% of the popular vote. Despite its
presidential campaign, the party organization was never able to deepen its
own platform and agenda.

Throughout the last half of the twentieth century there have been third
party efforts with a substantial base of support. Although the agendas are
by no means consistent or harmonious, they do demonstrate that the two party
system is inadequate in providing representation for many people.

OTHER OPTIONS TO THIRD PARTIES ARE NO-GAINERS

There is a continual effort to circumvent the issue of political
representation through parties, especially from those "progressive" centers
of power that currently benefit from the status quo. But, even they are
unable to successfully accomplish their stated objectives. Some try to be
tricky in developing strategies based on cross-party alignments. Some look
disdainfully at electoral politics and seek scenarios that have been tried
and tested and found lacking despite the best of intentions. The third-party
strategy is based on the premise that political power is the determinant
factor. And just as many victories of the past have been taken away by those
who achieve power subsequently, it is just as true that new alignments of
constituencies are capable of redefining the political agenda.

First, people need to grasp the futility of avoiding the issue and the
failure of alternative strategies. Political parties require active
leadership, mass support and financial resources that have long been
directed to other forms of organization. For all the good that has been
accomplished, we would be advised to review the existing allocation of time,
energy and resources. The options are like buckets without bottoms: you
could pour water in them for eternity and never fill the bucket.

Looking back at 2000 and 2004, we saw people come forward with efforts to
avoid the issue of duopoly power by trying to devise campaigns that were
based on vote trading or "safe-states". The obvious weakness in this
approach is that there is no way of evaluating its success. There are only
the results and they have resulted in losses in both presidential campaigns.
In spite of ABB, the Republicans continue to win. In spite of lesser-evil
strategies, the greater evil continues to do what it needs to in order to
claim victory. Like focusing the vote on a few, select "progressive"
candidates, "safe-states" has already proved its uselessness. It is a loser
because it still seeks to keep the basic playing field the same.

Some groups, like the Democratic Leadership Council, Progressive Democrats
of America and the Christian Coalition have sought to influence the
two-parties internally through allocation of funds and support of
candidates. These groups both were structured on pre-conceived agendas and
constituencies that had demonstrated some degree of stability in electoral
politics. Their position, even in the most favorable of times, is to be a
minority within the parties. The premise that ideological driven PACs will
one day take priority over corporate contributors, without significant
changes made first, is not one that stands the reality test in electoral
politics. The fact is that their existence works against opening up the
system of representation by continuing to provide a mechanism for the
two-parties to raid nascent forms of political organization in primaries for
their own benefit. The Kucinich and Robertson campaigns are examples of the
sociology of how the two parties drive the sheep into the fold.

The existence of NGOs and advocacy groups is another example of how the
activists have consciously sought to negate the political character of
political organization. Instead, these groups seek to litigate, legislate
and endorse duopoly candidates that meet their criteria. This is not
politics at all. This is nothing less then the splintering of allies and an
avoidance of the issue of political power. In parliamentary systems of
government there are divergent parties that are accorded their proportional
representation. These parties have distinct agendas and constituencies.
Alliances are formalized as needed. This helps to provide third parties with
the leverage needed for enactment of desired policies and appointments at
the Cabinet level that ensure implementation of desired policies.

Efforts in the US at fusion, such as the New Party, or Green-PDA coalitions
are just another _expression of the lack of basic democratic rights needed to
empower constituencies. Where they are formalized they represent essentially
nothing more then a short-term ideologically driven support for particular
candidates. While this may be desirable at times, there is no way to
guarantee the platform and agenda of the candidate once he or/she is
elected. After all, broken promises would hardly be a new phenomenon. Also,
many of the efforts at fusion that have been made have sought to avoid
existing channels of leadership. This only undermines both the source of the
demands and the capability of either side deliver the goods, even if
elected. There is no substitute to winning elections through a third party.

Neither the revolutionary rhetoric of some within mass movements nor the
massive issue oriented movements guarantee the character of changes enacted
in the absence of political representation. The end of the war in Vietnam
may have seen the Geneva Accords signed by all, but there was no voice of
opposition when the US government failed to deliver on its promise to pay
reparations to Vietnam. Likewise, there were legislative victories for civil
rights and voting rights to placate mass actions in the streets. But, there
were no such structural changes that addressed the political marginalization
of the inner cities. In fact, the subsequent infrastructure decay and
dismemberment of urban America led to mass incarcerations of people in those
regions where "no one goes after dark". And no one is at the table to speak
for them.

THE ROAD IS FORWARD - WE LEARN AS WE GROW

No response to the question "Are we Trapped in the Two Party System?" can be
answered without a scenario that provides solutions instead of more
questions. There is no future except that which we define for ourselves.
Those who would have us live in this two party system would have the world
pay the price. It can be said today that other options have been tried. It
remains for the construction of a national independent third party to build
a presence in all states and at all levels of government. It remains for us
to determine our destiny.

This third party can and must be built from the ground up. Building upon
successes it will bring new volunteers forward and deepen the ability of the
people to be heard. It will provide a contrast to the corruption and
sycophancy of the duopoly. It will bring forward the energy and
understanding of the people whose humanity has been so callously
disregarded.

In choosing the political arena as the battlefield, we look to our friends
and neighbors to rally with us. We look at the concerns and needs of people
so that we can win victories and redress the outrages and grievances that
are so routinely dispensed. In working to deepen our base of support we must
learn to listen and follow. We do not have the luxury of continuing as we
have in the past. Symbolic opposition is no solution. Now we begin to see
clearer who stands with us, and who stands against us.

Now we see new alternatives that have been buried beneath the tons of
dollars used to sponsor the predation of the planet and its species and
resources. Elections are presented not as beauty contests, but as political
struggles that center around our future and our children's future. Policy
alternatives are presented and debated and re-formulated to address real
problems. No longer are sound bites and spin the masters of political
debate. Substantive solutions evolve and demonstrate their potential.

By uniting, people learn who truly represents them and who uses them to
enrich themselves. Participation reinvigorates the populace at large and
engages those who had given up in the belief that things would always remain
the same. Concessions give shape and strength in the struggle that creates
its own movement and imagination.

Political parties are but one manifestation of organization. Other forms
also take root and people find new ways of addressing the matters of our
lives. Organization that is based on addressing the tasks of the day and the
problems of yesterday will provide accountability, consistency and fairness.
Empty rhetoric that attacks "leadership" or "hierarchy" seeks to tie the
hands of political organization capable of working with people to win
concrete concessions.In between elections, third parties need to continue to
represent their constituents. The party should speak for those without
elected representatives in the securing of rights and liberties. It should
address issues impacting on the general welfare of the community and promote
the common good. It should go to elected officials and represent those who
seek positive changes. It should promote public education that increases
participation of the people. It should participate in planning processes
that require input from diverse stakeholders and effectively present the
interests and concerns of others so impacted. It should seek concessions, no
matter how big its voter base, but never concede ground to the two parties
by withdrawing candidates or playing hide-and-seek.

As the parties win elections, it is important that they initiate and support
legislation that will open up the electoral system. It is important that
they begin to provide new models that are environmentally friendly. And, it
is important to get officials from the duopolies to join in and learn the
value of the third party strategy to their communities. Already, many mayors
in the US have united to implement Kyoto despite failure to do so by either
Congress or the President.

By building this political movement, other things will begin to open up.
But, as is being demonstrated in Latin America and elsewhere, the political
strategy has the best chance of success and the biggest opportunity for
significant change in 30 years. It is breaking new ground for the future and
expanding the agenda.


TO GREEN OR NOT TO GREEN

As it stands the Green Party US stands as the popular vehicle for third
party political movement for power and change. It alone represents a
cohesive base that has built local campaigns through a concerted effort. It
alone stands with the name that personifies opposition to current regime and
can demonstrate a willingness to oppose collaborating with the duopoly. The
Green Party US is the name associated with Nader. It is the name associated
to opposition to the war. It is the name associated with ecological
restoration.

It stands as an organization that has been built in states across the nation
and has run candidates at all levels of government. In Alaska, to Maine to
Florida, to California, to Minnesota its name rings out among the young and
the restless. It has been heard of in San Francisco, Santa Fe, Portland, New
Paltz and Minneapolis in local elections and campaigns. It has faced
election laws and worked to change them throughout the US. San Francisco
broke through the structural inequities and defeated the efforts to prevent
IRV, and it has seen public campaign financing in Maine.

It stands as the voice of national opposition through the presidential
campaigns in 2000 and 2004. It has run Presidential candidates since 1996
and increased its electoral space in the national constituency. It withstood
four years of blistering criticism of it election efforts in 2000 by ABB
apparatchniks. It remains able to create a new dynamic in the campaign of
2008.

It stands as the opposition to efforts by Democrats and Republicans to deny
independents and third parties the right to ballot access and campaign
finance. It has reached out to new blocs of voters in supporting electoral
reform. It has worked with Republicans in opposing new regulations for major
party status and voter identification in New Mexico and with Democrats in
demanding a recount of the presidential election in Ohio and New
Mexico.Within the Green Party US lies the capability of expanding and
building an independent third party. It has the potential of representing a
broader base of voters and defining its platform without ideological
pre-conceptions. The reality of the international ecological crises and the
marginalization of significant segments of the American population present
an opportunity to promote an agenda that corresponds with current political
situation in the US.

As part of an international political movement, the Green Party US is a part
of a dynamic within the international reality that has replaced prior
leftist and socialist/communist political struggles. It has been able to
introduce a post-industrial critique of society with a political strategy
that is rooted in the defense of human rights and justice. It has adopted in
its name an ecological foundation that surpasses those of other parties. It
has the potential of learning from parliamentary parties around the world
and their policy proposals for addressing matters of mutual concern.

As it grows, it will learn. As it expands, its platform will begin to be
deepened by language that demonstrates directness with voters' concerns. It
will begin to address the obstacles and develop tactics capable of
overcoming or circumventing them. Its own self-definition will emerge as
more individuals come forward and new constituencies are won in partisan
elections.

It remains the task of the organization of the GPUS to provide coherent and
effective leadership and support. The GPUS has the potential to demonstrate
the engagement of the grassroots while developing the ability to stand on
the national stage that no other party or organization has. The GPUS can
avoid the errors of prior third parties. It stands on its own and it can
give shape to the future through its own initiative and independence.

EVERY ELECTION IS A CHALLENGE FOR CHANGE

The opportunities for waging campaigns to promote change are endless. At
every level of government and in every election there are opportunities that
cry out for a party bold enough to transform the political landscape. In
partisan and non-partisan elections, in charter change resolutions and bond
issues, in planning commissions and zoning regulations there lies the
potential for change that will benefit an anti-corporate constituency and
empower them to further political activity.

Self-rule city charters have the potential for addressing the corporate
domination. Porter Township passed the measure to deny corporate personhood.
All city charters are open to change and the effort to change them can begin
to formulate working alliances and coalitions. These initiatives and
resolutions can promote those values of direct democracy, proportional
representation and open access that can begin to break the control by the
vested corporate interests. Unification of city and county governments
represents a forum for needed changes to be included in the discussion.

Urban and resource regional planning efforts that are authorized and
empowered by the respective states or municipalities represent another
opportunity to promote needed changes and to support smart growth policies
and redefine water management policies in the context of sustainability. It
provides a third party with the option of leading local support for holistic
models for economic development and planning. It enables a more
sophisticated focus on the character of the politics of developers, realtors
and the home construction industry. Regional planning facilitates a
bioregional approach that goes beyond the existing municipal entities and
provides coordination.Actively working with the City Council, a third party
can unify and support efforts that promote brownfield re-development and
protect Native American sacred spaces. Redefining traffic patterns through
toll roads, carbon taxes to support public transportation, and building
moratoriums increase the relevance of third parties to the local
communities. Redefining electoral regulations will increase the opportunity
for third parties to engage in campaigns for public office and efforts to
increase the space for additional constituencies to be represented.

County Commissions provide an additional venue to promote anti-sprawl
ordinances and build opposition to developers through supporting rural
unincorporated areas in their efforts to protect their quality of life. It
is vital for an active third party to support rural interests, whether in
land-use or in water use. By so doing it can begin to minimize the existing
political dominance of the development industry that seeks to manipulate
political bodies for their own economic interests.

City-County water utility authorities represent a significant opportunity to
establish water budgets and implement bioregional water planning
recommendations. It presents yet another venue in which developers'
influence can be effectively minimized.

Third parties can support electoral reforms in state legislatures that are
dominated by the Democratic Party or the Republican Party by building
working alliances with the minority party. Becoming a fulcrum between the
two parties by electing a swing vote within the state legislatures presents
new possibilities.

State constitutional amendments and referenda present opportunities for a
third party to establish working relations with new groups of actively
engaged voters. Forums and panel discussions presenting differing
perspectives will begin to demonstrate new working alliances.

Congressional races present new opportunities for alternatives to the
policies of war and planetary destruction. They enable a third party to
present alternatives that focus on a transition to a peace-based and
sustainable economic foundation.

The presidential race remains the most important race for demonstrating the
effectiveness and engagement of an opposition party that is prepared for
power and willing to engage both parties in policy debate. It provides the
opportunity for increasing the local bases of support for a third party and
connects them with relevant domestic and international issues of concern
creating its own social momentum. It establishes a party that will represent
those with no representation who have been marginalized.

WE CAN'T BE TRAPPED BY WHAT WE CAN AVOID

The two-party system is a no-gainer in which the loser remains those who
have no voice. It is better to create our own party that promotes our own
interests then attempt to restructure parties that have entrenched
interests. It is better to define constituents as our priority, rather than
contributors, and bring them forward as we exercise our Constitutional
rights. We have nothing to gain by trying to redefine the other parties. We
need an organization of our own; we need a strategy of our own. We already
have a vision of our own. Its time to make it a reality and stop propping up
others who fail to represent us. It is time to give up on strategies that
deliver nothing, and try something new.

In organization we can multiply our influence. We can provide innovative
leadership for others. We can establish our own priorities and agendas. We
can shape the future through our own efforts. Every step forward will give
us strength and teach us new lessons that will define us and divorce us from
the duopoly. We have the opportunity; the question is do we have the
audacity. We travel the road less traveled to gain the victories that are
more difficult to accomplish. The road to victory is forward.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Comments: Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?