This will probably turn into a page of its own at some point, a book-length outline of the problems and processes that have to be reformed, and the obstacles in the way of average Americans retaking control of their government from the political bosses, corporate sponsors, and wealthy contributors who currently control it.
We have to start somewhere, so let’s start at the beginning.
A bright, fresh-faced teenager sees the problems in the world, the calcified systems in the US that seem incapable of dealing with these problems and asks himself/herself
“how do I get involved in this? How do I change this?”
The answer to that question is related to current events, and the image at right.
In the midst of a sideshow barker taking over the Republican primary process on the one hand, and a proud Socialist trying to pull the Democratic primary onto liberal ground it hasn’t seen since the 1970’s, I find myself without a group I feel can align with once again.
I left the Libertarian Party due to their inability to separate their ideological dedication to anarchism from the goal of actually winning the democratic election process.
Now I’m wondering just what the rest of the American populace is smoking, not just the libertarians, because it must be some good shit for everyone to be so clueless all of a sudden.
I really can’t make heads or tails of the purpose of all of this noise. I’m once again reminded of the Babylon 5 episode with Drazi killing Drazi over what color sashes they randomly select. What I can say for certain is that Americans in general are dissatisfied with the political process as we’ve come to know it. I can say that because the only reason that two outsiders could dominate the early potential candidate fields in polling is because Americans don’t like either of the two parties.
So what about third parties? is the question now being asked. That would be backtracking for me. I’m a veteran of the failed political process that is third party attempts at wresting control from the two major factions. For more than a decade I worked in the trenches, canvassing, promoting, representing the Libertarian Party in Texas in the best light that I could generate for it. I was never very important to the party (as I’m sure local activists will be quick to point out) but it was important to me, until it wasn’t anymore.
It wasn’t anymore because it became clear to me that;
- The majority of the U.S. population was never going to embrace anarchism and/or smaller government than currently exists and
- Majority is what determines the leaders in a democratic process. Finally
- I was no longer personally convinced that the U.S. actually suffers from too much government.
What the U.S. suffers from is ineffective and inefficient governance. Looking at the circus acts currently playing, one might well wonder if that wasn’t the purpose from the beginning. Harry Browne said government doesn’t work long before Ronald Reagan said it. Both of them are incorrect, because government works in other nations. It is just that the US government seems doomed to drown in a puddle of its own inefficiencies unless something fundamental to the process is changed.
There have always been third parties. There are several third parties right now. The system is rigged to only allow two parties to have any real power. Has been rigged since the Republicans rose to national prominence with the dissolution of the Whigs in 1854 over the question of slavery. This is the point that seems to be glossed over. It isn’t that I don’t care about third party politics. The system itself isn’t setup to recognize minority parties in any real way. It has been codified and calcified over the course of 200 years to the point where, in certain states, it is all but illegal to be a member of any party aside from the Democrats and Republicans. Third parties, minority parties, minority factions cannot alter the system because it is insulated from their efforts by layers of interference.
And still the question appears “how can anyone vote Democratic or Republican?” The answer is demonstrable; we vote for them because one of the two of them will win. One of the two of them will win because in the vast majority of races throughout history the political system in the US has been controlled by one of two dominant parties in the US.
Whoever the Libertarians nominate (or the Greens nominate) will lose again as they have in every previous election. They will lose because they aren’t Republicans or Democrats; which the rules at the national level and at the state level virtually guarantee will win all electoral races especially the president.
Running for President as a third party is a waste of time, worse it is a waste of resources which could be used to fund campaigns to change rules so that candidates who aren’t part of a party structure can compete. What we get from that investment of time and money is the exact same argument over and over again. Why are you voting for Democrats and Republicans?
First admit that there is a problem and that problem is the electoral rules themselves. Then fix that problem before doing anything else.
Go read Ballot Access News, edited by the magnificent Richard Winger. Top of the page today is a notification that a majority of seats in a particular state are unopposed. Tomorrow it will be a different state. Unopposed means the incumbent will be re-elected. It means no change. It means that the system will remain unaltered. Why are the seats being handed to the incumbent? Because ballot access is gated by a huge hurdle in nearly every state. If the hurdle (be it signatures or party requirements) is topped, the next legislature will simply raise the bar for the next election.
The never asked question is why do Americans insist that voting by itself constitutes meaningful involvement in government? Voting is actually the very least we should be doing if we hope to ever live up to the promise of self-government. Why is the least we can possibly do that constitutes doing something considered active involvement in the political system?
If you concede that voting is not enough, and you should, then the question becomes how to make effective change in our government without reinventing it? The answer to that question is to co-opt an existing party and make it do what we want it to do.
This really isn’t news. The religious right took over the Libertarian Party with Ron Paul as their nominee in 1980, and then shifted their support to Reagan and their membership to the Republican Party when Reagan invited them to move in and take over the GOP. The religious right have been the motivating force behind party politics ever since, and were effective at getting their way politically until the election of Barak Obama in 2008.
Even the current President has been forced to cater to the whims of the religious right, modifying many of his programs specifically to accommodate demands made by them.
This lays bare the how of how to change politics for all to see. Simply have enough agreement among the population who vote to effect change at the city, state, and national level. But that agreement is the hard part, the part that requires attention long before you go into booth and cast your ballot.
Political veterans will tell you, it takes work. Years of work. Which is how we got where we are today, people who went into politics with a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve have been co-opted and subverted by the process of hammering out agreement after agreement in decades of struggle with people who think differently.
Eventually you end up voting for a candidate that you really don’t agree with on any specific issue, but remains the best choice given the compromises required, hopefully not loosing sight of your overall goal in the process. Not being able to see the forest because of all the trees.
Hillary Clinton is probably going to be that candidate for me. If you read back over this blog you’ll discover that I first abandoned the Libertarian Party to support Barak Obama so that he would be President instead of Hillary. In 2016 I would vote for Hillary Clinton with almost no reservations.
I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates in this election. I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don’t believe in magic. The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool’s errand by the Tea Party’s co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don’t have the time of day for the party as a whole. If they were to nominate someone like Governor Kasich I might have to revise my opinion of them, but I don’t see much chance of that, of Republicans being willing to compromise enough to embrace a man who supports the ACA.
I vote down ballot based on candidate qualities alone, discarding anyone who pretends at being the better conservative. These candidates generally win in Texas (because conservative=correct in the mind of the average Texas voter) outside of Austin, but you can’t fix any stupid aside from your own. In Austin the down ballot offices (state senate and legislature) are held by Democratic incumbents, usually running opposed only by independent candidates. The independents almost always get my vote, because I want to see change and you won’t get change from an incumbent.
But I’m still talking about voting, the last thing on the list.
The only way to change the system is to infiltrate the two parties and alter them from the inside, thereby altering the system they control. It has to start with ending gerrymandering and real campaign finance reform. Opening up ballot access and ending party control of the ballots in every state in the nation. Not doing this will simply kick the can forward again. That is the forest that we must keep in sight, the big picture. Gerrymandering must be ended across the entire nation. Districts must be drawn blindly with no consideration of the political, racial or social strata that the people in the districts represent. Campaign finance must be addressed, or the corruption of our electoral process by the wealthy will continue in spite of any other change we might put in place.
Changing any of these fundamental corruptions of the system will take a long, hard effort. It will
require canvasing of your local precincts to get a feel for who supports or doesn’t support these changes. It will take joining the local precinct and becoming involved, and bringing enough people along with you to alter the votes at the precinct level. It will take making sure that county gatherings and state conventions also support these measures.
Faction is why these rules, this corruption, has taken hold. Madison was correct when he cited faction as one of the biggest threats to the Republic. The Democrats are a faction. The Republicans are a faction. Third parties are all factions. Faction leads generally sane people to do insane things like drawing districts to favor your party (gerrymandering) allowing contributions that favor your party over your opponent (campaign finance) never taking into account that the practices you use to force the system to cater to your faction can be used to exclude your faction when power is finally wrested from you.
…and it will be.