One of the biggest complaints anyone has with almost any aspect of the sociopolitical status quo in America is that the powers-that-be—namely those with controlling interests in the way things are—tend to silence the voices of dissent…or at least those voices in the wilderness we tend not to pay attention to. And one of the reasons I began this blog is to give an airing to items and issues in the news that are either overlooked, or not even considered within the context of critical (as opposed to ideological) thinking.
As an example, I cite the presidential debate from this past Tuesday. No, I’m not talking about the presidential debate between Democratic and Republican nominees President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. What I refer to is the lesser-known, barely-covered in the media debate between the third party candidates for the White House in Chicago earlier this week. The Chicago-based Free and Equal Elections Foundation sponsored the event, which was moderated by former
Click on the video to watch the third party debate in its entirety
CNN talk-show host Larry King (See, "Third-Party Debate" for the background to this debate)
The event was arranged to counter the rules of the Democratic and Republican-controlled Commission on Presidential Debates that exclude political parties which do not fall within the parameters of their rules, which include:
Rule 1: The candidate must be constitutionally eligible to hold the office of the President of the United States. Rule 2: The candidate must “have achieved ballot access in a sufficient number of states to win a theoretical Electoral College majority in the general election.”
Rule 3: The candidate must have achieved “a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations.”
In regards to Tuesday's debate, the rule that only parties with at least 15% of popular support was used to exclude the third party candidates. What’s more, it seems that many of us ordinary citizens are complacent with the way the two major political parties dominate the political voting process. The Green Party candidate for the White House, Jill Stein was arrested outside the venue of this week’s major political party debate when she showed up with her running mate, Cheri Honkala, to protest the Democratic and Republican virtual monopoly on the debate and election process in America. Stein was taken away to a detention center and handcuffed to a chair for several hours as the Republican-Democratic debate carried on without her…or any third party candidate (See: "Our handcuffed politics: What The Arrest of Jill Stein, The Green Party Candidate, Tells You About America"). And then we wonder why we have legislative gridlock at both the federal and state levels across the country…!
And if such efforts to limit the level of participation of those who would bring a different political view to issues, there is a call from some within established circles to streamline the process even more. Many conservatives during this year’s primaries complained that “that entirely too many candidates were invited to take part, including hopefuls who were consistently polling around 2 or 3 percent.”
What most defenders of the current electoral system don’t know is that some of our nation’s Founding Fathers were not only against the notion of organized political parties, but warned Americans against their control of the political process. Consider their words:
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
- GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, September 17, 1796
"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."
Even activist the Tea Party Movement, which might have sprang from noble intents, was a cause (or series of causes) that eventually became co-opted by right-wing neoconservatives, and has become representative of the very type of candidates that they were trying to keep from being elected…purveyors of a big corporate government!
And despite the reality that some of our most revered Founding Fathers’ thinking on political parties assert the opposite, many political party activists make attempts clothe their contribution to the gridlock of our current political process in the notion that they are “the party of…,” implying some level of legitimacy or being representative of the idea of a real America!
When I think of the current two-party political system and the resulting political polarization it has influenced, I think of the of Thomas Jefferson:
Men are naturally divided into two parties,'' he wrote, "those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of the higher classes [and] those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise, depository of the public interests.''
Ask yourself, "Where do you stand?"