Posts Tagged ‘political parties’

On Gary Johnson, Third Parties, and 5%

October 31, 2012 1 comment

Today, I officially cast my 2012 ballot by participating in early voting. Upon completion of my ballot, I shared on facebook who I voted for which opened up conversation and allowed me to explain my views. One issue that was raised repeatedly (particularly by my friends in the Army) was the fact that I didn’t vote for Gary Johnson. It could be considered strange that my lack of a vote for a distantly-polling Libertarian candidate raised any eyebrows at all. However, one specific request made sense to me. I was asked to explain how a vote for Obama helps America more than empowering third parties. This is going to require some background information.

First of all, why would a vote for Gary Johnson “empower” third parties? The answer is a bit mixed. It would not at all empower third parties. It would empower one, single party: the Libertarian Party. This empowerment is addressed in Gary Johnson’s latest ad campaign, “Be the Five Percent,” which explains that by acquiring 5% of the popular vote this election cycle, the Libertarian party will receive federal funds and greater access to the presidential ballots in 2016. This fact was difficult to verify, but I finally found a source that seems to confirm it, to some extent. So it is true that if Gary Johnson receives 5% of the vote, the two-party system will be dealt a blow of sorts.

I am a frequent, open critic of the current state of the two-party system. I hate the partisanship. I hate the incentive structure that is created through this system–one which rewards more extreme candidates. I hate that the plurality of Americans are not represented by either party and thus have no role in the federal legislative process. I have taken some minimal steps toward a future of actively fighting against the two-party system, weakening its power grip. To many, this implies that I would be in favor a third party or third-party candidates. I am not.

Another party would not solve the problem of the unrepresented moderate. Here is a great article about what it means to be moderate by (moderate) conservative David Brooks. The gist of it is that moderates base their political vision on facts and data–observable from history–to make decisions. As the article explains:

For a certain sort of conservative, tax cuts and smaller government are always the answer, no matter what the situation. For a certain sort of liberal, tax increases for the rich and more government programs are always the answer.

The moderate does not believe that there are policies that are permanently right. Situations matter most. Tax cuts might be right one decade but wrong the next. Tighter regulations might be right one decade, but if sclerosis sets in then deregulation might be in order.

(emphasis added)

Meeting the threshold to put the Libertarian Party on the ballot, then, does nothing toward meeting my goal to see unaffiliated, non-partisans in decision-making roles. In fact, I am of the opinion that the libertarian ideology is among the least flexible, least situational of any I know. Libertarians, as a general rule will answer to cut, to legalize, and to privatize. Their expanded role in our political process would simply mean that there is yet another rigid ideology pushing platitudes and making compromise difficult. Rigidity is the enemy.

Rather than cast a “protest vote,” in the presidential election, I will vote for a candidate who can win within the current system. One I believe in, at that. If you want to end the vice grip of power that the two major political parties hold, I would recommend doing so far outside of the context of a presidential ballot. Take measures to actually reform the current electoral system. Start with your state, as state electoral policy determines primary election formats, procedures required to get on the ballot, and other important electoral issues.

You should also consider any qualified, intelligent non-partisan candidate for a congressional seat if (s)he does not have any views with which you vehemently oppose. I voted for an unaffiliated candidate for the Senate, although in heavily Democratic Maryland, he stands little chance.

But the key here is to start locally, where one vote counts more than it does nationally. Local officials are responsible for creating the state-by-state systems that are rigged toward the parties. Small congressional districts are more-easily moved than nationwide electorates. If there is less partisanship at the state level, and less partisanship in congress, things will move in the right direction. Government reform, cooperation, and non-partisanship need to be prioritized in voting blocs which can be realistically achieved before tackling the largest voting bloc there is. Focusing on a presidential ballot to enact change just isn’t going to get it done.


On Politicizing… Everything

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment

I like to write with reason and evidence and facts as often as I can, but on rare occasions I’m just angry. Today is one of those occasions. As you have probably read, there were attacks on embassies in Egypt and Lybia over the past 24 hours with 3 Americans killed, including the Ambassador, J. Christopher Stephens, in Lybia. (Sean Smith is another victim; two others have not been named as of this writing.) This, in and of itself, is worthy of both sadness and anger.

But if you want to be even more upset, turn on the news and listen for a bit. The Romney camp criticized the Obama camp for its perceived response. The Obama camp then criticized the Romney camp for playing politics. Of course, as soon as you suggest that the opposite side is playing politics, you necessarily are also playing politics by even bringing it up. I’m beginning to think that if 9/11 had occurred during an election, it would have been as divisive an issue as it was unifying in a non-election year. Is there nothing that rises above the cause of political gain!?

This whole campaign has been a disgrace to America. The media coverage of campaigns is a disgrace; satisfied to cover the horse race instead of the horses; satisfied to stoop to the level of common discourse rather than attempt to raise the bar. I’m tired of the whole process. Do me two favors, handful of readers:

First, take a look at your local ballots. Find anyone on it without a D or an R next to their name. Google that person and check to see if they have real-world qualifications that would prepare them for an important job. If they do, vote for them.

Second, turn off cable news. All channels. I’ll do my best to do it, too. Maybe even boycott their advertisers or something. But do SOMETHING. The two political parties and the preeminence of cable news are horrible for this country. I’d like to do more, but this is all I can think of and accomplish right now.