Independent Third Party
This issue: Pirate Party Sets Sail Approval Voting Americans Elect Get Out of Our House!
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Issue II. Vol. I
Our Government Isn’t Broken, It Just Needs a Realignment
Interview with Nathan Daschle, Founder of Ruck.us
by Oliver DeMille
athan Daschle is the founder and chief executive of Ruck.us, an online networking platform and political organizing tool he developed with Ray Glendening and Assaf Weinberg. A former Executive Director of the Democratic Governor’s association, Mr. Daschle describes himself as a reformed lawyer and political operative who “now dreams of a day when people can shed their partisan labels and organize freely around the issues they care about most.”
The Third Party Solution
ur government isn’t broken. It is just caught in the past. Specifically, the current divide between the major parties is a mirror image of the country. Politics is a reflection of society, and the bickering right now in Washington is a direct projection of the nation. There is one big exception. The nation is divided into three major political camps. The problem is that the two smallest camps (Democrats and Republicans) have party representation in Washington while the largest camp (independents) does not. In short, it’s not that our government is broken, but rather that we are stuck in a twentiethcentury structural model even though the society has fundamentally changed. Instead of a two-party nation sending its representatives to Washington, we now have a three-party society where the biggest “party” must divide its representation between the two smaller parties. It’s not broken, it just acts like it. The Great Fall This situation began to develop when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Up to that point, the two-party model was a natural reflection of a nation engaged in a long-term Cold War with an enemy capable of destroying our entire civilization. This omnipresent reality colored all policy for over four decades. Having sacrificed greatly to overcome major conflicts in WWI and WWII, the large majority of citizens from both parties stood firmly together against the Soviet threat. When the Cold War menace significantly decreased, Americans took a long sigh of relief, and then they reassessed their priorities for government. Some felt that the needs of big business . . . cont.p.4
Third Party Independent: When and why did you found Ruck.us?
Washington’s Farewell Address: The “Frightful Despotism” of Party Government
eorge Washington’s Farewell Address was published toward the end of his second term as president. Here we excerpt those sections dealing specifically with the “spirit of party,” among others, amounting roughly to one-third of the whole address. Friends and Citizens: The period for a new election of a citizen to administer
the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those
out of whom a choice is to be made . . . Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which
appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occont. p.6 casion . . .
History: Major Parties Play Minor Role in 1933 NYC Mayoral Campaign
cont. p .9
An Independent’s Case for “Top Two” Open Primaries by Randy Miller
By Darcy G. Richardson
t the height of the Great Depression, New York City experienced one of the most fascinating mayoral elections in American history, a campaign dominated by two distinct new party movements. The 1933 mayoral race pitted Fiorello H. La Guardia, a fiery former progressive Republican congressman running on a fusion ticket consisting of the GOP and the newly-formed City Fusion Party, against Democratic incumbent John P. O’Brien and the Recovery Party’s Joseph V. McKee. Given New York voters’ antipathy for the Republican Party during the Great Depression, La Guardia’s stunning victory in 1933 would probably not have been possible were it not for the long-forgotten City Fusion Party. Hoping to create an organization that would become a permanent force for good in New York City politics, the City Fusion Party, originally founded in late 1932 as the City Party, an outgrowth of the New York Committee of One Thousand, which in turn was created under the auspices of the Citizens Union — a good government group long opposed to Tammany — quickly organized branches in each of the city’s five boroughs. cont.p 9.
Nathan Daschle: Ruck.us is an idea that several us developed over the last few years. At risk of sounding corny, its owned by everyone and no one. It started in 2008, when my wife and I witnessed the advent of political technology along with the meteoric rise in frustration with politics. It was clear that these trends were bound to intersect. I was working in politics with Raymond Glendening at the time, and I quickly realized that Ray shared our disappointment with what politics had become as well as our optimism about what it could be. After the 2010 elections, it became apparent that the change we need is systemic, and its not going to be achieved by simply switching the electoral outcome. We needed to change the fundamentals of politics, and it had to begin with the two major parties. The Democratic and Republican parties are an inefficiency and a distraction. They ask us to ignore our similarities and exaggerate our differences. They are driving a wedge through our country and turning people away from political engagement. If this were another industry, it might not be a big deal that the established players
Are You Independent or Co-dependent? By Damon Eris
emocrats and Republicans alike are fond of saying that the two-party system consists of the stupid party and the evil party. At least they can agree on that much, even if they argue over which is
which. Many Americans, however, appear to be increasingly uncomfortable aligning themselves with the greater stupidity when they side with the lesser evil. Indeed, public discontent with both the Democratic and Republican parties has reached all time highs across a wide array of polls and surveys. And every day, it seems, more Americans are un-
enrolling from the major parties and identifying themselves as Independents. But where are they to turn? In a New York Times/CBS News survey conducted in late July, 82% of respondents stated that they disapprove of the way the Congress is handling its job, more than at any other time since the paper began asking the question in
1977. Though Democrats, Republicans and their mouthpieces in the mainstream media continue to pump the myth of the binary Red/Blue divide, the poll contains some striking figures on voter identification and affiliation which should debunk this noxious fiction: Independents outnumber Democrats and Republicans, cont.p 3
re independent voters equal? This fall, cities across Utah will be conducting municipal elections for City Council and Mayoral offices. Fortunately, Utahans enjoy a non-partisan election process for filling these positions. When more than two candidates have filed for each position, there is a primary election to narrow the choice to just two candidates—the top two candidates by popularity. This basic model, affectionately known as Top Two, has been adopted most recently in California for all elections except President of the United States. The basic model of Top Two elections has also been enacted by citizens’ initiative in Washington State. These systems are not all identical but they are similar enough that they can be grouped together. As you can imagine, making a partisan election non-partisan does not sit well with the parties and I have heard many creative legal arguments why such a system violates any number of rights. While Utah continues to enjoy non-partisan municipal elections, the parties have not expressed substantial concern or challenged the arrangement in court though the framework is fundamentally the same as the systems in California and Washington, which are more broad in scope. The parties have challenged Top Two elections in cont.p. 7
The Green Party
Express yourself! Visit us online at thirdpartyindependent.com
Third Party Independent News Harlem, NY 10031 Publisher Third Thing Media Media Strategy 21st Century Media Editor-in-Chief Damon Eris Contributing Authors: Oliver DeMille Vic Kaplan Marcus Kesler Solomon Kleinsmith Randy Miller Darcy Richardson Samuel Wilson Front Page Cartoon: Ben Garrison
For information, email info@ thirdpartyindependent.com Visit us online at: thirdpartyindependent.com
should debunk this particular fiction: Independents outnumber Democrats and Republicans, and they do so by a wide margin. 39% of respondents to the survey identified themselves as Independents, while just 32% admitted that they are Democrats and only 24% were willing to state that they are Republicans. These numbers are consistent with findings from numerous other polling organizations and raise an obvious question: if nearly 40% of the American public refuse to identify or affiliate with either of the two major parties, why do Democrats and Republicans still occupy 99% of all elected offices? We can be fairly certain that it’s not because they have the support of their constituents. In a CNN survey from August, 70% of respondents said they do not believe most members of Congress deserve to be reelected, and only 41% stated that their own representative should be reelected. Unsurprisingly, Independents were most likely to express deep frustration with the Democratic and Republican parties, with 75% stating that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election and 57% saying the same about their own representative. “Anti-incumbent sentiment is so strong that most Americans are no longer willing to give their own representative the benefit of the doubt. If that holds up, it could be an early warning of an electorate that is angrier than any time in living memory,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland, reflecting on the results. “Throw the bums out!” This is the perennial rallying cry of disgruntled anti-incumbent activists across the political spectrum. It sounds easy enough, but let’s consider a simple thought experiment. Imagine that discontent with the White House, the Congress and state legislatures across the country leads to a massive anti-incumbent backlash in 2012, and, astoundingly, every single sitting incumbent is defeated by his or her major party rival. The tidal wave of voter discontent would create nothing more than a mirror image of the power relations that led to the discontent in the first place. Simply trading a Republican for a Democrat and vice versa would do nothing to address what is arguably the most pressing political problem facing the people of the United States today: the consolidation and centralization of all political power in the hands of the Democratic and Republican party machines. It is widely understood that Republicans and Democrats place the interests of their party above those of their constituents and even the country itself. A Rasmussen survey from August found that only 8% of likely voters believe members of Congress listen more to their constituents than to their party leaders, while a whop-
cont. from p.1
ping 84% said that our Congressional representatives listen to party leaders more than the constituents they are elected to represent. Fortunately, there is an obvious and simple solution to this problem: electing candidates who are not beholden to the Democratic or Republican party. All it requires is for voters to cease casting their ballots for Democrats and Republicans. As it stands, the wide majority of Americans have already effectively stopped voting for the representatives of the major parties. In the 2008 presidential election, which saw the highest levels of voter turnout since the 1960’s, there were more Americans who opted not to vote than there were who voted for then-candidate Obama. In the 2010 midterm elections, there were more Americans who did not vote than there were who voted for Democrats and Republicans combined. But what is the alternative? Arguably, it doesn’t even matter who the alternative may be, or where he or she might fall on the political spectrum. Studies have shown that even randomly selected Independent legislators substantially improve the function of representative bodies that are dominated by two parties or two ruling coalitions. A paper published in March by Alessandro Pluchino at the Universitá di Catania in Italy found that “the introduction of a variable percentage of randomly selected independent legislators can increase the global efficiency of a legislature, in terms of both the number of laws passed and the average social welfare obtained.” Though monkeys in suits typing up bills and randomly pulling levers to vote on legislation may well produce better results than the Democrats and Republicans, there are superior alternatives. The forced choice between the stupid party and the evil party is a false choice. There were more third party and Independent candidates on the ballot for US House in the 2010 elections than there had been in any midterm since 1934! And, as public discontent with the major parties as grown in recent years, a plethora of new organizations have been founded to facilitate Independent grassroots organizing and counteract the entrenched interests that control the major party machines. Among them are Ruck.us, Americans Elect and Get Out of Our House, all of which are profiled in the present issue of Third Party Independent. Of course, there is no magical solution to our nation’s political problems, but it is certain that so long as Independents continue to cast their ballots for the representatives of the stupid party and the evil party, they will do nothing more than help to reproduce the failures and deadlocks that have come to define RepublicanDemocrat party politics.
Pirate Party Movement Sets Sail By Marcus Kesler
n any given day you can find Americans smoking a cigarette (causing over 4,000,000 deaths in the last decade), drinking at a bar (causing over 800,000 deaths), driving in a car (causing over 400,000 deaths), and if they are lucky, they might even have sex (causing over 200,000 deaths). And when they arrive at the airport they will allow the TSA to touch their genitals and view a digital nude image of them, because terrorism is the greatest threat to our lives (causing around 3000 deaths in the last decade). If you look at these numbers and wonder why we surrender our privacy and freedoms in the hope of preventing a terrorist attack, only to turn around and get into a car that is over 100 times more likely to kill us, then you might just be a Pirate. Preserving and strengthening privacy rights is one of the goals of the Pirate Parties around the globe, and for me it was the driving force behind becoming a Pirate and helping to start the Pirate Party of Oklahoma. I believe that the United States of America is a great country because of the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. I also believe that if you give up any of those freedoms in order to be protected you will have nothing left that is worth protecting. Especially if you consider that when you give up your freedoms, they are guaranteed to be lost forever, but your safety can never be guaranteed. We also believe that the ideas behind the constitution need to be honored and strengthened, and that our digital property deserves the same protection that our founding fathers envisioned for our physical property. Pirates also fear that blanket surveillance will lead to a population that lives in fear of our government. The continuous evolution of our modern information society is of particular concern to the Pirate Party, and it is an area that I feel is often misunderstood or ignored (or possibly both) by the current political system. While technology has helped improve our quality of life and allowed for instantaneous information sharing around the world, it has also opened up an avenue for governments
to have unprecedented access to our lives and activities. With facial recognition software, closed circuit television systems, and photo surveillance, our movements can be tracked and stored. Cell phones are being used to track our locations, and laws are being proposed that would require ISPs to record our online activities for law enforcement to review. The excuse we hear is the usual “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”, but a disputed quote by Cardinal
are still available, because the Justice Department fails to understand that removing a domain name does not equal the removal of the actual website. This is just some of the evidence that we need a political party which understands the role technology plays in modern society. The Republican and Democratic Parties are firmly entrenched in American politics, and the individual states have placed obstacles to prevent the emergence of third parties. The Pirate Party of Oklahoma is attempting to become recognized as an official party, but we are faced with the requirement of collecting over 50,000 signatures to achieve this status. It seems that if there is one goal with true bipartisan support in politics, it is keeping further competition off the ballots to ensure the survival of the entrenched party system. We are working with the Green Party and the Libertarian Party in Oklahoma to ease ballot access laws in the Sooner State to give voters in Oklahoma a true democratic choice. But we are also encouraged by the success of other Pirate Parties in the United States. The Florida Pirate Party has is now recognized by the state and will be able to have Pirate Party candidates on the ballot in upcoming elections. The Pirate Party is also now officially recognized in Massachusetts as well. Additional Pirate Parties are active in Oregon and Washington as well as the Carolinas. The individual state Pirate Parties are currently in the process of organizing a national cooperative to enhance communication between the state parties, and to help the Pirate Party movement spread throughout the country.
Technology has also changed the way we access information, rendering old patent and copyright laws ineffective and inefficient. Richelieu explains my fears the best: “If you give me six lines written by the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.” Technology has also changed the way we access information, rendering old patent and copyright laws ineffective and inefficient. Content creators have more access to our government and more influence in the creation of laws than the voters that elect our leaders and they utilize that access to further their commercial goals and to hinder innovation and the free flow of information. Instead of fighting violent crime or human trafficking, the Justice Department holds press conferences at Disney headquarters to announce the “take down” of websites that link to “infringing” content, without due process, including websites that have been ruled legal by previous court rulings. Additionally, the majority of these websites
------------------------------Marcus Kesler grew up in Germany and moved to Oklahoma in 1997. He has been involved with the Pirate Party movement for two years and has been the chairperson of the Pirate Party of Oklahoma since its founding. Visit the Pirate Party of Oklahoma online at: ppok.us
cont. from p.1
were the top priority, others considered moral issues the lead concern, while still others deemed an increase in social justice the major challenge. The first two pooled resources in the Republican Party, while social liberals and those emphasizing social justice combined in the Democratic Party. The largest group of Americans rejected both of these extremes, feeling that government should indeed fulfill its role to corporations, societal values, and social justice, but also to a number of other vital priorities including national security, education, and fiscal responsibility. But, because independents come from many viewpoints and also because they have no official party apparatus in Washington, the biggest political group in our nation today has little direct political power except during elections. The consequence is that subsequent elections tend to sway widely in opposite directions. When independents put Republicans in power, they are naturally (because they are not Republicans) frustrated with how the Republicans use that power. When, in contrast, they vote for Democrats, they find themselves discouraged with what Democrats do in office. This is a structural problem. When Democrats elect a Democrat, the elected official can swing to the center once in office because while supporters may dislike their Democratic official’s actions they will almost always still vote for him or her in the next election—after all, in their view the Republican would be worse. The same applies to Republi-
cans electing a Republican. All of this changes when independents put a Democrat, or a Republican, in office. Naturally, the elected official will disappoint supporters in some way, and independents are as likely as not to believe that a candidate from the other party will do better. Historical Realignments When similar historical realignments of politics with cultural shifts have occurred, a major new political group in society reformed one of the big parties to fit its new views. For example, when the Declaration of Independence and hostilities with Britain changed the old Tory versus Whig debate, the Loyalists mostly joined the new Federalists while the Whigs split between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. When the new U.S. Constitution changed the makeup of society and made the Federalist versus Anti-Federalist debate obsolete, most of the Anti-Federalists joined the Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans while the Federalists split between the Democratic Republicans and the Federalists. Other such changes have happened several times in American history, most notably in the 1830s, 1850s, 1910s, 1930s and 1960s. Note that, in the twentieth-century shifts, the names of the parties (Democrat and Republican) did not change even though political philosophies were significantly altered during these periods of realignment. The current repositioning may or may not adopt a new name for one of the parties,
but a philosophical shift is occurring nonetheless. Some believe that this shift is fundamentally rooted in social concerns, from issues of gender and sexual preference to values debates and immigration. But this is a view left over from the twentieth-century style Democrat-Republican argument. The rise of independents is not a morality-driven movement. It’s mostly about the economy. The New Party The new party of the twenty-first century will emphasize economic growth and getting our financial house in order. Many independents will flock to this party, whatever its name — Democratic, Republican, or something else. This is the party of the future. And while analysts say that independents are not joiners, it is likely that many would join such a party. Note that a real three-party system is not likely to last. A third party may arise, as Thomas L. Friedman and others have suggested, but history suggests that it will eventually take the place of one of the top two parties. There is an important reason for this. The American framers did not want the U.S. President to be elected by a plurality of the nation, so they wisely structured the Electoral College in a way that the President can only be elected by a majority of electoral votes. This means that any third party will eventually have to gain the support of one of the other parties in order to win
the White House. This constitutional reality is one of the most important things keeping America strong. Without it, any extreme party might win a given election and take the nation in even more drastic directions than we’ve witnessed to date. To sum it up, the frustration with two-party infighting is a positive thing. The framers rightly foresaw that the greatest danger to America would be an apathetic citizenry, and the Electoral College requirement for majority has caused a no-party or two-party structure and also incentivized citizens to stay informed and involved. When a powerful third party arises in America, it has always come in response to a change in society and it has always worked to reform the two existing parties in ways that better reflected the desires of the people. This is a huge positive, as chaotic as it may seem at times. Seriously? Today, it is independents that most dislike the party bickering, and as a result independents are more actively involved in government. This is a powerful check on the aristocratic-political class, and shows once again the brilliance and inspired effectiveness of the U.S. Constitution as established by the framers. Our government isn’t broken, but the current two-party system is outdated. Neither party truly represents the views of the largest political “group” in America: independents. Until this problem is fixed, the entire political system will look untenable and appear unable to solve major American
problems. But such realignment is already occurring, albeit slowly, and the future belongs to whichever party – Democrat, Republican or a third party – gets serious about three things: 1. A moderate view that government has an important role to play in society and that it must also be limited to the things it really should do like national security, schools and basic social justice. 2. Actually getting our financial house in order. 3. Creating the environment for widespread enterprise and a true growth economy. The party that effectively and consistently champions these things will be the leading political group in the years ahead. In other words, some major shifts in the parties are ahead. -------------------------------------This article has been reprinted with the permission of the author. -------------------------------------Oliver DeMille is the founder and former president of George Wythe University, a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd Online. He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom. Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah. Visit him online at: oliverdemille.com
Americans Elect Aims for Independent Ticket in 2012 by Solomon Kleinsmith
idea behind a somewhat new organization called Americans Elect. You may have heard about them if you follow columnists like Thomas Friedman and John Avlon, or if you watch the Colbert Report. The concept behind their organization seems to spring right out of the polling numbers above. Americans Elect is not a third party, or a standard political issue advocacy organization. Their only goal is to get ballot qualified in all 50 states and then put together an online system where millions of Americans can directly decide who will be on that ticket. What better way to improve upon a system that people no longer trust than to build a platform that totally bypasses it? During my interview with their Chief Operating Officer, Elliot Ackerman, he said something that stuck in my head. "Everything with us is about participation," he said. They believe that the real innovation of Americans Elect is the system they are setting up which puts almost all of the power into hands of delegates, the people who sign up on their website. Any registered voter can join as a delegate, regardless of political affili-
ation, or lack thereof, for us Independents. These delegates decide what questions potential candidates have to answer if they wish to be considered for the nomination, and their votes will determine who those candidates are, as long as the two candidates are not of the same political party. And yes, that means one of the candidates may well end up being an independent. The only major issue on which I disagree with the way they have organized themselves is their legal status. I understand their position on forming as a 501(c)4 (commonly called Super PACs), so as to not be confused with a political party, which would have assuredly been the case had they gone with a 527, but this does not give them an excuse to not be transparent with their funding. Even though they are not required by law to reveal their donors, they are choosing to be the opposite of transparent, and this is no small issue for Independents. After being the red headed step children of American politics over the last generation or so, we are not a very trusting bunch.
Ackerman responded on this issue by saying that ultimately what matters is what an organization does, and this is true, but to really take the high ground, they could voluntarily open their books. This doubt will rightfully dog their organization for at least a while, and delegates would do well to pressure them during the process leading up to their convention in June to take the high road. I know I will. Regardless of whether that works or not, though, this is an opportunity that centrists, independents and moderates of all stripes would be foolish to pass up. Even with the unlikely possibility that their ticket will end up in the White House in 2013, this may well be the spark that leads to a national network of centrist and moderate activists that will form the opposition to the two party system our country so desperately needs. ---------------------------------------Solomon Kleinsmith is a former nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. Visit the site online at: riseofthecenter.com
Anti-Incumbency: Get Out of Our House! By Samuel Wilson
et Out of Our House, or GOOOH, is an organization which has set for itself the ambitious goal of ousting all sitting members of the House of Representatives and replacing them with citizen legislators. Like W. C. Fields emphasizing the "accent grave" on the final syllable of the name Egbert Souse, GOOOH insists that its acronym be pronounced "go," whatever your impulse might be to read it as "goo." The difference is obviously significant, but is it justified? Founded by Tim Cook in 2007, Get Out Of Our House (goooh.com) is not designed as a political party. Instead, "It is a system that will allow you and your neighbors to choose, among yourselves, a candidate who will truly represent your district," as the organization states on its website. The group's first priority is to defeat the incumbent Representative in every district in the country. Accordingly, they write, "Our preference is to compete in the primaries against the incumbent." Running on an independent line is seen as a last resort, but if the GOOOH candidate opts to contest a primary, he or she is obliged to stand down if the incumbent wins. The group appears to believe in a single-elimination principle, citing Sen. Murkowski of Alaska as a negative example (despite her eventual victory) of a party candidate continuing to run despite a repudiation from primary voters. Dedicated to eliminating
all 435 current Representatives, GOOOH declares itself non-partisan and non-ideological. As a non-party, it has no platform. It presents itself as a "process," a mechanism through which "a socially moderate candidate [can] be selected in San Francisco and a socially conservative one in Colorado Springs." Interestingly, GOOOH originally considered excluding lawyers and people making more than 250 times the median national income from membership, on the ground that these groups were already over-represented in the existing political system. They thought better of that rather Capra-esque idea, but still insist that members of either group declare their profession or their wealth before they can participate in one of GOOOH's "Selection Societies." Active politicians and their relatives are still excluded, however. Everyone who participates in a "Selection Session" is a potential candidate for office as long as he or she meets the requirements for serving in Congress. Participants must fill out a campaign questionnaire, marking Yes or No positions on a wide range of issues – GOOOH claims there are no "right" or "wrong" answers at this stage. They must promise in writing not to accept money from "special interests" and to vote in Congress according to the positions set down in the questionnaire. Another condition is added elsewhere: each candidate must promise in writing to serve no more than one term in office. Perhaps most importantly, participants
must donate at least $100 to a general GOOOH campaign fund. The group acknowledges criticism of this requirement, which is believed by some to exclude "the poor." The core of GOOOH's response follows: “Candidates are competing for a job that will pay $168,000 per year. If someone does not have the ability to raise $100 from family, friends or a side job, it is unlikely they are qualified to represent their district as a US Congressman. If someone is not willing to support the system with a minimum $100 donation, we do not consider them committed to the process.” The actual candidate selection process is a staggered caucus system that does seem to give each member a plausible fighting chance at first. Members in each district are assigned randomly to pools of ten people apiece, from which two candidates will be sent to the next round of selection. The process repeats until the number of potential candidates is down to ten. Those ten are then empowered exclusively to choose one from their number to run against the incumbent in a primary or general election. It is a very indirect system of selection that may strike people as undemocratic at the final stage, but the indirectness arguably denies any single person an advantage due to notoriety, and advertising is conspicuously absent from the process. If the plan has an obvious Achilles heel, it is the lack of any guarantee that all participants in the se-
lection process will support the final candidate. Some may prove unwilling to register in the incumbent's party if the election law requires it. For others, ideological bias may trump anti-incumbent sentiment if the final candidate appears "worse" in any respect than the incumbent. GOOOH expresses confidence that its candidates can win primaries and general elections. "We believe Americans will vote overwhelmingly for our citizen representatives if given an honest chance," the website declares, "GOOOH candidates will win in a landslide." The group hopes to seal the deal with a stern anti-incumbent argument against voters who declare themselves satisfied with their current representatives. They write: “There are 700,000 members in each district, thousands of eminently qualified men and women. “George Washington stepped aside after two terms as President because he did not want any one person to become more important than the system. Will your representative do the same, or is he more concerned about his political career? If your representative is good, shouldn’t he run for Senate or Governor? Do you agree that sometimes it is worthwhile to take one step back in order to move 435 forward? But, does it really matter if you “like” your representative? We voted for our high school officers based on likes and dislikes. This is about results. What has your politician done to ensure there are no earmarks in
a budget? What has he done to ensure we do not amass debt that our children will be forced to pay? What has he done to seal our borders, improve our education system, or solve the looming Social Security / Medicare crisis?” The author (presumably but not necessarily Tim Cox) goes on to make comments that suggest an anti-Democratic bias, but Cox does appear to have designed a system that is itself ideologically unbiased and would produce biased results only if ideologues join in numbers that overwhelm everyone else. However, GOOOH desires people to spread the word indiscriminately to as many people as possible regardless of current partisan or ideological orientation. As long as GOOOH is not a secret club for any particular ideological faction – and while Cox seems to expect "fiscal conservatives" to be chosen his rules can't guarantee that result – it might serve as a vehicle for anyone intelligent and charismatic enough to impress at least ten people. I'm not prepared to endorse GOOOH on a first reading, but the ideas it proposes definitely deserve a closer examination. -------------------------------------Samuel Wilson maintains The Think 3 Institute, an independent blog which provides political and social commentary “from the perspective of radical common sense.” Visit the site online at: think3institute.blogspot.com
Declare your independence at thirdpartyindependent.com
o those reading a paper like this, it will come as no shock to you that the American people are starting to view the two major parties with increasing levels of disappointment, anger and outright disgust. We’ve been ahead of the curve on that for some time now, seeing that the two major parties are both getting more ideologically zealous, as well as more closed, corrupt and tied to narrow special interests. But for the most part, the majority of the country isn’t really coming to this conclusion because of corruption or a lack of connection with the more commonsensical views of those who are not among the political class. They’re coming to realize this because the system has been so bad for so long, so polarized and so crooked that it is finally starting to hinder our country in ways even the most disengaged see right in front of their faces. More than at any time since the early 90’s, there is today an opportunity for something to arise to upend the two party system. A Washington Post poll finds that
fully 78 percent of those polled are dissatisfied with our country's political system, with more than half of those "very dissatisfied.” That same poll shows that 71 percent agree with S&P's assessment that our country's political system "has become weaker and government policies have become less stable, less effective and less predictable.” In addition, 71 percent also think the federal government is focused on the wrong things, 73 percent aren't confident that our government can solve our economic problems and 78 percent are dissatisfied with "the way this country's political system is working.” The big number from a Rasumussen poll is even more damning. It shows that only 17 percent think our government "has the consent of the governed,” a new low among a worsening torrent of depressing polling numbers, I’m not sure there is a worse thing that could be said in a country that fancies itself a democracy, when a huge majority doesn’t think its government has their consent. Can we really even fairly call ourselves a democracy anymore? This question lies at the heart of the
cont.from p.1 The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively directed . . . The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government. All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests . . . Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally. This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy. The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty. Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with illfounded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another. There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and
Washingtonsâ€™ Farewell Address, serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume. It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to en croach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in
the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in
But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the
The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates.
customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield ... Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it, it will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous
cont from p.1
and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices? In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or tri-
fling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim. So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation. As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter. Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests . . . In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
An Independent Case for Top Two Style Open Primaries Top Two, cont. from p.1 in California and Washington, perhaps because the reform is a direct challenge to their power. There are a number of myths being propagated about these systems and the perceived injustice they allegedly embody. Here is a partial list: Myth number 1: Non-partisan elections (Top Two) violate party members’ right to freedom of association. Fact: Freedom of association is completely intact. Parties and party members may still meet in public and private at any time or place of their choosing. Their freedom of association has not been infringed in the slightest. Making claims to the contrary does not make it so. Myth number 2: Parties have a right to run a candidate on the general election ballot. Fact: Not only is this a non-existent right, parties are not even mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. This line of thinking should get high marks for creativity and imagination but is simply not authoritative. Myth number 3: Primary voters who are unaffiliated with a party are choosing the party’s nominee.
Myth number 4: Voters will assume that general election candidates are the party nominees and parties will be forced to associate with candidates not necessarily of their choosing. Fact: Quoting again from Grange v. Washington: “Respondents counter that, even if the I–872 primary does not actually choose parties’ nominees, it nevertheless burdens their associational rights because voters will assume that candidates on the general election ballot are the nominees of their preferred parties. This brings us to the heart of respondents’ case—and to the fatal flaw in their argument. At bottom, respondents’ objection to I–872 is that voters will be confused by candidates’ party-preference designations. Respondents’ arguments are largely variations on this theme. Thus, they argue that even if voters do not assume that candidates on the general election ballot are the nominees of their parties, they will at least assume that the parties associate with, and approve of, them. This, they say, compels them to associate with candidates they do not endorse, alters the messages they wish to convey, and forces them to engage in counterspeech to disassociate themselves from the candidates and their positions on the issues. We reject each of these contentions for the same reason: They all depend, not on any facial requirement of I–872, but on the possibility that voters will be confused as to the meaning of the party-preference designation. But respondents’ assertion that voters will misinterpret the partypreference designation is sheer speculation.” Myth number 5: Primary elections are the internal affairs of private political parties. Fact: Primary elections are conducted using state and county election clerks, voting machines, printed materials and a host of other public labor and materials. It is surprising that the parties are not outraged at such state intervention into a private affair. However, given such a large consumption of public welfare, even the partisan primary election processes can hardly be construed as private internal party affairs. The parties contribute no monetary assets to the conduct of primary elections that are underwritten wholly by states or counties. A party cannot claim as their own asset a primary election process that they have not paid for.
Fact: There is no defensible provision for requiring any person to associate with a private entity as a prerequisite to participating in any public election. In a sweep of hypocritical irony, the parties are carping on the one hand about being forced to associate with a candidate who expresses a party as their personal preference. But on the other hand, political parties are not troubled in the slightest about requiring all would-be voters to affiliate with a private political party as a pre-condition to receiving a ballot. This indefensible practice is commonplace, however, and should raise serious questions indeed about who exactly is or should be entrusted to set election policies. So now you know. The myths are busted. It is interesting to observe that the struggle for electoral recognition and equality is an epic struggle in our country; first came the enfranchisement of African-Americans and former slaves and then the enfranchisement of women. Various obstacles to equal inclusion in elections such as poll taxes and literacy tests have been surmounted. Independent votersare a majority in many places with numbers swelling around the country. Fair and equal inclusion of all citizens in all public elections is due now! -------------------------Randy Miller is the founder of the Utah League of Independent Voters. Visit them online at: uliv.org.
UTAH LEAGUE OF INDEPENDENT VOTERS
Fact: The parties can still nominate whomever they choose. From Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party: “The flaw in this argument is that, unlike the California primary, the I–872 primary does not, by its terms, choose parties’ nominees. The essence of nomination—the choice of a party representative—does not occur under I–872. The law never refers to the candidates as nominees of any party, nor does it treat them as such. To the contrary, the election regulations specifically provide that the primary “does not serve to determine the nominees of a political party but serves to winnow the number of candidates to a final list of two for the general election.” Wash. Admin. Code §434–262–012: “The top two candidates from the primary election proceed to the general election regardless of their party preferences.” Whether parties nominate their own candidates outside the state-run primary is simply irrelevant. In fact, parties may now nominate candidates by whatever mechanism they choose because I–872 repealed Washington’s prior regulations governing party nominations.
udiced by closed or semi-closed primary elections; they are as free as anyone to form their own party or join an existing party.
We are always interested in contacts and contributions from writers, bloggers, cartoonists, photographers, designers, marketers and anyone else who is interested in helping to build independent media infrastructure. Visit us online at thirdpartyindependent.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call l-212-470-7860
Myth number 6: Independent Voters are not prej-
Cont. from p.1
Within its first year of existence the Fusion Party enrolled nearly 50,000 voters, an incredible feat for a new party. Ironically, the Fusionists — including La Guardia himself — initially pinned their mayoral hopes on the relatively popular McKee, but the former acting mayor had taken his name out of consideration when he accepted a position with a bank earlier that year. After several other potential candidates, including longtime reformer Samuel Seabury and Robert Moses, the controversial “master builder,” refused to run, the Fusion Party turned to La Guardia, who had anxiously desired the party’s nomination all along. La Guardia had long had his eyes on the mayor’s office, an ambition that was hardly quelled after unexpectedly losing his congressional seat only a year earlier. The “Little Flower,” as he was dubbed, had tried twice before, losing the Republican nomination for mayor in 1921 and being trounced by the dapper and debonair Walker in 1929 — a race in which he was outpolled by a lopsided margin of 865,549 to 386,384. Though an outspoken and caustic critic of Tammany Hall, frequently railing against the orgy of corruption that had been ignored by previous administrations, La Guardia hadn’t been anybody’s first choice as the 1933 mayoral election approached. Except for Judge Seabury, that is. More than anybody else, it was Seabury who encouraged the forces of good government to rally behind La Guardia’s candidacy. La Guardia was the ideal candidate, said the man whose highly-publicized investigations into municipal corruption had forced Walker out of office a year earlier, “because he’s absolutely honest, he’s a man of great courage, and he can win.” Seabury
Daschle, cont. from p. 1 were dissuading outsiders and perpetuating their own survival. But this is our democracy, the first of its kind and a 220+ year experiment. When we looked at what technology was capable of reproducing, it wasn't clear that political parties were even necessary anymore. So we decided to challenge that fundamental premise. We wanted to create a community that empowered individuals to engage in politics around issues instead of labels. Our country was built on faith in individualism, so it made sense that this principle should be at the heart of political reform. The team was not complete, however, until we brought on superstar product manager Assaf Weinberg. Assaf joined the team in May of this year, and he has done a fantastic job bringing our 50,000 foot ideas down to earth and putting them into action. TPI: What is the mission of Ruck.us? What do you ultimately hope to accomplish? ND: The mission of Ruck.us is to give people a complete political engagement experience outside the two major parties. We do this by breaking down the fundamentals of party activity: 1) bringing together politically likeminded people; 2) allowing them to exchange information; and 3) take collective action - and reassembling them in a more contemporary way. There are so many amazing techno-
proved prophetic. Seabury’s blessing carried tremendous weight and the City Fusion Party wasted little time throwing its support to the “Little Flower,” who was also actively seeking the Republican nomination in the September primary. As expected, La Guardia easily won the Republican nomination in September and prepared for a fight-to-the-finish tussle with the powerful Tammany Tiger in November. That’s when the campaign unexpectedly turned complicated with the entry of the Recovery Party’s Joseph V. McKee — the popular ex-mayor initially favored by the Fusionists to head
didates that autumn, “this is a political revolution.” The short-lived Recovery Party had been organized by Bronx Democratic leader Edward J. Flynn, one of FDR’s closest allies. Although Franklin D. Roosevelt remained largely above the fray during the mayoral campaign — even reneging on a promise to meet with McKee at the White House — the new party’s ties to his presidency were unmistakable. Imagine a sitting President, or the chairman of one of the two major parties today supporting a third-party candidate. It’s almost unimaginable. Yet it hap-
their ticket. In declaring his candidacy on September 29, less than five weeks before the election, McKee argued that La Guardia was “as objectionable” as the Tammany machine, “a poor compromise by a faction of would-be bosses.” The people of New York City, he said, “want in the municipal government what they now have in the nation — a new deal.” McKee, believing that he had Roosevelt’s support, was running to win. The party submitted more than 115,000 signatures to quickly earn a spot on the ballot. “This is not a political campaign,” thundered one of the party’s can-
pened. Flynn and Farley were convinced that McKee could win in a three-cornered race, especially given O’Brien’s lackluster leadership style. Coupled with the city’s widespread rate of joblessness — the nation’s unemployment rate peaked at 25 percent that year — O’Brien’s austerity measures, resulting in the layoffs of thousands of municipal workers, surely made him vulnerable. All kinds of intrigue and conspiracy theories ensued. Leaders of the City Fusion Party, who symbolically opened their campaign with a rally at historic Cooper Union — site of the gathering that led to the notoriously corrupt Tammany Boss William Tweed’s downfall
which were very much more abrasive and vituperative than were ever said about La Guardia.” In retrospect, McKee’s independent candidacy wasn’t a Tammany trick, as La Guardia’s supporters believed, nor a clever ploy by the City Fusion Party to split the city’s overwhelmingly Democratic base, as Tammany firmly believed. As it turned out, it was really an attempt by FDR to build an organization in New York City independent of the notoriously corrupt Tammany machine with which he had been openly feuding for more than twenty years. La Guardia and the Fusionists simply capitalized on the rift. Pledging to clean up the city and break Tammany’s stranglehold on the city government, La Guardia rolled to an impressive victory in the 1933 mayoral race, carrying all five boroughs while receiving 868,522 votes to 609,053 votes for the Recovery Party’s McKee. Incredibly, nearly half of La Guardia’s votes — 421,689 in all — were cast on the City Fusion line. It was a stunning achievement. McKee, who believed that he had been shortchanged by Tammany’s election day shenanigans, nevertheless finished ahead of Democratic Mayor John P. O’Brien. In a stinging reManhattan, circa 1931 buke, Mayor O’Brien, who Source: US Naval had plodded his way up the Historical Center Tammany ladder as a loyal ward heeler, garnered 586,672 votes, finishing greater threat to its survival than the fu- third in the balloting. sion ticket headed by the flamboyant La Socialist Charles Solomon, an able Guardia. lawyer and labor leader who had been Except for powerful Bronx boss Ed- one of five Socialist assemblymen exward J. Flynn, a Roosevelt ally who pelled from the New York legislature threw his considerable support to during the infamous Red Scare, garMcKee, most Tammany leaders, though nered 59,846 votes while the Commuterrified, decided to “sink or swim” with nist Party’s Robert “Fighting Bob” the mediocre O’Brien . . . Minor, the brilliant radical cartoonist for Tammany largely ignored La the Daily Worker, finished far behind, Guardia and aimed most of its firepower polling 26,044 votes. Another few thouat McKee, a fellow Democrat, during sand voters in the Big Apple cast their the autumn campaign. “In any three- ballots for one of three minor aspirants, sided war, the hostility is always greatest led by self-styled public watchdog toward the renegade than toward the Hyman H. Klein, who ran under the outsider,” recalled one Tammany politi- “Five-Cent Fare and Taxpayer” label. cian. “Things were said about McKee Astonishingly, more than 1,119,000
logical innovations on the market today that we could build our user experience around what we know already works. To fulfill our three part promise, we begin by asking our users to share their political views through a series of dynamic questions. This lets us recognize each person's political DNA. We then match the users with like-minded people, giving everyone an immediate political network called her "ruck." The user can then share information with her ruck using a wall and embedded Twitter feed. Finally, we provide each user with recommendations for political actions based on what others in her ruck are doing. TPI: On your website, you reference the threat posed to democracy when institutions hold more power than people, and mention the two-party system as a prime example of this. In what sense has the institution of the twoparty system outgrown its usefulness? ND: The Democratic and Republican parties were created in the early 1800's. They ought to be in the Smith-
back. By these standards, the two major political parties are woefully outdated. Not only does the two-party system present a dearth of options, but it’s also top-down with no opportunity for feedback. Why is it that I can "like" my favorite restaurant or recommend songs to friends, but I have no ability to tell my political party what it should stand for? TPI: Ruck.us advocates issue advocacy and issue-based coalitions over party activism. Do you see issue advocacy as a way of working within the party system or as a way of breaking from it? ND: Most definitely the latter. We think crowds and swarms are going to replace formal membership groups like parties. Its easy to forget that for most people, politics and issues are one in the same. Most people don't care so much about which team wins; they care about solving the problems we face. We hope that by giving people a platform to engage around issues we can hasten their movement from the parties to some-
ND: First, I believe that by allowing people to experience politics without first having to declare their allegiance to an anachronistic political institution is a good start. Forcing people into a political party is a disincentive to engagement, and I hope Ruck.us will play an important role in relieving this. Second, I would like to see easier ballot access laws and open primaries. The primary system is one of the biggest obstacles to the future of our democracy. We like to believe that in the general election, we vote for the best candidate. In fact, we vote for the best candidate among those who have previously passed a primary test. It turns out that is an enormous filter that restricts many capable people from holding office. TPI: Do you support the election of Independent and third party candidates to office? ND: Absolutely. We think this is exactly what the system needs, and we support anyone who is pushing against the wall. I also want to note that there
sonian next to the steam engine and the telegraph. They simply don't fit the way we live our lives anymore. Thanks to innovations like iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix, we have come to expect tailored options, immediate delivery of product, and the ability to give feed-
place more meaningful. TPI: What structural reforms do you think will help break the two-party duopoly and open up our political system to the wide variety of views and opinions that are actually representative of the American public?
are a number of other terrific organiza- coming every day. What's more, they 1931 engaged, with the average tions working on improving Manhattan, our poli- circa are actively Source: US Naval tics. All of us at Ruck.us have had the user answering over 45 questions. pleasure of working with manyHistorical of these Center While we are waiting for the full groups, and we are humbled by their product to be available, we are staying commitment to solving a big problem. in close touch with our community of TPI: How can Ruck.us help facili- Ruck.us bringers through our blog,
sixty years earlier — were skeptical about McKee’s last-second candidacy, arguing that it was some sort of clever Tammany trick to siphon votes from La Guardia, thereby assuring O’Brien’s reelection. Even the Socialist Party’s Charles Solomon seemed to agree, suggesting that McKee’s candidacy was “enough to make the gods laugh.” McKee, argued the Socialist candidate, had been in “collusion with the Tammany gang” for years. But Tammany leaders viewed it differently and were convinced that McKee’s third-party candidacy was a far
tate the election of third party and independent candidates? ND: Ruck.us seeks to cut out the middle men and elevate individuals closer to the levers of power by putting collective action tools directly in their hands. We believe this will open up the process to more individuals and a greater diversity of ideas. TPI: What are you doing to reach out to political independents and third party supporters? ND; Everything we can! Since we are running a pretty lean operation, we don't have a ton of money for marketing. To make up for that, we are hustling and reaching out to leading independent organizations and media like this excellent newspaper! TPI: How many people have already become active in Ruckus? We launched a sneak preview version of Ruck.us just a couple of months ago, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. In the first few weeks, almost 2,000 people came to Ruck.us and completed a profile, and more are
New Yorkers voted for mayoral candidates, including La Guardia, on independent or minor party tickets that year, while barely a million voters pulled the Democratic and Republican levers. La Guardia’s immense popularity, of course, had always transcended party lines. During his political career, La Guardia ran for office under nine different party labels, including five in one election and once on a seemingly incongruous Republican-Socialist fusion ticket. “Listen,” he once boasted, “I could run on a laundry ticket and be elected!” And that was more than just political bravado — he was twice elected to Congress on third-party tickets. La Guardia, who arguably might have been the greatest mayor in U.S. history, was reelected as a fusion candidate in 1937— running that year on the Republican, American Labor and Communist tickets, the latter of which he repudiated — and again in 1941 when he won a third term as mayor as the nominee of the Republican and American Labor parties. When he declined to seek a fourth term in 1945, La Guardia’s longtime protégé Morris Newbold, who served as president of the New York City Council for seven years during his administration, received 408,278 votes as a thirdparty candidate for mayor. Largely forgotten today, the City Fusion Party was also instrumental in the election of Vito Marcantonio to La Guardia’s old seat in Congress in 1934. The City Fusion Party also supported La Guardia’s re-election campaigns in 1937 and 1941, but played only a minor role in those later efforts. La Guardia himself joined the left-wing American Labor Party in late 1937. Later ignored by La Guardia and forced to compete with the better-organized and much larger American Labor and Liberal parties, the City Fusion Party remained as a ballot-qualified party in New York City until 1957. Darcy G. Richardson is the author of six books, including five volumes of a planned seven volume hstory of independent and third-party politics in the United States. A long time activist, he was an independent candidate for lieotenant governor of Florida in 2010. He writes online at battlegroundbog.com.
Facebook page, and Twitter. We are so grateful that so many others share our enthusiasm, and we are very optimistic about our coming launch. TPI: Ruckus argues in favor of anonymity online, even or especially when discussing personal and political opinions. Online anonymity and privacy are under attack from many quarters, including the Democratic and Republican parties. Why is it important to maintain the possibility of anonymous dialogue and discourse online? ND: Anonymity is an important principle on Ruck.us, though we understand that not everyone agrees with us. Many other groups require people to confirm their identity before they participate. That's unfortunate because a lot of people are uncomfortable publicizing their political views. We think that the political worlds needs fewer disincentives, not more. Further, some of the most organic and meaningful political engagement that takes place online happens anonymously. This is exactly the type of passion and enthusiasm we want to capture and bring to Ruck.us. TPI: What are the group's plans in the near and medium term? When are you aiming for your full launch? And how can people get involved? ND: Its easy to get started - anyone can come to the website today, build a profile, and start answering questions about current political issues. Once we launch the rest of the site in the coming weeks, users will be able to communicate with like-minded people and take action together. We hope that anyone who feels passionate about issues but is frustrated with politics will come to Ruck.us and find a political home. TPI: Thanks for taking the time to asnwer our questions. Visit Ruck.us online at ruck.us
The Crisis of Democracy and the Fairest Voting System of Them All: Approval Voting by Vic Kaplan
would have certainly faired much better under proportional representation. But what if voters could vote for a candidate without worrying whether or not their candidates are electable? What if voters could vote for two or more candidates that they like? There is indeed such a system. It is called approval voting. In a replay of the 2000 presidential election under approval voting, voters could have approved both Nader and Gore, without worrying that a vote for Nader would “hurt” Gore. Since a voter can cast a vote of approval for as many candidates as he or she wishes, there are no “spoilers” by definition. What would be the cost of changing to this system? Just to add the words “vote for 1 or more” to the ballot. This
hird party and Independent candidates have been battling Duverger’s Law for centuries. Simply stated, plurality election systems favor a two-party system. Thus, the current two-party system may be less a product of voter consensus, and more a reflection of the flaws inherent to our first-past-the-post voting method. Many advocates of reform support instant runoff voting, but there are other possibilities as well, such as approval voting and score voting. Voters on both the left and the right remain dissatisfied with the current system, since both progressives and conservatives always get outvoted in Congress. The Congressional Progressive Caucus did not claim a majority of the Democratic members of the House even during the 2009-2010 years, when the Democrats held a 39 seat majority. So the fans of a single-payer healthcare system, not to mention peace and civil liberties supporters, lacked the numbers to have any influence, and they still do. The same goes for spending cut supporters on the conservative side. The debt ceiling deal, for instance, does not contain an enforcement mechanism to enact cuts into law. Future Congresses have the option of simply ignoring them. The raising of the debt limit was a blow to the conservatives who opposed it. It is no wonder that some of the deal’s opponents are leaving both the Republican and Democratic Parties. On the latter side, the proposed Social Security and Medicare cuts seem to have been the “last straw” among progressives who feel that the Democrats take their votes for granted, while throwing an occasional bone like the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal or the Afghanistan semi-withdrawal (in the end, the number of US troops in Afghanistan would still be twice the number of troops since Obama became President) to keep them in line. And of course, the “Republican Scare” helps, as well. Whether or not these tactics would continue to work in 2012 remains to be seen. The “wasted vote syndrome” still continues to influence voters. But if the voting system is to blame for the continuation of the twoparty system, then what would a positive change look like? Instant-runoff voting (IRV) has been in use in Australian elections, mayoral elections in London, and local races in San Francisco, Minneapolis and other cities for years. However, a nationwide referendum to approve IRV failed on May 5, 2011 in the UK. Under IRV, voters rank candidates in their order of preference (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice on the ballot). The candidate who finishes 3rd gets eliminated and his/her support then gets transferred to the top two candidates. Proponents of IRV, such as Fair Vote, argue that the system would eliminate the “spoiler” effect. Case closed? Let’s examine the 2009 mayoral election in Burlington, Vermont, where IRV was used. At first it would appear that the election results were straightforward. Democrat Andy Montroll finished third and was eliminated from the contest. His supporters then favored Progressive Part candidate Bob Kiss over Kurt Wright, a Republican. So, Bob Kiss won. How-
ever, according to the paired table of voter preferences, Democrat Andy Montroll would have beaten Republican Kurt Wright by a 56% to 44% and Progressive Bob Kiss by a 54% to 46% majority.
So despite the claims that IRV eliminates the spoiler effect, the “spoiler” in this IRV race was Republican Kurt Wright. His absence would have caused Democrat Andy Montroll, the “beatsall-winner” to be elected. The contro-
versy over the election result caused the voters of Burlington, Vermont to repeal IRV in 2010. Other bizarre twists under IRV include candidates who get “too many votes” and lose, so voters are then better
off ranking the candidates that they support at the bottom. This is known as the paradox of non-monotonicity. The other weakness of IRV is that it cannot be tabulated with existing voting equipment. In addition, the precinct vote becomes impossible, as IRV necessitates a central tabulating location where all of the votes are to be counted. This leads to a prolonged counting of votes that stretches into days, as is the case in Australia. In the end, the IRV system reinforces the two-party system. For example, in Australia, voters who don’t think that the Greens “can win” rank them accordingly. This creates a system that is not very different from our plurality firstpast-the-post system. Last year, under IRV, the Greens won 12% of the vote in Australia, but only 1 seat out of 150 in the House of Representatives. They
would be an improvement over our plurality system, for it would provide for more honest voting and support for alternative party and independent candidates would likely go up. In March of 2011, the New Hampshire House voted against approval voting. At the same time, approval voting is used by the state Libertarian parties in Colorado and Texas, and to select the Secretary General of the UN. To keep the current system in place would be to resign oneself to the current two-party system, where there are always two major parties. If an alternative party or candidate gains sufficient strength, their slogans get adopted or coopted by one or both major parties. This happened to Ross Perot, as the 1994 Republican Contract With America was based on Perot’s United We Stand platform. Hence Richard Hofstadter’s famous quote: “third parties are like bees: once they have stung, they die.” This may be true, but their impact is not to be underestimated. Most of the things we take for granted when it comes to social reform, came as a result of alternative parties, whether it is the Income Tax or Social Security. What other changes might have occurred, had voters not faced the “wasted vote syndrome” in our FPTP voting system? Perhaps approval or score voting would create multi-party coalitions. Imagine a voting block of select Democrats & Republicans, as well as most Constitutionalists, Greens, Libertarians, and Reformers voting against NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, the Patriot Act and war funding in Congress. With approval voting, this would be a very real possibility. ------------------------------------Vic Kaplan is a supporter of the Reform Party of New Jersey. Visit them online at: reformpartynj.org
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