Friday, June 06, 2008

Gnawing on Parties

I'm responding to Citizen Tom's post on my previous post because if I respond under his post, it will turn into another whole blog post, too long for the comments section in his post.

Did you get all that?

First, let me thank Citizen Tom for coming over and giving me some ideas to gnaw on. Tom is a member of the Republican party, and I've been asking around for members of both parties to provide some balance and stimulating discussion over here. Getting one side really is no fun, though I appreciate having received notices from the local Democratic party as well.

That said, what I most enjoy about Tom's blog is his penchant for posting selections from famous Americans including Thomas Paine (the "Tom" allusion in "Citizen Tom"), George Washington and others. I probably read some of these same pieces as an undergraduate, but it has been awhile, so they are new to me once again.

However, since Tom is a party member, he defends party activity, and as I've stated before, I don't like parties and I do think there are other ways to get viable candidates into office. Please don't mistake this notion for any lack of awe at Obama's visit last night, since I, among MANY others, wrote to ask Obama to come because of the racial strife in this area.

But Tom's quote I'd most like to address, the one that kept me thinking in the middle of the night after normal visits to the bathroom (not that any of this is bathroom material--but waking up in the middle of the night encourages my brain to wake up as well, which might be creatively productive but tires me during the day), is this: "If you choose not to belong to a political party, you have no right to influence the nomination of that party’s candidates. Thus your sole influence on who wins elected office is your vote in the general election."

The stumbling block here is "you have no right." Of COURSE I and other people who do not belong to parties have a right! We have rights as Americans and as voters. Granted, as Tom points out, these rights are somewhat muffled by our voting process which does weigh parties more heavily than it ought to, but we certainly have the right as he notes in his final paragraph were he states, "Is there a small political party that you would like to see win? Then find some people of like mind and get to work with them. Don’t just gripe. Do something." This, to me, indicates we DO have a right in not only because we are voters but because quite often, both Democrats and Republicans endorse candidates who are independent or members of another party. We saw this when the Republicans allowed Ron Paul, a Libertarian, to appear on their party ballot in this year's primary. (Someone correct me if I am wrong about this.)

The problem which Democrats and Republicans seem to acknowledge is that smaller parties and independents don't have the resources to run effective campaigns compared to the monstrous machines run by the major parties. Few truly believe Ralph Nader will win an election not only because he might not be popular enough but because he's an independent. Voters often describe casting the ballot in favor of a small party candidate as a wasted vote, detracting from the possible win of a viable Democrat or Republican. Having voted for Nader when I dislike the candidates from the major parties, I can say this represents, from some people's perspective, virtually an act of civil disobedience on my part, and that really is too bad.

I propose, though, that there are indeed some ways to stick a cog in the wheel of mega-party operations. The first way is to pull a Ross Perot and form your own party and/or run as an independent. Unfortunately, most people don't have the money Perot has, and campaigns require money. Still, there are those who love a candidate so much, they are willing to contribute without being asked. This is a plus because as I've said before, I find it annoying that parties are always asking for money.

The second way is to have a large lobbying or grassroots organization endorse you as an independent and fund-raise for you. Again, however, money will get in the way.

The third way, though not usually the successful way, as mentioned above, is to have the Democratic or Republican party endorse you.

My partisan fantasy is that someday, both the Democrats and Republicans will endorse the same candidate and turn the party-world upside down. How fun it would be to see this coming together while the rest of the world drops its jaws in wonder. Surely, this kind of cooperation would yield more party members than ever before, as many people surely are sick and tired of partisan bickering. Remember the Gallup poll? Congress received low grades--80% of voters are dissatisfied with Congressional stalemates brought on by partisan politics, rich lobbyists, and a general disregard for people.

So my dear friend Tom, thank you for this morning's cud. I bet you didn't think you would have spawned quite so many words. Or maybe you did. Either way, I enjoyed it!
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