Ain’t No Party Like a Third Party

I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

The bedrock of the free market system is the power of choice. If you lived in the USSR and had enough disposable income to buy a new car, your decision was pretty well made up for you. There was the state -sponsored cheap coupe, two state-sponsored mid-sized sedans, and…that was about it. None of them could drive worth a damn and they were about as reliable as an Amtrak line, but they were the people’s car’s after all and you were a person so that’s what you bought. By contrast, Americans were and are inundated with a ceaseless parade of automotive options designed to cater to our every desire and whim. For instance, while the Soviets were mass manufacturing steel death traps, like the Moskvitch 402 (Soviets didn’t believe in giving their cars names, apparently), Americans were careening around newly minted interstate highways in a cavalcade of Mustangs, Thunderbirds, GTOs, Corvettes, Jaguars, and countless other cars that belong as much in art museums as on asphalt. Choice was and is the mother of innovation and progress in many ways and our economic framework has always been geared towards at least creating the illusion of that choice. So, why is it this most capitalistic of mindsets has never gained traction in American politics?

In five months or so we will as a people elect a candidate to be the most powerful person in the free world and we already have but two choices. This is not to say that there aren’t substantial policy differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, because there certainly are. But, what kind of a choice is it when you’re presented with two party politicians whose ideologies are so similar that they actually enacted the same health reform laws and whose stump speeches sound like carbon copies of one another? It’s like being told you’re getting to choose where you want to eat dinner and being taken to an highway exit strip mall with a Burger King and a White Castle. Yeah, you can decide whether you want your burgers charbroiled and layered with bacon or cut into sliders and piled high with onions, but you’re still eating burgers.

As soon as I find that floppy eared S.O.B. I’m gonna have a little “hunting accident.”

Thus, as a public service, I have decided to briefly outline the platforms of a number of third party candidates who have absolutely no chance of winning but insist on running in defiance of the Gods of bipartisan government with the hope of getting acknowledged as anything other than a farce. In recent presidential elections, third party candidates have played major roles in November, but mainly as spoiler to their most ideologically similar candidate. In 2000, Ralph Nader formed a weird bullpen-by-committee with The US Supreme Court, senile Floridians and Pat Buchanan to hand the presidency to George W. Bush and, somewhere in South Texas, George Bush the Elder is mumbling something into his oatmeal about filling Ross Perot’s ears with cement. The last third party candidate to take home any electoral votes was George Wallace in 1968, who managed to steal 46 delegates from Southern voters who thought Dick Nixon wasn’t enough of a white supremacist. It’s been over 150 years since a third party/independent candidate took home at least 10% of the electoral vote and it doesn’t look like that streak is about to end anytime so. But, in the interest of parity and morbid curiosity, here are a few of the lesser known candidates for the presidency in 2012:

Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party): The man known as “Governor Veto” during his eight years as New Mexico’s fiscal-conservative-in-chief for his unwillingness to fund anything, originally ran on the Republican ticket until it became clear that Romney’s cash and Santorum’s apocalyptic lunacy wouldn’t afford him a chance at the nomination. After dropping out of the GOP scuffle, Johnson declared his candidacy for the Libertarian nomination, winning it handily in May and chosing California Judge and pot-legalization-advocate James Gray as his running mate. Provided that Ron Paul doesn’t declare himself as an independent in the intervening months, Johnson should be good for at least 1% of the popular vote and will likely call upon a disjointed voting bloc of hardcore libertarians, civil liberties enthusiasts and potheads to pick up a few thousands votes on his journey back to obscurity.

Virgil Goode (Constitution Party) Although now a Libertarian-leaning independent, Goode’s political journey has taken him across the American political spectrum in name more than in deed. Originally elected to the House in 1996 from his home state of Virginia, Goode was one of the last of the old Southern Democrats, a dying breed that was anti-gun control, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant and pro-big tobacco. To prove his pedigree, Goode voted for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 and promptly switched parties four years later, finishing out his tenure in the House as a Republican. It is fitting that he has allied himself now with the Constitution Party, an group that often plays the role of the Libertarian’s inbred, born-again cousin. Expect a Goode ticket to be anti-tax, anti-foreigner, and completely irrelevant.

Jill Stein (Green Party) A New England physician and presumptive nominee for the Green Party, Stein appears to be the last best hope for any pinkos and socialists who can put the New Left Review down and stop shaking for long enough to cast their vote in November. One would assume that an American socialist would vote for an American socialist candidate, but since there are four different Socialist parties1 in this country putting forth nominees and none of them have anything resembling political power, the Green Party appears to be the way to go. And, quite honestly, they have very little to gripe about when it comes to Stein’s platform. She has created what the Green Party is dubbing the “Green New Deal,” which is based on the idea that a) everyone has a right to a job at a livable wage, b) we need to transition as a nation towards a sustainable, environmentally friendly economy, c) we need to have Big Finance begin to serve the American people, rather than the other way around, and d) American citizens need to be empowered. Looking at her to-do list and her channeling of progressive giants like FDR and MLK, in addition to her support of the occupy movement & union workers, I’m beginning to get the vapors. This woman wants to tax the crap out of Wall Street and the 1% while reducing military spending by 30% and making public higher education a right and not a privilege. Everything about Jill Stein’s positions I agree with whole-heartedly. But…what?

Awesome Jill Stein Campaign Poster

Well, she has absolutely no chance of winning anything. 2008’s Green Party candidate, Cynthia McKinney, chalked up a dismal 162,000 votes, which slotted her a distant 6th in the running behind the big two and fellow also-rans like Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin and professional eccentric Ralph Nader (I). Stein’s political acumen doesn’t do her any favors either, with her only stint in public office coming in two terms as a Town Meeting Representative for Lexington, Mass in 2005 & 2008. I despise the “electability” argument as much as anyone, but to throw a vote Stein’s way is about as useful as trying to desalinate the Atlantic by pouring a bucket of tap water into it. Maybe if she and the Green Party can gather some substantive momentum in the next few months it might be a ticket worth supporting, but until then the only folks voting for Stein and her enlightened compatriots will be disgruntled sixty-somethings in Berkely and people who currently live on a kibbutz in the hills of New Hampshire.

Rocky Anderson (Justice Party) I don’t mean to be glib when I say that Mr. Anderson is possibly the most unexpected and ironic presidential candidate we’ve had in 100 years2. The man’s name is Rocky, he’s running as the representative for the newly minted Justice Party and was a two-term mayor of Salt Lake City. We all know what’s coming next: “Cut government spending! Protect our Borders! No more queers making Jesus cry by getting married!” etc…etc… But, wait! Turns out Rocky was a member of the Democratic Party up until 2011 and is the head of an organization called High Road for Human Rights. Rocky was also voted as one of the top 10 straight LGBT advocates by the Human Rights Campaign and has an impressive list of accolades from institutions as wide ranging as the Sierra Club and the EPA to Morehouse College and The League of United Latin American Citizens. Hell, the man even called for Bush the younger to be impeached, was accused by a Utah state senator of attracting the “entire gay community of to come and live in Salt Lake County” and had the balls to call D.A.R.E. An “absolute fraud” that is criminally ineffective. I love this guy! Can we get a Justice Party/Green Party merger going so they can get 1% of the popular vote instead of .5% each?

Jack Fellure (Prohibition Party) Yes, it still exists, and it is in fact the oldest third party still alive in American politics. Of course, in this context, being alive doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot as their membership has dwindled down to where I’m fairly certain you could fit them all in a T.G.I Fridays. In their hey-day towards the end of the 19th century, Prohibition Party candidate John Bidwell received over 270,000 votes (2.3%). That year, their convention site was in Cincinnati’s gorgeous & now historic Music Hall and they still had another two or three decades of relevance ahead of them. In the 2008 election, Prohibition Presidential nominee Gene Admondson received a whopping 643 votes…total. And this year, instead of having their convention in Cincinnati’s Music Hall or Tomlinson Hall in Indianapolis, the party brass will be meeting in a Holiday Inn Express in Cullman, Alabama. We can only hope Cullman is located in a dry county, or else their convention might be disturbed by the drunken shrieks coming from the wedding reception in the conference room next door.

Jim Duensing (Boston Tea Party) There are numerous candidates who would be prove to be a nice capper to the bizarre smorgasbord of political futility assembled here thus far. Apparently Time Square’s very own Naked Cowboy is running for the highest office in the land (surprise, surprise, he’s a tea bagger) and Roxanne Barr has taken time out of her life we had all forgotten about to run unsuccessfully for the Green Party nomination. There is also the incomparable and utterly insane Vermin Supreme, who has been campaigning for office each of the 3 past elections and who is running on a platform of Zombie Apocalypse Awareness, State-Mandated Toothbrushing and a free pony for all Americans. But, Jim Duensing has just the right blend of crazy, earnest and paranoid that we’re looking for in a thoroughly entertaining third party political candidate.

The front page of the Duensing/BTP website manages to simultaneously rip off the 2008 Obama campaign (slogan: “Vote for a Change”) while crusading against what they refer to as a “New World Order.” You can just feel the conspiracy theories burbling under the surface, can’t you? Well, buckle up cause this stuff gets real weird real fast. The first domestic issue Duensing brings up is the need to, and I quote, “End the Hopolophobic Wars on our Rights of Personal Conscience – All of Them – All at once.” What kind of crazed mole people gibberish is that? Well, it’s just a new imagining of an old refrain. It turns out that hopolophobia is the fear of weapons or armed citizens, so all they want is the right to own a working tank in their backyard and keep fully-automatic guns under each pillow in their house. The website then goes on to outline each of their bizarre right-wing fetishes from pledging to “Abolish Byzantium DC” and abolish pretty much every federal government organization in existance, to advocating for a return to Homesteading and a “Hemp for Victory” that will solve our dependence of fossil fuels. As a parting gift, I give you the Boston Tea Party on why we need to abolish the TSA. It’s not that their ideas are necessarily crazy. It’s just that they themselves are crazy. Enjoy the bipartisan drudgery.

The TSA has not made us safer. It now consists of minimum wage employees jockeying for position at the viewing monitors of the pornoscopes, which can be easily defeated. The American people will not become safer by surrendering our freedom to the terrorists. That sort of appeasement encourages the Hitlers of the world.”

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1 In the upcoming election we have nominees from the Freedom Socialist Party (Stephen Durham), the Party for Socialism and Liberation (Peta Lindsay, who is only 27 years old and therefore ineligible for the presidency in the first place), the Socialist Equality Party (Jerry White) and Socialist Party USA (Stewart Alexander). The three socialist candidates that ran in 2008 received a combined 20,980 (0.02%) votes in the general election. By way of comparison, the worst in team in Major League Baseball at the All-Star Break this year, The Houston Astros, have averaged a home attendance of 22,049 so far this season. To recap, it is easier to get a bunch of depressed Texans to pay to watch their glorified AAA team get butchered for 3 hours than it is to get the same number of Americans to vote for a Socialist candidate.

2 In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt split off from the Republican Party after having the nomination stolen from under his mustachioed nose by William Howard Taft, forming the Progressive Party of 1912. Before a speech in October of that year, Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a deranged man who claimed William McKinley’s ghost had told him to kill the old rough rider. Roosevelt didn’t die and, since the bullet was slowed considerably when it his the 50-page speech and steel glasses case he had in his jacket pocket, Teddy went on to give the speech as planned. Afterwards, Roosevelt proclaimed to reporters that he won’t continue to seek the presidency and that he was “fit as a Bull Moose”, giving the party it’s new moniker. This name turned out to be ironic on a number of levels, not least of which that of all of our sitting president’s a Bull Moose had the greatest chance of being shot by TR. Roosevelt, was our country’s most famous huntsman in addition to being our most famous environmentalist. In one trip to Central Africa, Roosevelt and his compatriots killed 11,400 animals and often said that he wouldn’t trust anyone who didn’t hunt. An added level of irony is that Roosevelt wasn’t all that fit and would die seven years later at the early age of 60, a full 11 years before his obscenely corpulent rival Taft.

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