To Host a Bigger Crowd of Our People, We May Need a Better Party

third_partiesNew Orleans   There were moments in the 2016 presidential race when observers thought that the candidates for President from the Libertarian and Green Parties could experience significant gains, perhaps even be spoilers. As both major parties presented candidates disappointing to many voters and when Bernie Sanders, a Democrat-Socialist, had inspired such fervor, many felt, there was a larger opening for alternative parties than we had seen in recent cycles. The results at the top of the ticket for the Libertarians and Greens did not prove that, though nationally they did garner a fair swatch of votes, and a favorite son candidate in Utah polled double-digits, almost throwing that state in a new and different direction.

But, wait a minute. David Brooks, conservative Republican die-hard op-ed columnist and part of the Never-Trump caucus, has now argued twice in the matter of days that he and his ilk need to organize a third party where establishment, traditional Republicans can land and feel comfortable since the Democrats are center-left, and the Republicans are now white working class and middle class.

Furthermore, even in a ruby-red state like Louisiana, it never ceases to amaze, given the barriers to success for alternative parties, the surprisingly lengthy list we are offered when we close the curtains on the voting booth on Election Day. Not just Green and Libertarian, but also the Constitution Party, Courage Character Service Party, It’s Our Children, Life Family Constitution, Socialism and Liberation, Socialism Equality Anti-War, Socialist Workers, and Veterans Party. The Greens and Libertarians accumulated 50,000 votes in Louisiana. Of course Trump-Clinton did 1.9 million, but still, 50,000 is 50,000. The other small also-rans added another 20,000. Hey, David Duke, running as a Republican got 58,000 and came in 7th of more than 20 candidates for the US Senate from Louisiana. There are a lot of divergent views in a big, wild ungainly electoral rodeo like we run in the United States.

My bi-coastal colleague, Steve Early, with a home and heart in California and his mind often still in New England, noted that alternative parties going local, rather than national, works if you look at the success they have had in a Green-Workers-Community alliance in Richmond, California and the continued success of eclectic green and worker friendly operations like the Vermont Progressive Party, both of which we have covered extensively in Social Policy. Concentrating on the top of the ticket may not be a winner. The Green Party reported only 20 to 21 local winners on Tuesday out of 279 state and local races, he noted.

The “nothing out there for me, it doesn’t really matter” nonvoter population is growing though, as turnout goes down and population goes up, and its huge. Yet, Trump, Sanders, and others around the world, and, they are not all conservative no matter what you are reading please remember Spain, Italy, and Greece for example, are proving that where there’s a real movement and a messenger that embraces its issues, people will respond.

How can it be that a David Brooks is calling for another party, and we’re not hearing the call from and for progressives? It means going local for a long while and constructing the building blocks, but as Vermont has taught that can also develop independent candidates that can contend nationally as well. It’s all hard work. When does consensus congeal that it is time for more shoulders on that wheel?


Money Talks and Trump Walks

donationsNew Orleans   Anyone who follows politics closely has been waiting for the Gucci loafers to fall, and now that Trump finds himself as the presumptive nominee this self-funding talk is over and dead, as he realizes the general election is six months away, and it’s dialing for dollars, groveling for grub time for his campaign. The consensus price tag these days is $1 billion, so of course Trump, being a total high-low bargaining guy, says he is going to raise $1.5 billion, “no problem.”

Well, there are some problems with this, and they are the typical problems that Trump has been deriding for months of the campaign trail. The piper wants to be paid. There is no free lunch. Go to Wall Street for money and Wall Street in Trump-talk, “owns” you. In the past he accused both Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz of being bought and sold. What will be the new Trump tune, especially now that we all know his price tag?

All signs are that the big bucks players on the Republican side will want their pound of flesh from Trump before they are willing to come in or they will stay on the sidelines which in these days of big money politics is the final death blow. The Koch Brothers who previously had pledged $900 million this cycle are now dangerously – and for all of us, depressingly — flirting with Hillary. Other big donors are also playing footsie on the issue. Adelson, the big donor from Vegas, is saying “anybody but Hillary,” which will likely be the banner many of them are forced to carry and that some Republican politicians are already belly flopping and crawling behind. Former Louisiana governor, abysmal presidential candidate, and currently unemployed Bobby Jindal, not surprisingly was one of the first to pledge fealty to Trump on the Hillary-will-be-worse caboose.

For all of us little people just trying to keep score it will be interesting to try to watch how far Trump will walk when money talks. He’s been claiming that the superrich, like himself, should pay more taxes? How many days will that position last? He has said he’s against the hedge fund tax dodge called “carried interest” that lets Wall Streeters keep billions from the taxman. How many minutes will that position last? He’s waffled around on the need to increase the minimum wage saying first, let’s go, then, oh no, and most recently as he starts going to his knees to beg for money, he’s saying, let someone else handle this, like the states.

Some signals are pretty powerful as he gets ready to flip the switch from populist disrupter to the new “I’m one of youse” stance with Wall Street and the one-percenters he needs to deliver him money. He has appointed a former Goldman Sachs, Wall Street vet, investment banker, and film financier to head his campaign finance committee to get the game going.

As Trump has said countless times. They won’t give you money for nuthin,’ they’ll all want sumthin.’ Explaining his own contributions to the Clintons’ in the past, he says, politics is “transactional.”

It hasn’t been pretty so far, but this next round will really be ugly.