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?

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Qualifying Parties via Internet

digital-signingNew Orleans In a piece about the feinting being done by billionaire NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Matt Bai in the New York Times correctly pointed out that not only money but “ballot access” was a huge impediment to alternative political parties and candidacies.  A throwaway comment though got me thinking when he mentioned that qualifying such efforts would be easier in the internet age because “…signature-gathering…is far easier to organize now, through online communities….”  Bai is simply talking theoretically about organizing efficiencies here, but what hit me like a brick was whether or not it was legal now – or would soon be legal – to actually qualify such petitions through direct internet signature gathering, which would be a revolutionary breakthrough.

I don’t fully know the answer about what might be possible now, though my friends at Google pretty quickly revved up their search engines and allowed me to piece together enough in a sideways fashion to determine that internet petition gathering is already legal in California in seems and at least Utah for a certainty.  I don’t normally associate Utah with progressive breakthroughs, so I would not be surprised to hear that other states (I would almost bet on Washington and Oregon for examples) have also joined the 21st century and allowed internet signature gathering to legally qualify candidates and parties.

I have sent a couple of emails out to colleagues who are mega-domes in this area since surely they would already know where this can be legally done, and when I hear, I will definitely share the news.  Whether just these two or another dozen, more interestingly it seems inevitable that within a couple of years or at most a decade, one could qualify alternative parties successfully on a state by state basis via the internet at a fraction off the cost thereby making alternative parties accessible in a way that has not been allowable since the 1890’s when the two-party stranglehold became embedded in law in one state legislature after another.

Visionary thinkers in political strategy and tactics, particularly among progressives, would do well to start tilling these vineyards.  This could be big and a total game changer!  This is a political forward pass in a landscape dominated by three yards, a cloud of dust, and a rock pile of money:  parties, programs, and candidates get ready to step up.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail