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Should third parties be on fringe of politics?

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By The Staff

Hannah Hayes

Close votes indicate that there is not enough difference between the two major-party candidates. When elections are split 50/50 and the country’s values on issues like the war are polled at 70/30, there’s a systemic problem at work. Sadly, Democratic and Republican voices are the only ones being heard at election time. The commonplace middle is growing because of the way that media nurture the two-party system. Without the cach of major party viability, it’s hard for an inquiring public to take advantage of the value of minor parties. These third-party voices are often the ones that put principle first and demand actions be consistent with words.

We’re not polarized; we’re being neutralized into a submissive and susceptible mass. While the population sleeps, the powerful few at the top have taken control. Excluding minority voices limits far-ranging debate and moves us all to the murky middle. Now more than ever, these important voices should be heard.

Fighting for democracy instead of empire, peace instead of endless war, working people instead of corporations, and the health of our planet, these are Green Party values. They sound more like the views of the majority, but I doubt many will ever learn about them. Just as the Green Party is making public policy in other parts of the world, it needs to have that opportunity here in this country.

Cynthia McKinney is their candidate for president. She speaks to the discrepancy between what is often said during a race and what is actually done after the election. The Democrats let many down as the opposition party after the 2006 midterm election. Obama’s economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee from the University of Chicago, once explained that his candidate’s rhetoric was “more reflective of political maneuvering than policy.” McSame has become the king of flip-flops as he abandons prior positions and caves on principle. Yet a recent Gallup Poll finds only 2 percent of registered voters named a third-party candidate when asked about their probable vote this November.

Many diverse groups are marginalized by the two-party system. This year there are nine minor parties with presidential candidates as well as two independents. Obstacles for these candidates include ballot access challenges and inhibited fund-raising. (Federal Election Commission chairperson Michael Tones estimates $1 billion will be spent to decide the next president.)

Over 2,600 years ago, Gautama Buddha cautioned people not to believe anything because it is spoken by the many. It falls to inquiring minds to keep the voices of the few alive. Ralph Nader, Bob Barr, Ron Paul, Cynthia McKinney and others all have an important place in the debate.

Colorado will be crawling with pundits and politicians over the next week. Choose carefully when deciding what demonstrations and rallies to attend, but do take advantage of this uncommon local opportunity to participate. This is what democracy looks like.

Rebuttal

Enviro-leftist crazies are rushing to fill out and mail in their paper ballots for Nader and McKinney because conservative Kelly wants them to vote for these committed and passionate third-party candidates. But wait, aren’t true believers the ones who vote their principles?

The best way for all of us to be able to do that would be to have instant runoff voting (IRV). The two-party electoral system, which gives more weight to a vote from a large state and encourages the disenfranchisement of certain groups of voters, no longer serves us and should be changed. It certainly decreases the importance of minor parties and so is probably preferred by Democrats and Republicans. There are many excellent web sites that describe the IRV spoiler-proof voting alternative.

You are so Right that the Republican Party, like the Constitution Party, is outside the mainstream. As the majority has seen, the U.S. was the master of its own defeat by waging a war that could never achieve “victory.” It’s not peace at any cost; achieving peace is the victory.

Hannah B. Hayes is a small-business owner and an activist for peace and justice. A recent graduate of Leadership Evergreen with a master’s degree in education, Hayes has remained active in this community through her writing and organizing for 35 years.

Kelly Weist

In an election year of nearly universal discontent, I have heard from many people regarding the viability of third parties. I’m highly frustrated myself, in the presumptive Republican nominee for president, in many of the candidates chosen here in Colorado, and in the performance of many of the Republicans on the national and state level. Being a primarily economic conservative, libertarianism can seem attractive, although the Libertarian Party is a deeply flawed vehicle for that philosophy. I can also understand the frustration of enviro-lefties and radical socialists, especially watching Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pander to them and then swerve back to the center.

When you’re a true believer, electoral politics can seem extremely off-target.

So is it at all worth voting for a third-party candidate? The United States, whether you like it or not, is a two-party electoral system. The reason for this is not a deep, dark corporate conspiracy (regardless of what the crazies say) but because of the numbers. Voting for a third party merely reduces the numbers, sometimes taking enough votes from one side for the other side to win. The 1992 presidential election is a perfect example. In a presidential election, it’s numerically impossible for a third-party candidate to win, since presidents are elected by the Electoral College, not by a national popular vote. So voting for Ross Perot merely meant that George H. W. Bush lost. Ditto voting for Ralph Nader in 2000; some analyses state that a couple of states might have switched to Gore’s column if not for Nader’s votes (thank you, Ralph).

The main argument that third-party supporters use is that their votes will push the parties toward their ideology. Unfortunately, of the four main third parties, their ideology is clearly outside the mainstream. Currently, the Libertarian Party’s main issue is the legalization of marijuana. Since most initiatives completely legalizing the drug (as opposed to legalizing medical use) have failed, we can see that going in that direction does not help the Republican Party. As for the Constitution Party, they have mainly advocated the pro-life position, with the anti-illegal immigration issue added in recent years. They have a tendency to also rail against free trade. Their issues are very well represented in the Republican Party, just not as vociferously as they would wish.

As for the leftist end of the spectrum, independent Ralph Nader wants an anti-corporate tyranny and crazy Cynthia McKinney, the Green candidate, wants peace at any price (mainly the utter defeat of the U.S.). The Democratic Party, in my estimation, does a great job espousing these ideas while obfuscating it for the American people. No real need for them there, but I would like to encourage all lefties out there to vote for Nader or McKinney on Nov. 4. Voice for the People! (and sanity for the rest of us).

Rebuttal

I may not be the Buddha, but I caution you to not believe something just because it is voiced by one crazy conspiracy theorist. Cynthia McKinney has the distinction of being a certified crazy, having accused the Bush administration of causing the collapse of the Twin Towers (shouldn’t have to say this isn’t true) and assaulting a police officer that committed the cardinal sin of not recognizing her when entering the Capitol. She has consistently made statements that are not only crazy, but complete fabrications and libelous to boot. She’s a peace-nut, wanting the U.S. to be defeated so badly she’s willing to put up with dictators and oppression around the world.

The fact that elections are so close these days are not signs of polarization or a media conspiracy. It’s actually a good indication that most Americans have views in the middle of the spectrum, contrary to the left’s skewed polls. A two-party system actually forces parties to be more moderate in their stated views and policy goals in order to win, instead of having to cater to the fringe in the minor parties.

Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.