Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why Third Parties Fail

I apologize for the interregnum between posts- I had reached Political Exhaustion, a condition caused by too much talking head discussion and  not enough substance from anyone. Plus, I have been building boat docks, sheds, cutting dead limbs, and basically doing all the work associated with getting years of work done before winter.  I can confidently assert that "it ain't a job on Palisades Park."

So, I have been thinking about the history of third parties and why for the most part they do not succeed. When I mean that, I use the caliper of electoral success, which of course is not the only measure. (More on that later.)

We have a very long and illustrious history of third party challenges to the established political class. Jeffersonian Republicanism, Jacksonian Democrats, Lincoln Republicans, the Populists,  and more recent examples, George Wallace, Ross Perot , Ralph Nader- many of whom while were not successful, did have a dramatic impact on the electoral outcome. Yet, certainly the examples from the Populists forward were unable to form a cohesive movement that lasted from election cycle to the next.

There are several reasons for this (and you all may find more).  First, some of them have really bad ideas that appeal to only  a fringe of voters. Bad ideas do not gain long term adherence and thus, while might engender support as the issue becomes important, it cannot sustain a movement.  {An example of that would be the Build the Wall movement today- which if focused on the movement of illegals into the US from the South misses the point,]

The second reason is that running for elective office is drama, theater, and the actors must be able to perform for the elective audience. And like anything, it requires practice.  Watch the candidates that are truly running from the outside and you will see what we call authentic, but what are really untrained actors.  They sound, for the most part, a little out of place.  Perot had business experience but on many non-NAFTA issues, seemed out of his element.  Trump is a seasoned actor, but his most severe deficiencies derive from his lack of fluency with policy issues.  Hillary has the fluency, but is no actor, and that is another story. Jill Stein is a doctor, as was Ben Carson. Now doctors can deal with diagnoses and treatment, but their bedside manner relating to a wide audience such as voters is often not well tuned.

The third and most significant reason that third parties fail is that their best ideas (and let's be honest, many of the best ideas come from them) are co-opted by one of the major parties.  Look at the Populist platform of 1892 and you will see the foundation of the policies of the 20th century Democratic party. Income tax, redistribution, bottom up power, use of government regulations to manage the economy- all of these saw their formal adoption under Democrat rule, as the Populists turned back to their non-political lives.

And one other issue that matters. It is a very lonely existence in politics if you have no friends  The lubricant  of politics is not money, but power.  And power comes from gaining chits among friends so that you can give what friends need and gain their favor back at the opportune time their return favor.

If you run against the Established Order, you are telling everyone you do not need their favors.  Bernie Sanders essentially ran as a third party, but once he found himself beaten, he had two choices:
continue the "movement" with lots of support but few friends, or go back to Senate where he could try to influence policy on the edges by reminding his colleagues of how successful he ALMOST was.

Trump was, is, I'm not sure, running as a third party still, which is why so many Republicans have themselves disassociated themselves from his campaign.  They want to win re-election, or keep their conservative purity (not sure again what that means exactly), or they, like Ted Cruz, just cant get over the insults. (GIve me a break Ted.)

When you hear that, think self interest.  Bernie and Ted are alike in that regard; they long for power, and when you realize you dont have it, and wont without friends and chits and promises. they have to retrench and go home and do some deep thinking.

We all long for more choices, we want honesty, but in the end, we make the choices we make because, well, we want friends too, and at least in our politicians, someone who makes us feel good.

And we know that half a pie is better than none.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

I'm not quite there yet....

Well, this week was almost, almost the week when I just threw up my hands and said to hell with it.  This campaign is the most vapid, issue-less campaign wrought with inanity and outright  lies.  Here is how I came to that conclusion:
First, I made a short  list of the 3 most significant issues facing our country (my opinion), and here they are: the inability to discuss, deliberate and agree on the major issues facing the US; two, causing us to fail to deal with the long term and short terms problems, (infrastructure failure, educational deterioration, unfunded public liabilities owed to ourselves, and three, our failure to engage in the war (in every respect) between the ideals of freedom and liberty and those of control and obedience espoused by fascist, racist, fundamentalist, and economically repressive regimes and groups.

I didn't pick problems like money in politics because I that list is a micro list of the bigger issues.  I have to look bigger.

Now, since I believe as I do that we can only seriously attack these issues when we confront them like citizens respectful of other beliefs, I find it essential that any leader I vote  for be someone who has the capacity to earn the respect of more than a simple majority of the citizens of this country. And an essential element of earning that respect is the capacity to be believed and trusted.

Hence my dilemma.
I do not, and cannot trust either Donald Trump (who continues to make statements that are either intentionally dishonest or incredibly uninformed), and Hillary Clinton (who has set the standards for trustfulness so low that she thinks not being charged with a crime a badge of honor.)

And Bernie Sanders fades into the sunset (retiring perhaps to his third home to write his memoirs of the "movement' he started), the pundit class begins their rancid clamor that a vote for third party x is a wasted vote.

Well, that's where I nearly threw up my hands and asked myself what the hell?

Despite all the problems we face and the promise of a making us better, this election has come down to whether a habitual liar can convince a majority of voters that her opponent is a dangerous kook.

But for me to do that, would be to become what I have beheld. I can't stand in front of you and teach and preach that you can make a difference, and then quit on that idea.

So I am going to keep doing what I do; I am  going to search out the best candidate that I can trust. I will not find any candidate that agrees with me on every issue, but I want one who I can trust to listen, to think independently, to protect the ideals we profess to believe in, and to tell me the trust, every time they speak.

And if that is a wasted vote, if casting that vote helps elect one of those candidates for which I cannot vote, so be it. At least I will not be complicit in further corrupting a system that, in forsaking its ideals, has sunk to accepting the lesser of two evils


Sunday, August 07, 2016

Two more reforms

Now that we have started down this path, why not go whole hog? (A rural bbq reference meant to evoke the cooking of substantially more than a single cutlet).

1. Within one hour of any vote on any bill or any amendment, each Member of Congress (add to this state legislators, city councilpersons, school board members if you want) shall announce in writing their vote (or failure to vote) and their reasons for such vote, which shall be made immediately available to the public.

No more hiding. If they dont vote, they must tell us why. If they vote no because the amendment is attached to a bill they oppose, tell us upfront, not months or years later in a campaign.  There should be no votes that cannot be explained and this will at least ostensibly require every elected official to tell us not just how but why they voted they way they did.

2. Every 10 years, the states shall elect delegates to a National Constitutional Convention, which shall meet for no more than 10 days, at which time, the delegates may propose and vote on, any such amendments to the US Constitution as such Convention determines, and such proposals gaining sufficient support, shall be then considered by every state legislature for approval or rejection within 6 months. Only such Amendments as are approved by the required number of legislatures shall become part of the US Constitution.

For those of you who want a living Constitution, here it is. You, not the Supreme Court, get to make it live. And yes, I expect many of you to be aghast about trusting the mob with this process. But tell me why this is bad- tell me you dont trust the People, yet you want to be able to change the old document.

Have at it.