|A Third Party Victory is Inevitable||Part 1: ...So Why
Part 2: I'm Outraged!
Part 3: How I Became a Green
Part 4: Comparing the Platforms
Part 5: An Open Letter to Al Gore
Part 6: Vote for Ralph! (Unless...)
I've been a disenfranchised voter for a pretty long time now. I've voted in every presidential election since I've been allowed to, but I've never voted for the same party twice. Believe it or not, I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984; in those days, I believed in his War on Drugs, though my real reason for supporting him was his call to build a permanently manned space station, "...and to do it within a decade." (Yeah, right.) I switched to the Democratic party in '88, but by '92 I was beginning to crave real change and therefore voted for Perot, scary though I thought he was. By 1996, I realized our failed drug war was the #1 problem our country was unwilling to face, and I therefore voted for the only political party actually calling for an end to this insane war, namely the Libertarians.
I had been calling myself a Libertarian ever since, but I've found it to be an uncomfortable allegiance. Obviously, I agree with their position on consensual "crimes", but when it comes to some of their other ideas (like the total abolishment of taxes along with large sectors of the government, along with total gun freedom, and other stuff), I've had a much harder time seeing (and selling my hippie friends on) their point of view. They're just too radical.
But as this year's political race began heating up, I noticed new options forming on the horizon. The Libertarians are still there, as is whatever's left of Ross Perot's Reform party (which was split asunder by takeover attempts this summer, between Pat Buchanan and the Natural Law party); but now we also have the Greens (who were just getting going in Amercia during the last election), and the Constitution party (which is similarly new).
(Actually, there are dozens of other minor political parties striving for attention; check out the Directory of U.S. Political Parties for an excelent overview of everyone, and don't miss the mind-blowing Libertarian Green Nazis), but judging by the C-SPAN coverage I've been watching all summer, these are the main third party contenders.)
Now, from a strictly anti-prohibitionist's standpoint, the Libertarians are still the best choice in town. Ending the War on Drugs is one of their main issues, and Harry Browne devoted a large percentage of his nomination acceptance speech attacking prohibitionist policy. By contrast, Ralph Nader barely mentioned it during his much longer address, and focused mainly on Industrial Hemp when he did. But even so, as I watched the Green Party convention, I knew this was the party for me. I'm so Green it's not even funny... just check out their key green values! What hippie can resist a party that puts the environment, social justice, equal rights and non-violence first, with a flower as their donkey-and-elephant challenging symbol? It was something of a religious experience for me... I feel like I've finally found a political party I can really call my own, after 20 years of wandering in the wilderness.
I knew I was in the right place when I heard that Steve Gaskin had become a Green party nominee. I met Mr. Gaskin in Amsterdam in 1997, when I first heard him say he was planning to run for President. At the time, he was going to start a new party -- the Hippie party -- but instead he signed on with a hippie party that was already on its way, namely the Greens. And that's when I first started paying attention to the Green Party. I figured if they could nominate Steve Gaskin, they had to be on the right track. Watching the convention clinched it; to quote Steve, "I am a Green forever!"
He gave a great speech, telling the story of Peter McWilliams among other things, but neither he nor the similarly eloquent Jello Biafra could possibly compete with Ralph. It was a little sad to see my favorite candidate wash out, but I could hardly be disappointed with the man who got the nomination instead. I was riveted to the TV as Ralph addressed the convention, and found his speech one of the most inspiring and exciting I'd ever heard. He spoke for 90 minutes on a wide range of political issues, and on point after point I found myself agreeing enthusiastically with everything he was saying. And although Nader said little about the drug war at the convention, this week he took a firm stance by meeting with Gary Johnson and calling for an end to the madness. Yay Ralph!
So after only a cursory study of the new political landscape, I realized I'd found my new home; but even so, I watched the rest of the conventions, trying to make some sense out of it. And here's what I came up with.
First, you've got the two major parties in the center. Republicans are slightly to the right, on the classic left=liberal, right=conservative scale, with Democrats being slightly to the left. The two parties overlap in the center on many matters important to single issue voters, like corporate welfare, campaign finance, and drug law reform. As these two parties have each moved closer to the center, the new parties that seek to challenge them have adopted positions at either extreme. On the left, it's the Greens, the true liberals of today, while on the right, the traditional Republican values of smaller government and social conservatism are being separately embraced, by the Libertarian and Constitution parties respectively. The Libertarians are the ultimate small-government advocates, while the Constitution Party is an anti-gay, Christian-oriented party whose nominee, Howard Phillips, says that ending legal abortion is his number one priority. Comparing their agendas is fascinating... both favor easing gun laws and the abolishment of the IRS, but have opposite opinions on abortion rights and the drug war, among other things.
And then there's the Reform Party. I have no idea where to put them on the traditional left-right scale, and the opposing views of the two candidates vying for control of that party (and $millions in government funding) don't make it any easier. I'm not sure what to say about them at this time.
Then of course there were the major party conventions, and held concurrently with them, the Shadow Conventions. In case you didn't hear about these at the time, the Shadow Conventions were a pair of officially neutral political events held literally in the shadows of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, at the same time, and in the same cities. The conventions weren't nominating any candidates; they were simply being held to draw attention to 3 serious issues that are generally being ignored by the mainstream politicians: Poverty, Money in Politics, and the Failed War on Drugs. These events, organized by Arianna Huffington and attended by celebrated luminaries from across the political spectrum, were in my opinion the most interesting of any of the summer conventions.
As regards the three Shadow issues, the two major parties are indeed quite bland. Both completely avoided the failed drug war, and while the Democrats at least gave lip service to poverty and campaign finance reform, the latter topic was utterly silenced in the republican camp after McCain lost his bid at the nomination. Indeed, the first day of the first Shadow Convention marked the debut of the synthetic replica of John McCain; throughout his campaign, he was a champion of Campaign Finance Reform, and on that basis he was invited to help convene the Shadow Convention. But instead, he just sang the praises of George W. Bush, and was nearly booed off the stage for doing it. Just as at the Republican convention, McCain has apparently forgotten all about CFR.
The Shadow Conventions were explicitly designed to draw attention to issues, rather than parties or candidates, and John McCain notwithstanding, they made no attempt to endorse any particular party. But as an attendee of one of those events and a voter deeply concerned with their three topics, I see only one party that encompasses the ideas and ideals of the Shadow Conventions: the Green Party, my new party of choice.