Thursday, October 06, 2016

Third Parties in a Two Party System

Third parties or alternative political parties are such strange creatures in the United States. I have identified as a Democrat for much of my life, although a very progressive Democrat in almost every way, to the point where often times somebody such as Ralph Nader or Jill Stein seems to speak for me more clearer than a Barack Obama or a Hillary Clinton. Part of my weirdness for them is simply the fact that I live in a colony of the United States, and my affinity for one party over the other is pretty irrelevant. Although we can participate in the primary process for Democrats and Republicans, we are barred, like other territories from participating in the general election. So, while I may want a certain candidate to win, may feel "este i gayu-hu hunggan, ha gof kuentusiyi yu'" a lot of it is made pointless by the colonial difference, the political gap between Guam and its colonizer.

But each time there is an election in the United States for President, I always feel like I am going back and forth between Democrats and third party options. I liked so many things about Barack Obama, but I knew full well that he could perpetuate the structures of American imperialism and exceptionalism just like a Republican would. He wouldn't challenge most of the structures of power that set up systems of inequality in the United States, whether they be racially, economic, social or political. Third party candidates would offer me so much more ideological consistency, but at the same time feel so strange, since it never seemed likely that a third party candidate for president could have any effect except to "spoil" the election for someone who is their partial ideological familiar.

I support and believe in third party politics, but sometimes it feels that they live in an alternate reality. Each year, hundreds of people run for president of the United States, Most of them only on the ballot in a single state. Certain major minor parties like the Green Party of the Libertarian party can find their way onto ballots in almost every state, but still rarely gather a significant share of the overall vote. In other similar systems, the purpose of the insurgent or alternative party is not necessarily to take power, since it lacks the popular support or infrastructure to do so, but rather force the parties closer to the middle to change and adopt either more conservative or more progressive positions. That is why in countries that have parliamentary systems, sometimes small parties can have a significant impact, as they can form coalitions with others and demand some concessions for their support. This happens in the US within parties, such as Hillary Clinton adopting portions of Bernie Sander's proposals for remaking the United States, but it is not something that necessarily happens between major parties and third parties. In some cases a major party can shift their platform or approach if they see a third party potentially eating away at part of their base.

But as the political system in the United States is designed in a way to keep out third party candidates, it is curious what the approach is for running national campaigns that do not have much of a national infrastructure. I've heard Noam Chomsky, who is a clear progressive and supporter of alternative politics, discuss the need to build more local and regional powerbases and move up from there. A national candidate can be a voice, can try to put certain issues or ideas out there, but it is ultimately politically useless without any sort of basic structure of political power, whether it be a state where they are consistently strong, or a city, a series of cities, a region. Right now no third party has that level of power, and a national candidate, who gets lost in the static of Democrats and Republicans doesn't do much to help you build that power.

I've thinking of this now because of the post below, which is meant to be a brutal take down on people who are saying they will vote for Jill Stein and refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in this election. Despite my desire to see third party candidates grow and flourish, I still have to agree with much of what the author says.


If You Are Voting for Jill Stein, Here is What I know About You
by Sasha Stone

1. I know you are selfish. It’s easy to pretend to care about other people and that somehow protesting the two-party system means you are doing the moral and ethical thing. You think that “what you believe in” matters more than what might happen to other people. Don’t pretend like you care about anyone other than yourself and your image and your brand. Selfishness is the only trait you display in this silly, pointless vote. Just stay home. Don’t bother revealing this ugly trait to the world.

2. You don’t really care about the environment. Whether you’re Greenpeace activists attacking Hillary Clinton, or you’re shrieking about the TPP, or you’re taping your mouth shut and pretending climate change matters to you, or more likely, you’re pushing fracking to the top of your agenda because that is the only way you can adequately target Hillary Clinton, because she has not 100% opposed fracking the way Bernie Sanders has. Never mind that Bernie Sanders 1) could not get the nomination, 2) could not get elected, 3) could do nothing if elected because his policies are too extreme for the American people, let alone Democrats, let alone Republicans in Congress. No, you don’t care about the environment AND STOP PRETENDING THAT YOU DO. You, like the Nader supporters in 2000, DO NOT CARE ABOUT IT. You are willing to risk giving the presidency to someone who not only believes climate change is a “hoax” but who is ready and willing to drill baby drill, anywhere and everywhere. To “take the oil” from war torn regions and to lift all environmental regulations put in place by Obama. If you knew anything about climate change, if you cared AT ALL about what was happening to the planet you would vote for the only Democrat who can win. If you vote for Jill Stein you are a fraud and no one should ever take anything you say seriously and you should stop telling other people the environment is your number one concern. It is not. Your ego is. Your ego is all that matters because you are so wrapped up in being that person who doesn’t vote for Hillary that you are willing to sacrifice the environment — yes, you are and don’t pretend otherwise. At least admit you are selfish and that your ego is all that matters.

3. Stop pretending you care about LGBT rights, women’s rights, black lives, Muslim American citizens in jeopardy. Stop pretending you care because you don’t. Your ego stands in the way of your caring. You are attempting to sabotage yet another US election just so that you can posture and peacock and pretend like your flaccid, pointless, embarrassing throw-away vote matters. You are helping the Republicans win and that means you do not care about the above mentioned people. STOP PRETENDING YOU DO. Just admit who you are — part of the establishment as a valuable tool is preventing any kind of real reform. Face it. You would prefer Donald Trump to get elected because then you can bathe in forever victimhood. Then you can whine and grouse about the government because you have no real way of making any kind of real change happen. You’d rather look cool pretending like there’s a chance in hell our government would “ban fracking.” What Hillary Clinton is offering isn’t good enough for purists like you so let’s just bring on Trump. You should admit this about yourself because you’re LYING IF YOU DON’T.

4. You really don’t care about putting a decent person on the Supreme Court. How else are you going to fill your life with meaning if you don’t have a conservative Supreme Court to blame for everything? God forbid Democrats should mobilize to change the court. Because then what? How will you be cool and edgy with your CSA box and your tats and your pretend-hybrid car and your tiny house and all of the other ways you brand yourself to look like you are the only one who cares when in fact YOU DON’T. You are ruled by a selfish desire to be cool. So guess what that makes you? FOREVER UNCOOL.

5. You desperately need attention. You desperately need other people to notice you. The last thing you care about is what happens to anyone else. You don’t care about the environment. You don’t care about the future of the already endangered animals. You don’t care about the Supreme Court because all you really care about is yourself. Your coolness matters more than the welfare of others. You know that people pay attention to you when you say you’re voting Jill Stein because it means you’re edgy and not a sheep and not a mainstreamer. You’re the target for Starbucks and American Apparel because you think you’re unique and thus, you’re easily manipulated. If your need for attention trumps your concern about the welfare of others that makes you a narcissist. Good luck with that.

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