Tag Archives: two-party system

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hate Trump AND Clinton? There Are Better Alternatives

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the least popular presidential candidates of all time. So why vote for either one?

You wouldn’t know it to watch or read the news, but living in a duopoly doesn’t require you to hold your nose as you vote for someone you hate – merely because you hate the other candidate even more, or you’re deathly afraid of them. There are alternatives. And they don’t require you to compromise your ethics or vote against your own interests.

We’ve all heard it so often that we take it for granted: if you don’t vote, you’re apathetic. If you’re apathetic, you don’t have any right to complain when someone you don’t like wins and messes up the country.

That might be true when at least one of the candidates is palatable. But the argument falls apart at times like this, when most Americans agree that both are awful.

You and me, we may or may not agree on policy. But we probably agree on this: Wednesday morning, someone terrible will be president-elect. My lesser of two evils would be Hillary Clinton. But voting for her would tell the world that invading Iraq was OK. It would tell working-class people that NAFTA another free trade deals are OK. It would endorse the things that she endorses: bombing Libya and Syria, arming jihadis, Guantánamo, influence peddling, corruption on a scale that would make Nixon blush. None of that stuff is OK.

We must vote for Clinton in order to keep Trump out. That’s what they tell us. Trump, after all, is racist. But so is Clinton! What could be more racist than her obscene “war on terror”? All her victims are Muslim and brown – which is why white America doesn’t care. And don’t get me started on her and her husband’s “criminal justice reform” of the 1990s against “superpredators.”

With a “choice” like that, you have to look outside the box:

Voter Boycott

Citizens of countries with repressive and unresponsive ruling regimes often resort to the honorable strategy of the voter boycott. By denying the tyrants their votes, they rob their oppressors of legitimacy.

Never doubt that governments need their citizens to vote. For example, you might wonder why Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein bothered to hold his 2002 reelection campaign, in which he was the only candidate. The 11.4 million Iraqis who gave him his 100.00% victory (up from 99.96% in his previous “race”) allowed him, just before the U.S. invasion, to tell the world that he enjoyed his people’s popular support.

The “No Land! No House! No Vote!” movement, which began in 2004, calls for the poor and dispossessed to boycott South Africa’s electoral political system on the ground that the bourgeois political parties don’t care about their interests. In the 2011 election, 42% of registered voters respected the boycott. Concerned that the movement hurts its reputation internationally — and it has — the ruling African National Congress party has subjected the movement to torture and beatings.

It isn’t hard to imagine that a substantial decline in America’s already low voter participation rate would have some interesting effects. It would deny the United States its current holier-than-thou attitude toward other countries. And it would certainly inspire Americans outside the two-party system to consider the creation of a new political movement or third party as a more viable.

“If a huge number of people joined [in an election boycott] it would make an important statement,” Noam Chomsky has said.

Leave the Presidential Box Blank

“I will vote for Republicans up and down the ballot,” says Ari Fleischer, press secretary for George W. Bush. “But when it comes to the presidency, I’m going to leave my ballot blank.” Some Latino Republicans say they’ll do the same. So do some Bernie Sanders Democrats.

As with a voter boycott, the idea is to let the system know that you are civically engaged, not apathetic. Nevertheless, you’re displeased with the candidates on offer.

In counties and states that tally blank (also called “spoilt”) votes, this approach registers as a “none of the above” protest vote. The problem is, most municipalities do not count them — so they can’t send a message to the powers that be, the media, or to prospective third-party candidates.

Third Party

            The appeal of voting third party is obvious: it’s a protest vote and it allows you to direct your vote to someone whom you might really want to see win in an ideal world. The problem is, the fact that it isn’t an ideal world is the reason that you’re voting going outside the duopoly in the first place.

I’m voting for Jill Stein. My reason is simple: I would be happy to see her elected president. I agree with her on the vast majority of important issues. I can’t say that about anyone else on the ballot. (Not sure if that’s true for you? I strongly recommend that you take this test to determine which candidate is closest to you on policy.)

There’s only one reasonable argument against voting for a candidate who, like Stein, won’t win but with whom you agree: the lesser of two evils. In my case, by voting for Stein instead of Clinton, I’m effectively helping Trump. (Let’s forget for a moment that I live in New York, which will certainly go to Hillary.)

Theoretically, that’s a powerful argument. Trump is a fascist. I’m terrified of what he would do as president. I hate Hillary – but she’s not quite as obviously dangerous. Fortunately, this lesser-of-two-evils argument dies on the hill of mathematics.

Unless you are in Chicago, where you can make the dead vote, the only vote you control is your own: one. Statisticians have found that the odds of one vote changing the outcome of the presidential election is 1-in-10 million — and that’s only if you live in a swing state. For most people, the odds are more like 1-in-60 million. As one wag calculated, you have the same odds of changing the outcome of a major election as dying in a car accident while driving to the voting station.

The odds of your vote “going to waste” are significantly less than being struck by lightning twice during your life.

So live a little. Vote, or don’t vote, however you feel like.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. Support independent political cartooning and writing — support Ted on Patreon.)

 

 

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If You Say So

Ignoring the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton campaign is making moves to appeal to anti-trump Republicans. That, they believe, is where the party – or at least their candidacy – has room to grow. But if a Democrat sounds and looks and acts and boats like a Republican, is it really a Democrat?

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Why Doesn’t She Change?

Supporters of Hillary Clinton tell the progressive supporters of Bernie Sanders that they have to change their politics, or compromise them, or ignore them, in order to join them in their fight to defeat the dangerous Donald Trump. But no one seems to ask: if Hillary Clinton wants our votes, why doesn’t she change her politics to suit us? Isn’t that what politicians do? Instead of pandering to the people, she panders to corporations.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Smart Young People Who Snub Politics Are Smart

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Smart Young People Reject Public Service — Because They’re Smart.

America’s best and brightest don’t go into politics.

(By which we mean mainstream two-party corporate politics. Democrats, Republicans, Washington. Politics as activism, as the ongoing debate over how we should live our lives, remains of great interest to young people.)

Mediocrity among the members of the political class is often cited as a reason for government’s ineptitude, its inability/unwillingness to address the great problems we face today: climate change, soaring income inequality, the Third Worldification of America. If we had smarter, more charismatic politicians, the reasoning goes, we’d get smarter, more effective problem-solving.

Forget it. The word from the trenches of academia is that that’s not going to change. Millennials just aren’t interested.

A national survey of 4200 high school and college students conducted last year found that only 11% might consider running for political office. Most young people say they want nothing to do with a career in government.

We don’t know how that number compares to the past. As Fareed Zakaria points out, “Americans have always been suspicious of government. Talented young people don’t dream of becoming great bureaucrats.”

Still, like other mainstream media types, Zakaria thinks disinterest in public service has increased. “The New Deal and World War II might have changed that for a while, but over the past 30 years, anti-government attitudes have risen substantially,” he says.

Young people think politicians can’t/don’t make much of a positive impact in people’s lives. In a poll of 18- to 29-year-olds, Harvard’s Institute of Politics found a 5% increase, to a third, in the portion of young adults who believe that “political involvement rarely has any tangible results.” When asked about the statement “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing,” 47% agree and 16% disagree.

I was thinking about this a few weeks ago while researching a column about the possible presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016. First lady, senator, secretary of state — Clinton is one of the most successful political figures of our time. Yet what has she actually accomplished? How has she changed the life of the average American? Where is the big feather in her foreign policy cap? She’s been busy, but she hasn’t done anything historical — and the same could be said of almost all her peers.

Future coulda-been bests and brightests are paying attention to Washingtonian disfunction. “How deep is the disengagement?” Ron Fournier asked in The Atlantic. “I spent two days at Harvard, and couldn’t find a single student whose career goal is Washington or elective office. One wouldn’t expect to hear this at the Kennedy School of Government.

Which prompts two questions:

Why are the young eschewing politics?

Can we do anything to make a career in politics/government more appealing?

Zakaria offers a “why”: “The ever-increasing obstacles — disclosure forms, conflict-of-interest concerns, political vetting — dissuade and knock out good candidates.”

I disagree. Getting exposed for financial or other improprieties is a concern for some political prospects in their 50s or 60s. But the most that your average 21-year-old college senior has to worry about getting outted over is drug use, and if current trends continue, no one is going to care about that in a few years. After all, George W. Bush and President Obama  both used cocaine.

Not long ago I was approached by an Important Democratic Party Official about running for Congress. After he saw a talk I gave to a group of high school students, he pronounced himself so impressed that wouldn’t stop calling me. The party needs you, he said. So does your country.

Heady words. And I’m at least as egotistical as the next bear. So I looked into it.

I wasn’t concerned about personal disclosures. I’d be running as far to the left as you can in today’s Democratic Party; my district is very liberal on social issues. Whatever came out wasn’t bound to hurt my prospects. Anyway, I have a theory about political strategy: your opponents can’t use your deeds against you. They can exploit your denial of those deeds. Candidates who reveal their own skeletons find the electorate much more forgiving than when they’re uncovered by their opponent’s “opposition research” team.

Money would have been a major issue. You need at least $1 million to fund a Congressional campaign. It’s easiest if you have it yourself, and if you have rich friends willing to bankroll you. I don’t.

This is a grim system we have. “Wealthy candidates who try to buy office with their own money tend to lose, but in order to set up a campaign, you have to know a lot of wealthy people and wealthy special interests — and that’s something that most of us are not privy to,” Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, told CBS News.

I might have been able to sell out to local business interests in exchange for favor chits to be cashed in later. But then, why run in the first place? For me, the point of running for Congress is to have a chance to change things for the better.

Washington has plenty of you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours corruption as it is. (I’m talking to you, Former Treasury Secretary/Warburg Pincus President Timothy Geithner.) They don’t need more from me.

The money thing is pretty much insurmountable.

Even presupposing a dramatic upturn in my finances (Powerball win? Selling a kidney to a desperate Internet billionaire? Kickstarter?), there’s the question of what I could accomplish in Congress. This is assuming, of course, that I win. Half of candidates lose, with nothing to show for their million-plus bucks.

Like the kids at Harvard, I can’t think of a single Congressman or, for that matter, Senator, who has managed to achieve much for the working class, or the environment, or anything big, since, well — my entire life. And I’m 50. As a political junkie, I would have heard of something.

Senator Ted Kennedy was one of my political heroes. I worked for two of his presidential campaigns. But let’s be honest. What was his greatest political accomplishment? Probably the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. A nice piece of law to be sure, but a small-bore one — and hardly worth spending decades of your life sitting through endless boring meetings.

And that’s what you do in Congress. You sit on your ass waiting for a chance to talk to people who are waiting for you to shut up so they can talk.

To an empty chamber.

Perhaps I should amend this: politics makes sense for right-wingers.

Republicans have radically transformed American society in recent years: legalized torture, extraordinary rendition, Guantánamo concentration camp, preemptive warfare, the doctrine of the unitary executive, sweeping tax cuts for the ultrarich and yes, even Obamacare — that one was dreamed up by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.

Liberals and progressives, on the other hand…there’s not much for us in the world of mainstream politics.

If we want leftie — most young people are — bright young things to enter public service, public service is going to have to change first. Obviously, that doesn’t seem likely. So if you’re a smart, energetic young person who wants to change the world, there’s still a place to do that.

Not in Congress.

In the streets.

(Ted Rall’s website is rall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Evil of Two Lessers

Two-Party System Is Not Democracy

We get the government we deserve.

Don’t get mad at the politicians! It’s your/our fault. You/we elected them.

Most Americans accept these aphorisms. Yet they are lies—lies that distract us from the fact that our political system is a farce. Really, we should get rid of this phony two-party “democracy.” And we will. In the meantime, we ought to ignore it.

The two-party system made simple:

Two worthless scoundrels are on the ballot.

If you vote for one of them, a worthless scoundrel will win.

If you don’t vote, a worthless scoundrel will win.

It’s a pretty unappealing sales pitch. How did it last 200 years?

The two-party system, a political mutation unanticipated by the Constitution and dreaded by the Founding Fathers, mainly relies on the “lesser of two evils” argument.

Next year, for example, many liberals will hold their noses and vote for Obama even though he has not delivered for them. They will do this to try to avoid winding up with someone “even worse”: Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, etc.

Conservatives will do the same thing. They will vote for Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney or whomever—even though they know full well they won’t come through with smaller government or a balanced budget—because Obama is “even worse.”

The two-party system is a sick game. Many citizens, realizing this, opt out by not voting. Others resort to negative voting.

In 2008 one out of three Republican voters told pollsters they were voting against Obama, not for McCain. Out in five Democrats voted against McCain, not for Obama.

A quarter of all votes cast in 2008 were “negative votes.” Thirty-eight percent of voters in the 2010 midterm elections crossed party lines from D to R “to send a message.”

To “get the government they deserve,” as master curmudgeon H.L. Mencken asserted, we would have to have a wide choice of options on the ballot. Two is pathetic.

Two parties isn’t even a facsimile of democracy.

Would you shop at a store that only offered two books? Two kinds of cereal? Two models of computers? Two brands of computer?

What about third parties? The Dems and Reps conspire to block the Greens, Libertarians, etc. with insurmountable obstacles. Minor parties can’t get campaign financing, ballot access, media coverage, or seats at presidential debates. So they rarely win.

“With a single elected president if you’re going to have a chance to win the states, which are all awarded on a winner-take-all basis, again you don’t have a chance,” John Bibby, University of Wisconsin professor and co-author of the book, “Two Parties—Or More? The American Party System” told PBS in 2004. “The incentive is to form broad-based parties that have a chance to win in the Electoral College.”

The argument that we, the people, are somehow to blame for the failings of “our politicians” is absurd. Even partisans of the two major parties are substantially dissatisfied with the nominees who emerge from the primary system.

Politics is not what happens on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Real politics is the process of arguing about how we want to live. In America that happens over dinner with our families, over drinks with our friends, over the water cooler at work (if you still have a job).

What happens on Election Day is a circus, a farcical distraction meant to siphon away the vitality of real politics.

Real politics is dangerous. Real politics, as we saw in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, can actually change things.

The two-party system is a twisted con based on fear. If you don’t vote for Party A then Party B, which is slightly more evil, will win. If “your” Party A wins, all you get is the dubious, incremental pseudo-victory of somewhat less suckiness. But Party A gets something infinitely more valuable: political legitimacy and the right to claim a mandate for policies that you mostly dislike.

“Hey, you elected them.”

“You got the government you deserve.”

Not at all.

It’s a terrible, lopsided bargain. You get little to nothing. They use your vote to justify their policies:

No jobs.

One war after another.

Wasting your tax dollars.

Corruption.

More pollution.

(Notice: I didn’t specify which party. Compared to the vast spectrum of possible politics from left to right, which encompasses such ideologies as communism, socialism, left libertarianism, right libertarianism, fascism, etc., the Dems and Reps are more similar than different.)

Until there’s a revolution we’re stuck with these jokers. But that doesn’t mean we have to pay attention.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

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