Tag: Campaign finance reform

Third Party Politics

There are three things that stand out when looking at the third party issue.   The first is the  obstacles preventing progress are so overwhelming they seem insurmountable.  The second is they have no chance without campaign finance reform and election rule changes.  The third is the time is more ripe for a viable third party since they were effectively throttled in the mid nineteenth century.  

I checked out a book written by Micah Sifry, titled, “Spoiling for a Fight, Third Party Politics in America” (copyright 2002), which presents and excellent overview of third party history, efforts by Ross Perot, John Anderson, Ralph Nadar, and the problems and possible solutions for third party success.


“Public opinion surveys since the 1990s consistently have shown a high level of popular support for the concept of a third party. But in spite of such support for a third party, these parties face many obstacles. The most significant is the fear among voters that if they vote for a third-party candidate, they, in effect, will be “wasting” their votes. Voters have been shown to engage in strategic voting by casting ballots for their second choice when they sense that a third-party candidate has no chance of winning.

There is evidence that third parties can have a major impact on election outcomes. For example, a third-party candidate might draw votes more votes away from the candidate of the party more closely aligned with to the position of the third-party candidate, thus enabling the other party to win the election – often without receiving a majority of the vote.”

Part of the problem is the inability of third parties to secure the experienced, prestigious candidates necessary for public attention.  

“There is a striking difference between the political backgrounds of major and minor party candidates. Nearly all (97.2 percent) of the 72 major party presidential nominees between 1840 and 1980 had held the post of president, vice-president, U.S. senator, congressman, governor, military general, or cabinet secretary. Less than 20 percent of the minor party candidates had attained these positions.  By now the reason for this disparity should be clear. The biases against third parties created by the single-member-district plurality system and ballot access restrictions, as well as their disadvantages in organization, resources, and media coverage, all effectively discourage qualified candidates from running under a third party label. Well-known, prestigious candidates know that a third party effort will be hopeless and can end their political careers. Only extraordinary circumstances will push established politicians (and voters) into a third party camp.”

Can you imagine if Obama had run as an independent, with enough money to present the same messages he did during his democratic campaign.   Can a third party get enough quality candidates and support that could counter the two party duopoly?

“All of these constraints, of course, are interrelated. The single-member-district plurality system discourages high caliber candidates from running outside a major party; if a weak candidate runs, he will attract few campaign resources, ensuring that most citizens will learn very little about him. This in turn reinforces the belief that the third party candidate cannot win, so citizens will not waste their votes on him. The weak electoral performance is self-perpetuating. People expect third parties to do poorly because they have always  done poorly, so only weak candidates run-and the cycle continues.

Together these barriers, handicaps, and major party strategies raise the level of effort required for a voter to cast his ballot for an independent candidate. A citizen can vote for a major party candidate with scarcely a moment’s thought or energy. But to support a third party challenger, a voter must awaken from the political slumber in which he ordinarily lies, actively seek out information on a contest whose outcome he cannot affect, reject the socialization of his political system, ignore the ridicule and abuse of his friends and neighbors, and accept the fact that when the ballots are counted, his vote will never be in the winner’s column. Such levels of energy are witnessed only rarely in American politics.”

The plutocratic two party system forced on the American people is a machine that may be too large to seriously challenge.  As Sifry stated in his conclusion, “There are no shortcuts”.  Creating a third party that can compete on the national stage and have influence on the key issues we face will take serious, long term efforts at the local and state levels resulting in elected candidates at all levels.  Without that, the corporate owned duopoly won’t be particularly concerned.  

Another day at the Office, for Lobby America

also posted on the kos

A Day In The Life Of A Georgia Lobbyist

Her phone rings. It is another board member, and he is at the Capitol.  We are off to the third floor and a day that accelerates from 0 to 60 very quickly.  Among the sea of suits, we find her guest and connect him with Rep. Stephens, who will escort him onto the floor of the House for a visit.

Immediately thereafter, we meet up with the lobbyist for the Department of Economic Development, which houses the tourism budget and serves as the state’s marketing apparatus for the industry. They discuss the House budget cuts, pending legislation and chart strategy.  During that conversation she is approached by another lobbyist from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia who relays concerns over a hotel tax bill introduced a day earlier.  Joy assures her the bill is a temporary bill and that a substitute is coming.  […]

Not much later, the lobbyist for the Georgia Municipal Association approaches Joy expressing similar concerns.  Joy again explains a substitute is coming.

Shhhh! it’s a secret!

Court Jester Theater: My what Big Eyes you have Corporate Giants

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

William Shakespeare

Court Jesters

In societies where freedom of speech was not recognized as a right, the court jester — precisely because anything he said was by definition “a jest” and “the uttering of a fool” — could speak frankly on controversial issues in a way in which anyone else would have been severely punished for.

Monarchs understood the usefulness of having such a person at their side.

“Welcome To The Machine”

Pink Floyd

This just in! … an urgent,

Breaking, Non-News Announcement!!!Listen up consumers!

“The News is a Joke” — it may be Truer than you think

Breaking Non-News Announcement!!!Listen up consumers!

 Court Jesters

In societies where freedom of speech was not recognized as a right, the court jester — precisely because anything he said was by definition “a jest” and “the uttering of a fool” — could speak frankly on controversial issues in a way in which anyone else would have been severely punished for.

Monarchs understood the usefulness of having such a person at their side.

Who will the Senate Finance Committee Listen to?

Have you met your Senate Finance Committee?

Give em a call because your Future Health Care, or lack thereof, is in their hands.

Senate Committee on Finance




























Chances are, these good Senators, while they hear us, have some other Constituents, always on their minds.

Baucus is only the Symptom of a much more Chronic Condition

Did you Vote for Change?

for Accountability; for leveling the playing field; for National Health Care?

Well, your vote apparently doesn’t carry as much weight as it use to.

Here’s one of the main reasons why:

U.S. Democracy Under Siege — Senate Debate Excerpts

Excerpts from the Congressional Record of the October 14, 1999 Senate debate.

The following is a tabulation, for clarity, of the figures cited by Mr. Feingold:

1980 1992 1996
Total soft money contributions to parties ($millions) under 20 86 about 250
# of donors giving over $200,000 52 219
# of donors giving over $300,000 20 120
# of donors giving over $400,000 13 79
# of donors giving over $500,000 9 50
# of companies giving over $150,000 to each of the political parties (“double givers”) 7 43

 (emphasis added)


There has been a tidal wave taking place, that threatens to swamp our fragile system of Democracy.  Indeed it probably already has …

A Kabuki Dance on the Grave of American Democracy

In Why We Can’t Have Change Buhdy argued that there is just not much Obama can do to bring Change about . . .

There is plain and simple, just not much he can do to bring Change about. There is not…yet…much he can do to bring Change about for one basic reason. One basic reason, which then blooms into a thousand flowers all smelling like DC bullshit in the spring.

The one card Obama has to play in the DC Realpolitik Poker Game is….us.  The Power of the People.  A steady 65% approval rating, and that is a HARD 65%.  The People who support him REALLY support him. And his many and varied opponents know it. He has that, and the limited (even post-Bush) power of the Executive Branch.

He brings that to the table.  But sitting across from him, arrayed around the table far outnumbering him….is the entire structure of the United States Government.

The entire structure of the United States government is broken, and everyone knows it. That’s why Obama got elected.  Americans elected him President to fix that broken government.  He has far more than one card to play, he’s sitting at that poker table in Washington with a Royal Flush, but he won’t lay it down on the table.

In 2004, no one had ever heard of Obama.  Yet somehow, he won the Presidency of the United States only four years later.  Why?  Because he promised Change.  Because 65 million Americans believed him when he said we have to put the politics of the past behind us, and voted for him.  But he’s not putting the politics of the past behind us, he’s letting the politics of the past, the politics of bullshit posturing in Congress, prevent him from doing what needs to be done.  

I’m not buying any arguments that Obama can’t bring Change.  The problem we have here is that he won’t bring Change.  Not real change.  He knows, and said so many times on the campaign trail, that the overwhelming challenges we face require new solutions.  Yet the only solutions he talks about involve playing the same old politics of the past with a broken Congress that’s about as popular as syphilis.  

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