Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Democrats and Republicans like the electoral system as it is: Separate and Unequal

My name is jason330 and I use
this avatar because I am deeply
ashamed of the positions I take
and would not want my employees
to know or they might no longer
be satisfied to work for me.
Amazingly enough it took a comment from jason330 (apparently the number refers to weight, not IQ) to help me gel my thinking about the structural restrictions that Democrats and Republicans have put into place to keep other political parties from challenging their status while they pretend to hate each other.

Regarding the question of "third" parties, jason had this gem recently:
Libertarians are crybabies. This is a two party representative democracy, but They’ve shown up at baseball game with a hockey stick and pout that nobody wants to play hockey. Get a grip.
Aside from the fact that jason knows as little about history as I suspect he knows about English Lit, with just a little modification we can make his cute little observation into a metaphor that is far more accurate.

Picture it has having been written in the late 19th Century as a blog entry (or editorial) about Homer Plessy:
Negroes are crybabies.  This is a white man's representative democracy, but they've shown up at a baseball game in one of their Negro League uniforms and pout that nobody will let them play.  Get a grip.
Think this doesn't apply, or that I am stretching the potential metaphor to the breaking point?  Think again.  I often use the picture at left in classes, from the cover of an 1867 edition of Harper's Weekly, to make a point about voting rights and representation.

The first voter in line is a former slave, probably in his late fifties or early sixties, proudly casting his first ballot in an election in South Carolina after the Civil War.  What I point out to my students is that if he lived for another decade, he lived long enough to lose his right to vote.  Politicians (in South Carolina's case they called themselves the "Redeemers"; today they call themselves Democrats and Republicans) were interested in insuring that suffrage and political participation would be limited within certain circumscribed limits.  In their case the limiting factor was race, and they used poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright violence to do so for over a century in many places.

Today the limiting factor is membership in the two "major" parties--Democratic and Republican.


(Note to jason so he can learn just a little about history before shooting off his mouth or his foot:  the US was never designed as a two-party representative democracy.  Since 1804--after the rules about presidential tickets changed--in at 12 of the 50 elections [24%]--at least three different candidates have received electoral votes.  The two waves of Democrat/GOPer tinkering with the rules to make it nearly impossible for a third party candidate to run successfully followed George Wallace's 1968 campaign that garnered an astounding 46 electoral votes and about 14% of the popular vote and Ross Perot's 1992 campaign that managed 19% of the popular vote but no electoral votes.  Federal funding of presidential elections and nominating conventions--designed to keep out third parties--resulted from Wallace's run.  Perot's two runs resulted in a change of the formula for televised presidential debates to keep third parties off the stage.)
If you are a Dem or GOPer you get $18+ million for your presidential nominating convention; other parties need not apply under the current rules.

If you are a Dem or GOPer presidential candidate, you receive an automatic invitation to the presidential debates; other candidates must prove that they are polling nationally at 15%, but there is no requirement that any polling company include candidates on the ballot in sufficient states to have a mathematical chance of winning.

If you are a Dem or GOPer presidential candidate, you get to concentrate on campaigning, because your ballot access (and preferred position on both the ballot and party registration forms) is guaranteed, and the rules your appointees made are guaranteed to keep other candidates from getting any traction.

For example you Negro Libertarians and Greens, here's how the new literacy tests and poll taxes work in Demopublican America:

In Oklahoma the state has gone to court at the behest of the Demopublicans to require all other parties who want ballot access to select their candidates via primary, not convention.  This means that in Oklahoma, which has the most restrictive ballot access in the nation, the number of weeks that third parties have to gather sufficient petition signatures to get on the ballot in the first place will be cut almost in half.

In Arizona the Demopublicans have gone to court to keep Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionalists, Socialists, or any other ballot-qualified parties in their state from having their parties listed on voter registration forms.  If you want to register Demopublican, you just check a block; if you want to register as anything else, you must fill in the name of the party.

In Nevada, the GOP is suing to keep the Libertarian Party off the presidential ballot just because . . . well, that damn Gary Johnson fellow might "steal" Mitt Romney's votes.

This year in Michigan, the GOPer Secretary of State is trying to block the Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson from being on the presidential ballot based on a form being turned in three minutes late to withdraw him from a GOP primary.  Too bad it wasn't Texas and Johnson wasn't a Demopublican.  In 2008 BOTH John McCain and Barack Obama missed the registration deadline for presidential candidates by 48 hours, clearly making them ineligible to be on the ballot.  Election officials simply ignored their own laws, policies, and rules, because--after all--these were Demopublicans.

In Delaware our Demopublicans eliminated fusion candidacies last year to make themselves more secure, while also raising the number of voters a "minor" party had to register to have ballot access.  Then--like "separate but unequal" jason--they criticize people who complain about their facist tactics.

Quit whining, says jason.  We are the majority, we'll tell you what to do and who can be run for office.

What's at the bottom of all this?  Some deeply rooted philosophical commitment to the idea that there should only be two parties in a nation?  No, that's not it.  What it is about is the restraint of political speech that could threaten a monopolistic hold on political power.  If there were other political parties listed on registration forms, people might get interested in them.  If there were other candidates in televised debates, people might hear other ideas.  If there were other candidates on the ballot, people might make different choices.

Damn that Ralph Nader--he "stole" votes that belonged to Al Gore.  Of course Al Gore and his daddy and his granddaddy (along with George W Bush's daddy and granddaddy) stole the entire f--king system for themselves.

And people like jason, while pretending to champion things like open government and an inclusive society, continue to make arguments for keeping individuals with different political views out of the mainstream with the same fervor used by KKK raiders after Appomattox.

He must be so proud.

2 comments:

anonone said...

Steve, you and Jason are both wrong.

Let me rephrase:

Working people are crybabies. This is a rich people's democracy, but They’ve shown up at baseball game without buying tickets and pout that nobody wants to let them in. Get a grip.

It isn't about Republicans and Democrats and Libertarians and whatever. It is about the wealthiest Americans and corporation buying just enough politicians of both parties to maintain a majority that supports their interests on any given issue.

NCSDad said...

But there is one ticket taker that will let you in, and he/she is a libertarian.