Two Party Dilemma

Two Party Dilemma

As 2016 beats a merciful retreat and 2017 hoves into view, we look back on the 2016 election as a study in opposites — more “same old, same old,” than radical departure.  One of the two wings of the war/business party won (expected) but it was the wrong party (unexpected).  Faced with the choice between two dismal candidates and their gazillionaire backers, those who bothered to show up at the polls (about 58%) decided a political non-entity with a big mouth was a better bet than a hard-bitten veteran spouting hell fire and brimstone with a drone under each arm. 90 million voters, who saw the handwriting on the wall on state-controlled media, stayed home or went fishing.

After the great debacle, the great unwinding. Shout of rage and disbelief from the liberal (neo) church of believers. Cries for a recount in battleground states, championed by democratic elites, and sold to the only party that would take up the gauntlet — the barely hanging on, down-on-their luck Greens.  Mingled with the cries of impotent rage, a rush to the streets, banners flying proclaiming “He’s not my president” (as if any president since 1945 has been their president) or my personal favorite “In the time of Trump, all we have is each other” (possibly a Titanic reference).

Aside from proving what the rest of the world already knew — we are a nation of spoiled brats and sore losers— what exactly has all the hand wringing and threats of revolutionary retribution wrought? The same old oligarchs occupy the top spots in government. On the chance that either by death or senility the supply is depleted, there’s always a retired general or two or three waiting in the hangars or in one of the “Com” commands (think Africom, Cybercom, etc.).

Is impotent rage an adequate response to such goings-on?

That’s the question we try to answer in “We Must March My Darlings.”(a line from Walt Whitman’s “O Pioneers”) Are we missing a golden opportunity to start building a future political colossus that could pose a realistic alternative especially to the 90 million who spent election day any place but the polls? If even 70% of those no-shows could be inspired by a strong and defiant alternative to the establishment, we could send the elites scurrying back to their hidey-holes and upend the political royalty on both sides of the aisle. The fall-out would be all-consuming — throwing a real scare into Israel and Saudi Arabia, devastating the profits of the war industry, the likes of Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics who might have to start their own war to boost flagging sales.

The impossible dream? Yes, if we expect it to happen tomorrow, or even next year, or maybe even a decade down the road. Instant gratification is not in the cards when it comes to building a new political force. Discouragement, the almost irresistible urge to give up when results fall short of expectations has to be resisted. The equation for a new political party to achieve success — time spent X work expended = mission accomplished.

It’s not uncharted territory. Third party candidates have been a staple of American history for over a century —some radically successful until the forces of the political establishment stamped them out (e.g. the Palmer Raids 1919-1920 under Obama’s surveillance state mentor Woodrow Wilson) and some, like the moderately successful Communist party of the thirties succumbing to an organized government jihad.  The only way to tame the oligarchs is to beat them at their own game: politics.

What follows is a rundown of historical efforts to make third party politics the third rail of American political discourse. In looking at successful political movements, we study the most successful one of all — not building a third party, but a political force to pass the 19th amendment to the Constitution giving women the vote.

The success (albeit briefly) of third parties throughout history brought a weary nation usually in  crisis a flicker of hope. More often than not their major failing was their spontaneity —they erupted out of the promise of making things better — for workers, women, the elderly, children and other disaffected groups. What they didn’t have was momentum. Their flame was extinguished usually after one failed campaign.  “Third parties are like bees. Once they have stung, they die.” (Richard Hofstadter)

How to build a third party of the future is the question this article tries to answer. First, a look at the current crop of third parties. The Green Party, a 15 year effort, with few supporters, little money, on the ballot in only 45 states came out of the 2016 election with 1% of the vote as compared to the 2.7% Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, running in two less states, won in 2000. Can this party on life support be resuscitated? Or is it time to start over? Becoming a force in mainstream US politics requires a charismatic leader with extraordinary oratorical skills (think Martin Luther King, Malcolm X) and a messaging strategy that the electorate can believe in— full time jobs with benefits (of the almost 15 million jobs created in Obama’s two terms, a new study finds that 94% were temporary or part time), free higher education, relief for the over 40 million young people in debt peonage from student loans, universal healthcare, environmental safeguards, ending perpetual war. Sound familiar? It wasn’t the Green Party getting the message out, it was the Bernie Sanders campaign. Running on virtually the same platform as the Green Party, Bernie brought home the bacon —over $250 million in donations. The Green Party raised $3.5 million. Sure he was running as a democrat but the success of his appeal, the turmoil it caused in establishment circles makes it worth replicating.  Third parties have always appealed to the felt needs of those not at the top rung of the economic or social ladder. That makes fundraising a critical element. Money is the glue that holds an organization together, that allows it to build a grass roots effort in every state, to get the word out via the media and to run a robust, visible campaign. The money is out there, the motivation is the sticking point.

Will the lessons of history help put vibrancy in a third party movement? Can it depart from its reputation as a spoiler? Unlike virtually every democracy in the west, third parties have never caught on in the US. Are we immune to third parties? If the right one came along would you support it? Read the article and decide for yourself.

Read the rest here We Must March My Darlings . . .

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