Third Party & Independents Archives

'Fixing Washington'

An article in today’s Washington Post extrapolates from, and comments on a book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” … by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. They debunk five popular solutions as a fix to our polarized political system and offer other solutions they believe will work.

First up, a third party will never work. They note that in recent decades Ross Perot, John Anderson and George Wallace pursued third party goals. And, of recent, ALEC, an organization looking to put a centrist in the White House has finally thrown in the towel after expending $35M toward the effort. They relate that "Consensus is not easily built around such issues and difference in values and interest would not simply disappear in a nonpartisan, centrist haze."

Second, term limits will not save us. They write that term limits have been implemented in 21 states since 1990 and overturned in six states. That new lawmaker's immediately begin planning for tenure or plan for a career as a lobbyist with little incentive for law making. Thus, power transfers to permanent staff and lobbyist.

Third, a balanced budget cannot fix the economy. They write that maintaining fiscal flexibility is critical, particularly in a globalized economy where "less and less of our destiny is under our control".

Fourth, that public financing of elections will restrain special interests. They allude that public money would not be sufficient to finance costly elections and that donations are a minor part of the resources special interests use to peddle influence. And, they note that the Roberts Supreme Court and the FEC has made it virtually impossible to stem private money.

And lastly, stay calm and things will return to normal. They surmise that there is no reason to think the system will correct itself anytime soon.

Instead of term limits they recommend identity disclosure of PAC and Superpac donors. Also, that congress should legislate on measures that require tighter enforcement in separating a candidates campaign from large donors. As an example they cite Rick Santorum and Foster Priess sitting together on the campaign's plane and standing close together at rallies.

Additionally, they recommend converting votes into seats through redrawing of congressional district lines, instant runoff voting where voters rank their candidate preferences, and restoring majority rule in the Senate by restoring the 'filibuster' to its traditional role. Lastly, they recommend expanding the electorate through a small fine for those that don't show at the polls, encouraging voting through open primaries and automating the registration process. If that doesn't work out they suggest, in jest I believe, a lottery where your ticket stub might win you a prize from a pool of money collected from the fines paid by non-voters. Noting that the odds for winning such a lottery are about the same as for the Mega-millions lottery in March, 1 in 176 million, the essay ends with " we'd like to believe that the chances of fixing American politics is greater than that."

While compelling, I believe they base their issues in a too narrow perspective as to the underlying reasons for our political problems.

We can agree that special interests and the money influence in the political process are the source of our major problems. We can agree that a third party is highly unlikely, that congress would never vote for term limits, a balanced budget amendment or public financing of elections. But, to say these things would never work is drawing the circle too tight.

Widen the scope a bit and we can understand that the money influence comes primarily from large corporations bundling both funds and lobbying efforts to exert influence on the political system. They can do this as corporations are treated, under the law, as having some rights of humans. So, it seems rational that any move toward reform will be thwarted by govt/corporate interests, aka Corpocracy, until the law is changed to reflect that corporations are not persons under the law. This was the case until 1886 when corporate personhood (CP) law was adopted by the Supreme Court. Worth noting that there was no case in law heard by that court or any court since as to whether 'corporations are persons' but that's another matter.

So, it's clear that the money influence can't be removed until corporate personhood law is abolished. But, how could that ever happen? Certainly the Corpocracy would not sit still for abolishing corporate personhood. There seems to be just two ways available to the people to abolish corporate personhood and implement REAL campaign finance reform (CFR). One way is through Article V Convention but this path, this constitutional right has been denied to the citizenry by the same 545 legislators who have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution.

The other way is through a third party, but not just any third party. We need a third party comprised of centrists/independents who can bring a different political attitude to the public square. A party with an agenda to remove the money influence from politics/govt by abolishing CP and implementing REAL CFR.

Of course, it will be necessary to prevent this new party from ever being co-opted by the money influence by creating the party in a few rules. These rules basically prevent the party from taking donations from corporations and/or PAC's, and authorize the membership to act as oversight for members elected to political office. If an elected official of that party acts against party rules then he/she may be subjected to a vote, national or by state, as the case may be, and if the vote is unfavorable, may be rejected from the party. An incumbent congressperson, House or Senate, would be subject to a national vote.

Still, there would have to be a sufficient number in the two main parties who favor the agenda of this new third party. A third party, thusly designed, offers the most promising and expeditious path to REAL reform. The Republic Sentry Party is representative of just such a party.

It should be noted that there are two organizations at the forefront of the effort to abolish corporate personhood. and are working to have local gov'ts adopt a resolution to abolish CP and take the effort to state gov'ts around the country. Vermont recently became the first state to adopt the resolution. A strong summer program is being undertaken and they are looking for your support.

It's clear, if one widens the scope of possibilities, a new third party, with a different political attitude, could very well be the solution to 'fixing our political problems'.

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve.

Posted by Roy Ellis at May 20, 2012 9:29 PM
Comment #344927

One small metric as to how Corpocracy works to influence gov’t/politics.

Example of how things get done thru Corpocracy.

Otherwise - - -

Posted by: Roy Ellis at May 21, 2012 12:39 PM
Comment #344928

Sounds more like you want a single-issue movement around the ending of corporate personhood…

I think this would require a US Constitutional amendment, ie what the “third party” would rally around, and that that ought to rule it DOA.

But what if a single-issue movement rallied around the use of 3-seat Proportional Representation in state representative elections? This would go a long way to fix what’s broken in our country for a number of reasons I write about at “A New Kind of Third Party”.

Posted by: dlw at May 21, 2012 12:44 PM
Comment #344929

Roy ALEC is corporatism in action. It is not centrist. It is conservative or in reality fascist.

That being said, good work this is an interesting post. I would tend to agree with Mann and Ornstein on most of these issues. I would disagree with the fine for not voting and would instead replace it with making it easier to vote. The problem we face in this election is the 14 states that have passed laws to restrict voting. Those that voted to do so were motivated not by voter fraud as they claim but by opportunity. All 14 states that passed these laws were conservative led states. Go figure, the fascist will stop at nothing to win.

Posted by: j2t2 at May 21, 2012 2:34 PM
Comment #344930

The Article V convention is problematic at best, because without any strong consensus that such a convention is necessary, there’s no justifying it. Some try a cumulative standard, but the cumulative standard gets treated like a loophole, and not without reason. The Convention was supposed to be called because the states wanted it together, the same way that the original was.

It appeals to people because it’s a default, something that can happen without the pain and inconvenience of convincing two thirds of all the state legislatures to support a convention together. But what makes it easy makes it inadvisable as well, if for no other reason that the lack of a consensus to move forward with the convention would also spell the doom of any proposals.

As for ALEC? Their “model” legislation has been behind most of the right-wing legislation that’s been horrifying people across the country. Going to them for solutions to the status quo is like going to Count Dracula for solutions to anemia. I mean, hell, ALEC basically is a council of Corporations and Right Wing groups. If you wanted something to call a corpocracy, it’s about as close as you can get to it.

The ultimate solution in my mind is to cultivate a deliberate awareness of the compromised quality of political commercials in this election, to understand that millions of dollars are going into essentially manipulating people into maintaining and enhancing corporate control of legislation.

The ultimate solution is for people to stop considering their interests purely in terms of somebody else’s interests being proxy for their own. So long as we’re all chasing jobs and economic growth by way of tearing down barriers to corporate political power, we’ll get the same kind of pro-special interest government we’ve come to loathe. We must realize that the two are not unconnected, and continuing to buy that BS line will only further empower them.

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