Record High Independent Identification: 40%

From Gallup:
The percentage of Americans identifying as political independents increased in 2011, as is common in a non-election year, although the 40% who did so is the highest Gallup has measured, by one percentage point. More Americans continue to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, 31% to 27%.
Party Identification, Yearly Averages, Gallup Polls, 1988-2011
These results are based on more than 20,000 interviews conducted in 20 separate Gallup polls in 2011. Gallup has computed annual averages of party identification since 1988, when it began regularly conducting interviews by telephone. The prior high percentage of independents was 39% in 1995 and 2007.

Gallup records from 1951-1988 -- based on face-to-face interviewing -- indicate that the percentage of independents was generally in the low 30% range during those years, suggesting that the proportion of independents in 2011 was the largest in at least 60 years. . . .
Increased independent identification is not uncommon in the year before a presidential election year, but the sluggish economy, record levels of distrust in government, and unfavorable views of both parties helped to create an environment that fostered political independence more than in any other pre-election year. 

Republican-Democrat Party Politics Is the Politics of Fear

In "The Foundation of Government," from 1776, John Adams wrote:
Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it. 
Today, fear is among the primary motivations for the continued support of the ruling factions in government.  Partisans of the Democratic and Republican parties do not advocate for the candidates of their preferred party but rather call for reactive negation of the candidates of the other major party.  To vote for a Democrat is, first and foremost, a vote against the Republican.  To vote for a Republican is, first and foremost, a vote against the Democrat.  This is the fundamental basis of reactionary, negative politics in the United States today.  It is a politics based on fear.  It paralyzes voters and ensures the continued joint misrule of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Consider a recent article at PoliticsUSA laying out "A Possible Nightmare Scenario for America in 2012."  The piece takes a look at the possible outcome of a successful or semi-successful third party presidential bid by the candidates of Americans Elect as laid out in an analysis of "the pitfalls of a third party presidential candidacy" published at the Brookings Institute.

Regular readers will surely be familiar with each of the possible scenarios laid out in the paper.  A third party candidate could very well accomplish the impossible and win the presidency.  But he or she would then be politically isolated by the partisan composition of the House and Senate.  "Few in the House or Senate would feel allegiance to or affinity for the newly elected president," we read at the Brookings Institute.  Is this not the very definition of putting party before country?  This, in itself, should be reason enough to vote for alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.  If you are considering a vote for a third party or independent candidate for president, it only makes sense to consider alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans down the ballot.  

In the second scenario, the third party candidate receives a modest amount of support, but one of the major party candidates still wins a clear electoral victory but "with diminished popular support. The reduced popular support would undercut the legitimacy of the result and curtail momentum for the victor."  In a country where only around 60% of registered voters turnout for presidential elections, and only 71% of eligible voters are even registered, it is absurd to claim that any president has "popular support."  In Barack Obama's "landslide" victory in 2008, he garnered just over 50% support from 60% of 71% of eligible voters.  Less than a quarter of eligible voters cast a ballot for Barack Obama in 2008.  The partisans of the two-party state would have us believe that this equates to  "popular support."

It is the third scenario, however, that scares the author at PoliticsUSA most.  In this case, no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes and the election is decided in the US House.  From PoliticsUSA:
You see where they are headed with this? Who controls the U.S. House of Representatives? The extreme right – Tea Party fanatics, demonstrated nihilists. Who elects the president if this is no clear majority? The U.S. House of Representatives. . . . Our political system is a mess. . . . But there is real danger in monkeying with the works. People generally don’t tend to think ahead about the consequences of their actions; we find out about those later – the hard way. . . . That’s where we are with this potential fix to our ideologically driven gridlock in Washington. The gridlock is bad. But as the old saying goes, the cure might be worse than the disease.
Fear raises its ugly head.  Sure, our system is a mess, but let's not even try to clean it up.   That is the moral to this story.  It is noteworthy, given the recent discussion of centrist strategy here at Politea, that this Democratic commentator holds that Obama is the centrist candidate in 2012: "In 2012 we have a centrist president who steers from the extremes of either party. If ever there was an awkward time to attempt this [i.e. a centrist third party bid for president], it is now."  

AZ: Greens and Libertarians File Suit Against New Voter Registration Form

From today's column at IVN:
On December 29th, the Arizona Green and Libertarian parties filed a lawsuit in the US District Court of Arizona charging that the state’s new voter registration forms violate their First Amendment right to freedom of association and their Fourteenth Amendment right of equal protection under the law.

The state’s former voter registration forms included a box prompting registrants to specify their party preference by writing that name in the space provided. In the most recent session of Arizona’s legislature, however, lawmakers changed the design. In the party preference section on the new form, voters are prompted to check one of three boxes: the first is labeled Republican, the second is labeled Democrat and the third is labeled ‘Other.’ Underneath the ‘Other’ label, a small space is provided for registrants to write in the name of their party preference if it is other than Democrat or Republican.

The lawsuit alleges that the form now discriminates against the state’s minor parties by privileging the Democrats and Republicans.  “This change has the sole effect of benefiting the Republican and Democratic Parties, and disadvantaging the Libertarian and Green Parties. It suggests the first two options to the future voter, while omitting all mention of the latter parties,” the suit charges.

The suit further states that when plaintiff Steve Lackey, a member of the Arizona Libertarian Party, attempted to register as a Libertarian at the Department of Motor Vehicles, “personnel there refused to allow him to do so, in the belief that “Other” referred to Independent, and not any third party.” In practice, the new form thus abridges the right to free association as it does not provide equal protection to all ballot qualified parties . . .

Given the rate at which Arizonans are leaving the Democratic and Republican parties, it is reasonable to assume that the change to the registration form was intended to bolster their membership rolls. Indeed, Independents now outnumber Democrats in the state. As of last July, 32.5% of the state’s voters specified no party preference. 31.1% were registered with the Democratic party and 35.4% were registered Republican. Just under 1% of the state’s voters are registered Libertarian or Green.

This represents a massive shift in registration patterns from just over a decade ago. In the year 2000, 43% of the state’s voters were registered Republican, 38% were registered Democratic, and only 18% specified no party preference on their registration forms.

The Third Party Dialogue: How Can Centrists Reach the Democrats?

Happy New Year!  As noted last week, the New York Times held a readers' dialogue on the issue of third party politics that began with a letter to the editor by Robert Levine calling for a centrist alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties.  Over the weekend they published nine responses to the original piece plus a response from Levine himself.  It may be interesting to simply layout the general tendency of each response, letter by letter, to see the breadth of opinion and overall tendency of the discussion.
1) Historical determinist argument against third party activism, i.e. third parties have failed in the past, therefore they will fail in the future.  Third party advocacy will further splinter the electorate.  It is better to work within the two-party system.
2) Disagreement with Levine's assumption that we need a third party of the center, states that Democrats and Republicans are already centrist-oriented.  Rather, we need a third and fourth party of the left and right to more adequately represent the breadth of opinion and interests among the people.  We need campaign finance reform and electoral reform to level the playing field.
3) Any third party strategy should focus on the US House not the presidency.  Reformers can also target competitive primary elections in the major parties to oust incumbents. 
4) Third party representatives would be just as corrupt as their Democratic and Republican counterparts, and would be sucked into the establishment's political machine.  Democrats and Republicans need to reform their respective parties and institute campaign finance reform.
5) "Centrism" got us into the current mess.  The problem isn't lack of centrists, it's obstructionism on the part of Republicans.  We need real opposition to the political and economic establishment in the form of a progressive third party.
6) A third party is not the answer and the barriers to entry are too high in any case.  Independents need to become involved in the major parties' primaries to moderate their extremes.
7) The United States already has numerous third parties but they are ignored by the media and marginalized by the political establishment.  We need to hear all positions across the political spectrum and not presented with a false choice between Republicans and Democrats.
8) The Democratic Party is already "the" centrist party.  Republican obstructionism is the problem.  History implies that third parties will not win and act as spoilers.
9) The Democrats are already "the" centrist party.  We need multiple viable alternatives to the major parties.  For that to happen we need serious electoral reform: campaign finance, voting systems etc.  
Read Levine's response.  One issue he does not touch on in his response to the response is the argument that the Democrats are already "the" centrist party.  This is a very common argument, at least in the mainstream liberal Democratic blogosphere, and directly contradicts the centrist position that the Democratic party has been captured by its far left progressive wing.  One obvious retort that one often hears in centrist circles is that the Democratic base is so far to the left that they think their party is centrist!  This argument leaves much to be desired as it relies on nothing more than the assertion of political relativism and ideological false consciousness.  Given that, politically speaking, Democrats are much less independently-minded than even Republicans, centrist third party advocates are going to need to develop arguments to appeal to those who would otherwise continue to cast their ballots against the Republicans by voting Democrat.  Ideas?

Free and Fair Elections Are Impossible with an Unfree and Unfair Ballot Access Regime

As you may have heard, only two candidates for the Republican presidential election have qualified to appear on Virginia's primary ballot: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.  Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman did not even attempt to gather the over 10,000 valid signatures that would have assured their place on the ballot.  Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich did, but failed to obtain enough valid signatures before the petition deadline.  Needless to say, this is not sitting well with the Gingrich and Perry campaigns and, predictably, they have now become supporters of choice and competition.  From Angel Clark at the Examiner:
I doubt Newt Gingrich even realizes what he said here! He's upset as he is not going to be on the primary ballot in Virginia.
We're getting an amazing number of people who … believe Virginians ought to have the right to choose and shouldn't be restricted to two people."
Oh, of course! He wants people to vote for him, to choose him as one of the only two people they are supposed to get to choose from for President of the United States of America (using his two-party system), but when he is not one of the two people, it's not fair. The system has failed.
 "Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates."
I doubt Newt Gingrich even realizes what he said here! He's upset as he is not going to be on the primary ballot in Virginia.
 We're getting an amazing number of people who … believe Virginians ought to have the right to choose and shouldn't be restricted to two people."
Oh, of course! He wants people to vote for him, to choose him as one of the only two people they are supposed to get to choose from for President of the United States of America (using his two-party system), but when he is not one of the two people, it's not fair. The system has failed.
 "Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates,"
Interesting... I guess what he should be saying is any top contender who plays by the rules of the Republicans vs. Democrats...
Gingrich and Perry's failure to achieve ballot access has brought renewed attention to the biased and discriminatory ballot access regime that has been instituted by the dictatorship of the Republican and Democratic parties over the last century.  Indiana's News Sentinel takes the opportunity to call for ballot access reform.  Excerpt:
Virginia voters will not have the seven candidatures now running but only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul to choose from.  And Virginia isn't even listed among the five worst states for access. But Indiana is, along with Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia and North Carolina. The troubles of Perry and Gingrich in Virginia should be a strong incentive for the Hoosier political establishment to start making access a little easier here. They won't, sadly, but they should be.

The candidates have a point when they complain about Virginia's rules (and Perry is also suing). Like the rules in most states, Virginia's requirements may make it tough on Republicans and Democrats, but their main purpose is to keep the third-party and independent riffraff away. The state requires that people carrying petitions for the candidates must be registered Virginia voters or those eligible (by residence and age) to be registered Virginia voters. That means Perry, for example, had to recruit local talent instead of bringing his Texas team in. It's little wonder that only 6,000 of the 11,900 petition signatures he submitted were ruled valid.

Perry claims in his suit that the requirement violates his First Amendment rights because it puts a too-heavy burden on his ability to engage in political speech. That's a valid constitutional issue, and past decisions by the Supreme Court and other courts indicate that a ruling on the point could go either way. Perry certainly has the moral high ground. States should encourage participation in the political process, not make it more difficult and expensive.

Indiana's requirements are so tough for independent and third-party candidates that Libertarians are usually the only ones able to collect enough signatures. Even Ralph Nader didn't get on our ballot in 2008. To make it, a candidate must collect signatures from 2 percent of the total votes cast in the most recent secretary of state election. Considering recent voting numbers, that means getting about 34,000 signatures, compared with the mere 4,500 required for Democrats and Republicans.

Indiana's primary is so late in the election year that voters usually have little reason to participate; the presidential candidate has already been chosen before our May date. Keeping our ballot-access requirements so high further dampens voter enthusiasm, and that's not good for the process or the electorate. 
As the News Sentinel points out, these draconian ballot access restrictions were primarily instituted to prevent third party and independent from competing on a level playing field with the ruling parties.  At Free Virginia, Marc Montoni, the Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Virgina, argues that this is a teachable moment for Republicans:
Last Friday afternoon, December 23, 2011, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry were notified that they had not turned in enough valid signatures to qualify their names for Virginia's Republican primary ballot . . .  Gentlemen, welcome to the world where adherents of the Libertarian Party, the Greens, or the Constitution Party live: where their exhausting effort and huge expense meets bureaucracy, unending paperwork and needless legal hurdles -- before we are even allowed our place at the starting line.

Virginia’s primary petition requirements were copied from the laws originally written to keep independents and third parties off the ballot. For a century, Democrats and Republicans colluded to establish and tighten ballot-access standards so much that voter choice has become practically nonexistent. This makes it difficult for us in the alternative & independent candidate sector to feel much sympathy for the ‘major’ candidates when their own laws snare them. One would hope that the Republicans would take this as an educational opportunity . . . 

Petitioning laws were originally built -- the strictest of them by majority-Democratic legislatures between 1910 and 1970 -- to shut out third parties like the Libertarian Party. The laws did the job, too -- in some states, third parties have not been allowed on the ballot for over half a century, and counting.

Petitioning requirements force new, upstart third parties to exhaust themselves asking several hundred thousand voters to help them qualify for the ballot. Unless those new parties have the money and activist backing of the wealthy and political elite already, just getting on the ballot so they can then present their ideas to voters is an expensive, time-consuming task.

Republicans should be wary of restrictive ballot access . . . Nor should the Democrats, in their glee about the Republicans' difficulties, forget how restrictive ballot laws sometimes snare them as well . . .

Democrats and Republicans alike have forgotten that elections are for voters. When voters can't vote for the candidate they wish to vote for, they are being hurt and our political discussion is being disrupted.

Perhaps the Republicans who now control the state legislature should take this as a message that Virginia's restrictive ballot-access laws are overdue for some overhaul.
The Libertarian Party’s position is that primaries are essentially state subsidies for political parties. Therefore, the only real reform needed to the “primary process” is to eliminate government-run primaries altogether, and allow political party members to determine who they wish to represent them during the general election – at their own expense.

Failing that, then reform can be easily accomplished by simply reducing the petition requirement . . . I have personally collected thousands of petition signatures for dozens of candidates at different levels. Anyone who thinks requiring thousands of signatures to get on the ballot is compatible with a free society needs to research the history and justifications for these oppressive laws a bit more.

Forcing alternative candidates -- who haven't been given the chance to appear in the modern "public square" that is the media -- to utterly exhaust themselves collecting signatures is a reprehensible practice in a “free” society.

Governments should not have any ability to control ballots at all. Open ballots not printed or controlled by government gave us men like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Compare them -- even with all of their faults -- to the modern crop of corruptocrats. 
Montoni closes with a plan to reform ballot access law in Virginia:

Making Virginia’s Ballot Laws Better

Reform of Virginia’s ballot access laws should begin with the following:

  1. Reduce signature requirements for all offices and all candidates -- Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, or independent -- by 90 % (rounding to next 10). A statewide candidate petition (Governor, president, etc) would then require 1,000 signatures; a candidate for congress would need to collect 150, a state delegate candidate, 20.
  2. Introduce a full-party access petition, 10,000 signatures to place a new party on the general election ballot for two statewide cycles.
  3. Eliminate the witnessing requirement for petition signatures.
  4. Eliminate the residency requirement for petitioners.
  5. Eliminate petition sheets, and move to a postcard petition -- where individual voters would fill out a post card stating they wish a candidate (or party) to be placed on the ballot.
  6. Get with the last decade and allow petitions to be ‘signed’ by voters online.

Action Alert: NYT Calls for Dialogue on Third Party Alternatives

Yesterday, the New York Times published a letter to the editor arguing for a centrist, third party alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties, and invited readers to respond for publication on Sunday.  The letter is from one Robert Levine, a neurologist and author of a book entitled, Resurrecting Democracy: A Citizen’s Call for a Centrist Third Party.  The letter:
Why does America have only two political options? Every day, the news from Washington showcases the inability of our two political parties to govern effectively.

Rigid partisanship has repeatedly hindered or prevented Republicans and Democrats from reaching compromise solutions on vital legislation, provoking a crisis of confidence in our political and economic system. And elected officials beholden to lobbyists and special interests allow their priorities to supersede those of ordinary citizens.

The economy is stagnant, unemployment remains high, and budget deficits and the national debt keep climbing. Yet no answers are forthcoming from our representatives in Washington. The continuing dysfunction reinforces the need for a third party of the center as an alternative to the current parties.
Using the Internet and social networks to organize and raise money from small donors, this new centrist party could be independent of the special interests and able to work for the benefit of all Americans. Its hallmarks would be ethical conduct, transparency and pragmatism. Instead of being constrained by ideology, it would be guided by common sense and practicality in its search for solutions.

A centrist third party could prosper in today’s political environment and end the stalemate in Washington. There is a large body of moderate Republicans, disaffected Democrats and dissatisfied independents looking for the kind of political home that this party could provide. Unhappiness with the political options now available to Americans will sooner or later translate into a groundswell for alternatives. 
The Times adds an editor's note:
Editors’ Note: We invite readers to respond to this letter for our Sunday Dialogue. We plan to publish responses and Dr. Levine’s rejoinder in the Sunday Review. E-mail:

Exodus from the Major Parties Continues: Declare Your Independence

The exodus from the Democratic and Republican parties continues apace. According to a new analysis by USA Today, 2.5 million voters have left the ruling parties an registered as Independents since 2008:
More than 2.5 million voters have left the Democratic and Republican parties since the 2008 elections, while the number of independent voters continues to grow. . . . The trend is acute in states that are key to next year's presidential race. In the eight swing states that register voters by party, Democrats' registration is down by 800,000 and Republicans' by 350,000. Independents have gained 325,000. . . . Registered Democrats still dominate the political playing field with more than 42 million voters, compared to 30 million Republicans and 24 million independents. But Democrats have lost the most — 1.7 million, or 3.9%, from 2008.
De-registering from the Republican and Democratic parties is a major step in declaring one's political independence.  The next step is even more important however: refusing to support the Democrats and Republicans and getting behind real Independent and third party alternatives to the stooges of the two-party state.

The Campaign for a National Popular Vote

The campaign for a national popular vote for president has been quietly gaining steam in recent years.  From today's column at IVN:
As many Americans discovered for the first time following the contested presidential election of 2000, the way in which Electoral College votes are currently awarded allows for the possibility that a candidate for president can win election to the nation’s highest office without receiving a majority of the popular vote. The national popular vote compact seeks to ensure that the winner of the national popular vote wins election to the office of the president.

The plan is simple: states that sign on to the compact agree to award their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. However, the compact does not come into effect until until enough states have signed on to ensure that a majority of Electoral College votes, i.e. 270 or more, have been pledged in the agreement. On that score, the national popular vote movement is already halfway toward its goal. Eight states and the District of Columbia have already passed legislation endorsing the plan, pledging a total of 132 Electoral College votes to the compact. California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation in support of the drive last summer . . .

The plan’s opponents face an uphill battle. A Gallup survey conducted in October found that 62% of those polled supported the idea of amending the US Constitution to institute a national popular vote for the office of the president. There was majority support for such a proposal across partisan lines, including 71% of Democrats, 61% of Independents and 53% of Republicans.

In this context, it is noteworthy that the National Popular Vote Compact does not actually seek to abolish the Electoral College. Currently, all but two states award their Electoral College Votes to the winner of their state’s popular vote. Yet, there is nothing in the US Constitution stipulating that states must or should award their Electoral College votes in this manner. Rather, Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution says that a state’s electors shall be appointed in a manner directed by that state’s legislature: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” The fact that two states currently award their Electoral College votes on a proportional basis demonstrates the freedom of states to delegate their electoral votes as they see fit.
National Popular Vote bills are currently pending in fourteen states – from Alaska to West Virginia – with a total of 146 Electoral Votes. If these bills were to pass into law over the course of the next three years, the compact will have secured 278 Electoral Votes and would come into effect for the 2016 presidential election.
Read the whole thing.  Some critics of the plan have asserted that the national popular vote initiative could undermine the two-party system and lead to more viable third party and Independent candidates for president.  Ironically, if true, this would be a major reason to should support any such initiative.  Here in New York, the State Senate has already passed a version of the National Popular Vote bill, but it has stalled in the Assembly.  However, we may see some real action on this front in the new year.

It is Time to Investigate the Suppression of the Independent Vote

Nationally, Independents outnumber both Democrats and Republicans by significant margins.  In some states, the majority of voters are Independents, outnumbering Democrats and Republicans combined.  So why are Independents treated as second class citizens.  Independent Voting is calling for Congressional hearings on the matter.  From an opinion piece in The Gazette, out of Maryland:
Remarkably, the fact that polls show 38 percent of Americans identify as independent in a two-party system such as ours hasn’t become part of the national conversation. That’s starting to change.

Along with the economy, partisanship and its corrosive effect on policymaking have become the two most important issues for our country . . . In Maryland, I, as an independent voter, can’t make my voice heard in a primary election although I’m fully expected to fund these contests with my taxpayer dollars. The reason being, if you are not affiliated with one of the two major political parties, you can’t vote . . .  
While increasing numbers of Americans reject party politics, our electoral process still is regulated by the two parties . . . Most independents hold some views that are considered to be conservative, as well some that are liberal. They don’t fit neatly into a Democrat or Republican box. For these reasons, and for the fact that I like to choose the best candidate (not the best party), I’ve claimed the independent moniker for years. Now I have added another reason, possibly more important than those stated previously — to effect structural change in the American political process.

Independent voters in the network — a national association of independents with organization in 40 states — are spearheading a campaign to persuade Congress to hold hearings on the second-class status of Independents and to shed light on the ways that partisanship has become so hard-wired into the political process . . . Voting rights are coming to mean the efforts of unaffiliated voters to push for structural reforms needed to lessen the power and privilege of political parties and to empower the nearly 40 percent of Americans who identify as Independents.
The article brings up a number of important points.  But the real question is: if Independent voters are dissatisfied with the Republican-Democrat two-party state, why do they continue voting for Democrats and Republicans rather than Independents?  It should also go without saying that any investigation into the suppression of the Independent vote should also investigate the suppression of Independent and third party candidates for office.

Gary Johnson Will Seek Libertarian Nomination for President

It is all but confirmed that former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson will seek the Libertarian Party's nomination for president in 2012.  Johnson is now the second GOP presidential hopeful who will seek a third party nomination.  Buddy Roemer announced a number of weeks ago that he will seek the Americans Elect nomination.  From USA Today:
Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson will abandon his GOP presidential bid and seek the White House under the Libertarian Party banner. Johnson has drawn scant attention in the race for the Republican Party nomination and barely registered in national public opinion polls, which are often used as a criteria for participation in debates.  He has scheduled a news conference on Dec. 28 at the Capitol building in Santa Fe, N.M., to announce his decision. "He is representing a viewpoint and a viewpoint that needs to be heard and he's going to do whatever it takes to get that done," Johnson spokesman Joe Hunter told the Associated Press.

The United Police States of America: the Criminalization of Living in the United States

In their ongoing war against the Constitution and people of the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties have amply demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice fundamental rights and liberties for the empty promise of security over the last ten years.  As the Occupy movement spread across the country over the last three months, we have witnessed the violence and brutality of the militarized police state that these parties have helped to create everywhere from New York City to San Francisco.  Perhaps even more disconcerting, however, is the criminalization of life and living itself that has been promulgated by the professional hysterics in the Democratic and Republican parties over the last forty years.  Today, one third of all young adults have been arrested at some point.  From Reuters:
Close to one in three American teens and young adults get arrested by age 23, according to a new study that finds more of them are being booked now than in the 1960s.  Those arrests are for everything from underage drinking and petty theft to violent crime, researchers said. They added that the increase might not necessarily reflect more criminal behavior in youth, but rather a police force that's more apt to arrest young people than in the past . . . 

The researchers said it seems that the criminal justice system has taken to arresting both the young and old more than it did in the past, when fines and citations might have been given to some people who are now arrested.

"If (police) find kids that are intoxicated or they have pulled over someone intoxicated... now, nine times out of 10 they're going to make an arrest," Wright told Reuters Health.  "We do have to question if arrest is an appropriate intervention in all circumstances, or if we need to rethink some of the policies we have enacted."
Meanwhile, as police crack down on jaywalkers, pot smokers, underage drinkers, and petty thieves, the professional criminals in the ruling political class effectively get away with murder.  Consider this obscene disparity.  A homeless man steals $100 dollars and then returns the money out of remorse.  He is sentenced to 15 years in prison.  A mortgage company CEO aids in a $3 billion dollar scheme to defraud the Troubled Asset Relief Fund and gets forty months in prison.  This is the very opposite of justice.  This is criminal. 

Third Party and Independent News and Views from Around the Web

Some news items from around the web.  Anyone found any alternatives to Google Reader yet since they disabled their embedded news clip sharing function?

Pollster Says Third Party Presidential Candidate Inevitable
The Platform of The Ascendancy Party
Tennessee Occupy Group Denounces Local Democratic Party Endorsement
Big Government and the Two-Party System
The Justice Party: Rocky Anderson's Radical Third Way
The Place for Third Party Candidates is Congress
Time for Independents to Flex Their Political Muscle

The Two-Party State and Proportional Representation

Among those of us who support independent and third party alternatives to the Republican and Democratic parties, there are many who advocate for the implementation of structural reforms that would aid in opening up our political system and provide for more adequate representation in government.  One such structural reform is proportional representation.  Under the current winner-take-all system, a candidate can win an election against two challengers with 35% of the vote, while his or her opponents – who together garnered a majority of the votes – get nothing.  Perhaps we should start referring to the winner-take-all system as disproportionate representation or something along those lines. Under proportional representation, as I understand it, seats are allocated proportionally to the amount of support received by individual candidates or their parties.  Obviously, the supporters of the two-party state are least likely to support the implementation of something like proportional representation in government, since it would upset their cozy duopoly.

Ironically, however, the Democratic and Republican parties have become strong supporters of proportional representation for their own internal party processes, for example, in the awarding of delegates to select their presidential nominees.  You may be surprised to learn that the parties have quietly implemented proportional representation in their presidential nominee selection process over the course of the last four years.  An article in the Financial Times provides a fair amount of detail on the issue.  Excerpt:
With many US states shifting next year to a proportional voting system, making it harder for any candidate to lock up the nomination early, the Republican battle could mirror the drawn-out Democratic party contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 . . .
While the Democratic nomination contest three years ago created a bitter divide between the rivals, Republicans admired the party’s proportional voting system, which meant Mr Obama did not win the ticket until June.
Republican chiefs thought the process strengthened the candidates by forcing them to set up campaigning infrastructure in all 50 states and explaining themselves to the electorate . . .
The new rules are complicated and some are still unclear. All states that hold caucuses and primaries before April 1 are supposed to use a proportional representation system to allocate their delegates, who proceed to the party convention in August where the nominee is chosen.

Under the previous winner-takes-all system, the candidate who came first in a state would win all of its delegates. In states with proportional voting, if one candidate won 40 per cent of the vote in New Hampshire and another candidate 25 per cent, they would get 40 and 25 per cent of the delegates respectively.
Does anyone out there know any more of the details of how these rule changes have been implemented?  If the parties have begun to use proportional representation to choose their presidential nominees, that provides a strong lever to make the case for proportional representation in government itself. 

The Redistribution of Power and the Third Party Threat

If you hear someone talking about the need for a third party or independent candidate for office, in most cases it is likely a safe bet that they are talking about the presidency.  Presidential fetishism and the cult of the executive in the public at large and the media in particular are two major hurdles to effective  independent activism and advocacy.  Independent and third party activists themselves, of course, concede the difficulty of winning the presidency, but often argue that even a moderately successful presidential campaign will bring attention to issues that are ignored by Democrats and Republicans, and to the fact that there are indeed alternatives to the stooges of the major parties.  However, as noted here last week, only "a few dozen successful third party or Independent candidates to the House and just a handful to the Senate" would have far-reaching consequences for the redistribution of political power away from the most dangerous factions in the United States.  The idea may be gaining traction.  From an opinion piece in the Wichita Eagle today:
If there’s a third-party answer to our dilemma, it lies closer to the people, in contests for the Senate and House.  Imagine a third-party congressional effort founded on the principles of compromise whose candidates don’t take pledges about never raising taxes or promise not to touch entitlements but who will relentlessly work at conciliation.

Breaking the traditional parties’ headlock would not require a mass takeover, which is by any accounting quite impossible because of the majority of “safe” seats the parties have secured by distortive redistricting.  In fact, three or four third-party wins in the Senate and only a couple dozen in the House, even if in truly swing districts, would deny either party a certain majority and thus command respect and attention from the ideological hard-liners on both sides, and from the president.
Their presence would provide a rallying point and haven for the relatively few remaining moderates of both parties. Their votes, needed by both sides, could be leveraged against hard-line ideology and form the basis for addressing the nation’s deepest problems.

If those problems were insoluble, none of this would matter. But they are not; the solutions are available and understood. Congressional failure to act reflects the lack of courage to move away from the ideological fringes because of the assumed political costs.  A handful of people with the courage and the political freedom to act could make all the difference now and set a healthier tone for our democracy in the future.

Earth to Americans: Your Representative Is the Problem

One of the enduring paradoxes of American public opinion is that even though voters veritably despise the US Congress as a whole, they nonetheless give their own congressional representatives the benefit of the doubt.  It is time for American voters to face the obvious truth that their own representatives are part of the problem and to cease returning these scoundrels to office election after election.  We have reached a point at which there is effectively no unreasonable doubt when it comes to the mendacity of the Republican-Democrat political class.  From today's column at IVN:
A Gallup poll released on Friday proclaimed that the survey group had found “record high anti-incumbent sentiment toward Congress.” The situation certainly sounds dire. 76% of registered voters told the pollster that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, the highest such percentage the organization has found in nearly two decades of surveys. The previous high of 70% was recorded in August. And, once again, the national consensus spans all partisan lines. 68% of Democrats, 75% of Republicans and 82% of Independents told Gallup that most members of Congress do not deserve re-election.
The situation is quite different, however, when one inquires about registered voters’ views toward their own representatives. In the very same poll, Gallup found that 53% of registered voters believe their own representative in the US House deserves to be re-elected, compared with just 39% who said the opposite. Historically, Americans tend to have more positive views about their own representatives than of Congress as a whole. The 53% majority who believe their own representative deserves re-election is just 5% higher than the survey’s record low of 48% on this particular question in 1992.
Unfortunately, so long as Americans continue to turn a blind eye toward the deficiencies of their own representatives, we will all continue to suffer from inadequate representation in government. When we cast our ballots, after all, we do not vote on Congress as a whole, but rather for our own individual delegate. If we are going to clean house, we have to begin at home. If you desire to “throw the bums out,” as the old saying goes, you must first stop voting them in.