MAPLight.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that illuminates the connection between money and politics, announces the launch of a new public, web-accessible contributions search tool that provides citizens, bloggers and journalists with detailed information about special-interest contributions given to their elected officials. MAPLight.org’s contributions data is provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.
“MAPLight.org’s connections between money and votes have always relied on detailed records of who gives how much to whom,” said Daniel Newman, MAPLight.org’s executive director. “Now, with MAPLight.org’s new contributions search tool, users can see specific details about contributions from any company, industry, or individual—to any member of Congress."
MAPLight.org's contributions search tool reveals in detail each campaign contribution given to members of Congress, broken down by contributor, amount, legislator and date. Journalists, bloggers, researchers and citizens can search for campaign finance data by industry, interest group, company, individual donor and more. The search tool is located at http://maplight.org/us-congress/contributions.
The contributions search tool is linked to MAPLight.org’s unique research that shows which industries support and oppose bills in Congress, aligned with how each legislator votes.
For example, H.R. 4173 - Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, shows each senator, how they voted on the financial reform bill, and the amount each received from commercial banks and other interests opposing financial reform. Scroll to the bottom to see money given to each senator; Senator Mitch McConnell received the most. MAPLight.org’s new contributions search tool shows the 291 contributions given to Senator McConnell from the commercial banking industry, which totals $366,875 for the 2002-2010 election cycles.
Users can search by company to reveal that 397 contributions totaling $463,607 were given to members of Congress by Citigroup in the 2010 election cycle . . .
There’s at least one gubernatorial candidate happy to see Tom Tancredo enter the race for governor as a third-party candidate, and we’re not talking about Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper. Libertarian candidate Jaimes Brown welcomes Tancredo into the race “with open arms.” . . .If any AV/RV supporters want to write in to the paper to give them props or provide more details on the voting method, be sure to head over to the Denver Daily News contact page, which has an embedded contact form. You might also be interested in learning more about Libertarian candidate for governor of Colorado Jaimes Brown as well.
Brown believes Tancredo’s run is further evidence that the nation’s two-party system is broken, and he uses the event to advocate for a system known as approval voting. In an approval voting system, voters are allowed to vote for multiple candidates. The candidate with the most votes wins. Advocates say the system cuts back on “cheap elections.” They say the two-party system forces voters to simply vote down their party line, ignoring third-party candidates that may be more attractive to them, but that don’t get the vote because voters don’t believe they have a chance of winning. The system especially comes in handy during primaries, say advocates.
Many voters vote for the primary candidate with the most money, or the most establishment backing because they feel that will position the candidate to better defeat the other party come the general election. But Brown says the approval voting system puts an end to all of this. “I get that all the time that you’ve got to vote for someone that’s going to win. Well, shouldn’t you vote for who you want to win, not for someone who you’ve already pre-determined as being the only possibility?” said Brown.
“If you were falling into this trap of the Libertarian is going to take votes from the Republican, you might also vote for the Republican. But a lot of people don’t want to vote for the Republican, they want to vote for a Libertarian, or a Constitution, or even a Green for that matter.”
Opposition to CT Sec. of the State's Major Party Propaganda Campaign and Recruitment Drive, "Affiliate and Participate," Gains Traction and Momentum
“Bysiewicz is clearly asking independents and voters in other alternative political parties to join the Republican or Democratic Parties,” said Christina Tobin, CEO and founder of Free and Equal Elections Foundation. “Joining one of the two power parties is only one way voters can affiliate and participate in our election process. Bysiewicz is blatantly failing to educate voters about all of their options by concentrating her message to urge people join the two political parties she mentions.”Free and Equal also interviewed Reale on their radio show:
“Many candidates from several alternative political parties are collecting petition signatures right now trying to get on the ballot,” Tobin said. “Voters can also go affiliate with those other parties or participate in choosing which candidates compete in the November election by signing the petitions to put those candidates on the ballot. Bysiewicz is using her office to solely promote membership in the Republican and Democratic Parties with this public campaign and I believe that is wrong. Why isn’t she running TV commercials asking voters to participate in candidate selection by signing petitions for Green, Libertarian, Independent, Working Families or Connecticut for Lieberman party candidates?”
Dan Reale is a Libertarian currently petitioning to be on the ballot for U.S. House in Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District. Dan was a recent guest on our Free and Equal radio show and that interview can be heard at our website.Progressive CT political blogger Jon Kantrowitz, whose posts on "affiliate and participate" first brought the campaign to my attention, has now picked up the story from TPID, here and here.
The Pentagon cannot properly account for nearly nine billion dollars in Iraqi oil revenues and other funds received for reconstruction programs after the 2003 US invasion, a US audit found Tuesday.
"The breakdown in controls left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss," the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said in a report.
The Pentagon received 9.1 billion dollars in 2004 from the fund set up by the US-led occupation authority to benefit Iraqis with Iraqi oil and gas revenues and assets seized from the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.
But the audit found the Pentagon cannot properly account for 8.7 billion dollars because defense agencies that received the money failed to set up required Treasury accounts and no single organization was created to manage the funds.
The audit found that "weaknesses" in the Department of Defense (DOD) financial and management controls meant it could not account properly for the funds.
PA-15: Is Charlie Dent a Misguided, Un-American, Bigoted Racist? According to his own Logic and that of the ADL, the Answer is Probably "Yes"
Charlie Dent really does not want to debate Jake Towne. On Friday, he worried that voters wouldn't be able to focus on the contrast between him and [Democratic challenger] John Callahan, and there just wasn't enough time. Since that "problem" would easily be solved by agreeing to more debates, it looks like they had to switch to the even more preposterous claim that John Callahan would somehow be able to hide behind Jake Towne in the debate. I'm still trying to understand what that even means. But now Dent thinks he has the ultimate excuse to chicken out of the debates - Jake Towne's choice of bands.Over the weekend, Dent announced that he would not take part in any forum that included Towne, and demanded that his Democratic rival do the same, on the grounds that one of the numerous bands slated to play at a Towne campaign event celebrating their successful ballot access petition drive has been deemed "extremist" by the Anti-Defamation League. The Morning Call reports:
A day after Dent said that he was unlikely to join a debate that included independent Towne, his campaign manager, Shawn Millan, said Dent had toughened his stance after hearing of Towne's plan to allow controversial Allentown band Poker Face perform at a fundraiser Friday.
In a written statement Saturday, Dent said the band has been "deemed to be anti-Semitic by the Anti Defamation League." Poker Face is one of five bands that will play at Towne's "freedom concert" Friday. . . .
In the statement, Dent also said, he is "demanding" Callahan boycott any debate for the 15th District seat that includes Towne.
"I'm calling on John Callahan to put aside politics and do the decent thing," Dent said. "Don't give a public platform to someone enmeshed in ideas of anger, violence, anarchy and bigotry."
Simply put, the Dent campaign alleges that Towne is an anti-Semite, a bigot and an anarchist based on a loose association with a popular local rock band that has made controversial statements and been deemed politically incorrect by the Anti-Defamation League. I had never heard of the band before and so cannot speak to these allegations. The ADL report can be read here. Apparently, Poker Face appeared on the group's radar when it was revealed that one of their songs was used in a video made by members of the Hutaree militia group. The band has denied the allegations and provided lengthy responses to the accusations at their website. For his part, Towne released a statement vehemently denying Dent's racially loaded smears:
I am not an anti-Semite, nor have I ever held anti-Semitic views. I condemn any and all racial and religious discrimination. A free and open society that staunchly defends individual rights is the only type of society that can eliminate racial bigotry. . . . The views of any the five bands present at the Freedom Concert are not necessarily the views of Towne for Congress. If any of the bands were believed to be anti-Semites, they would not have been invited to play at the concert.In a separate statement, Towne went on the attack, listing Charlie Dent's criminal history as a member of the House of Representatives
Dent and the rest of Congress violate their constitutional oaths on a daily basis. Dent supports three unconstitutional wars abroad. He votes for corporatist bailouts for bankers and mortgage lenders alike. He supports unconstitutional wiretapping without warrants, revoking habeas corpus, torture of “enemy combatants,” and much more by his unflagging support of the PATRIOT Act. He wants to strip American civilians living in foreign countries of their citizenship and murder them without trial or due process.With regard to domestic policy, Dent is moreover a staunch supporter of the new anti-immigration bill signed into law in Arizona. In a press release yesterday, Dent condemned the Justice Department's lawsuit against the state:
Dent sent a letter . . . to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and Department of State Secretary Hillary Clinton explaining his disappointment in the Administration's troubling approach to addressing illegal immigration. Dent expresses frustration over the federal government’s lawsuit against Arizona . . .Politico quoted Dent stating:
“I absolutely find it incomprehensible that the Department of Justice could be suing the state of Arizona on this issue of enforcing federal immigration law,” Dent said.
CT: Independent Candidate For Congress Files Complaint Against Sec. of State for Misuse of Public Funds for Political Ends
The complaint, a copy of which was sent to Poli-Tea, charges Bysiewicz with using state funds and resources to boost enrollment in two specific parties, misusing public funds to influence the outcome of federal and other elections, misusing the official seal of the Secretary of State's office for this purpose, and substantially complicating the ballot access petition efforts of third party and independent candidates for office in the state. Contacted via email, Mr. Reale says his ultimate goal is to "make sure the Secretary of State stops using public money and resources for political ends." (Read the full interview with Mr. Reale at Third Party and Independent Daily.) Asked what prompted him to lodge the complaint, he writes:
I'm opposed to the Secretary of State misusing her seal and public money in order to work on behalf of the Republicans and Democrats. Contrary to popular belief, the Secretary of State's office is not a political action committee. At the very least, the whole exercise is a political contribution to both major parties.Reale said the Secretary of State's propaganda campaign was unexpected only in its brazenness:
Bysiewicz has been crossing into a legal gray area for years, using her office in ethically questionable ways to say the least. While I found this to be morally objectionable, these were the sort of things you couldn't legally hang your hat on. But I didn't expect something this egregious in terms of ethics, elections, misapplication of public resources and political action committee violations - all in the same package.Confronted with criticism of her "Affiliate and Participate" campaign, as it's called, Bysiewicz has previously denied charges that she is engaged in a recruitment drive for the Democratic and Republican parties, inducing voters to favor them over minor parties and independents. Jon Kantrowitz at My Left Nutmeg quotes Bysiewicz stating:
Let me be clear: I am not trying to recruit new voters for the Republicans or Democrats or favor them over the minor parties. . . . the sole purpose of the Affiliate and Participate campaign is to educate the nearly 840,000 unaffiliated voters that if they want to vote in the August 10th primary, they must enroll with a major party.Kantrowitz responds:
Susan is making a distinction between urging people to register for a political party, so that they can vote in that party's primary, and urging them to vote for a political party. In my humble opinion this is a distinction without a difference. I have no problem with informing people that they have the option, it's the urging to which I have an objection.Bysiewicz claims that her propaganda campaign is purely educational in nature. However, the effort is clearly intended to lead voters into registering Democrat or Republican to shore up the registration rolls of the legacy parties, and provide them with the cover of popular political support (only 36% of the state's voters are registered Democrats, only 20% are registered Republicans). In a word: it is a broad attack against political independence. Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz is no friend to the almost 1,000,000 unaffiliated and minor party voters in the Constitution State. Earlier this month, Bysiewicz issued a statement (July 13th) on a US Appeals Court Ruling on the Connecticut Clean Elections Law, saying: "The court rightly rejected the argument by US District Court Judge Stephen Underhill that this was somehow unfair to minor parties."
Among advocates of independent and third party politics, on the other hand, that very same decision was widely seen as a direct attack against independent voters and minor parties. Mike DeRosa is a litigant in the Green Party vs. Garfield lawsuit and a candidate for secretary of the state on the Green Party line. In an op-ed on the ruling for The Day, DeRosa argues that "silencing the minor parties won't fix major party corruption." He writes:
In his response to the ruling at Ballot Access News, Richard Winger wrote:
When the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently reversed federal Judge Stefan Underhill's decision, a reversal that will allow minor parties to have to meet a more difficult standard to gain public campaign finance funding, it proved to be a major disappointment for both the Green and Libertarian parties in Connecticut. The real losers in this decision, however, are the state's independent voters and taxpayers.This decision props up a discriminatory state-sponsored subsidy program that increases the free-speech opportunities of the most popular political parties, while simultaneously reducing the free speech rights of smaller political parties.
the decision says . . . that the Connecticut law would be constitutional even if there were no means for a candidate to get public funding, unless that candidate were the nominee of a party that had performed well in the previous election. But, a new party could not possibly have performed well in the previous election, nor could an independent candidate have done so if the candidate were running as an independent for that office for the first time. The decision cannot even acknowledge that the law does discriminate in favor of the two old major parties. Every time it uses the word “discrimination” or “discriminate”, the decision puts the word in quotes.Democratic Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz demonstrates a clear pattern of hostility toward independents, unaffiliated voters and minor parties. How could she not? She does not recognize political independence as a legitimate form of political practice. Her presupposition is effectively that if you are not participating in the Democratic or Republican primary then you are not participating in the political process ("affiliate and participate"). If Connecticut's Secretary of State were actually interested in educating rather than propagandizing voters, she might also inform them that unless they sign the petitions of third party and independent candidates, the only choice they will have on their November ballots will be the illusion of choice between a Democrat and a Republican, if there is even more than one candidate on the ballot. According to her office, 54 out of 187 election contests for the state's general assembly will go uncontested, as will a number of other races. That is just under 29%, almost 1 in 3 (see the press release from June 28 (.pdf)). The high number of uncontested elections in the state has been one of Daniel Reale's major points of criticism of the two-party state and duopoly system of government. Asked how he intends to follow up on his complaint against Bysiewicz, Reale says:
Considering that this was also set up as a tort letter, the Secretary of State has 60 days to respond or repair. This will inform me of what actions need to be taken on the civil end. On the prosecution side, there will be a criminal complaint filed. If the state or the feds do it, great. If not, that's where I come in.Hopefully, he will be joined by others in his campaign to stop the Connecticut Secretary of State from misusing public money and resources for political ends. Read the full interview and exchange with Daniel Reale at Third Party and Independent Daily.
In recent weeks and months, however, Republican Party operatives within the tea party movement have become ever more brazen, and even hysterical, in their opposition to independent and third party tea party organizations. The hijacking of the tea party movement by these individuals represents a shameless betrayal of the heritage of the Boston Tea Party and the founding principles of these tea party groups themselves.
Let's consider two examples: the West Orlando Tea Party and the Michigan Tea Party Alliance. Currently, both of these groups have devoted significant space on the front pages of their websites to the denunciation of independent and third party tea party organizations in their respective states. The West Orlando Tea Party reports as "Breaking News":
There is a political party in Florida that is on the November ballot that calls itself "The Florida Tea Party", but they are not a Tea Party as you know us, they are Tea Party in "name only".This political party has absolutely nothing to do with the actual Tea Party Movement, which includes the West Orlando Tea Party. None of the true Tea Party organizations in Florida endorse, support or are in any way involved or connected to this political party. And, we see such a third political party serving only as a tool to confuse voters and split the conservative vote.Similarly, the Michigan Tea Party Alliance literally has its sirens blaring to report an "important announcement":
Both of these groups have a clearly articulated statement of principles that serve as the foundational documents of their associations. Both clearly stipulate that they have no political party affiliation. The text of the West Orlando Tea Party's Promises and Covenants explicitly asserts that it has "no party affiliation":
Event Description: Rally on steps of State Capitol to protest the filing of a political 3rd party named "The Tea Party" by a Mark Steffek who does not belong to any known Tea Party in the state.
WE NEED ALL TEA PARTY MEMBERS FROM ALL TEA PARTY and 9/12 GROUPS!!!
Bring signs protesting a Fake Tea Party, etc. Be prepared to give a statement in the board hearing at 10 am if we are allowed to. The purpose of the hearing is to decide how much time will be allocated to challenge the filing. Please encourage anyone who spoke to petition gathers and can speak to their deceptions to be there and speak to the board of canvassers.
No Political Party Affiliation~ This organization is not a political party. We are not, nor have we, nor will we be an appendage of, affiliated with or a component of any political party. Citizens of broad political leanings and various political parties (Independent, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, etc.) are all welcome to participate in our activities.Similarly, the "Guiding Principles" of the Michigan Tea Party Alliance state:
Our member groups must be groups that are not tied to a political party . . . Our members must not be in favor of a third political party.Their opposition to the local third party Tea Party organizations is thus in full accord with their statements of principles. However, their reasons for that opposition reveal their duplicitous betrayal of those very same principles. Their claim is effectively that any third party Tea Party candidate will take votes away from the Republican candidate in the same race, and thus act as a so-called spoiler; on the basis of this assertion they then allege that the third party Tea Party groups are actually nothing more than puppets of the local Democratic Party machine. The latter is not necessarily an unreasonable suspicion – one should never doubt the mendacity of Democrats and Republicans –, but the former reveals that these groups are indeed tied to a political party: they have allowed themselves to be hijacked by GOP operatives and turned into appendages of the Republican wing of the political class and ruling establishment.
On the event calendar of the Lakes Area Tea Party, a member of the Michigan Alliance, we find an explicit call for activists to do the grunt labor for their corporatist Republican Party overlords:
We all want to win in November, and it will not be possible unless we start working NOW towards Victory. We will be making phone calls and walking various precincts throughout Oakland county all day long. Please commit a few hours of your time this Saturday to come by and help. We need as many people as possible, we will be identifing ...voters who are dissatisfied with the current administration so that we can turn them out to vote Republican in November. [Emphasis added.]This group is thus in clear violation of the Michigan Tea Party Alliance's statement of principles. Actions by the West Orlando Tea Party might be considered even more egregious. The West Orlando Tea Party has organized a "Town Hall Meeting" on August 12th that will feature the seven candidates for the Republican Party's nomination in Florida's 8th congressional district. Though the WOTP claims that it is not "an appendage of, affiliated with or a component of any political party," the fact that it has organized a Republican Party primary candidates forum belies their so-called principles. Furthermore, organizers of the "town hall" have also shown an unwillingness to allow representatives from independent and third party groups to attend the forum, calling the Florida Tea Party "an opposing political party no different from the Democrat party."
In their craven advocacy for the Republican Party and the reproduction of the tyrannical two-party state, the West Orlando Tea Party and the Michigan Tea Party Alliance have not only betrayed their own "Guiding Principles" and "Promises and Covenants," they have also betrayed their very heritage. The original tea party from which these groups derive their names is, of course, the Boston Tea Party. But the Sons of Liberty did not advocate accommodation with the British parliament and king. The Boston Tea Party was part of a radical revolutionary movement for political independence from a tyrannical government. By allowing themselves to be co-opted by the Republican Party, the West Orlando Tea Party and the Michigan Tea Party Alliance demonstrate that they have proven incapable of maintaining even a minimal level of political independence. They make a mockery of the Boston Tea Party's legacy. The patriots of the American revolution had their own terms for such individuals and groups: Loyalists, Royalists, Tories and King's Men. Indeed, they subjected such individuals to their own brand of punishment: they were tarred, feathered and forced to drink scalding hot tea.
Political Psychology and the Perversion of Political Representation Under the Conditions of the Two-Party State
Frequent attempts by the two-party system to keep a third party off the ballot in many states, the stagnation Congress represents as a result of such division, and the ineffectiveness of government in providing the individual with basic protections all conform to a general trend. . . .Reading Evan's piece, I couldn't help but be reminded of the simplest taxonomy of political regimes, developed already by the ancient Greeks, according to the principles of the one, the few and the many, which distinguishes, of course, between monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. As has long been argued, the separation of powers in the United States makes for a mixed government that integrates aspects of all three of these forms. For instance, it takes no stretch of the imagination to construct an analogy between the executive branch and the monarchical principle, the judicial branch and the aristocratic principle, and the legislative branch and the democratic principle.
our representatives are elected – but not unless they are first approved by the two parties. Our representatives are elected by the parties, and that is who they represent. Who is representing us? I think we will have to find an independent party for that.
On such a view, the principles of the one, the few and the many thus stand in a reciprocal relation defined by the system of checks and balances between the President, the Supreme Court and the Congress. However, as Evan points out, the two-party system has so degraded the representative functions of government that the executive, the judiciary and the legislature effectively no longer stand for the people or the constitution of the United States, but rather have been put into the service of the party principle. In other words, the two-party system is slowly supplanting and degrading the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances that are supposed to be constitutive of our democratic republic.
This latter point is most clear in the highly dangerous and disturbingly common fabrication which asserts that the two-party system itself constitutes a system of "checks and balances." As I noted in my ten arguments against the two-party state, this claim confuses "an extra-constitutional political convention with the constitutional construction of the United States of America." It is thus a highly effective ideological weapon in the war being waged by the Democratic and Republican parties against the people and the constitution of the United States. The centralization and monopolization of political power by the Republican and Democratic parties is a grave threat to democratic-republican government. As Evan states: "Our representatives are elected by the parties, and that is who they represent. Who is representing us?" Who indeed?
Independent Party Submits 11,000 Signatures for Statewide Slate, Announces 30 Candidates for Legislative Offices . . . Gubernatorial candidate Tom Marsh and other leaders of the Independent Party will hold a press conference on Tuesday, July 20 at 3pm on the north steps of the State Capitol Building in Hartford, Connecticut to announce the submission of 11,000 signatures to place a statewide slate of candidates on the ballot in the general election in November 2010. 7,500 validated signatures of Connecticut registered voters are required by state law.And from a follow-up post:
In previous elections Independents qualified for large sums of public money, and in many towns have gotten in excess of 25% of the total vote. Our trust with the community is becoming well known and widely respected. The Independent party has achieved this record by quietly working, and working hard to rise up from nothing in 2006 to an evolutionary paradox that has become loved and hated at the same time by the very political duopoly it threatens to challenge.The state's Democratic-Republican political establishment may be somewhat jarred by these and similar developments. They have begun an aggressive propaganda campaign aimed at luring voters to register with the ailing legacy parties, as I noted earlier this month. In related news, John Mertens, who is seeking the Independent Party of Connecticut's endorsement in his US Senate campaign, has blasted the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute for "misleading voters and misrepresenting the results in their recent survey." From IPR:
When independents serve to sink the Democrat, the Republicans cheer and befriend them and when the Independents serve to sink a Republican the Democrats cheer and befriend them. The reckoning is already here in many towns, and the lesson of power is sometimes in the hands of those you would least expect.
Deciding elections on propaganda, lies and coercion alone no longer works in many towns across the state and the Independent Party is already in a position to tell the two party duopoly that we do not like their candidate or the lies they drop in our mailboxes. In many instances by way of cross endorsements we are now becoming more able to tell corrupt lawmakers that public errors can and will be corrected when we know better.
In the most recent Q-Poll, voters were asked “If the 2010 election for United States Senator were being held today, and the candidates were Richard Blumenthal the Democrat and Linda McMahon the Republican, for whom would you vote?”
In fact, there are three candidates gauranteed to be on the ballot in November: one Democrat, one Republican and John Mertens, Independent.
In addition, Quinnipiac presents results from the poll for Blumenthal, McMahon and “some other candidate” although they do not present the third choice as an option in the poll.
“Doug Schwartz and the Q-Poll staff know that if ‘John Mertens’ or even ’some other candidate’ is not included as a choice in the poll, it skews the results,” said Mertens. “Polls should be unbiased and accurate. Unfortunately, this poll is neither. They have a responsibility to accurately reflect who is on the ballot, and to accurately present the possible results of their own question.”
Maywood has eliminated its entire public workforce by either outsourcing public services to private contractors, many of whom promptly rehired the city's former employees, or placing itself under the protection of larger authorities like the Los Angeles County sheriff's department . . . If the experiment points out anything, it's the redundancy of bureaucracy in the American system. If the sheriff's department can do an adequate job while expanding its coverage to Maywood, then why should Maywood bother with its own police force?The irony here is that Maywood may well have survived were it not for the apparent moral and ethical bankruptcy of its police force, which literally bankrupted the city. From the New York Times:
Maywood’s biggest problem by far has been its police department. A report by the state attorney general last year concluded the culture of the department “is one permeated with sexual innuendo, harassment, vulgarity, discourtesy to members of the public as well as among officers, and a lack of cultural, racial and ethnic sensitivity and respect.”Following Maywood's elimination of its workforce, the nearby city of Bell took control of numerous municipal functions within Maywood. But now citizens in Bell are demanding that this process be halted until an independent audit of city contracts and the salaries of city officials is undertaken and completed. The city's political class have established an impressive fiefdom for themselves at the taxpayer's expense. Bloomberg reports:
There are $19 million in claims pending against the police, which made it effectively impossible for the city to get insurance for any of its employees. If Maywood did not dismiss the municipal work force, officials said, bankruptcy would have been the only option. . . . The budget for the Police Department last year was nearly $8 million, more than half of Maywood’s revenues.
An overflow crowd packed a City Council meeting in Bell, a mostly Hispanic city of 38,000 about 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, to call for the resignation of Mayor Oscar Hernandez and other city officials. . . .Bell's political class and police force are costing it dearly. The city's current police chief, Randy Adams, was lured out of retirement by the hefty salary to combat endemic corruption in the department. It sounds like Bell's police aren't very different from what they were in Maywood:
It was the first council meeting since the Los Angeles Times reported July 15 that Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo earns $787,637 -- with annual 12 percent raises -- and that Bell pays its police chief $457,000, more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck makes in a city of 3.8 million people. Bell council members earn almost $100,000 for part-time work [emphasis added] . . .
The city’s personal income was $24,800 per capita in 2008, according to its financial statement. That compares with an average of $32,819 nationwide . . .
Its debt has risen to $1,972 per capita in 2009 from $599 in 2004, according to its annual financial statement.
At least they're off the city's payroll! More discussion on both stories at Memeorandum.
Adams, Bell’s police chief, said in an interview after the council meeting that he had retired as chief of police in the much larger city of Glendale, California, when Bell officials approached him. “I told them they would have to pay me what I was making in retirement and the $165,000 I would make as chief of police,” Adams said.
Adams said he had been brought in to end corruption in Bell’s police department. “Some of the former members of this force are in the federal penitentiary,” he said.
The Lesser Evil is the Enemy of the Greater Good: Toward a Refutation of the Political Theology of the Two-Party State
Lesser evils are still lesser and are therefore to be preferred. On the other hand, they are also evils, and are therefore to be despised. The Democrats have given us much to despise . . . Our parties have all but duopolized the electoral system, making ballot access for "third" parties prohibitively difficult. . . .I was planning on writing an extended response to Levine's piece, but Sam Wilson has inadvertently saved me the trouble. At the Think 3 Institute, Sam refutes the reactionary ideology of lesser-evilism in a post discussing a letter to the editor of a local NY paper by Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins:
The tragedy is that, thanks to American exceptionalism, there is no constructive way to express this disappointment electorally -- because to vote against a Democrat one must vote for a Republican or at least vote (or not vote) in a way that makes it easier for a Republican to win. . . .
the only real choice we will have in November is to vote for a Democrat or a Republican. [Emphasis added.] The obvious conclusion is that the system must be changed. But there is no hint of that in the offing. . . . our institutions still compel us to choose between the very bad and the even worse. This is why we really have no choice but to help the Lesser Evil prevail. Democrats deserve to lose, and Obama with them. But with so much at stake, we have no choice but to let them walk.
We may as well concede the point; there are obvious and even meaningful differences between the Democratic and the Republican approach -- but they just aren't different enough. The issue between Democrats and their constituents is always whether what Democrats offer is good enough. Democrats will insist that liberals and progressives settle for what they can offer . . . It may well be that Republican government would prove worse than Democratic rule, but it is false to assume that those are our only choices. [Emphasis added.] If this is a free country, then liberal and progressive New Yorkers have a right to demand better from the Democrats, or better than the Democrats. Democrats will sneer at anyone who allegedly makes "the perfect the enemy of the good," but their position in the American Bipolarchy allows them to make the worst the enemy of the good. That is, by arguing that the only alternative to settling for whatever they choose to do for us is the worst-case scenario of Republican control, they free themselves from any obligation to do more than just enough to win elections.The reproduction of the ruling two-party state and duopoly system of government hinges on the American public's acceptance of the reactionary political theology that is lesser-evilism. Whether you are progressive, liberal, moderate, conservative or libertarian, the lesser evil is the enemy of the greater good.
• The Proportional Representation Party: "Proportional Representation IS modern democracy. The PR Party is an organization founded in 2007 to promote the concepts of proportional representation in New York and the entire US. Most modern democracies in the world today use some form of PR to elect their local and national legislatures and we in this country ought to be doing the same. The time has come to replace the old fashioned two-party-winner-take-all politics that characterizes US politics, and PR provides a modern all-inclusive method of doing it."In other third party and independent blogosphere news, Liberal Arts Dude bids us farewell and announces his retirement from active blogging in his final post at An Ordinary Person. Long-time readers will surely recall some of LAD's numerous substantive contributions in the comments here at Poli-Tea. LAD's suggestions and input also helped kickstart the development of Third Party and Independent Daily – to which he was an early contributor – as well as Third Party and Independent Daily Headlines. Thanks LAD, all the best in your future endeavors!
• All Things Reform: Maintained by David Weller, who writes, "Civic engagement is patriotism- democratic political activism. Following 180 sources for the top activist & nonprofit news & commentary." Tons of links, daily.
• The Current: "Independent conservative that has had enough of big government, out of control spending, and shameless politicians in Washington legislating our freedoms away one crisis at a time."
• Political Party Pooper: Radically independent, liberal-libertarian leaning political commentary. PPP writes: "This is what you get when you allow political parties to run your country. Sooner or later, political parties always devolve into demagoguery."
• Frankenstein Government: Political commentary from a civil libertarian perspective, "Escaping the insanity of a dysfunctional two party system is sane. In fact, it is our only hope."
If you've recently discovered a noteworthy third party or independent-oriented site or blog, or maintain one yourself, drop a link in the comments.
The authors see some of the most outspoken advocacy in favor of IRV as part of a larger strategy geared toward the implementation of proportional representation:
Opinions vary as to the relative merits of TTR versus other systems, and the above is not meant as an endorsement of TTR per se. Rather, it is a testament to the extent to which the voting method determines the party composition of a government. It seems clear that if we want to escape the two-party stranglehold, we must adopt a different voting method; specifically one which is not known to also maintain two-party domination.
Many of the modern efforts for voting reform promote an alternative form of runoff, called instant runoff voting (“IRV”), which allows voters to rank the candidates and appears to offer us a way out of our electoral difficulties. Unfortunately, communities and scholars are discovering that the hope IRV offers us for escaping our two-party system is only illusory.Like TTR, IRV doesn’t fix the spoiler problem: a bloc of voters may get a worse result by supporting their sincere favorite candidate.
FairVote, the organization most often associated with the push for IRV, was founded in 1992 as “Citizens for Proportional Representation” (and later the “Center for Voting and Democracy”), and it seems that behind the scenes, their pursuit of IRV is a long-term play for proportional representation in America.The piece concludes, as promised in the title, with an appeal for support of score voting, or a simplified variant thereof, namely, approval voting:
The stepping stone strategy might actually make sense were it not for the USA’s rigid impediments to proportional representation, which was made illegal at the federal level via a 1967 law which outlawed multi-member districts. In 1996, congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (who later ran as the Green Party candidate for US President) wrote, but failed to pass, bill HR 2545, which would have overridden that previous 1967 law. She re-introduced a similar bill, HR 1189, in 2001. It failed again. Then she tried again with HR 2690 in 2005. It failed yet again.This leads us to believe that PR will be federally unobtainable in the USA as long as we are two-party dominated (a Congress dominated by two parties will continue to block anti-duopoly legislation such as McKinney’s). We therefore believe that proponents of PR must find a single-winner voting method which doesn’t maintain duopoly, as a prerequisite to PR.
In his 2008 book Gaming the Vote, author William Poundstone (an MIT physics grad) suggests a voting method called range voting (a.k.a. score voting), in which voters rate the candidates on a scale such as 0-10 or 1-5. When the scale is reduced to 0-1, we effectively have approval voting, which is identical to plurality voting except that there is no limit on the number of candidates a voter may support. . . .On a related, but tangential, note, a reader recently sent me a link to the Proportional Representation Party. From their "about" page:
Score voting has historically been overlooked, based on the assumption that it would succumb to pervasive tactical exaggeration. But that view was debunked back in 2000, when a Princeton math Ph.D. named Warren D. Smith performed an extensive set of computer calculations which showed the system working extremely well, even with high rates of tactical voting. . . . In election theory parlance, we say that score voting passes the Favorite Betrayal Criterion. . . .
A simple way to think of it is that a tactical score voter should support the same candidate as he would with a plurality ballot, and then also support all the candidates he likes better. This means that the appearance of being “unelectable” need not become a self-fulfilling prophecy, like with plurality, IRV, and so many other methods. If it turns out that enough voters prefer a minor party or independent candidate to the presumed frontrunners, then he can actually win, even if the voters are highly tactical! Empirical evidence strongly suggests election outcomes will then be vastly more representative of the actual relative support for the candidates.We believe this has enormous consequences, beyond the obvious opportunity to escape from two-party domination.
Proportional Representation IS modern democracy. The PR Party is an organization founded in 2007 to promote the concepts of proportional representation in New York and the entire US. Most modern democracies in the world today use some form of PR to elect their local and national legislatures and we in this country ought to be doing the same. The time has come to replace the old fashioned two-party-winner-take-all politics that characterizes US politics, and PR provides a modern all-inclusive method of doing it.
The Political Class, the Country Class, and the Democratic-Republican Political Class War Against the People of the United States
The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one. When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term "political class" came into use. . . . Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class. [Emphasis added.]The basis of his argument is thus that the political class is bipartisan in nature. Indeed, how could it be otherwise? The Democratic and Republican parties long ago hijacked the government of the United States and put it to work in the interests of the party machines and their financial benefactors, all of which is serviced by the deluded activists and bureaucrats who do their grunt labor. However, Codevilla goes on to argue that, though this class is bipartisan in nature, the Democratic Party is its primary vehicle:
while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well. Hence officeholders, Democrats and Republicans, gladden the hearts of some one-third of the electorate -- most Democratic voters, plus a few Republicans. This means that Democratic politicians are the ruling class's prime legitimate representatives and that because Republican politicians are supported by only a fourth of their voters while the rest vote for them reluctantly, most are aspirants for a junior role in the ruling class. In short, the ruling class has a party, the Democrats. But some two-thirds of Americans -- a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all independents -- lack a vehicle in electoral politics. Sooner or later, well or badly, that majority's demand for representation will be filled. [Emphasis added.]According to Codevilla, then, the political class is comprised of the Democratic and Republican parties, but the Democratic Party is the party of the ruling class. Aside from the contradiction involved here, this conclusion is especially weak since one can read those very same poll numbers the other way around. The fact that more Americans have abandoned the Republican Party than the Democratic Party reveals that the Republican Party is now a naked vehicle for the ruling political class precisely because it lacks the political cover provided by popular support. On the other hand, Codevilla likely overestimates popular support for the Democratic Party; and, in any case, given his class-based analysis, should we not conclude that any popular support for the Democratic party is the result of false consciousness?
As Democrats currently hold the presidency and both houses of Congress, it is a trivial point that the Democratic Party is the primary tool and vehicle of the political class. But this is simply arbitrary. In the two-party state, whichever party holds the majority is the primary vehicle and tool of the ruling political class; it provides them with the political cover they need to wage their ongoing war against the people of the United States.
The opposing term in Codevilla's analysis is similarly plagued by contradiction, what he calls the 'country class,' that is, those of us who are not part and parcel of the ruling political class. Recall, of the political class, Codevilla states:
Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.The professor admits the difficulty of describing the 'country class' at the outset:
Describing America's country class is problematic because it is so heterogeneous. It has no privileged podiums, and speaks with many voices, often inharmonious. It shares above all the desire to be rid of rulers it regards inept and haughty. It defines itself practically in terms of reflexive reaction against the rulers' defining ideas and proclivities . . . While the country class, like the ruling class, includes the professionally accomplished and the mediocre, geniuses and dolts, it is different because of its non-orientation to government and its members' yearning to rule themselves rather than be ruled by others.In other words, based on the definition of class presented at the outset, the country class does not form a class at all, except insofar as its members are those who are not members of the political class. It is an almost purely reactionary-reactive formation without an active ordering principle, as Cordevilla himself states. How could it be appropriately represented by a party? The professor writes:
Certainly the country class lacks its own political vehicle -- and perhaps the coherence to establish one. In the short term at least, the country class has no alternative but to channel its political efforts through the Republican Party, which is eager for its support. But the Republican Party does not live to represent the country class.In other words, the "country class" is forever doomed to support a faction of the ruling political class in the mistaken belief that this time around they will not be left in the lurch with a knife in their back. As I wrote back in February, in a post on the Democratic-Republican political class war against the people of the United States:
If someone were to write the definitive political fable of our time, it would likely tell the story of how farm animals formed alliances among themselves in support of the two competing factions from the management at the local slaughterhouse. The most tragic tale would be that of those creatures who knew they were being fattened for a feast, but simply couldn't help themselves every time they were thrown a bone.Political freedom and independence today begins with freedom and independence from the Democratic-Republican two-party state and duopoly system of government. For the response of country class traitors on both sides of the duopoly divide to Codevilla's piece, see Riehl World View and Outside the Beltway.
Richard J. Whitney is a rare breed in Illinois – pro-gun but anti-war, outspoken yet diplomatic, a former socialist turned Illinois Green Party founder. He has detailed and nuanced views on everything from abortion to workers’ rights, and the issue essays on his campaign website impart an air of enlightenment and pragmatism. In many ways, Whitney is the thinking man’s candidate . . .Green Party activists are thinking big this year. At Green Party Watch, Dave Schwab reports on a newly unveiled campaign for a "Green New Deal":
“We need a government that’s going to serve the interests of the people,” Whitney says. “We the people have been shut out; we’re no longer part of the process under the so-called ‘two-party system.’ The banks and the corporations, through the power of big money and big influence, basically dominate the Democratic and Republican parties, so that’s whose interests they serve. Whoever pays the piper gets to call the tunes.” . . .
“What impressed me about the Green Party is that it takes a more comprehensive approach to social problems than you would find with socialist groups,” Whitney says, adding that the Green Party didn’t seem to have the attitude of, “If you do A, B and C, we’ll live in a utopia.” Instead, he says the Green Party is more apt to evaluate ideas and “learn by doing” than other political parties with which he had been involved.
Among Green Party candidate slates I've been keeping an eye on, the New York contingent is certainly on board with this plan, and has likely been involved in crafting the campaign. Early last month, All New York News reported:
Today we launch Green Change’s campaign for a Green New Deal – our answer to our nation’s vast economic and ecological problems. The Green New Deal is an ambitious program to create economic prosperity together with ecological sustainability. We are building a coalition of candidates, individuals and organizations to support the Green New Deal – starting today.
Here are the ten policies you endorse by joining the Green New Deal Coalition:
• Cut military spending at least 70%;
• Create millions of green union jobs through massive public investment in renewable energy, mass transit and conservation;
• Set ambitious, science-based greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and enact a revenue-neutral carbon tax to meet them;
• Establish single-payer “Medicare for all” health care ;
• Provide tuition-free public higher education;
• Change trade agreements to improve labor, environmental, consumer, health and safety standards;
• End counterproductive prohibition policies and legalize marijuana;
• Enact tough limits on credit interest and lending rates, progressive tax reform and strict financial regulation;
• Amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish corporate personhood; and
• Pass sweeping electoral, campaign finance and anti-corruption reform s.
The Green Party of New York State kicked off its 2010 statewide campaign by evoking the legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt by calling for a “Big Green New Deal” that emphasizes human rights, living wage jobs for all, single payer health care, immigration reform, peace, and the right to education.
US Senate candidates Colia Clark and Dr. Cecile Lawrence joined with state comptroller candidate Dr. Julia Willebrand and Lt. Governor candidate Gloria Mattera to officially announce their campaigns in front of the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument in Manhattan. They were accompanied by Green Party gubernatorial nominee Howie Hawkins, who officially launched his campaign in early May.
Connor Brantley is just 12 years old, but he's already tired of the bitter partisanship in politics. And he's ready to do something about it. The McLean Middle School seventh-grader is working to create the United Party to someday give voters and politicians alike an alternative to the strong two-party system of Democrats and Republicans.As with so many mainstream media articles on third party activism, a political science professor is on hand to argue that any and all opposition to the legacy parties is doomed to failure:
"It's so partisan in Washington," Connor said. "Just think, if [members of Congress] could just one day work and actually do what they are elected to do . . . If they could just work together without partisanship ... they'd actually work together to get things done."
Connor is on the verge of filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to create the party.
"The two major parties get the vast majority of votes," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "It's nice that he has an interest in politics and a concern about the current state of our political affairs. But the more he learns about how steep this hill is, the better Little League will look to him."
Illinois' Third Party and Independent Gubernatorial Candidates on Ballot Access and Electoral Reform
The Free and Equal blog has already done an extensive round-up of mainstream media coverage of the event, and so, rather than write yet another overview of the debate, I've instead decided to post a transcript of the candidates' discussion of ballot access and electoral reform. The following is more or less a word for word transcription of the discussion, though there are probably a few errors here and there. I've emphasized points I found especially interesting in bold.
Christina Tobin (moderator): 45 independent and alternative party candidates just filed to run for office in IL. 42 of them are facing petition challenges. Many of them will be removed from the ballot even though it means incumbents will be running unopposed. What proposals do you have to improve democracy in IL?
Lex Green (Libertarian Party): Almost all of us here have been affected by these challenges. We need to implement new election law that is simply equal across the board. I have a perspective on this that has been ignored by some people. Our primary system is paid for by the taxpayers essentially to subsidize the Democratic and Republican parties and the Green Party now. Yet, at the same time, I was nominated at a convention that we paid for, the Libertarian Party paid for themselves. We're looking at a model that puts all election law, and laws affecting how Democrats and Republicans conduct their affairs, into state law, that is hardly a general purpose that is beneficial to the people of IL.
I do not have a specific proposal, but I would like to see a system where parties have their own conventions where they pay for their own selection process. Assuming this is politically undoable in the short term, we need to go to a fee based entry into the ballot. I don't have specifics, but, for example, 5000 dollars to get on the ballot, which is much cheaper than most parties and independent candidates have to pay for the process of balloting. That would make it even across the board, and I would also support a fee or signature option, 5000 dollars and 5000 signatures as long as its equal for all candidates.
Michael White (Constitution Party): I think we need to start with the Board of Elections and the statutes. The standards for the established parties and the standards for anyone else new on the scene are entirely different. 25000 signatures in 90 days for the rest of us, 5000 signatures in 90 days for Democrats and Republicans. New people coming into the political system are going to have a very hard time getting 25000 signatures. For new people coming into politics that is going to be very hard to accomplish, but that is what we need, new people coming into politics.
If you look at the primary, and as a voter I am upset, look at the primary, look at all the people who are eligible to vote, [but] the people who picked [Democrat] Quinn and [Republican] Brady only comes to about an 8% vote in [these] primaries, choosing who we're going to vote for. 8% of the people are telling us who to vote for! Like Lex said, they [the parties] might as well pick the people and save the state some money. If we do go on a fee based system, another bonus, the state is in financial problems, we have money coming into the state there. But if we don't change the Board of Elections to actually do the job and stop asking parties and people to go check through these petitions to determine what's good, it's a very ridiculous system. If I would have turned in 1 signature and no one questioned my petition, I wouldn't be having any problems at all, I would be on the ballot. Because even though the statute says you have to do these things, the only person checking it are those in the parties or individual citizens who determine to buy that petition and question it. We have to have the Board of Elections actually do work, count signatures, if that's what they want to do and do the work, and not put it back to the people of IL and the parties to go verify this information.
William "Dock" Walls (Independent): The laws of our Board of Election often serve as incumbency protection principles. They protect the people who are already in power. They make it almost impossible for you to get on the ballot as an independent. In fact, there's never been an independent candidate on the ballot here in IL for governor, as a pure independent. There have been alternative party candidates, but never a true independent. And that saps the possibility that everybody hopes for when they wake up in the morning. You want somebody fresh, you want somebody new, you want somebody who's out here fighting for you and fighting for the issues that are important to you and the communities that you serve and the interests that you represent. That doesn't happen in IL.
In other places like California for example, they require that you pay 2% of what the salary is of the position that you're seeking. So for example, for governor you come in and you pay 3,492 dollars and that puts you on the ballot. And then they also allow you to do a combination of fee and signature requirements. So it serves the purpose. They will tell you that the purpose is to keep "frivilous" candidates off of the ballot. And we understand that that's necessary, because otherwise you'd have a ballot that's as long as a baby's dream, but in fact there are better ways to do it than they do it here in IL, because if you're challenged, you go into an environment that is tilted against you, where you are now burdened with proving that all of these signatures that you submitted are legitimate and real. And that's done at a great expense to the tax payers. This process costs millions and millions and millions of dollars of tax payers' money at a time when we can't afford to spend it. So it's time to seriously educate the public and get people to understand that this principle isn't working for you, its working against you. And it only benefits those people who've been in power for way too long.
Scott Lee Cohen (Independent): I know the disparity better than anybody between the Democrat and Republican signature requirements. They're required to have 5000. As an independent, I was required to have 25,000! I was blessed to be able to turn in 133000, but the point is, as governor I would fight for legislation for the following. Number one is to have an open primary. Right now you go and you have to declare Democrat or Republican. Let's do away with that, let the people have their privacy, and go in and vote for whoever you want. Second, I would lower the threshold of third party and independent candidates so that its equal to the Democrats and the Republicans.
Or as it was said earlier, come up with a fee-based system based on what the salary of the position you're running for is. In other words, if I'm running for governor, and I'm going to get paid 150,000 dollars a year, then I would have to pay 10% or 15% of that as a fee to be put on the ballot. It could be either/or, but that is a phenomenal system. And again, as governor I will fight for equality. I've always been a believer that people deserve choice. You shouldn't be forced into a two-party system voting for Democrat or Republican and I will make it my mission to make this as open and equal and fair as possible.
Rich Whitney (Green): I think it's no secret how you address the problem. IL has one of the most repressive and restrictive ballot access laws in the United States, as everyone here at this table knows form first hand experience. We've heard about the 25,000 signature requirement. It's absurd. We need to reduce the ballot access requirements to something much more reasonable. I would suggest something on the order of maybe 3000 for a statewide race, 500 for a state rep or state senate race, and keep it much more reasonable and much more attainable. One thing we don't suffer from in our political system is too many choices. Certainly not here in IL. We have too few. As a matter of fact, we have the obscene spectacle of many places where incumbents are running unopposed. It's absolutely ridiculous. How is that in any way a democratic republic? How is that giving voters real choices? We need to reverse that.
We also need to reverse the change to the law that occurred just last year, that the Democrats and Republicans ganged up and pushed through, which changed the slating requirement. We called it in the Green Party, we called it the Protect Incumbents Act of 2009. Because what it did is, instead of, after the primary if you wanted to slate a candidate you had your committee get together and they could slate the candidate, and that way you'd have more competitive elections. Well they changed that so that in order to slate a candidate, now you not only have to have your committee meet and slate a candidate you also have to get the same number of signatures that you would have to get to run in the primary anyway, and you have to get it in 45 days instead of 90 days. The Democrats and Republicans ganged up and pushed that through. It was aimed at the Green Party after we won established party status in 2006, but it hurts all of us, it hurts all of the other parties, it hurts all of you as voters. So that's one thing I would do is fight to repeal that pernicious law as well as lower the ballot access requirements.
A new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News finds that Democrats and Republicans barely constitute a majority when one tallies their percentages together: less than a third identify as Democrats (31%), less than a quarter call themselves Republicans (24%), and a whopping 40% describe themselves as Independents.
This raises a basic question. If so many people are unwilling to identify with the Democratic and Republican parties, and prefer to describe themselves as Independents, why do they continue to vote for Democrats and Republicans rather than Independents or third party alternatives?
There are two conventional answers to this question: 1) these voters are not “really” Independent; rather, they “lean” toward one major party or the other but refuse to identify with the label; 2) the hurdles encountered by third party and Independent candidates are simply too great to be overcome. Clearly, however, these two issues are interrelated. Given the systemic bias in favor of the Democratic and Republican parties, voters do not really have any choice but to vote Democrat or Republican when it comes time to cast their ballots, if they vote at all . . .
Overcoming the systemic bias in favor of the legacy parties is one of the greatest and most pressing political issues facing the people of the United States. . . . This November, California voters have the opportunity to elect an outspoken electoral reformer for Secretary of State, Libertarian Party candidate Christina Tobin.
Connecticut has closed primaries. Thus, almost half of all registered voters will be ineligible to vote in the major party primaries, whose nominees will therefore be decided by a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of registered voters. The Democratic and Republican nominees for numerous offices will be lucky to garner the support of even 10% of registered voters in their respective primary races. In such a situation, the fiction that the Democratic and Republican parties are capable of providing representative government to the people of Connecticut can no longer be maintained, if only because the people clearly no longer subscribe to that particular fiction. Rather than vote with their feet, or even their ballots, they are voting with their registration cards. Advocates of open primaries may find fertile ground in the Constitution State.
Rather than open the primary system, however, Connecticut's political establishment has instead chosen to begin brow beating voters to register with the Democratic and Republican parties. Late last week, Democratic Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz held a press conference (.pdf) with leaders of the state's Democratic and Republican party establishment to demand that voters give up their independent affiliations and enroll in the Democratic and Republican parties ahead of the primaries. From the press release:
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz today urged unaffiliated voters across the state to enroll with the Democrat or Republican Party by August 9th at 12:00 p.m. so they can vote in the statewide primaries Tuesday August 10, 2010. Connecticut's closed party system does not allow unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in the primaries, therefore unaffiliated voters must enroll as either Democrats or Republicans to cast a ballot in the primaries.In other words, the Connecticut Secretary of State has begun an aggressive and wide-ranging propaganda campaign aimed at cajoling voters, who obviously know better, into supporting the Democratic-Republican establishment and ruling political class. At My Left Nutmeg, Jon Kantrowitz states flatly that "the Secretary of State has no business doing this":
“I urge Connecticut’s 840,000 unaffiliated voters – the largest group of our state’s nearly two million active registered voters – to enroll with the Democratic or Republican parties so they can cast ballots and make sure their voices are heard in the primaries,” said Secretary Bysiewicz. “The 2010 election cycle is one of the most exciting we have seen in a long time in Connecticut, with many open seats and closely contested primaries on the Democratic and Republican side for Governor, U.S. Senator and many other important offices. Don’t let this chance to help choose leaders of our state and country pass you by. Affiliate by August 9th at 12:00 p.m. so you can and participate in the primaries August 10th!”
At a news conference in Hartford, Secretary Bysiewicz was joined today by Connecticut Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and Connecticut Republican Party Vice Chair Catherine Marx, Tony Esposito, President of the Registrars of Voters Association, and representatives from the Connecticut Town Clerks Association, the Connecticut Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the African American Affairs Commission, and the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission.
To get the message out to voters, Secretary Bysiewicz has been engaged in a public awareness effort to get unaffiliated voters to enroll as Democrats or Republicans through Public Service Announcements on radio and television, and newspaper Op-Eds, meetings with Editorial Boards, radio and television interviews throughout the state.
Urging people to join only 2 of the many parties in Connecticut, just because those 2 are the only ones having primaries, is just, in my humble opinion, wrong, wrong wrong for an official elected to uphold the integrity of elections for all parties and participants.At Corrente, lambert adds:
This cannot happen soon enough. Today, political freedom and independence begins with freedom and independence from Democratic-Republican party government, from the Democratic-Republican establishment and ruling political class. If you are not independent, you are co-dependent.
If you ever had any doubts that the two legacy parties prop each other up, this little episode should remove them, eh? And the good news is that they're worried. Let's hope they panic!