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.

The Two-Party System is Not Constitutional

In an opinion piece for the Huffington Post, Tina Marie Labruzzo argues that "we need a "middle child" in American politics," and calls for a moderate alternative to the bipolar deadlock between the Republican and Democratic parties.  Excerpt:
The fact that the Republicans and Democrats in our Congress can't and won't work together to tackle extreme challenges that threaten the welfare of our country is proof we need a third political party. The third political party can be a middle child of sorts, comprised of a more moderate position. This moderate position can help bring Republican and Democrats together by providing an alternative to the American people, who actually prefer some combination of Republican and Democrat policies.
This sentiment, or something very similar to it, is supported by a large proportion – if not also the majority – of the American public, if years' worth of public surveys and polls saying as much can be trusted.  There is broad support for alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans, and there is no lack of demands and calls for "a third party" even in the mainstream media.  What is lacking, however, is any specificity about what that "third party" should be.  Labruzzo concludes:
The American people need a third political party to ensure Republican and Democrats cross party lines to make the tough decisions needed, now and in the future, to tackle the issues that threaten the country.
Interestingly, however, "to ensure that Republicans and Democrats cross party lines" it doesn't really matter what third parties are represented in government.  It would suffice to elect enough third party and independent members to our legislative bodies to prevent the Republican or Democratic parties from possessing a majority of seats in those bodies.  In the Congress, this would require the election of only a few dozen third party or Independent candidates to the House and just a handful to the Senate.  But to this end, abstract calls for an alternative to the Republicans and Democrats, without any specificity regarding the who or the what, are of little help.  Of course, it does not help that so many people appear to believe that the two-party system is enshrined in the constitutional construction of the United States.  Labruzzo writes:
The American government was created to provide checks and balances to make sure the system worked effectively and to curb power from residing in any one area of government. The problem that couldn't be avoided is what happens when the system is in perfect balance -- caught between two extreme positions -- hindering legislative action during crucial times when decisive action is needed.
Labruzzo here confuses the constitutional system of checks and balances in the United States with the extra-constitutional two-party state that has been constructed by the decree of Republican and Democratic lawmakers.  The system is not "in perfect balance," rather the constitutional system of the United States has been systematically undermined by the dictatorship of the Republican-Democrat two-party state.  For this reason alone, we are in desperate need of real political alternatives. 

Is the Republican Primary a Breeding Ground for Third Party and Independent Candidates for President?

One contradiction that often goes unnoticed in our politics today, even though it is apparent across a wide variety of polls and surveys, reveals a tension between partisan affiliation and ideological identification.  Though self-identified conservatives consistently outnumber moderates and liberals, Republicans are consistently outnumbered by Independents and Democrats.  Given the fact that so Republican primary voters are essentially big government, far right conservatives, in 2012 we should expect any number of libertarian- and moderate-leaning conservatives to seek the presidency as an Independent or third party candidate.  And the Republican party's presidential primary may be the breeding ground for their candidacies.  From today's column at IVN:
There are no less than four current contenders for the GOP’s presidential nomination who may run for president as a third party or Independent candidate:  Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, Jon Huntsman and Buddy Roemer.  And, given the success of Americans Elect in its ongoing effort to obtain ballot access in all fifty states, we may see any number of these candidates square off once again to seek the upstart organization’s nomination for president next year.

Buddy Roemer, a former member of the House of Representatives and governor of Louisiana, has already declared his intention to seek the Americans Elect nomination for president in their online primary next year.  “Today I officially announce that I will seek the Americans Elect nomination as a proud Republican but as an even prouder American,” said Roemer in a statement last week.  Roemer’s announcement was likely precipitated by the fact that he has been excluded from the Republican presidential primary debates and has yet to gain traction among GOP primary voters.

“The Republican Party has not allowed me in the debates. Perhaps they don’t like my message about the corrupting influence of money in politics. But, I believe the American people want to hear the message, so I’m going to seek the nomination of Americans Elect which appears eager to welcome diverse and controversial opinions that may upset the status quo,” said Roemer, who will now simultaneously campaign for the GOP nomination as well as that of Americans Elect.
Read the whole thing.

America's Best Kept Secret: The Vermont Progressive Party

The Vermont Progressive Party is one of the most successful third party groups in the county.  It currently has two elected officials the State Senate, five in the State House and three in local office across the state.   What is the secret of their success?  In a new piece for Third Party Independent, Liberal Arts Dude interviews the party's director, Morgan Daybell, to find out.  Excerpt:
I recently corresponded with VPP Party Director Morgan Daybell and he was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions for Third Party Independent. Chief in my mind was finding out if there is a formula for the VPP’s success in Vermont and if it is possible for other political parties and organizations which seek to challenge the Republican-Democrat duopoly to duplicate that success elsewhere.

Q: What would you say are the key factors to the VPP's approach to electoral politics that has established it as a force in Vermont state politics and which sets it apart from other efforts by third parties who have not been as successful?

The major difference between our approach and those of many other third parties is that we have stayed focused on local/state races. In those elections corporate money has a smaller influence, and over many one-on-one conversations with voters, you can begin to overcome the brand-awareness the Democrats and Republicans enjoy. You can't do that at the Federal level without huge amounts of money . . .
Read the whole thing. LAD also inquires about how the VPP counters the spoiler argument, how it recruits and develops candidates, how it decides which races to run a candidate in, what electoral reforms it backs, and whether it's been involved with any local Occupy protests. 

Learn More about the Vermont Progressive Party

The Justice Party: Throw the Bums Out

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has announced that he is launching a third party campaign for president under the banner of a new party: the Justice Party.  From the Deseret News:
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has formed a new political party and plans to run for president.  To be known as the Justice Party, Anderson sees it as a grassroots movement that over the long term will bring about the shift in American politics that he says citizens crave.
"The people are the ones who always bring about major change in this country, and we need to provide that power to people throughout the country," he said Wednesday on KSL Radio's Doug Wright Show.

"They want to see an alternative party. They recognize that these two militarist, corporatist parties have brought us to this disastrous place to where we are today."
One of Utah's most liberal politicians, Anderson renounced his affiliation with the Democratic Party in August, saying he was fed up with it along with Congress, the Obama administration and Republicans. He reiterated that disgust during the interview.
"We've been voting as a nation against our own interests year after year," he said. "Most Americans — whether they consider themselves on the right, left, center, whatever — understand that their interests have been undermined by these folks in Washington, both in the White House and in Congress, who are acting as if they're on retainer with their largest campaign contributors rather than doing what's in the public's interest."
Anderson, executive director of High Road for Humans Rights, threw out the idea of a new political party in the summer, but said he had no plans to run for office.
Since organizing the Justice Party, he has filled out paperwork for a presidential exploratory committee. The party must also go about the arduous task of getting on election ballots nationwide. Criteria varies state to state but may include past electoral performance or a petition process.
Isn't it about time we had a presidential candidate who has an interest in justice?

Obama Fundraiser: NYPD Illegally Detain Around 100 Protesters in "Frozen Zone" for Three Hours

President Obama was in New York City yesterday to schmooze with the nation's upper upper class at three different fundraisers, including – I heard – a $35,000 per plate dinner earlier in the evening and a $1,000 per plate dinner at the Sheraton Hotel at around 9pm.  Occupy Wall Street protesters marched through midtown Manhattan on their way to demonstrate outside the Sheraton.  Shortly after the protesters arrived at the barricaded "free speech zone" set up by police across the street from the hotel, they were subjected to a new police tactic: freezing.  Simply put, the protesters were barricaded in on all sides by police and essentially held hostage for hours.

Having heard that the president would be in the city, I headed to midtown around 7pm, and happened to come out of the subway just as the Occupy Wall Street protesters were marching toward the hotel, where they arrived around 7:30.  Being wary of any pens or cages set up by agents of the government, I opted not to remain in the "free speech zone" and walked around for a bit.  When I returned to the site at around 8:30, the police had already barricaded the protesters into the frozen zone.  Two hours later, they were finally allowed to leave, following their illegal detention.  I asked one of the protesters who had been trapped in the "frozen zone" what happened.  Here's the video:

Police detained around 100 people in this so-called "frozen zone" for nearly three hours.  From Mother Jones:
Outside a Manhattan fundraiser attended by President Barack Obama last night, the New York City Police Department deployed a new and legally questionable tactic against Occupy Wall Street demonstrators and the press. . . . Protesters in the NYPD's free speech zone were trapped there. Not only could nobody enter after a certain point, but for about an hour and a half, nobody could leave. When I arrived outside the Obama event, a $1000-a-head fundraiser at the Sheraton New York, I found that the police had cordoned off the sidewalk a block in all directions and were not admitting the press.
As The Gothamist reports, members of the press were not allowed anywhere near the frozen area and were kept from reporting on the illegal detention:
Several reporters were kept away from the area by police, and MSNBC's Meg Robertson tells Capital New York, "I identified myself to a number of NYPD as a member of the press and they would not let me close to the penned in area."

Another journalist, Andrew Katz, says, "One officer actually said I could go into the kettle where the protesters were, but [another] officer grabbed my arm, and then [Harkinson], and said we had to leave the area. Three officers, including a female officer who gripped her arm around my hip, escorted us a block down to 52nd Street behind a set of barricades."

The complaints of press restrictions comes after NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly issued a carefully-worded memo instructing police not to interfere with working press.
From the New York Times:
More than 100 Occupy Wall Street protesters marched to a Midtown hotel on Wednesday night to protest a fund-raising event for President Obama.  Escorted by police vehicles as they helped snarl traffic across the Times Square area, beginning at Bryant Park, the group settled in front of barricades on the southwest corner of 53rd Street and Seventh Avenue, in view of the Sheraton hotel at which Mr. Obama was expected to appear by 9 p.m.

Demonstrators held signs that leveled some of the Occupy protest’s most pointed criticism to date of the president. “Obama is a corporate puppet,” one said. “War crimes must be stopped, no matter who does them,” read another, beside head shots of President George W. Bush and President Obama . . .

Many protesters chafed at the sight of barricaded pens near the hotel, but a majority decided to stay, given how close they were to their destination. Shortly before 9 p.m., as the police cut off traffic and began making final preparations for the president’s arrival, officers informed demonstrators that the area had been designated a “frozen zone” until the president’s departure: They were not allowed to leave their enclosure, bound by three lines of barricades and a Chase bank. Some protesters tried to break through, but were swiftly rebuffed by officers, who shoved them back to their initial perches.