This is Democracy?
Didn’t hear about it? That’s because it’s not being broadcast on any television network – the debate is being streamed on the Internet – and neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama will be there. They were invited. But they’ve got their own big-budget production to worry about; they can’t support a rinky-dink sideshow.
Therefore the fourth 2012 Presidential Debate, sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, will feature people who weren’t invited to the first three debates: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party – four iconoclastic, ambitious, passionate people promulgating ideas that span the political spectrum, four leaders whose campaigns have been rendered virtually irrelevant by a broken system.
The Money Party, represented by its two competing brands, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, has successfully conspired to disenfranchise alternative or “third-party” Presidential candidacies while simultaneously convincing the American people that this is how Democracy in America is meant to work. Unless you’re a billionaire like Ross Perot, the last independent candidate to be taken seriously — sorry, Ralph Nader – entrants are required to be active members of the Money Party. Lacking the proper Donkey or Elephant credential and the corporate funding to which that credential entitiles its bearer, alternative candidates appear to most Americans to be invisible or, at best, a slightly comic distraction from the main event.
Why must Republicans or Democrats be the only ones with good ideas? Why must America be led by a representative hailing from one of the two dominant parties that created and control the Comission on Presidential Debates?
Because the two dominant parties say so. And because we the slow-witted citizenry believe them.
The impressive theatrical spectacle the Money Party has created to sell their perverted conception of democracy includes charismatic Leading Men, fawning claques ensconced in media echo chambers (MSNBC for Barry, Fox News for Willard) to clap and boo on cue, and an electorate/audience that’s too busy, battered, and bereft of imagination to demand honesty. Whether national sentiment leans Right or Left is increasingly unimportant: Virtually no one gets what she voted for; and only some get what they paid for in our foul system of legal corporate bribery. Yet so effective is the elaborate charade that We the People ignore or dismiss anyone who dares challenge the conventional paradigm, anyone who “can’t win” because the Money Party has labeled them a “nut job” and declared them ineligible to win.
Our so-called Electoral College system of electing a President is a disaster, an institutional trick that disenfranchises millions of voters more effectively than any number of pernicious polling place challenges ever could. Many smart commentators, like Kevin Baker in Harper’s, have shown how and why your vote doesn’t really matter in most states, how the result is pre-ordained and gaffed. Maybe they’re right.
But maybe they’re right only when one equates “your vote” with a “vote for either the Democratic or Republican candidate.” Perhaps if voters used their vote, their almost immeasurably small power to influence future governance, to support the person who best reflected their comprehensive viewpoint, no matter what cartel the candidate was associated with – perhaps then a vote would genuinely matter.
We’ll be watching (and listening) to the Four Oustiders this Tuesday. We’ll give their ideas as much credence as we do the brand name guys, maybe more. We’ll take them seriously, even if they’re kooky and unpolished. In our old-fashioned conception of the American Way, it seems like the most democratic thing we can do.