Majority of Americans Still Want Third Major Party

A Gallop poll shows that fifty-two percent of Americans want a third party — a continuing majority from earlier polls showing as much as 58% who oppose the monopoly of power by the two leading parties. The question is how we can call ourselves a democracy when the two parties are able, through ballot barriers and other means, to prevent a major third party from emerging in the United States. I previously wrote about these barriers and the need for a third party.

For civil libertarians and others, this coming election is a painful example of the crushing monopoly exercised by the Democrats and Republicans. It is impossible for many civil libertarians to vote for Obama given his horrendous record in blocking the torture investigations, continuing military tribunals, re-asserting the right to assassinate American citizens and other policies. The White House, however, is continuing the same cynical calculus used previously by Democratic candidates that civil libertarians and liberals have no where to go. Currently the leading voice against torture, foreign wars and secret prisons is Ron Paul on the Republican side, not Barack Obama.

This poll is an embarrassment in showing that, despite widespread and long-standing unhappiness with both parties, citizens will again be forced to chose between what they view as the lesser of two evils.

Even in the Democratic primary, voters will have no choice as engineered by the Democratic National Committee under the control of the White House. The result is no choice for many voters. We are living through a political crisis in this country and we need fundamental political reform. We have become a nation of lemmings who continue to follow the formula blue state/red state politics imposed by two controlling party machines. Worse yet, we have become a nation of chumps who insist on dozens of different types of bleach to chose from (despite the fact that bleach is chemically identical) but accept that their government will only practically be chosen from one of two parties.

Jonathan Turley

124 thoughts on “Majority of Americans Still Want Third Major Party”

  1. @Swarthmore: That is a tougher one (Paul’s FEMA stance), and I disagree with him. Here is why; off the top of my head:

    1) The implicit assumption by Paul that people can just up-sticks and leave if they happen to live in a dangerous area,
    2) That people can anticipate all natural disasters,
    3) That insurance companies will play fair and actually pay off (note all the exemptions for “acts of God,” and the corruption of the contract process),
    4) That society should just stand by and (literally) watch a million people starve and die because they were not born into privilege, did not have the education, income, or understanding to protect themselves,
    5) That persons that own land and a house should be essentially forced to sell to wealthier people (that can afford to protect it) and move away because the government chose to build levies and allowed corporations to essentially destroy the natural wetlands that used to protect that land and house from flooding.

    FEMA (not as ours is incarnated, but the general idea of a taxpayers funding an Emergency Response effort) is a classic case of group benefit. Why should New York and California be paying for damages in New Orleans? Because taxes from New Orleans helped pay to clean up 9/11, and rescue people from the rubble of earthquakes in California, and tornadoes in Oklahoma.

    Why should we use for-profit insurance companies with an incentive to pay out as little as possible instead of the non-profit FEMA that doesn’t technically have to pay any victim a dime, it can just provide the labor, materials, equipment, doctors, engineers, food, water and assistance directly? With FEMA we get the greatest bang for our buck because none of those workers are earning even $250K, we don’t have to worry about insurance limits or profiteering, and the aid goes to rich and poor in fairly equal measures.

    The only vague point Paul might have is that a for-profit insurance company might provide an economic signal about how dangerous living on the coast is: But upon reflection, this is ludicrous. The poor victims of Katrina still lost massively, FEMA did not make them financially whole and I find it silly to think the average value received from FEMA should be viewed as some sort of “windfall.”

  2. @Swarthmore: I actually agree with Paul on the heroin (and other drug abuse issues). If you read Glenn Greenwald (and others) legalization of recreational drugs (of which I use precisely zero) does not have the negative impact people assume it will. Plus Paul isn’t saying legalize it, he is saying it is up to the states to make the drugs legal or illegal, not the federal government, and our federal taxes should NOT be paying for a war on drugs, the states should be paying for that IF they want that.

    I fail to see any flaws in that position; if it were up to the states then variations in the legalization of drugs (like pot being legal in some states) would grow, and we would find the appropriate balance of legality/illegality.

    What Paul does not say, and I wish he would, is that government does have a responsibility to protect people from criminal exploitation and abuse and robbery; but I do not think the only means of protecting people is outlawing the practices. In fact outlawing the practices makes it MORE likely that people will be exploited, abused and robbed, not less likely, because when it is illegal the victims (of actions we would normally call crimes, like assault) cannot appeal to law enforcement to help them.

  3. @anon: Thanks. To clarify for others the game theory of whether or not to replace Obama, even if I am dissatisfied:

    If we vote him out: From 2012-2016 we have a Republican that is worse for our agenda, and in 2016 an incumbent Republican that would probably win (like most incumbents).

    If we leave the jerk in: In 2016 we are guaranteed a new President either way; from 2012-2016 we have a jerk we can at least hope will not dismantle Social Security, Medicare and the entire regulatory structure of the USA. We can be pretty sure a Republican controlled government would do that. Despite DADT I do not see Obama as a friend of liberals, progressives, or civil liberties or Constitutional restraints on power, but at least I do not think he will gleefully dismantle the entire government on behalf of the corporations, which is what I think a Republican will do.

    So in the term-limited case the question really is one of the lesser evil for the next four years; suffering for one term wouldn’t buy us an open seat, because the seat is guaranteed to be open. In the case of Harry Reid or many others, I still believe that suffering through one term of Republican control would be worth the result of an open seat.

  4. I am extremely unhappy with Obama, he has totally fucked us on the civil liberties that are my #1 priority…Obama is term limited; we can work toward a better candidate to replace him in 2016. -Tony C.

    I’m in complete agreement. And with regard to being “totally fucked on civil liberties”, the situation is so much worse than some seem to realize.

  5. “while that coalition building does create some instability it mainly create instability for pols who are actually forced to work for change unlike the corporate fed slackers we have here.”

    I’m with Buddha. There is instability lurking in a parliamentary system, yet I believe the risks are worth the gain. Our bicameral system can work if loaded with people of good will, if differing opinions of governance. Our system is stultified because it has devolved into “a lesser of two evils” game. Additional parties, in a unitary, parliamentary legislature would bring in the possibility of positive change into play. Right now the status quo, meaning a wealth controlled America is our norm. A second reason is that the Senate is an inherently un-democratic body.
    When state with little or no population, located on the fringes of our country, get equal representation, it just makes the system more vulnerable to no-nothing rabble-rousers and whore like politico’s.

  6. @Swarthmore: P.S. I am extremely unhappy with Obama, he has totally fucked us on the civil liberties that are my #1 priority; but the Presidency is an exception to my “get out the deadwood” policy. Presidents are already term-limited, House and Senate (and many state, city and county level elected officials) are not. The ONLY way to get a better Democrat in Congress is for the old one to pass away, retire or LOSE. The only one of those we can morally force is the electoral solution. Obama is term limited; we can work toward a better candidate to replace him in 2016.

    If Senators and House members were term limited, the most effective strategy would not be defeating them either, but replacing them at the end of their terms. But they are not, so Nevadans will likely live a lifetime with the corrupt Harry Reid (either theirs or his).

  7. tony C Grassroots efforts are going to be harder because of the redistricting that is taking place because of the republican takeover in 2010.

  8. @Swarthmore: First, I honestly do not think Obama can lose in 2012.

    Second, whether Obama wins or loses in 2012 is immaterial to a long term grassroots plan to take back the government; that plan would necessarily start with small races, not Presidential or even Senatorial races.

    The point of a grassroots plan is to build up the followers and advocates that promote the candidates. That can happen faster with the Internet and other modern communications (which I admittedly and voluntarily know very little about; I am not a social networker), but the initial goals (and experiments) would necessarily be council, county, mayoral, state senate and other such races. Conceivably House Representative races, averaging in the 250K constituent range. With about six years of those under our belts, we could look at governorships and Senate races, and ultimately the Presidency.

    Obama is far off the radar of anything I propose.

  9. While we may not all be happy campers, if Obama loses, we’re really screwed.

  10. Tony C, Have to run but if republicans get control of everything in 2012, they will keep their promises to overhaul Social Security and Medicare. They will think they have a mandate. Are you saying you want Obama to lose to whomever so things will eventually get better?

  11. @Swarthmore: We have non-partisan city elections in Dallas.

    In my city too, but they are not non-political, non-policy, or platform-less elections. Presumably your candidates, like mine, have positions and identify problems and propose solutions. I can tell my councilwoman is strong on schools, playgrounds, and other infrastructure. I can tell another council member is a corporate tool.

  12. @Swarthmore: Social Security and Medicare are still third rails in this country, and I don’t think that will change in 12 years. Even the current over-the-top proposals of Paul Ryan do not touch these programs for people under 54 or 55 or something, and that plan has zero chance of passing.

    I think the only changes to SS and Medicare that could possibly get passed in the next four years are means testing, raising caps, and other things that won’t piss off seniors. For all the Tea Party blather, they still don’t want their checks cuts, and Republicans are stupid enough to grandstand, but they get hammered when they actually try to DO anything, as they are now with Paul Ryan’s plan.

    If all we made was linear progress for 12 years, anything affecting the retirement or health care of non-wealthy seniors would be gutted and/or overturned long before it was ever implemented.

  13. AY, Thanks for the Statler Brothers clip. I have seen them in concert numerous times. In fact, here is a bit of history for you. We were at a Statler Brothers concert at the Mississippi State Fair. A stage hand came out and handed Don Reid a note. He read it: “President Nixon has appointed Representative Gerald Ford to be the new Vice President.”

    The crowd was stunned for a moment then started applauding. If Nixon had appointed his dog, it would have been an improvement over the admitted crook, Spiro Agnew.

  14. Tony C, One problem with your plan is that once Medicare and Social Security are abolished, it will be very hard to get them back. Some of us are older and would like to receive our medicare in the coming years.

  15. @Gyges: Precisely. Start with city councils, city mayors, then House Reps, then Senators. I understand the urge for instant gratification, but that is never going to happen. If we are going to do it, it would take an actual grass roots movement (not astroturfing). But I do not think many people, even the thinkers here, are all that interested in 12-year solutions. Too many are insisting on a magic bullet that will take back everything in 2012, and the magic bullet doesn’t exist.

  16. @Tootie: I would say that “nullification” would fail for the same reason the leftist you quote details: The laws are against you.

    So if you were just talking about jury nullification, you might get somewhere, but let me quote your leftist:

    If a system, or one of its components, is unjust, disobey it. That is what it means to nullify. (emphasis mine).

    Vanishingly few people will risk imprisonment and possibly their life in order to stand up for a principle, like the legalization of pot. You may get thousands to agree that someone should do that, but good luck finding the volunteers.

  17. Well color me shocked that the implication of the current conversation is that you either have to vote major party on all tickets or minor party on all tickets.

    You can still take over the Democratic party while supporting third party candidates. Just like someone could conceivably NOT vote for re-election for President Obama while at the same time having voted for Gov. Walker’s opponent.

    I suggest we can learn from the Prohibitionist movement. Start with county laws and work your way up.

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