Amid the gnashing teeth of both Democratic and Republican leaders over two interloping presidential candidates threatening their usual plans for an uncontested set of nomination conventions, the possibility exists that a furious vox populi soon may do the guillotine’s work on both parties’ existence. “Enough is enough” is their battle cry, and anindependent third party may result. After all, some 42 percent of registrations are “independent,” and 93,000,000 eligible voters didn’t vote in the 2012 presidential election.
Disgust with the two-party system, unappealing candidates and voting barriers (IDs, work conflicts, registration purges, long poll waits, etc.) are said to be the reason for the decrease in turnout. And the current urging by pundits for the dissatisfied of both party registrants to launch a takeover is bootless, as a lot of us have discovered over the years. A corrupt culture protecting the 1%,we learned with the 2004 Howard Dean campaign, is not about to step aside for determined “change agents,” no matter how critical we consider the issues that a candidate like Bernie Sanders has raised. Nor, equally, how debased the positions of Donald Trump are considered.
A far more successful strategy, as Geoff Gilbert suggested, is “the foundation of a new political party which would bring a progressive voice back into American politics at every level and, at the same time, help unify ‘our currently fragmented movement cultures.'” The energy, money, imagination and dedication of millennials certainly provides an organizational powerhouse in every state.
For years, the Democratic and Republican National Committees (DNC and RNC) have ignored the will of the 99% from both constituencies. Instead, they have handpicked and thrust despised candidates upon us, just as the old smoke-filled backroom boys used to do. Voters could just “lump it.” A March 2016 poll reported the leading candidates’ unfavorability — with Hillary Clinton at 52 percent and Donald Trump at 57 percent.
Consider, too, the DNC’s use of 700 unelected “superdelegates” of past and present state officials, and even lobbyists to pad Clinton’s required 2,383 votes to win the nomination. (Republicans need 1,237). Begun by the DNC in 1968 to blackball candidates they did not like or could not control, the Democratic Party’s superdelegate tactic was tellingly evoked when DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz unwittingly blurted the truth to CNN in February: “Unpledged [super]delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists…. And so we separate out those unpledged delegates to make sure that there isn’t competition between them.”
So on one hand, the frantic Republican cabal currently seems to be relying on a brokered convention to destroy its constituents’ preferred nominee, billionaire realtor/television star Donald Trump. On the other hand, the frightened corporate-run Democrats have stooped to a new low of underhanded tricks to crush the presidential chances of the hugely popular Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was fast-closing on Clinton.
The DNC has only itself to blame by selecting Clinton as the deserving party candidate because of her loyalty, legacy and lucrative kickbacks from their joint fund-raising arrangement ($33,000,000 by mid-April). No other candidate need apply. If the DNC sensed the have-nots’ angry mood about eight more years of the status quo, they blew it off. Not Sanders. He registered as a Democrat, filed for the presidency last year and immediately began drawing thousands at rallies around the country with his call for a political revolution against this oligarchy.
Once he began winning primaries and caucuses, the DNC panicked and has worked overtime to destroy his candidacy by scheduling off-hour TV debates, blocking access to voter data, and pressuring Sanders supporters to “tone down” their complaints about Clinton’s Wall Street panderings. Financial and political retaliation by the DNC was a given for congressional superdelegates failing to endorse or vote for Hillary at the national convention.
All this, despite key polls indicating that Sanders is currently the only candidate who can trounce Trump by eye-popping percentages.
In the RNC camp, former aide to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush Bruce Bartlett, goes further and predicts his party’s demise over Trump’s success as a positive step: “… anything that speeds up its demise is to the good because then it can reinvent itself and return as something healthy.” He has a point.
GOP leaders’ lack of judgment led to their tapping Florida’s former Gov. Jeb Bush because of name-recognition, his wealth, and, most importantly, obedience to party leaders. Alas, they were outmaneuvered by nearly a dozen ambitious zealots — and Jeb’s poor showing in the primaries — that brought down public and media ridicule on theparty. Bush’s bumbling performances and Trump’s unbelievable spike in polls in the spring primaries forced Bush to remove himself from the GOP nomination. Trump may be rude and crude and have all the outrageous views of Archie Bunker, but he is self-funded, a more famous TV performer than former president Ronald Reagan and seemingly immune to RNC sabotage. But if he should become president, he’d undoubtedly become, like Reagan,somebody’s lapdog. His latest tax plan gives breaks to the 1% and has decided as the Republicans’ presumptive presidential candidate to take a less confrontational approach during the general election campaign.
Trump will easily skewer Clinton on her record as a senator and secretary of state, to say nothing of continued irresponsible support of endless wars around the globeand her support of Israel. He’ll hasten to support those wars are hot buttonsthe third rail for most families. He recently said:
Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card. And the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.
Worse for the DNC, 52 percent of voters by March viewed Clinton “unfavorably,” according to a CBS/New York Times poll. And while Sanders has gamely uttered the usual declaration of support if he were a losing candidate, 33 percent of his supporters also indicated in March that they were far more likely to do a write-in campaign for Sanders.
Above all this sturm und drang is that the RNC/DNC’s myopia or disdain for Americans’ long-simmering wrath about the nation’s rickety domestic condition parallels Marie-Antoinette’s view of her starving countrymen (“let them eat cake”) just before the French revolution.
This was not the first time in US history when voter outrage over the Jacksonian Democrats’ high-handed actions at home and abroad triggered a new and powerful political party: the Whigs. Founded in 1834, it quickly became the majority in Congress, with such luminaries as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Horace Greeley. Six years later, it elected the first of three presidents (John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore) before expiring on the altar of abolition.
However, today’s two major parties have controlled the political scene since the Civil War. Up to now, it has seemed impossible for a third party — short of a real revolution — to shoehorn its way onto the ballot, given the artful roadblocks set by party leaders. Witness Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose party. Or Eugene Debs’ Socialist party.
Yet during the Great Depression, one state’s third party — Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor group — became so powerful that it seized and retained for decades governorships, congressional delegations and control of the legislature. By 1944, desperate Democrats sent Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey to beg for space under its wide tent, which eventually became the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. National party leaders fretted that other states might do the same and ultimately strip them of power and prestige to control presidents, Congress, the Supreme Court and state legislatures.
It became a possibility in 1992 with the rise of Texas billionaire Ross Perot’s Independent party to respond to the distressed. A nightmare for the RNC/DNC, he was self-funded with millions. Perot stood for “law and order,” but was unafraid to step firmly on electability’s “third rails.” An outspoken, fiscal Scrooge, he would have slashed the Pentagon’s bloated secret budgets. He opposed NAFTA and religious fundamentalism, and favored women’s right to choose abortion.
In the 1992 presidential election, more than 19,000,000 voters ignored taunts Perot was a dangerous and ignorant spoiler. They gave him a historic 18.9 percent portion of the popular vote — a significant slice into results for Democrat Bill Clinton (43 percent) and incumbent president, Republican George H.W. Bush (37 percent). As The New York Times editorially warned the two-party establishment about his run:
Mr. Perot also demonstrated that voters yearned for information on candidates without having to sift it through the traditional filter of the news media. His use of talk shows and the consistently high ratings of his 30-minute and hour-long commercials indicated a voter preference for direct communication from the candidate, for substance over attacks, or mawkish advertisements….
Some experts say that it will be virtually impossible for a candidate to duplicate Mr. Perot’s effort unless he has a personal fortune and finds the country once again in such a foul mood. But if the Republican and Democratic parties conclude that they can ignore the lessons of the Ross Perot phenomenon, they will do so at their peril.
Yet complacent DNC/RNC leaders quickly brushed off that close call as an .aberration and returned to focusing on corporate needs, war and political payoffs. They ignored similar signs of growing public unrest over their unresponsiveness to domestic priorities. In Oregon, it has been signaled by the proliferation of a half-dozen third parties.That may have provided the escape hatch for thousands of disgusted voters to leave the two major parties to register elsewhere: Libertarian, Pacific Green, Progressive, Constitution, Working Families, Democratic Socialist.
The latest entrant in 2007 was the Independent Party, started as a progressive haven for all dissidents. The Partytoday has drawn thousands into its fold, especially today with its five core planks:
- Reducing special interest influence over our legislative process.
- Increasing transparency in government, particularly with how Oregon taxesare spent.
- Protecting Oregon consumers, particularly with respect to banks, insurancecompanies and private utilities.
- Applying a sensible approach to job creation and economic development.
- Advancing the rights of independent and non-affiliated voters.
Initial registration was 475 voters. A year later, it shot up to 16,009, mostly Republican/Democratic defectors and those seemingly unaware it was an official party but shunning the alternatives. Last August, with more than 109,000 registrants, it became the state’s third major party and eligible to run candidates in the state-funded primary election. However, unlike the two other parties’ closed primaries, the Independent party is open and will tap into the vast pool of 524,514 non-affiliated voters.
That stunned the Democrats and Republicans watching the rise of this upstart partyand the steady drop in their own registrations. They also recognized it would get far worse (for them) with Oregon’s “motor-voter registration law” becoming effective in January 2016.That statute automatically registers those either getting or renewing drivers’ licenses. Party officials vainly complained in a 2015 legislative hearing that the Independents’ thousands were confused registrants who didn’t know an Independent party existed and just wanted to be, well, independent voters.
Dan Meek, the co-chair of the Independent Party of Oregon (IPO), explained pertinent state law intricacies if Sanders’ write-ins on the Independent ballot would count in the primary:
Since there is no presidential candidate printed on the IPO ballot, the write-ins must be both counted and tallied … and those votes are recorded. So there will be results reported. IPO will take into account the winner in deciding whom to nominate to the November ballot. The secretary of state says Oregon law does not allow IPO to nominate anyone who ran in any Oregon major party primary for president who is not subsequently the national party nominee. In other words, if Bernie wins the IPO primary, [the party] still cannot nominate him unless he wins the national Dem nomination. IPO could decide to cross-nominate Hillary or Trump, regardless of the outcome of the … primary.
The Sanders/Trump candidacies also have forced thousands of Oregon’s non-Democrats to register as Democrats because of the state’s closed primaries. It has given that party a phony majority of the state’s electorate (65 percent) to vote for Sandersin the May 17 primary election.
Unfortunately for both parties, these “temporary Democrats” then will vanish and many may register for theIndependent Party. They may include a significant portion of Oregon’s 527,282 non-affiliated voters, and a category called “Other,” which has 19,340 registrants, as well as hundreds of fed-up Democrats and Republicans.
The Independent Party’s spectacular success could furnish the model for start-ups of other third parties in several states, considering the monumental frustration and fury of the United States’ desperate 99% with the present political system.
For now, Sanders has provided independent-minded and disgruntled voters with an avenue to a national IndependentParty from the hide-bound, moribund, elitist two-party system which serves only the 1%, the banks, the Pentagon and its defense vendors.
Because that leadership will never change culture, priorities or actions, a fed-up electorate flocking to a nationalIndependent Party by the millions could do it for them. After all, the 99% has far more votes than the 1%, and we are showing in this election season that we are indeed ready for a political revolution.