Last week the Republican establishment wanted to change some rules to make it harder for grassroots candidates like Ron Paul to gain traction in future campaigns. The power grab was stark enough to anger delegates who weren’t even Paul supporters, and the “Nays” drowned the “Ayes” on the voice vote. Nevertheless, the chair ruled “The Ayes have it” without doing an official count.
The Democratic establishment played the same game last night. Earlier this week the party had voted to remove references to God and Jerusalem from their party platform. I’m not sure whether it was the conservative heckling or the threat of losing rich Jewish donors, but the establishment realized it was a dumb move that risked alienating independent voters, so they tried to put it back in. Unfortunately, they had to break their own rules to reverse course. The chair ruled “The Ayes have it,” clearly without a two-thirds majority, resulting in Booing (about the power grab, not about God).
Reason has the relevant video clips. Both parties claim to desire the will of the people but are more than willing to subvert that when it threatens their grip on power. For all we know, this sort of arbitrary voice counting happens all the time in these parties, preserving the illusion of democracy while the leaders really call the shots (I’ve even personally experienced a fraudulent “The Ayes have it” at a local caucus). It just reinforces the notion that the establishment of both parties are corrupt, caring more about preserving their power, whether it’s closing the doors on candidates they don’t like or overriding platform decisions. If the party leaders don’t care about their own delegates’ voices, what makes you think they care any more about yours?
OK, but you already knew that. Maybe you’re already planning to vote for the “least bad” of these two options even though you don’t really like either of them; giving you more reasons to dislike both isn’t going to change that strategy. One of these parties is still going to win the Presidency.
Well, I submit that there is more to politics than winning the Presidency. Look at all the attention these conventions are getting. Hours of coverage on TV and radio that is worth millions in free advertising, on top of the millions in taxpayer funding that the parties somehow qualify for. One party will “lose” the electoral vote in November, but both parties are winning the long-term struggle that keeps them both sharing power. Rising political stars give speeches and enhance their name recognition. The crossfire of rhetorical attacks cements the notion that these are our only two options, exaggerating the differences between the two parties even as the new Democratic platform on civil liberties quietly sheds its opposition to the Bush-era tactics that Obama has since embraced.
Did you know that the Libertarian Party already had their national convention? Hardly anyone noticed. If the Libertarian party started getting 2% or 5% or 10% of the vote, maybe they would start getting more attention. To use econospeak, it’s all about signalling. The more support they get, the more legitimacy they appear to have, igniting an upward cycle that could overcome the downward cycle that keeps them out of the 99%. Just getting the Libertarian candidate in the presidential debates would do wonders for our national political discussion, even if you don’t agree with the party on everything (and I don’t) and even if they never win an election. But that will never happen as long as the party is always considered a “wasted vote.”
Besides, Gary Johnson is the strongest candidate the party has had in years, if not ever. Far from an extreme anarchist freak who’s never been in charge of anything, Johnson was a successful governor of New Mexico for eight years. He’s a practical, reasonable politician who also happens to run marathons and climb Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro in his spare time.
I’m hoping that the more votes Johnson gets this cycle, the more attention the Libertarian Party will get for the next cycle. Maybe nothing will change unless we get somehow get some proportional representation. Maybe I’m being naive and just throwing my vote away. But I’d rather do that than throw my vote at a corrupted establishment.
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