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Alternative Culture Articles

November 10, 2002

Moving the Political Center
By Royce Carlson

Now that the mid-term election is over in the U.S. and the Democratic Party has lost ground in Congress, what strategies should be adopted by the left to prepare for the elections in 2004? Here are some of my thoughts and ideas on this.

The political center is not static. The Bush administrationís approach is to come on strongly right and then slowly let the opposition push him toward the center. For example, when he first took office he said he was going to try to repeal almost everything Clinton tried to do for the environment during his last months in office. Over the next few months, Bush received a lot of opposition from the environmentalist community and eventually ended up leaving some of Clintonís work in place. So, things did not end up as bad as they could have been, but they still ended up bad for the environment.

Bush came on strong against Iraq with his threat of immediate unilateral military action, but over time, has conceded to involve the United Nations. A war still appears imminent, however. In this way, Bush and the Republican Party are moving the center toward the right and the Democrats are following the center rather than holding their own. The liberal Democrats campaigned as if they were moderate Republicans.

The Democrats need to change their strategy and they need help. Those on the political left may be able to help the Democrats by joining the Green Party. I know it sounds strange, but there is a reason behind this idea.

The political system in the U.S. is designed to prevent a third party from ever getting power. Congress has the power to change our voting system but has absolutely no incentive to do it since it would threaten the two-party system by making it easier for third parties to get elected. The winner-takes-all voting system insures that only the two existing parties continue. In the 2000 election, a vote for Ralph Nader was considered by many as a vote for Bush in the states that had close elections. How many additional people would have voted for Nader if that vote didnít end up counting against Gore? Because of this system, the election results of third party candidates are terrible - usually under 4%. This does not send any kind of message to the parties in power.

Although no oneís supposed to know how any individual votes, it is public knowledge how people are registered. If a lot of people joined the Green Party over the next two years, that could begin to send a message to the Democrats to move back left. Just because you are a Green Party member does not mean that you canít vote for another party in the general election. Somehow the message must get to the Democrats that they are leaving a lot of people behind by chasing the center that the Republicans keep moving.

Over 50 percent of eligible Americans did not vote in the last election. Who are they and why are they not voting? This should be a first step for the leadership of the Green Party (or the Democratic Party, for that matter.) They should learn about who the non-voters are and find out what issues are important to them. Candidates in the next election should focus their attention on rousing the interest of the non-voting public.

Voter participation has declined pretty steadily since 1960. There was a brief peak when Ross Perot ran for president as an independent. Why? He was interesting, charismatic, and was not spewing forth the same centrist oatmeal that comes out of the mouths of most Democratic and Republican candidates. He was different and that appealed to a lot of people. Although I did not agree with Perotís politics, I did appreciate his approach. For 2004, we need charismatic candidates who speaks their minds. We need mavericks to attract the attention of those who donít vote. We need someone who is a real choice. Pressure from the left may force the Democrats to come up with more interesting candidates than they have been coming up with lately.

If you are a regular voter, and your views are more left than right, join the Green Party or any other left-leaning political party and get your friends to do it, too. Jumping ship on the Democrats is an easy way to shake up the system and make politics more interesting again in the United States. It is also possible that third party candidates could begin to win more city, county, and state seats as a result of this effort. These efforts will send a message to the major parties where the political center really is and help America to become a better democracy.


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Royce Carlson