The movement to abandon the Big Two parties is picking up steam from several sources including two unlikely characters: Lou Dobbs and Scott McClellan. In Lou Dobbs words, “Both of our major political parties have become little more than well-funded marketing organizations, advertising brands that the corporate and special-interest elites manage for their own benefits, with almost no regard for the common good and the national interest.” That explains why the hypocrisy of career politicians like Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert has become the norm on Capitol Hill. They are not the first to resign congress in order to cash in to lobby their former colleagues. Their hand was forced by the upcoming restrictions on former congress member lobbying that starts early next year. Senator John McCain had one of best descriptions of the system when he described it as legalized bribery.
Add former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s upcoming book “WHAT HAPPENED: Inside the Bush White House and What’s Wrong With Washington” scheduled to be published in the spring as fodder for more defections from the Big Two parties. It boils down to lost trust in the whole political process. McClellan discloses when he lost trust in the president by first offering an alibi of why he trusted him to begin with. "The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I had unknowingly passed along false information.”
Later, McClellan admits that senior Administration officials including the president and vice-president were responsible for the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. This is getting little national headlines since these revelations come as no surprise to those who follow Washington politics. Speaking with Joe Wilson in 2004, I could sense his sincerity and conviction as he stood alone to accuse senior Bush Administration officials - he specifically named Karl Rove – as responsible for the leak that outed his wife’s CIA identity.
While campaigning for congress in 2004, I made a list of offenses that I could not believe this Administration was getting away with. They ranged from forged evidence for war to trampling our basic constitutional rights. Running for office provided a unique opportunity to question the legitimacy of Bush/Cheney decisions and my congressman’s vote for the war. At one point I was able to ask Congressman Tom Davis if he had read the PATRIOT Act before voting for it. To which he answered, “I didn’t have to read it, I knew what was in it.”
In 2008 American voters may only be offered the choice between an individual with fatally impaired judgment to give the Bush/Cheney Administration the power to invade Iraq, or a former New York mayor who failed to protect the lives of several hundred first responders on September 11, 2001 by locating his command post in the World Trade Center complex. These life and death mistakes cannot be taken back.
Still not convinced to abandon the Big Two? Consider what they have planned for 2008. Little attention was paid to the recent announcement of four debate sites selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates – the monopoly created by the Big Two political parties to offer meaningless sound bite debates between the nominees of only those two parties. Voters ought to know that once again there are no provisions for allowing legitimate candidates from outside the Big Two to participate.
During the 2004 race, there were only five candidates that had a mathematical chance to win the White House based on qualifying for enough state ballots to earn enough electoral votes for victory. Regardless of the long odds, what would have been so terrible about hearing from all five of these contenders in a nationally televised format? We are witnessing debates now with up to nine candidates, though as former Senator Mike Gravel proved they still practice the politics of exclusion. In 2004, candidates from the Libertarian and the Green party staged debates that featured empty chairs for the Big Two to appear. Of course they refused because as Libertarian nominee Michael Badnarik stated, they fear the voters may hear something they can relate to.
Debate exclusion continues the direct insult to the democratic process. It strengthens our argument for Independents to boycott not just the coming primaries, but all activities, words and actions of Big Two party candidates. I am repeating the call made a few weeks ago for one million people to abandon their membership in the Big Two political parties before the upcoming primaries. Voters and non-voters alike need to declare their independence, or register for a third party. This will send a message that we are tired of the politics-as-usual scripted infomercials that substitute for real debates and stifle legitimate voices in the political landscape.
To hear Lou Dobbs report about the record number of people registering independent, you get the impression that it was all his doing. In reality, before his book, there have been thousands of advocates suggesting abandonment of the Big Two parties. Promoters of the National Election Reform Platform have been attempting to secure pledges from each party’s nominees for federal office committed to repairing the broken elements of our electoral system: ballot access, voting machine security flaws, voter disenfranchisement and the influence of special interest money.
An example of why clean elections and campaign financing are so critical is clearly demonstrated in this LA Times description of Gov. Schwarzenegger, once considered “the champion of the people against the special interests, the man who was so rich he could say no to campaign donors seeking favors. [Yet the record haul of] $125 million that Schwarzenegger has pulled in comes from the same special interests he campaigned against and that have made the purchase of political access and influence a dark art.”
Workshops presented at the Claim Democracy conference in Washington in November, 2007 covered additional reform items such as universal voter registration, rank choice voting, Election Day holiday and voting rights for DC citizens.
Our growing election reform coalition – having secured an endorsement from independent presidential candidate Daniel Imperato – welcomes the infusion of Mr. Dobb’s voice in our cause. Now we hope that he will invite us on to his television program to explain why election reform is so critical.
- Joseph Oddo is the director of Independent America Political Committee based in Washington DC.