My colleague Joel Hirschhorn believes in a multi-party system where tens or even hundreds of parties compete for governmental power. It's an interesting idea, but it occurs to me the more parties we have, the more they might stand in the way of real reform. Political parties are like churches-and we know how ugly the competition is among churches to gain adherents.
That's why I'm advocating a no party system. Let's face it-any hierarchical structure like a political party has the potential to become extremely corrupt, especially if that party gains power for any period of time. And history proves these groups tend to be too malleable, trying to conform to whatever pleases the majority of the electorate at a given time.
But the absence of parties might actually strengthen our nation. Suddenly, there would be no particular platform for candidates to follow-they'd have to create their own ideology and sell it to the American people without the backing of a political machine. If voters believe in the candidate, they can sign nominating petitions and contribute five or ten dollars to the candidates' initial campaign. Once the candidate signs up 50,000 people from the fifty states, he or she will have half a million dollars for their race, and that money can be matched by federal funds.
In a no party system, the same rules for clean elections candidates would apply. A candidate would be able to purchase a very limited amount of advertising and would agree to appear at public forums and debates. The candidate would be barred from using any of his or her own money, donations from PACS or corporations for the campaign. Personal attacks on an opposing candidate would be grounds for losing the federal matching funds, which would then be spread evenly among candidates who play by the ground rules. People wouldn't vote based on family tradition or with the expectation of political favor. More importantly, because the voter is the only contributor the candidate will be receptive to the voters needs.
Sound a little utopian? Of course it does. Such a system wouldn't work in today's political climate, especially since the Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech. But I do think that if candidates were unconstrained from the centrist babble the two major parties pass off as "planks", they'd have to think harder about what the American electorate expects of their leadership. And without the huge funding venues of major or minor parties and their various independent offshoots, candidates would have to work a lot harder to gain your contributions and your trust. Besides, it would be a nice change of pace to have representatives that weren't gazillionaires.
Of course, non-affiliated office holders could become corrupt as well. One of the unfortunate enticements of power is everybody wants something from you- and many are willing to go to extra legal means to get and deliver that something. However the rampant corruption we read about these days is due as much to our lack of oversight over leaders as it is to greed. In my ideal system, the people would need to engage themselves as watchdogs, especially since government and media are less willing to fulfill that role.
So screw the Democrat, Republican, Green, Socialist, Libertarian, Reform and other lesser known parties. Let's run for office as individuals beholden to no one but the voters, and cast our votes as individuals as well. Let's follow our own declarations of independence, and bring the spirit of individualism to our faded electoral system.