Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Today's Show: Come on out to Big Hat Books at 11 a.m. 6510 Cornell!

   Parties that have arisen as alternatives to the Democratic and Republican parties should not be called "third parties." First, that cedes ground to the two "major" parties and implies any new party merely is a stand-by. Second, as I previously have written on this blog, the two majors function as one party in significant respects. In each of the 46 states and four commonwealths, they have enacted legislation that limits access to ballots to "two" parties. They also derive monies from many of the same pockets. Third (ironically in my list), there are perhaps a dozen alternative parties. Each cannot be tied for "third."

   This is not a matter of mere semantics. The Whorfian hypothesis states that the semantic structure of a language shapes one’s perception of the world. If the concept that ours is a two-party political system, the notion of voting for a third party becomes a departure from accepted reality.

   A September poll by CNN indicated "unfavorable" ratings of the two majors as 48% (Dem) and 54% (Repub). Anecdotally, we all have heard people complain about the two majors.

   What would it take for an alternative party to rise up and challenge the two majors?

   Here are some suggestions. The list is not exhaustive, and the items are not in any particular order.

   -Improve ballot access. If there are fewer hurdles for alternative parties to clear in order to be on the ballot in the general election, those parties’ candidates will be more likely to appear on the ballots.

   -Establish local structures. When I go to vote, I do not like the gauntlet one has to run to enter the polling station. Campaign workers—some paid, most not—hand out leaflets for a candidate or a party. But when one enters the polling station, the people who run the place are from the two majors. If an alternative party can gain access to those positions, its credibility would rise.

   -Change election rules. Our "winner take all" method does not allow for proportional representation. If one candidate wins, the dynamics of the process would indicate two parties have the better chance of seeing "winners." This is gamesmanship, played out with our political rights and the future—of our country, our lives, our world.

   -Advances unique positions on core issues. This has been the hallmark of alternative parties. Unfortunately, when a particular position or set of positions gains popularity, one or both majors step in to absorb the matter. Some might call this a "plus" of the present system; an indication the two majors attempt to change with the people’s demands. Others could look at this as issue positions merely being coopted.

   I will say it one more time: Today, Saturday, February 11, "Civil Discourse Now" will host representatives of parties some would call "third parties"active in the 2012 elections. Joseph O. Henzler is the state chair of the Constitution Party of Indiana, John Strinka is with Greater Indianapolis Socialist Party-USA, and Jay Parks of the Green Party.

   Certainly we shall discuss issues in the context of our guests’ respective parties’ platforms, but the focus of the discourse will be the efficacy of third parties today in American politics.

   We shoot at 11 a.m. on Saturdays at Big Hat Books, 6510 Cornell Avenue, Indianapolis. Anyone who wishes to come to the Show is welcome. 

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