by Joel S. Hirschhorn
Writer, Dandelion Salad
September 26, 2013
Recently, Jonathan Cymberknopf wrote a very upbeat article where he makes it sound like third party presidential candidates in 2012 achieved remarkable, even historic, success. He provides considerable data on how a number of third party candidates did better in 2012 than in the previous presidential election. For many years I strongly advocated third party options and even was a state chairperson for a major third party. But over time I realized what a fool’s effort third parties are for presidential elections and also for nearly all congressional ones. Why? Because anyone who thinks clearly and understands the US electoral system should know that the system is so rigged against third parties that they are mostly a wasted effort. Worse even, and this is my major point, because third parties provide a kind of high pressure escape valve for very unhappy Americans to express their anger and frustration. In so doing, they perversely help to sustain the very corrupt, dysfunctional two-party system they reject and want to change but cannot possibly do.
Let me further explain. As someone who worked within the federal and state political system for a long time I am totally convinced that the American political system has become a farce, actually an evil system for the vast majority of Americans. Why? Because this political system has become the tool for sustaining the upper, wealthy class and is destroying the middle class and succeeding in creating a two-class society. Economic inequality is now at its highest level. This has resulted because the rich, upper class controls the political system through money that more than earns a terrific return on the funds invested, because the political system has also corrupted the economic system.
We desperately need a second American revolution. But it will not and cannot come through elections. Elections merely represent a delusional notion that American democracy still works, when in fact it is nothing more now than a delusional democracy. Beyond the top 1 percent so talked about as the very wealthy grabbing nearly all the increases in economic growth and prosperity, it is probably the top 10 percent or more that enjoys fabulous lives. There really are two economies. The one for the top on the economic ladder is working wonderfully. They are gobbling up luxury cars, jewelry and all kinds of products, eating expensive foods at home and in fancy restaurants, getting the very best medical care, and experiencing the joys of luxury travel and entertainment. The lives of some 30 million Americans are truly wonderful. But the remaining vast majority of Americans who constitute most of the voters are leading very, very different economic lives with much diminished quality of lives and considerable economic insecurity.
So, rather than celebrate that less than 2 percent of voters supported third party presidential candidates and, in so doing, legitimized the US electoral system, what the country really needs are millions of Americans more forcefully attacking the status quo that the two-party plutocracy uses to serve and protect the upper, wealthy class. Americans who happily and proudly vote and work for third party candidates are delusional if they think that their actions are helping to bring down our corrupt political system. They need to realize that in a perverse way they are protecting and sustaining the status quo political system. It would be far better if many millions of Americans who, as expressed in virtually all surveys and polls, have no trust and confidence in both major political parties and all the elected politicians chose to express their discontent by NOT voting in elections. Yes, that is what we need. We need to concretely show our rejection of the political system by not honoring it through voting.
The sad joke is that not much more than half of eligible voters actually vote, far worse than in other advanced, industrialized nations. What the goal of Americans who correctly see both major parties as rigidly corrupt and useless for most citizens should be is to attack the legitimacy of the political system by cutting voter turnout substantially.
Stop feel-good voting for third party candidates and reject the current electoral system altogether. Do that and think more about other ways to destroy this system. Think in terms of a political boycott just as you would an economic boycott against a company. Never delude yourself that by electing Republicans or Democrats you will see the many necessary, fundamental changes for restoring true democracy and honoring the values of the Constitution. The one most powerful tactic to restore democracy and economic freedom is removing all private money from the entire political system. That requires a constitutional amendment, and that can only happen through an Article V convention that recently Mark Levin so powerfully advocated in his new book, but which he, sadly, failed to present the full truth about, namely that Congress has already failed to obey the Constitution and recognize the sufficient number of state applications for a convention.
This failure of Congress, like so many other circumstances, decisions and events, only further proves just how awful American democracy has become. And it shows just how much we need millions of Americans to fight for what is necessary, rather than think that third party candidates are the answer. Interestingly, third party presidential candidates have not made the Article V convention option a major campaign issue, just as Republicans and Democrats have ignored this constitutional option.
[Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through http://articlev.wix.com/statusquobuster.]
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Joel , ”stop feel good voting ”? i have worked and voted for candidates that are independent and 3rd party becuase i believe in the primacy of conscience . i vote and work hard for something i believe in . this article is more naysaying against excercising ones conscience .
j.s.mill said ”it is the collision of opinions that brings truth ”. Besides , a 3rd party won –when Abe Lincoln was at the top of the ticket . also , the Bull Moose party got 28 per cent of the vote ( that is 4 % shy of the presidency ). Perot got 19% . Not to mention that major partys must adopt at least some of the platform of a successful 3rd party . this is a historical fact.
3rd partys have changed American history by their pressure that says ”if you dont adopt this you will lose votes. They are countless examples of this — Norman Thomas and the Socialist’s Party on FDR. Perot on the Deficit . Lafolette on Wilson and the early sufferagettes. Nader and the Greens on the environment
Joel , one more thing — history shows that the power of the 3rd party ‘s effects has cancelled your view that voting third party is a ”delusion ”. in fact , it is practical . all the powers that be care about is losing votes. they think that they are entitled to them . when a independent or 3rd party says ” shape up or ship out , adopt this and that or you will lose to the other major party ”…..to survive as a major party they have to adopt it . THEY HAVE TO ! if not they will learn the hard way .
voting 3rd party is a strategy as well as a matter of conscience .
As it now stands, roughly 50% of the potential electorate doesn’t vote. Has that delegitimized the electoral system? If the 2% of “delusional” Third Party voters stop voting, will the 52% of potential non-voters delegitimize the electoral system? On the other hand, if half of the 50% of non-voters voted Third Party, would that make a difference? You bet it would! And that is why people like Joel Hirschorn discourage voting. They are de facto agents of the dominant elite. Unless there is blatant fraud, elections are the primary way to initiate change. Because if you can’t get people to vote for you, they sure as hell aren’t going to join in your revolution. Perhaps that is why extending the franchise has been so bitterly fought down through the years. And if some sort of “revolution” does occur, it will probably be a response to blatant electoral fraud. Until then, dreams of revolution are the real delusion.
Keith — Your comment that elections are the primary way to initiate change set me to thinking if there are any historical examples which support such an assertion — I can’t seem to think of any. Would you care to enlighten us with any examples?
CAMERON- “I can’t seem to think of any. Would you care to enlighten us with any examples?
Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales for starters. To reiterate, what is the alternative? If you can’t get people to vote for you, they are much less likely to join in your revolution. Boycott? That is only applicable if the electoral system has blatant fraud preventing the majority from winning with an honest tally. As it is, the two major parties continue to put forth corporate candidates because that is who the people vote for, or they don’t vote at all, resulting in the well to do having undue influence. That’s right, the rich vote in disproportionately high percentages. You never hear a fat-cat advising other fat-cats not to vote. The reason most voters vote for the corporate candidates has to do with propaganda and social control, factors which effect all of political economy, and which render a revolution virtually impossible. But if feel like not voting, feel free not to. Just don’t delude yourself and others that this is proactive and will result in meaningful change. It won’t.
Sorry, I meant to have you limit your examples to the U.S. – Have any?
It also seems that you have transformed a call for the end of the U.S. plutocracy as a call for revolution. I can’t speak for others but that is not my motivation in supporting a boycott. The aim is to bring a dose of bourgeois democracy to a U.S. political system that progressively less and less of it. One goal is to replace our duopoly with a parliamentary system similar to those the rest of the bourgeois democratic world enjoys – one that allows for multiple parties and proportional representation based on the number of votes received. This would be a real change and would allow for real political debate and struggle to develop in our country which has progressively less and less of it.
Keith ,all real changes in the history of the united states have coming from the pressure that 3rd partys bear on the major partys . all. there would be no progressive changes without them . fact. i usually like Joel’s work , but i really think that he missed the boat on this one . facts are stubborn things. and the facts hold up in this regard for the power and influence of 3rd partys .
it is a matter of strategy , not a delusion or feel good thing to vote 3rd party .
An organized boycott could be very effective — how credible would our 2-party plutocracy look if they hold an election and even fewer eligible voters show than do now (barely 50% in national elections and much less in congressional and local ones). Turnout is a problem for them now — let’s build on it!
Great point and idea, Cameron. I’ve been leaning towards this for a few years now.
If done well, it could delegitimize the entire election process in the US.
Whomever wins certainly cannot claim any “mandate” from the people.
I’m sympathetic to the author’s view that voting for third parties doesn’t help. But I don’t see why it wouldn’t help to take over the major parties and put candidates who will be responsive to what most people want into office. It doesn’t take many votes to get on the primary ballot of one of the major parties for statewide or national office in most states. Nor does it take many votes to win primaries. So, I think that’s a better alternative than not voting.
I also think that the main problem in getting such takeovers done, is organization by dissatisfied voters and also the exposure of everyone to sources of information filtered to protect the interests of the plutocrats. We need badly to be able to immerse people in environments where all sources of information compete on an equal footing regardless of financial resources, and fairly quickly, such an environment needs to displace big media as the place people go to get their information about what’s going on around them.
I know that both of the above requirements: organizational facilitation and information availability beyond the MSM are tall orders. But I also think that new information technology innovations can help with this if we can manage to block current efforts to destroy net neutrality.
If it is “pointless” to try, then isn’t it even more “pointless” to give up? Because then the 1% wins even more, and what’s the point of that? And what was that 2008 landslide all about? Would it not have been easier in 2012 to march right down to the electoral college and inform them they will no longer be selecting any corporate-funded puppets, instead of spreading ourselves thin for the next 4 years on all fronts fighting off all the atrocities Obama is committing? How did that “Yes We “Can” bullshit turn into “No We Can’t” so fast? Besides, how can you talk of a 3rd party when we don’t even have a 2nd party? Yes, never lend a helping hand to the 1% and their puppets, but what is the point of boycotting all non-corporate candidates too? Aren’t you helping to guarantee that the 1% always wins with that attitude?
Not voting is already interpreted as indifference. I don’t think it’s too likely that it will be interpreted as protest if simply more people decide to not participate in the system. But the act of voting for a third party is unambiguous. It’s a flat out rejection of the establishment parties.