He opened the discussion on that late-summer evening, brandishing an article clipped from the Pennsylvania Independent titled, “Republicans trying to boot Gary Johnson from Pennsylvania ballot.” The article examines the issues confronted by third-party candidates in Pennsylvania, most recently focusing on the Pennsylvania Republican Party attempting to boot Libertarian Party presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, from the ballot.
According to Pennsylvania law, major parties (Republicans and Democrats) have to submit only 2,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, while third-party candidates have to submit 20,000 signatures to qualify. This makes the process for third-parties incredibly difficult, as the limited resources third-parties have must be diverted to gathering signatures rather than campaigning. While the Libertarian Party plans to fight this attempt of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, they have already succeeded in forcing the Constitution Party to withdraw its presidential candidate, Virgil Goode, from the state ballot. The party had submitted about 35,000 signatures to qualify Goode for the ballot, however the PA Republican Party contested those signatures, and under state law, the Constitution Party would have been required to cover the cost of legal fees if the Republican challenge proved successful. With fees easily exceeding $100,000, third-party organizations that rely on small donations and a staff of volunteers cannot easily survive such challenges. As the article notes, the Helsinki Accords, an international group that monitors elections, named Pennsylvania as one of the worst places in the world to have a free election in 2006.
Following discussion of this article, Anderson segued into his discussion topic on the duopoly of the Republican and Democratic parties that have so usurped U.S. politics as to create a system where no other voices outside of this very confined box can be heard. He argued that while Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party is the “polar opposite” of his own political views, the American people should, nonetheless, “be given the choice.” He continued to say that, at present, Americans can only pick between two candidates that, “feed from the same trough of special interest money.”
This stems from a fear of third-party candidates who may pull votes away from the two main parties, and, as Rocky noted, the Republicans and Democrats both agree that allowing third-party candidates to have a voice in the mainstream political discourse can only be detrimental to both parties. This is why, he explained, you will not see an independent or third-party voice on the stage of any presidential debate in this country. “God forbid the American people have a choice.”
Not only is the fear of votes being diverted to third-parties a concern for both Republicans and Democrats, but so is the possibility that new discussions will be allowed into the mainstream political sector. As Rocky explained, it is important that the topic of conversation be narrow and focused rhetoric between the two prevailing parties in the duopoly. Allowing anything other than these “contrived sound-bites” to reach the public could be dangerous. For instance, Rocky asked the crowd, “Do you have the choice for the candidate that who would bring the troops home today?…Medicare coverage for everyone?…health care that would actually cover all?” He continued, saying that there should be discussions, “about the poverty, about the lack of health care coverage, about the disparity of racism, about the corrupting influence of money.”
It is the plutocracy, Rocky said, the government that is controlled by the wealthy, that must be stopped. “We believe in a rule of law, not the rule of one or two men.” He continued, “Is there anyone who thinks it is a good idea that our country is run solely by those who have the wealth?” A government that is controlled by the wealthy, Rocky warned, will betray you in order to follow the money.
And while the discussion was a sobering one as Rocky highlighted the many pervasive issues with the government today, he did not end on a sour note. We are not going to be the sheep, he said. Anti-slavery, Civil Rights, the Labor Movement, Women’s Suffrage, all had to start at the grassroots level by the people on the ground who demanded something different from their government. No great change is made from the top down, Rocky told the crowd. He called to mind the Arab Spring, where the people were mobilized for change and put their lives on the line for the things that they believed in. “We don’t even have to put our lives at risk, we just have to turn off the TV, get off the couch…We can overthrow the dictatorship…of the corrupting influence of money in this country.” He ended, “This isn’t about an election, it is about a movement.”
Think what your vote will say if you cast it in favor of a third-party. It will say that you will no longer partake in the plutocracy. You will no longer support the ruling duopoly. Ultimately, Rocky said, it is your “grand responsibility” to make a stand for something greater.
Alyssa Röhricht blogs at Crash Culture: Political Train Wrecks for Political Junkies