The Little 5% That Could

Posted by tobymuresianu on Oct 16, 2012 in Politics, Thoughts |

In my last post, I argued that the best way to end partisan gridlock was to vote for a third party.

Sadly for my comedy career, the response was much bigger than anything I’d posted on my blog before. A number of people told me they’d felt the same way for a long time, which was really cool to hear.

Yesterday, I turned on the radio in my car and, coincidentally, there was a panel discussion about California politics on. The host mentioned that in California, the fastest growing party affiliation is independent – with 20% of people identifying as such, and both the Republican and Democratic membership declining as people have lost faith in them to govern effectively.

20% – imagine that! 20% of the electorate doesn’t feel represented by any parties of our elected representatives.

The anger at partisan gridlock is represented in article after article and in the approval ratings of congress and both parties. The only place it is not represented is in the actual presidential candidates.

I don’t believe any company or organization can serve its customers with approval ratings as low as our government has and not open the door to competition. As ratings continue to decline and the numbers of independents go up, I think it’s a matter of not if but when another party or parties rise to replace our current set.

How many people will it take to make a difference? In the initial post, I’d thrown out 5% as an attainable goal for third parties in this election. Looking into it further, it turns out that 5% is, serendipitously, also the threshold necessary for a party to receive public campaign finance funds – $90 million this year. Even better, it’s the popular vote, so people in non-swing states can help make this happen.

In an election where I know that a) no matter who wins bitter partisanship will continue and b) my votes are immaterial as I live in a safely blue state, this gave voting a new sense of hope for me. I’m voting for something specific – so that at the next debate, there’s a third person there.

Last post I specifically mentioned that it wasn’t written as an endorsement of Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. And it I still don’t – if you think another party is better, vote for them and it will help diminish the two party system.

That being said, having looked into the third parties, I do think the Libertarian party is the best chance to reach the 5% level and create this visible change.

Now, I live in fear of being a party shill or that guy filling your facebook feed with smug posts about whoever’s kool-aid he’s drinking. I disagree with some Libertarian policies. Specifically, I believe in universal health care, environmental protection, and gun control, which they do not – though I also believe in a smaller government and military, an end to the war on drugs, which they do support.

So why am I supporting them even though they’re not perfect? A few reasons:

1. Libertarians draw support from both sides of the political spectrum. This mitigates the risk some feel that supporting a third party could disproportionately affect their preferred of the two major party candidates.

2. Lots of people already identify as Libertarian, and many more identify as “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” which are the core Libertarian values. Candidates like Paul attract enthusiasm but get squashed by the two-party system. They are a voice that represents many Americans and should be at the table. Once they cross a threshold of relevance, people who feel Libertarian will feel comfortable actually voting that way.

3. They will bring a number of important issues which have popular support but that the parties aren’t talking about – war on drugs, scaling back military – to the table.

4. Of the third parties, the Libertarian party seems to be the best organized and able to capitalize on opportunities that they received.

and 5. There is no party who I agree with on all the issues. It seems odd that despite having two major parties, four major minor ones, and a plethora of tiny ones – there isn’t any composed of well-qualified centrist technocrats, which really seems like the best way to run a country.

But every journey starts with a single step, and it’s my hope that a strong third party showing in 2012, especially one that hits the 5% goal, will open the doors to a variety of newer, smaller parties that will better reflect people’s interests and work together in a more productive fashion.

If you support this goal, we’re coming close to Election Day – so please consider spreading the word, whether by sharing this post or your own thoughts on the subject.

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