Monday, August 26, 1996

Week of 08/26/1996

Send out the Clowns!
You want real reform? You’d better choose another party!
- by David Matthews 2

A few weeks ago I wrote an article in the Gainesville Times concerning the various political parties and candidates that were running for President of the United States, besides the obvious choices of Bob Dole and Bill Clinton. Two weeks after that article was published, a letter was published that suggested the only real alternative to "politics as usual" rested in three words- campaign finance reform; specifically the campaign finance reform bill that was stalled in Congress. A month later, that same bill dies in Congress from one of the deadliest weapons of "politics as usual"- the filibuster.

Should we be surprised by this news? Not really. The only part I am surprised about it is that it was killed in the midst of an election year- especially at a time when people have a worse expectation of their politicians than they do garbage collectors.

I have often considered both parties to be nothing more than political junkies- heavily addicted to their special interest groups, their campaign money, and the power of their position. Few can find fault with such an analogy. Yet we continue to think they can clean themselves up.

But perhaps the fault doesn’t lie with the politicians as much as it lies with us. For years we have cried, begged, pleased, and even screamed "No more politics as usual!" And the politicians have either feigned deafness, ignorance, or flat-out ignored us. Yet come election time we still turn to either the Democrats or Republicans to listen to us.

We need to first realize that after screaming and shouting and begging and pleading, if our elected officials are either unable or unwilling to end the practice of "politics as usual" we need to VOTE THEM OUT! And yes, that includes looking towards other political parties like the Reform Party or the Libertarians to help break "politics as usual."

One of the biggest things we can do is actually get out there and VOTE. But there are other suggestions that perhaps we need to look into as well.

For starters, how about a non-binding "None Of The Above" (or NOTA) option on the election ballots? This gives the people who are unhappy with the current selection a real reason to get out and vote; especially in local elections when the incumbent sometimes runs for re-election unopposed. Here would be a true chance to measure that person’s political approval. Think of the political consequences if an unopposed incumbent "lost" to NOTA!

As voters we need to open ourselves up to the option of a third or independent party, but it doesn’t help matters much if those options are shut out from the media and the debates. Those organizations who host political debates should keep in mind that there ARE more than just two political parties out there, and they should be willing to open the debate up to include ALL political parties, not just the two dominant (and domineering) parties. And the media should consider providing free air time for ALL political parties involved in the campaign process, not just for the Democrats and Republicans; who could easily afford to purchase as much air time as they would ever want or need.

These suggestions, if enacted, could do much more than what simple campaign finance reform could ever provide. It would further open up the political arena and could very well bring more change than just how the two biggest political parties handle their finances. And isn’t that what we are looking for?

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