Monday, September 23, 1996

Week of 09/23/1996

The BIG LIE in Politics Revisited
Will third party candidates
REALLY have a chance against the 2-party monopoly?
- by David Matthews 2

A few months ago I wrote an article that was published in the Gainesville Times regarding what I call the "big lie" in politics, namely that there are only two choices for President in November. (Gainesville Times, 5/19/96 - You can now read it on my web site as well.) Now it seems that the big lie will be extended to activities that supposedly are designed to provide information about the candidates- namely the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Debates.

A bipartisan group called the Commission on Presidential Debates has made their decision as to who will be included in the forthcoming debates between the Democratic and Republican nominees. This group, comprising of both republicans and democrats, have already stated that they plan to limit who will be participating in these debates because of "the large number of declared candidates in any given presidential election." This group then proceeded to list a series of criteria that would help determine if a candidate would be worthy of being invited to the debates between the republican and democratic nominees. The operative word, of course, being "help determine."

This past week, that same Commission has decided that no third party is worthy to be included in the Presidential debates. This was indeed a shock to several key parties who rallied heavily to be included, including the Reform Party, the Libertarians, and the Greens.

But upon reading the criteria as given by the Commission I became painfully aware that they had no intention of allowing ANY third party to be included in the debates if either the Clinton/Gore or the Dole/Kemp campaigns did not want them there.

Bear in mind that the Commission on Presidential Debates is a bipartisan organization run by two men who are not only Washington lobbyists but also former chairmen of both the Democratic AND Republican Parties. They have a vested interest as members of that commission to make sure that their respective parties have the best chance of winning in November, which they can’t do if they allow independent parties equal footing in a nationally televised event such as the debates.

Both parties, as they stand today, operate under the common principle that THEY are the antidote to the other party. Democrats need to demonize Republicans so they can be seen as the only rational alternative to them. The same holds true for the Republicans. Both sides sleep well knowing that despite the mutual mud-slinging and vilifying that the voters would be forced to make a choice between the two parties. This political version of "Mutual Assured Destruction," however, only works as long as there are no strong alternatives to steal those dissatisfied votes away.

And that is the real threat here- that any third party, even one currently seen as "insignificant" by the two parties, can take precious votes away from them if their stance can be viewed as a credible one. The libertarians do, which is why pundits, politicians, and members of the media do their damnedest to ensure they are kept in the shadows as often as possible. Libertarians who visit the political newsgroups on the Internet are barraged by insults by both liberals and conservatives as being lunatics and idealistic dreamers simply because believe that things like liberty and freedom should be universal, not handed out in piecemeal like both parties often do. Those same groups then try to pander to the libertarians come election time.

If this so-called "unbiased" Commission actually intended to allow third party candidates a chance to speak at these debates, they would not have used standards they themselves admitted to being vague and non-binding. They would have used credible, concrete, and definitive standards, such as a percentage of seats a party holds in Congress, if a candidate was eligible for matching federal funds, or if their candidate was on the ballot in all 50 states. Measures that would be universally applied to all parties that would serve as a clear determination if a political party was indeed a serious party to contend with or just what they would call a "fringe organization."

Perhaps the most chilling truth both democrats and republicans refuse to accept is that such actions to stifle third party movements only serve to HELP the third parties, not hurt them.

With perhaps a handful of eccentric Texas billionaires, most people do not wake up one morning and say "Gee, I’m bored. How about we create a third political party and see how far we can get with it?" Independent parties are not created out of the ether. They are, instead, created out of a sense of abandonment by the two established parties on issues they feel should be important. In this election, more than ever, that feeling is paramount in the minds of many Americans. And it only aids the cause of those parties if it appears that the "Washington establishment" is so afraid of that movement that they would resort to their bag of political "dirty tricks" to shut them out.

A little over 200 years ago there was a quote uttered by a member of the "establishment" that would forever exemplify pious governing. It was uttered by Marie Antoinette in France - "Let them eat cake." She was beheaded for her troubles. If the political descendants living in Washington today wish to continue to shut out any kind of political opposition they had best pray the electorate has evolved beyond the desire to behead their tyrants.

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