Review: Spoiling for a Fight–Third-Party Politics in America

5 Star, Democracy, Politics

SpoilingBeyond Five Stars–a Foundation Stone for Third Party Bid in 2008, May 3, 2008

Micah L. Sifry

I am not giving up on fielding a third-party team in 2008. All three of those running are part of the two party organized crime spoils system, and to mock 41, “this will not stand.”

This book is beyond five stars for its relevance, timeliness, and detail. It has gripped me all morning, and the level of detail including specific names, is phenomenal.

Although the author does not cover the 27 secessionist movements (but does cover the Vermont Progressive Party) and I could find no mention of the The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, I am totally impressed by the structure, the discipline, the detail. I started with the index and that alone persuaded me this was a phenomenal book worthy of every voter’s attention.

The book was published in 2003, to early for the author to be following Reuniting America and its transpartisaship meme, or the World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility (WISER) described in Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World but I can say with certainty that this author, who he knows and what he knows, is an essential contributor to appreciative inquiry and deliberative democracy.

I have a number of notes, and unlike many books, there is a lot in here that I simply did not know (I did not pay much attention in classes until I earned my MPA because it mattered).

+ Abe Lincoln was a third party candidate for president. The author is well-spo0ken and compelling in condemning the Supreme Court for several decisions that institutionalize the two-party spoils system, both within the states where Hawaii was allowed to ban write-in votes, in other states where the states are allowed to exclude all third parties from all debates

+ Although the author does not provide a policy framework, there is a great deal of compelling detail about how Jesse Ventura combined fiscal conservative and social liberal values in a centrist independent common sense platform that attracted the votes of the working class (the author notes that this class is bigger than most imagine, while the middle class is now smaller than most imagine).

+ Although I have read Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me this book is in many ways better on policy details and personalities, and an ideal companions to everything written by Jesse Ventura, by Ron Paul (e.g. The Revolution: A Manifesto). I also recommend Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It) and The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country.

+ Four constituencies elected Jesse Ventura: women, moderate Republicans, blue collar suburbanites, and alienated 20-30 somethings. To this the author adds “unlikely voters” and says the polls always miss them but they make the difference for third party or independent candidates and are twice as likely to branch off from either of the two criminal parties. [I won’t belabor this latter point, just see Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It.

+ The author teaches us that Americans certainly do want more choice (as well as honesty in politics) but third parties have a way to go.

+ 9-11 did not change the fundamentals, but did end public complacency and did start public engagement.

+ This book is especially strong and useful on why Ralph Nader won and why Ralph Nader did not undermine Al Gore, it was actually the other way around. Crashing the Party: Taking on the Corporate Government in an Age of Surrender is still a must read, but this author has given us a more concise and able ennumeration of all the reasons Gore lost, and he ends that section toward the end of the book by pointing out that Pat Buchanan took more states and more votes away from Bush 43 than Nader did from Gore.

+ Across the book the author outlines how states are deliberately disenfranchising all who would seek to run for office or vote as independents, but toward the end of the book he points out how Greens are winning half the elections they go for at the local level in some states.

+ I am personally inspired by this book to believe that on the 4th of July we need a third party transpartisan team with a balanced budget that also demands Electoral Reform prior to November 2008. We cannot led any of the three presidential contenders get away with the myth that this election means anything at all without debates open to all third party candidates, and voting on week-ends or holidays with instant run-offs to re-enfranchise the The Working Poor: Invisible in America.

+ The author enrages with his calm discussion of how voter registration is rigged to disenfranchise the working poor, and later in the book he observes that the true schism in America is between top and bottom, not left and right. See also The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back.

+ This book is a mother lode of useful data in a coherent structure. My notes cannot do it justice.

+ On a positive note, while the book ends by saying third parties have a long way to go, the author notes across the book that the two-party spoils system is self-destructing and reform is largely inevitable. I agree.

+ We learn that Ralph Nader and Jesse Ventura are both of the view that any third party must attract people who can “raise hours, not just money.” Their logic is interesting, but with all the billionaires out there, and with Michael Bloomberg now strangely silent, I have to wonder if he has not been sidelined by the Trilateral Commission and the Councils on Foreign Relations in New York and Chicago, who now own Senator Obama lock, stock, and barrel (see Obama – The Postmodern Coup: Making of a Manchurian Candidate. He is an engaged young man of promise, but if he cannot lead conversations that matter and inspire citizen wisdom councils instead of listening to the Dr. Strangeloves (Bzezinski) and acolytes, then he is not worthy of governing and will be a repeat of Jimmy Carter, a gerbil on a wheel.

+ This book inspires me to think that a meme can be created between the League of Women Voters and WISER, “Our Deal or No Deal.” It should be possible to restore the League of Women Voters at every level, especially if we can finance legal challenges to every corporate donation to any entity that refuses to respect the need for transpartisanship and open source politics.

+ The author does a super job on how Ross Perot self-destructed and then Pat Buchanan more or less hosed the Reform Party into oblivion (after first wiping out their treasury to pay old debts, something we learn not from this author, but in Jesse Ventura’s book.

+ Greens are not going to go away. I recommend everyone look for Paul Ray’s “New Political Compass,” but there are green values that I do believe will carry the day within the decade:

– Ecological wisdom
– Personal and social responsibility
– Grass-roots democracy
– Nonviolence
– Respect for diversity
– Postpatriarchal values
– Decontralization (some would call this home rule, state and local officials are having to ignore federal laws paid for by special interests that specify CEILINGS on state and local standards instead of floors)
– Community economics (I am also very excited by the Interra Project for community credit cards, and the emergence of open money and no money economies)
– Global responsibility
– Future focus (what the Native Americans would call Seventh Generation thinking, a concept captured very well in Stewart Brand’s Clock Of The Long Now: Time And Responsibility: The Ideas Behind The World’s Slowest Computer.

+ I am completely blown away by the author’s concise accounting of how the US Supreme Court has legitimized state exclusion of third parties. That is totally unacceptable and yet another reason for term limits on the Supremes.

+ The book ends with an overview of third parties (117 of them listed in the Encyclopedia of Third Parties in America, which is grotesquely overpriced but probably a useful candidate for a pass around shared purchase.

+ The bottom line in this book is that four national parties are viable: Green, Libertarian, the New Party and the Labor Party. The book was written too soon to see Reuniting America (110 million strong) and the Bloomberg phenomenon in New York which I note with concern may have been squelched by bigger multi-billionaires who want the two party system to remain “as is.” None of the three candidates in 2008 are true reformers, my vote right now is for Jesse Ventura with The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation’s Most Ordinary Citizen as Vice President and Tom Atlee and Jim Rough and Paul Hawken and Juanita Brown and many others leading a national Wisdom Council at every level on the ten high-level threats to humanity and the twelve policies from Agriculture to Water that must be harmonized. I will be blunt: the “advisors” are disconnected from reality and vastly more dangeous to our future than any common sense appreciative open policy process might be.

+ The author concludes that Minnesota’s Independence Party, Vermont’s Progressive Party, and New York’s Working Families Party are models that can inform any emergent national campaign.