Friday, September 12, 2008

A third way of thinking about the presidency

Back in Feb. 2006, I began writing about what I affectionately called, Horserace 2008. Not necessarily original, it’s been how I’ve pegged my various presidential posts since.

From the early days of the race, when the two major party’s rosters were clogged with a combination of frontrunners, contenders, and wannabes for whom the race was more about vanity than any hope of being president (Joe Biden?), I’ve bounced back and forth between candidates, and even parties for that matter. I guess that’s what happens when you move from ideological hardliner, to more of a political pragmatist. The former will most likely call me wishy-washy, but I no longer want to employ pretzel logic to pick my president.

In January 2008, I posted an article titled, “Is Ron Paul for Real?” detailing the Ron Paul phenomenon. I wrote, “Running on a platform that seeks an immediate end to the war in Iraq (unlike other politicians, like John McCain, who indicates we might be there for another century), reestablish fiscal sanity (tied to the gold standard) and restore lost civil liberties to the American people, Paul is the true conservative. Instead, his rock-ribbed ideals find him ridiculed by the faux conservative blowhards, from Limbaugh, to O’Reilly.”

Paul brought a new focus to ideals that he has consistently championed as a Congressman from Texas, over his 20 year career in Washington. The Constitution has long been Paul’s guide. It appears that the only reason that most of his talking points were dismissed as a presidential candidate by most voters, and predictably, most of the media, is that our politics have long ago departed from passing any kind of constitutional scrutiny.

Back in January, I accurately predicted that the Republican Party, the party affiliation he ran under, would not select him as their candidate for president, although he was inordinately more qualified to wear the mantle of conservative than any other candidate in the Republican pack, including the eventual nominee, John McCain (with, or without its lipstick wearning VP).

Many of Paul’s followers, a hardy band of folks from all walks of American life, have continued to rally around their candidate even after he left the race. Anticipation ran high, as many eagerly were waiting for an important announcement from Mr.. Paul, scheduled for Wednesday. Paul was on the docket to speak at the National Press Club, and members of Paul Nation were hoping that their candidate might announce a third-party run, even though he has consistently disavowed doing so.

Rather than announce that he was in fact running, Paul instead used the opportunity to organize an event, under the umbrella of his newly formed Campaign for Liberty, urging voters to give consideration to third-party and independent candidates for president. Attending the event with Paul were Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin and independent candidate Ralph Nader. Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, who was invited and expected to attend, pulled a last minute disappearing act in order to put his own political fortunes first (like the Republican that he still is at heart), rather than support the third-party solidarity of the group.

Here are Paul’s opening remarks from Wednesday:

“The coverage of the presidential election is designed to be a grand distraction. This is not new, but this year, it’s more so than ever.

Pretending that a true difference exists between the two major candidates is a charade of great proportion. Many who help to perpetuate this myth are frequently unaware of what they are doing and believe that significant differences actually do exist. Indeed, on small points there is the appearance of a difference. The real issues, however, are buried in a barrage of miscellaneous nonsense and endless pontifications by robotic pundits hired to perpetuate the myth of a campaign of substance.

The truth is that our two-party system offers no real choice. The real goal of the campaign is to distract people from considering the real issues.”

Paul is correct. The two-party choice offered every four years is symbolic at best. The issues parsed are meant to deceive voters into thinking that it matters one iota whether you pull the lever for McCain, or Obama. All voters are doing is continuing to support corporately-controlled candidates. Instead, Paul’s genius, in deciding to gather a third party coalition representing the full political spectrum, from left to right, is offer voters clear choices. None of the candidates is going to win, and it would be naïve to think that their minimally financed campaigns can compete with the corporate war chests of the Republicrats and Demicans. However, here is the most compelling point, in my opinion.

Once more, Paul’s own words:

"The system we have today allows a President to be elected by as little as 32 of the American people, with half of those merely voting for the “lesser of two evils”. Therefore, as little as 16% actually vote for a president. No wonder when things go wrong, anger explodes. A recent poll shows that 60 of the American people are not happy with the two major candidates this year.

This system is driven by the conviction that only a major party candidate can win. Voters become convinced that any other vote is a “wasted” vote. It’s time for that conclusion to be challenged and to recognize that the only way not to waste one’s vote is to reject the two establishment candidates and join the majority, once called silent, and allow the voices of the people to be heard."

If even half of those disenfranchised 60 percenters pulled the lever November 4, for either McKinney, Nader, or Baldwin (or wrote in Mr. Paul’s name), then we’d have something to talk about on election night, as the political pundits would be chattering away about this “strange phenomenon” happening. Imagine the lemmings diverging, and deciding to forego another dive off the cliff?

After listening to Paul, it makes perfect sense to me.

For those still open-minded enough to consider a third way, let me recommend a great book, from 2004, A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, both editors at the progressive news site, Counterpunch .

I read this argument four years ago, and still pulled the lever for a corporate politician. This time, I’m saying “hell no.”

How 'bout you?

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