Call me cranky, but, there is nothing wrong with American or Californian government that having three or four political parties, instead of just the same old two, wouldn’t fix. I have followed for too many hours the incessant wrangling in California’s legislature over the ever-elusive, balanced budget and the more recent Katzenjammer Kids-style slapstick battles over whether Obama’s bill is really ‘stimulus,’ whatever that actually means, or just plain old pork, the other white meat. We could stop this inefficient, and no longer amusing, bickering in the face of a tidal wave of trouble if we just had a third, and even a fourth, viable political party to balance off the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum nonsense we constantly slide back into, regardless of whether we vote for change or more of the same. It’s the too long missing element in American politics.
Easier said than done, you say – no kidding, but lots of things have happened in this still new century that we all thought either couldn’t happen or were at least at long, long odds. Let’s see – we were savagely attacked in the continental US on 9-11-01 for the first time since 1812; we watched a major American city, New Orleans, drown over a surreal holiday weekend, live on network and cable TV with slicker-clad reporters blowing in the wind; we just elected an African-American President; we’ve seen incredible economic highs (2003-2006) followed mind-bendingly fast by unbelievable lows since last Summer with a 40% plus meltdown of the Dow and a raging foreclosure epidemic swallowing whole sections of our country; we witness the gradual grinding to a halt with unpaid furloughs for California’s state apparatus being buried under a $42 Billion deficit, and; yes, even Pirates have made a big 21st Century comeback (and you thought they were just in Disney movies!) both real ones in ships off Somalia, snaring huge tankers and Ukranian ships full of heavy equipment, and on Wall Street and Park Avenue (featuring Bernie M and the BailOut Bonus boys). So, why not some more viable political parties both nationally and here in California?
I fell in love with the Libertarians years ago when I first came across and read their platform, divorced from any particular candidate, and found to my surprise that I agreed with 95% of their principles – I have since tried this with friends without telling them it was the Libertarian party platform. The only trouble is that they never run any candidates whom I have found to be even remotely appealing. Try it out some time – http://www.lp.org/platform . C’mon, do you seriously disagree with a statement like: “We defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power” – Where do I sign?
We’ve got our Blue Dog Democrats, some of whom voted along with House Republicans against Obama’s Stimulus Bill, and our socially liberal, but, of course, fiscally conservative, Republicans, (and a crew of them who just left national office who were anything but fiscally conservative) and we’ve got Reagan democrats and then Republicans like General Powell, who voted for Obama’s change-focused Democrats – so why can’t we just go all the way with this and pump up into real viability another party or two to balance off the two we have who have both gotten perhaps a bit too comfortable in their perpetual tug of war and playing tiresome roles pitted against each other?
Were we so traumatized by TR’s “Bullmoose Party,” actually the Progressive Party, formed in 1912 when TR angrily pulled his delegates after Taft snared the Republican party nomination at that raucous convention, that we have waited almost 100 years to really, convincingly try it again? (OK, we had those pesky Dixiecrats back in the 40’s and John Anderson (1980) and then Ross Perot 1992, 1996)). The Progressives even had a catchy party platform that included such Oldies, But Goodies as: “”To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.” (1912 Progressive Party Platform) – now, can’t you just hear the Cable TV Talking Heads grilling the new third party chairman on this kind of thing? Has it really been 97 years?
Even though they flamed out on the national level after TR lost in 1912, the Progressives took a third of the seats in the Washington state legislature a few years later and periodically popped up again and again later in the 20th century. In fact, in the 19-teens, Progressives held many offices in many states, not the least of which was, of course, California’s Governor Hiram Warren Johnson (1911-17) and Lieut. Gov. John Morton Eshleman (1915-17), and Congressmen (they were all men, back then) from states including New York, Illinois, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Louisiana.
Best of all, the Vermont Progressive Party is alive and well – and their symbol is even a white moose in profile, huge antlers prominent, on a red campaign button.
Let’s give a real message to low-flying and low-polling legislators everywhere – the party’s over! It is not written in the US or California Constitutions, or anywhere else for that matter, that we are only limited in our choices of political party to the tiresome elephant or the equally tiresome donkey – other animals, including Bullmooses, other parties, including some that might actually get something done for a change, are all possible. Before you say: impossible, cute – but totally a fantasy – go back and re-read the second paragraph of this article – if, back in 1999, I had asked you about when you thought that these things might actually happen, you would have laughed, or at least smiled.