Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Why there needs to be a viable third party instead of a "top two" system

Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune points to exactly the kind of jingoistic, sound-bite politics that has given the Ds and Rs a bad name. And it is exactly why we have to expand the field of political party options rather than muzzle the two fattest and ugliest ones with non-partisan election rules.

Setting aside the fact that muzzling the two biggest parties with non-partisan type rules has the collateral effect of making third parties an endangered species, muzzling the offenders won't change their behavior, and it chills the First Amendment besides.

The beauty and strength of the first amendment is in allowing everyone their 15 minutes of fame. Yes, that has its downside too, but on balance we are a stronger, richer, nation because for the most part people get to say what they think.

But what has happened over the last century is that the Ds and Rs have found arguably legal yet highly pernicious ways (thanks to an ignorant supreme court that never has to stand for election) to make sure that they are the first ones to the podium, and they get to stay there the longest. The labyrinthian and oppressive campaign finance rules are Exhibit A to this fact. Nobody in third parties has the time or resources even to understand them, let alone form 501s and 527s to end-run them.

And so we are left with the Apple Cup on a grander scale. The red team calls the blue team a bunch of fags. The blue team yells the red team coach is an idiot. And they get away with it because they are the only game in town. Little do they realize that the bleachers are emptying because the fans are disgusted.

What the voters didn't realize was that I-872 destroyed the game as well as the teams. We don't need a free-for-all. We need a new game, one where more teams can have at least a fighting chance to win. When the Mets came to New York the Yankees improved their W/L ratio by about 50 points.


Blogger Steve Rankin said...

I'm afraid the good citizens of Washington were spoiled by their 68-year history of being able to cross party lines in the first round of voting. Now they are grasping at the "top two," the only other system that moves the general election up to the first round.

By enabling the voter to choose among all the candidates in the preliminary round, the Top Two limits the voter to 2 choices in the final, deciding election. Simultaneously, it makes it nearly impossible for independents and small-party candidates to reach the final round.

If a small party's message is kept out of the final election, the party loses its main reason for existing.

Although political parties have no constitutional right to nominate candidates, they certainly deserve to be able to do so-- since that's their basic function. That's why the WA state Dems and GOP earlier this year held endorsement caucuses-conventions in preparation for possibly having the Top Two in use this fall.

Most of my relatives live in Louisiana, and "free-for-all" is definitely a good term to describe the LA/Top Two. (The LA system differs from the Top Two in that there is only a 2nd round when no one gets 50%-plus in the first round.) The parties have no way to officially nominate candidates, and everyone might just as well be an independent.

As long as government has the power to tax and regulate the hell out of us, individuals and businesses will always find a way to get around campaign-finance rules, no matter what "new and better plan" government comes up with. My view: Have no limits on campaign donations, and post all donations immediately on the Internet.

If the Louisiana/Top Two is such a great idea, why is it that only one state uses it?

5:26 PM  
Blogger Don Bangert said...

When I went to the polls a couple Tuesdays ago, I was all set to do my civic duty. I slipped the little "credit card" into the slot and, "Blam!" There it was. A message asking me to pick my party orientation. "Republican or Democrat?" I searched the screen for another option. "Republican or Democrat?" How about None of the above? Is there no choice for Libertarian? How about Abort, or Escape, or F12 or anything but those two options? Nope. I was sucked in and stuck. My only option was to pick one of the two offered to me.

Hesitantly, I reached out and tapped, "Republican". I truly was picking the better of two evils! The next screen popped up and asked me if I wanted to vote for John Koster for Snohomish County Council. There were no other options. I don't even recall seeing the option to do a "write-in" if I wanted. That was it. There was nothing else to vote on. At that point, the stupid machine should have just displayed the message, "Your party line has been voted. Take your card and get lost!"

When I got home, I asked my wife if she had remembered to vote on her way home. "No", was her reply. I then told her about my experience at the voting booth and told her that I wished I hadn't of bothered, either. It was, in my opinion, a big waste of time! "None of the above" should be an option at the voting booth. It sends the message, "I don't agree with your politics. In fact, I disagree with your political viewpoint so much, that I've taken the time to come down here so that I could cast a null vote against you."

I can imagine the totals as the ballot counters tally the votes where None of the Above is an option:

Republicans: 127 votes
Democrats: 136 votes
None of the Above: 10,231 votes

Would it make a mess of the elections? You bet! But, it would truly reflect the will of the people. After all, that's why we vote, isn't it? --The will of the people?

6:20 AM  

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