Third Parties and social change in America
With the presidential election just around the corner the time has come to take a political stand. It is a stand for the things the Republican and Democrat nominees for the Presidency of the United States refuse to discuss and remedy, such as campaign finance reform and lowering the influence of certain big business tycoons.
Why are we citizens not given the chance to hear all the candidates? Only the two big parties get front page coverage; time on the evening TV news; the national "debates. " For the future of democracy in America, all parties should be heard.
I agree with those who say third parties help our democracy. History tells us that third parties have succeeded in making social changes which were good for the people.
In the last century, when the slavery issue came to a head, the Republicans (then called the Whig Party) and Democrats were challenged by the Equal Rights Party. They became an alternative to the two dominate parties. The Equal Rights Party did not win any elections but the issues they raised were taken seriously and laws on banking and monopolies were enacted for the first time, thanks to the pressure they put on the two big parties.
Some anti-slavery factions were first called the Liberal Party and the Barnburners. They joined with another party, The Free Soil Party, that advocated an end to admitting slave states into the Union. They were strong enough to cause the two major parties to adopt their platform issues.
The Know-Nothing Party came on the scene and were an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, and anti-slavery faction. Because of them the Republican Party revived and came out against the slavery question.
The Populist Movement came on after the Civil War. This was a coalition of farmers and labor. They were able to force the major parties into some national reforms -- such as production of silver coins; urged the issue of more paper money; and sought to nationalize the railroads. They also made popular the eight hour work day. None of these reforms came from the major parties.
In 1901 the Socialist Party of America was the third party alternative to the Republicans and Democrats. They opposed low pay to workers, job discrimination against immigrants and African-Americans, and the physical abuse of workers by management. Like it or not, most of our present child labor laws and job safety regulations came from this Socialist Party.
Mention must be made of the Bull Moose Party who felt women should have the right to vote among other things. Neither major party felt that way!
Today among the third parties being ignored are the Libertarians, the splintered Perot Reform Party and the Green Party. These parties, especially Ralph Nader of the Green Party, are raising questions that should get more notice. Such as reform campaign finance reform. Curtail the power and influence of big business. They were ignored during the recent national debates.
The third parties are following in a long tradition that tries to keep politicians honest and the common people lifted rather than just have their pocketbook lifted.
I am not of the opinion that a vote for the Green Party's presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, will be the "spoiler" vote the two-party pundits say it will -- at least not in Texas and other states where there is no chance of a split vote. Even if Bush wins Texas by only one popular vote, he gets all the state's electoral votes. The president is elected, not so much by the people, but by each state's electoral votes.
Some of the few things the Democrats and the Republicans have agreed on is (1) Only Gore and Bush was heard in the "debates." (2) and they are in cahoots to not rock the boat on campaign finance reform. (3) No specifics on education, medical and health, just "trust me" they say.
A third party can help clean house. Isn't it time to clean house like our ancestors did, create a viable alternative party? Otherwise, we the people, will never get the whole story and bureaucrats and their lobbyists will help coming generations lose the democracy we cherish so much.
--------- November 3, 2000Previous Menu Next