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on a mission to create a president
October 4, 2006 10:50 PM   Subscribe

The Third Party aims to "creat[e] a platform truly of and by the people." They have a PoliticWiki, a list of 38 other parties' web sites, as well as essays and commentary, but the Convention Floor is where the action is.
posted by owhydididoit (42 comments total)

 
Just started poking around the site, but I can't really trust a group whose mission is so vague. Isn't this just another political forum... this time with pretensions? Maybe I'll see more if I dig deeper.
posted by brundlefly at 11:01 PM on October 4, 2006


Yeah, that invitation page makes even less sense. Who'd they hire to write that stuff?

"The time is upon us; when building a new way of approaching the politics of a Presidential election every day counts."

Not a native English speaker, perhaps. Just say, "Presidential elections suck. We want something better, now."
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 11:13 PM on October 4, 2006


I can't really trust a group whose mission is so vague

Or, whose name is so... default value.
posted by fusinski at 11:25 PM on October 4, 2006


We Stand For Meh!
posted by Jimbob at 11:34 PM on October 4, 2006


brundlefly writes "but I can't really trust a group whose mission is so vague. "

I hear they're a National Social Democratic American Party, aimed at avenging the anti-social elements who have stabbed us in the back, and uniting America as One Country and One People under One Leader.
posted by orthogonality at 11:56 PM on October 4, 2006


No, man. Don't you get it? It's a community-generated, collaborative political paradigm based on... based on... uh...



I've got nothing. A little help?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:58 PM on October 4, 2006


brundlefly writes "I"

This is so fucking weird. I was just reading something else online that mentioned "brundlefly" and I didn't know what the fuck so I googled it and seeing the result thought "I don't like Cronenberg but I've always wanted to see that one" and I put the movie on my Netflix queue and then checked Metafilter, made a snarky comment, and then read the thread and what's the name of the first guy to post a comment? Shit, man. Synchronicity.

posted by mr_roboto at 12:05 AM on October 5, 2006


*cues Twilight Zone music*
*glowers at mr_roboto for not liking Cronenberg*
: )
posted by brundlefly at 12:44 AM on October 5, 2006


Only in America.. It's so tragic to have only two main parties, especially two that are even now so close on the political spectrum.

I live in a five main party system, with three others represented in Parliament. We'll never have significant groups unrepresented for any length of time.

Oh, the name is not just meh, it's incredibly unambitious!
posted by imperium at 1:29 AM on October 5, 2006


It's so tragic to have only two main parties

Maybe, but Scotland, with its five main parties, also isn't exactly bursting with spectacular leaders, is it? And other countries also have plenty o' parties to no apparent advantage. Russia, to name one admittedly awful example.

The tragedy is that the US is becoming a one-party (and therefore authoritarian) state. Please don't attract attention to any third US parties until the second US party tosses the first US party out on its ear. Until then, it's not party time.
posted by pracowity at 1:43 AM on October 5, 2006


Maybe, but Scotland, with its five main parties, also isn't exactly bursting with spectacular leaders, is it?

Who says it's all about the leaders? Isn't that part of the US's problem - too much power in one man? Modern democratic systems are based on the idea that we aim to reach consensus. And since every citizen can't go and sit in parliament and debate and vote on things, we send representatives to do it for us. Leaders don't really come into the equation - they're something imposed on top of it by the party system. And when you have one single leader who is able to veto things, and set the agenda, and create policy, one is left to wonder why we bother with congress / parliament at all.
posted by Jimbob at 2:33 AM on October 5, 2006


(I should add that the more ability you have to elect a representative who closely reflects your views, the healthier that democracy is. Being forced to choose between only two alternatives is only slightly better than being lumped with one choice. And the political decision making process is also more likely to be about division and power retention, than debate and compromise. When you have 10 parties represented, and they all have to form coalitions, and compromise, and deal with each other, things are much more interesting, and much healthier.)
posted by Jimbob at 2:37 AM on October 5, 2006


I do agree with Jimbob, especially the second point. However:

Maybe, but Scotland, with its five main parties, also isn't exactly bursting with spectacular leaders, is it?

Spectacular leaders can be advantageous (a la JFK), but are extremely rare everywhere. It's also a consideration purely of appearance: Blair is a spectacular leader, or was when he started, and has merely trimmed at the Thatcherite settlement, whereas Clem Attlee was utterly unspectacular and achieved a lot.
posted by imperium at 3:26 AM on October 5, 2006


Not viable; hence not interesting. Just oppose Diebold & help switch local elections to ranked ballot systems, like IRV, STV, Schulz, etc. After many localities have switched ranked ballots, people will switch federal ellections to ranked ballots too.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:59 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


In the US, third parties just act a spoilers due to our winner take all plurality system. Any success that they have just ends up taking support away from the party that they are most closely aligned with ideologically. Unless there is a constitutional change in the way that government and voting is setup here (maybe run-off elections), I'll never cast a vote for a third party candidate. Just look at Senator Santorum's support for the Green party in Pennsyvania, he knows that they are just taking votes from the Democrats.
posted by octothorpe at 4:51 AM on October 5, 2006


Another third party that can't seem to get traction. And the Unities have been around for a while. There will only be two major parties in the US as long as winning elections is about how much money you can raise.
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:16 AM on October 5, 2006


It really matters very little how many parties there might be in America. Till such time as the very potent lobby groups are taken out of the political structure, they will continue to get what they want and prevent what they dislike from getting passed.
posted by Postroad at 5:49 AM on October 5, 2006


In the US, third parties just act a spoilers due to our winner take all plurality system.

There will only be two major parties in the US as long as winning elections is about how much money you can raise.

Till such time as the very potent lobby groups are taken out of the political structure, they will continue to get what they want and prevent what they dislike from getting passed.

So it sounds like we've got a platformL Deep election reform, lobbying reform, and election finance reform.

To me, this looks like the start of a good idea whose time has not yet come. Ram-rod the substantive election and other systematic reforms through, and then it's time to start building third, fourth and fifth parties.

Jimbob pretty much nails it, btw.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:33 AM on October 5, 2006


Part of the problem is due to us having a single president rather than a prime minister. You can win the presidency just by coming in first, even if there is an opposing coalition (like Democrat + Green party) that is larger. Whereas in a PM system, the coalition would decide the PM, and that gives the third party power.

How do other countries with a powerful president deal with this?
posted by smackfu at 6:43 AM on October 5, 2006


Maybe, but Scotland, with its five main parties, also isn't exactly bursting with spectacular leaders, is it?

does scotland need spectacular leaders right now? ... i'm sure they'd be happy with competent ones

so would we in the us
posted by pyramid termite at 6:47 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


I couldn't find any inference to their mission, either, other than "we're going to be a third party!"

People might complain about the two parties, but the fact is, the majority of Americans fall in the two parties, and most of them towards the center in both. There really is no need for other parties in America, as they would simply represent minorities and fall into either the Republican or Democratic camp as is. (I.E. extreme left would align with Dems, extreme right with Repubs).

At best, America could support three parties, a leftist, a rightist, and a centrist. Thats pretty much it. Both parties have excelled too long at absorbing any political movements, such as the Socialists or Populists, to leave any room for independent movements.
posted by Atreides at 6:48 AM on October 5, 2006


There really is no need for other parties in America, as they would simply represent minorities and fall into either the Republican or Democratic camp as is.

Why should I believe this Atreides? Because you say so? Please give me some kind of argument to support this claim, because it runs exactly counter to my own experience. In my own experience, lots of very real substantive differences in political perspective just get glossed over or dulled down to accommodate the two-party nature of American politics. As a result, only a very narrow range of political issues ever even make it into the public discourse.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:03 AM on October 5, 2006


I kind of hate to be too critical of this concept, because the concept, I think, is a really good one--it's the execution that leaves a little to be desired, in this case. I agree with the previous comments about the, erm, lukewarm quality of the content here.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:42 AM on October 5, 2006


In my own experience, lots of very real substantive differences in political perspective just get glossed over or dulled down to accommodate the two-party nature of American politics. As a result, only a very narrow range of political issues ever even make it into the public discourse.

Likewise, in my experience, I've seen very few instances where someone has a political perspective that constitutes the required need of a third party, and in those cases, from my perspective, they are most certainly in a distinct minority.

The truth of the matter is, there are enough Americans who are sick of the two parties, and thus, decide they're sick of the two party system. When in fact in the mainstream American political perspective, the presence of third parties is essentially a minority of individuals who have grasped upon one signal cause (environment, government intrusion, etc), and the history of American politics has virtually been all about one party with many causes to represent.

Every time any one party rises under a specific cause, it becomes absorbed because thats what Americans are used to. Why vote for the guy who says "save the environment" and nothing else, when you can vote for the guy who will save the environment, plus argue for higher wages, immigration reform, or etc..etc. And, as a matter of history, these single cause parties have virtually always given in to the power of one of the two parties to take action on said cause. "If you give us your votes, and join us, we'll make sure to take action on your cause." "Sure!"

Basically, I don't need to argue my case. I can point to the historical perspective where a third or fourth party presence is basically an anomaly, and unless there is a radical change in the American political mindset and the way Americans approach governance, there will never be a strong third party thats anything but a niche minority.
posted by Atreides at 8:55 AM on October 5, 2006


Basically, I don't need to argue my case. I can point to the historical perspective where a third or fourth party presence is basically an anomaly, and unless there is a radical change in the American political mindset and the way Americans approach governance, there will never be a strong third party thats anything but a niche minority.

As long as your point is limited to the American political landscape, then I think it's fair to grant your points--with the following qualifications: I would argue that America's historical two-party orientation is a contributing cause of the dearth of a healthy plurality of political perspectives in America. We have an impoverished political lexicon (and many hopelessly vague political categories and concepts) precisely because of how narrowly we frame our conception of the range of possible political positions and orientations. As a result, we often find ourselves hemmed in without politically viable options to address many more complex contemporary problems. Or more simply, the fact that we've historically had a two-party orientation causes us to oversimplify the range of possible political positions and viewpoints, committing our political system to an essentially inflexible character that's finally now starting to bite us in the ass.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:16 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]



In the US, third parties just act a spoilers due to our winner take all plurality system.

This is exactly right, and too many intelligent people in the United States don't have their heads wrapped around this.

The US system of representative democracy is extremely unusual. The Constitution dictates that members of the House and Senate be elected in single-member districts (the state being the "district" for senators). That is, there's only one winner in each election.

How many parties are likely to compete in such a system? The number is exactly two.

One party can dominate and win most or all of the races in an election, sure -- but that would immediately create an imperative incentive for the other party/parties to move closer to the winning party's platform in order to pull voters away. Back to two parties next time.

The system is unstable with one party; it's also unstable with more than two parties. Remember, in the US there isn't an apportionment of legislative seats by party or slate after the vote -- the winner of the plurality of the votes in each race "takes all". If there's more than three parties, the weakest of the three will almost always "take nothing" and therefore never offers more than an ephemeral promise of actual representation to its supporters. Voters tend to notice this and recommit to one of the two parties with an actual chance at victory.

At best, third parties in the United States exist to scare the two major parties into taking their issues seriously (consider George Wallace's American Independent bid for the president in 1968, which helped push the Republican party to the racist right). They may also dream of knocking off one of the major parties and taking its place (which happened once -- but then it's still a two-party system, isn't it?).

But what they mostly do is nullify the efforts of politically passionate people who don't understand how constitutionally committed our system is to two parties. Who hasn't been attracted to the third party idea in the United States? I am at every election. Then I remember the constitutional "math" and recommit to getting my views heard in the major party of my choice.

Politics isn't religion -- it's not a sin to compromise. If you actually want to achieve results, commit to the major party of your choice and work with others to amplify your voice there. Absent a better constitution, third parties are a great place to feel pure and indignant, but they're a tragic waste of time otherwise.
posted by gum at 12:19 PM on October 5, 2006


The notion that third parties can't win so you should vote for the lesser of two evils is itself fundamentally broken. There is something that the people who trot out the old line in favor of the Democrats forget: voting for Democrats does not work. Democrats are every bit as venal, as greedy, and as much corporate shills as the Republicans are; they just sell it in a softer way. The dominant current in the Democrats lately is to run as far rightward as they possibly can; what "value" has not been sacrificed in the name of more votes? What happens when the problem is not just that you don't like either party, but that neither party represents you in the slightest degree? The things that are wrong in the US have deep causes, and neither of the two major parties will ever start to address them.

Voting for a third party is not a question of not being willing to compromise; it's a question of the fact that the system is completely broken and perpetuating it is a crime.
posted by graymouser at 12:47 PM on October 5, 2006


I was going to create a third party that believed in everything I did with regards to privacy, foreign policy, taxation, etc. Then I realized I'd be the only member.

Gum writes: Politics isn't religion -- it's not a sin to compromise. If you actually want to achieve results, commit to the major party of your choice and work with others to amplify your voice there. Absent a better constitution, third parties are a great place to feel pure and indignant, but they're a tragic waste of time otherwise.

That sounds about right to me. There are rare times in American politics when third parties can make a big difference (Teddy Roosevelt, Ross Perot). The 2006 and 2008 election cycles aren't one of them, and I'm cynical enough to think that Republican money machines are going to pump cash into fake "third party" efforts if only to dampen the hurt Republicans deserve after six years of incompetence and corruption. Or you could just send money to this asshole.
posted by bardic at 12:48 PM on October 5, 2006


(And if I sound too harsh on third parties, let me split the difference and say that they're a great thing on the local level -- have to start somewhere. As for Democrats being as bad as Republicans, well, OK, the potential for venality is the same, but in my three decades of life, I've only voted for one succesful POTUS, and he was a Dem. Was he a sleaze? Yes. Was he egotistical? Yes (although he managed to be so without a flightsuit on). Did he keep the country safe? Mostly. Was he a good steward of the economy? Yes, and I hate to think that we'll probably never see an economic surplus again in our lifetimes. Do I worship at the altar of Bill Clinton? Not at all. He was deeply flawed, but he and the people around him were competent, and they made decisions out of a mixture of what was good for them and what was good for the US -- the self-interest tended to coincide with the national intrerest. Under Bush and Cheney? Not at all -- these guys are purely in it for power and political gain. All the flag waving and "God Bless America" stuff is so much window dressing. So this is a long way of saying, Dems and Reps are both corrupt, but look at simple facts -- Dem POTUS good, Republican POTUS, disastrous, at least over the past two decades. Could the next Dem POTUS be as scandalous and incompetent as Bush? Yeah, but it would take a lot of work if you think about it.)
posted by bardic at 12:56 PM on October 5, 2006


bardic:

If Bill Clinton is the best argument you've got for the Democrats, then this country is fucked. Clinton was an opportunist and scoundrel of the lowest rank who governed consistently for the corporate interest and was well liked because his wars were smaller, the major terrorist attacks were not as shocking and wages were relatively higher because the economy was flush. The delusion that a Gore White House would've avoided war or economic difficulty or even some of the modern civil liberties intrusions is just plain wrong; the slowdown was underway by the time Bush was inaugurated, Gore would've had a more aggressive foreign policy, and one of the main pieces of repressive legislation in this country is the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which was passed under Clinton. The problem isn't that Bush is worse than Clinton, though he is, it's got more to do with the fact that now is when the problems are hitting people in the face. Clinton got out in time.
posted by graymouser at 1:22 PM on October 5, 2006


The notion that third parties can't win so you should vote for the lesser of two evils is itself fundamentally broken.

It's not a notion -- it's a fact, caused by a fundamentally broken constitution that structures American electoral politics to stabilize at two parties. Now, decide what you're going to do with your political goals until the constitution gets repaired. The "lesser of two evils" party of your choice has people in it who share your passions and don't accept third-party exile. If you add your voice to theirs, that sound gets louder.

I would love to vote in a multiparty system in the United States, but it isn't going to happen unless we rewrite the Constitution. What are your priorities? Are they important enough to bring to the real world of politics in this country? Or is purity your priority? (Don't knock the latter -- it'll save you a lot of effort!)
posted by gum at 1:37 PM on October 5, 2006


gum--

What are my priorities? Basically, social revolution from below. But that's not going to happen tomorrow, so you start with what you've got -- and opposing the two main parties of the system as it stands is part of that. Frankly, most people understand that the system is broken, but for them to do anything about it would be revolutionary. Consider the last time the two party system was broken -- it was the Civil War, which in other terms was nothing less than a revolution. Change is not going to come easy, and when it does it sure as hell won't be because people voted for the Democrats.
posted by graymouser at 1:52 PM on October 5, 2006


Maybe not best, but it's a pretty good one. Like gum said, politics shouldn't be a religion -- it's about compromise, and choosing between the lesser of evils.

For a person my age, 1992-2000 were pretty good years. For a lot of people they were.

Do I jump out of bed with joy at the prospect of Dems taking Congress in November and perhaps getting the White House in 2008? Not at all. But it couldn't be worse, could it? I think it's dumb for Democrats to run away from Clinton's legacy/blowjob a la Gore -- it cost him 2000 IMO. As far as I'm concerned, third-party efforts are just a distraction from the current Republican scandals and incompetence. Maybe once we've got divided government again (generally a good thing, since the politicians have to work together) we can talk "Unity Party" panaceas. Until then, they're nothing but an opportunity for Joe Lieberman to be a raging hypocrite.
posted by bardic at 1:53 PM on October 5, 2006


Graymouser: "Social revolution from below" is a process, not a goal. Unless you really mean that you just want electoral politics to break and be replaced by "revolution from below" of any description. I doubt it, because then all parties (second, third, or otherwise) would be out of the question for you.

If you find it impossible to work within the coalition party proximate to you, you're not alone. But if you're on my side, I wish you'd try. The only way to be pure and righteous in American politics is not to engage in politics at all -- or to pour your energies into a third party movement, which is practically the same thing.
posted by gum at 2:25 PM on October 5, 2006


At best, third parties in the United States exist to scare the two major parties into taking their issues seriously (consider George Wallace's American Independent bid for the president in 1968, which helped push the Republican party to the racist right). They may also dream of knocking off one of the major parties and taking its place (which happened once -- but then it's still a two-party system, isn't it?).

both of those goals are justifiable and in our current situation, achievable and necessary

as you've just pointed out, it actually worked for the right within recent memory ... it can work for the left, too
posted by pyramid termite at 2:58 PM on October 5, 2006


Or it can backfire a la Nader in 2000.

(Nader had every right to run. But don't tell me it shifted the Dems to the left -- it completely made them turn tail and run hard right as possible, to wit, Hillary Clinton.)
posted by bardic at 3:04 PM on October 5, 2006


It's not a notion -- it's a fact, caused by a fundamentally broken constitution that structures American electoral politics to stabilize at two parties. Now, decide what you're going to do with your political goals until the constitution gets repaired.

I think I reluctantly agree with this. As a short term goal, there's no option other than to work within the two-party system--alternatively, you could revolt, but that kind of thing tends to get ugly fast, and is always pretty much a crap shoot in terms of who ends up grabbing power at the end of the day, especially with so many competing interests involved. However, it's essential that we apply persistent and forceful political pressure to change what's broken about our democratic system (i.e. put on lots of pressure in favor of deep systemic reforms that promote the emergence and meaningful participation of more political parties in the our political process). In the meantime, let's focus on what's currently possible within the (admittedly) broken system that we have. Unless you plan to start plotting revolutionary action yourself (which, in my opinion, would be a risky proposition at best), you'd better vote, or else you're only fooling yourself if you think you're taking any kind of meaningful political action at all, because the bad guys don't care and very likely prefer that you don't vote.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:13 PM on October 5, 2006


Pyramid Termite: Compare what the American Right articulated as a third party movement in 1968 -- a little, but not much -- to what it achieved when it committed itself to gaining control of the Republican party.
posted by gum at 3:42 PM on October 5, 2006


but, gum, ask yourself if they would have been able to do that if they hadn't demonstrated to the republican leadership that they had a significant amount of votes behind that 3rd party ... enough to make the difference
posted by pyramid termite at 4:11 PM on October 5, 2006


PT: Sure, but was that their goal? To be fair, I think Wallace's American Independent party was a different right wing (racists committed to rolling back civil rights and desegregation) than the right wing that was already working to gain control of the Republican party.

The point is, why choose to marginalize yourself? Why muster enough votes to "make a difference" outside the operative party when the effort would be exponentially more powerful from within?

Can you imagine what a disaster it would have been if the Civil Rights movement had chosen to be satisfied with such a path, just so they wouldn't have to rub shoulders with the southern segregationists in the Democratic party?
posted by gum at 4:24 PM on October 5, 2006


The point is, why choose to marginalize yourself?

it's not always a choice ... there is no major party that has taken a real stance against the iraq war ... there is no major party that has taken a consistent stance against bush's encroachments of our civil liberties ... there is no major party that has stood up and said that it stands for an unambigious single payer health care system ... there is no major party that has *truthfully* stood against corporate corruption of our political system

why should we vote for a party that will not stand up, not just for what we believe in, but what we need as a country?

i didn't marginalize myself, the democratics chose to marginalize me ... and millions of working class americans like me

we're getting a raw deal in this country and it's not being addressed by either party

and as far as the wallace democrats being different than the reagan republicans is concerned, you're wrong, at least where the north is concerned ... the aip in my neck of the woods moved over to reagan's side in the late 70s ... there really is a continuity there
posted by pyramid termite at 5:01 PM on October 5, 2006


Wow! Lively discussion.

Although I agree that the overall mission is vague (and corny!), I think the rest of the mission is plenty specific. The organization clearly believes in the viability of a third party, which is apparently debatable. If you choose to agree with their premise, then their five mission objectives entail clear, specific objectives.

I joined right after I posted here, and have been reading various "platform planks," such as campaign and election reform (I like it) and defense and treaties (not so much). Although I haven't yet, I can add my voice directly to the fray. Obviously, something I enjoy.
posted by owhydididoit at 8:50 PM on October 5, 2006


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