Two weeks ago, I wrote about the way our binary political system stifles critical thinking, public scrutiny, and true differences among candidates. Establishment candidates always campaign toward the center so as to attract the “undecided voter.” A week ago, I wrote a post in which I explained that—while a Social Democrat—I would be voting for Jill Stein (Green party) for president because the Green Party shares many of my political views and is much better organized than any of the socialist parties in the US. And, while I don’t think the Green Party will do very well in the national elections, they have the best chance of any third party (along with the Libertarians) of claiming 5% of the vote which translates into public financing for the 2016 presidential election.
My thesis is, and has been, that a robust third party would force the United States to do some serious public thinking, thus making our democracy more vibrant. Beyond the introduction of new ideas into public discourse, a robust third party would challenge the ability of the establishment parties to frame the way in which we talk about those ideas. So, in this post, I will introduce a few ways in which a robust Green Party would challenge the establishment.
If you watched the third presidential debate, you probably noticed that the candidates struggled mightily to distinguish themselves from each other. The only reason there was a foreign policy debate was because such a debate is traditional and because the parties used to have significant disagreements. Not anymore. Each candidate held to a number of common assumptions, the most prominent of which being that the United States has some role to play as the arbiter of freedom and justice to the world. Romney asserted that the “United States is the hope of the earth” while Obama noted that the “United States is the greatest nation on earth.”
This translates into the use of the United States’ military and economic might to impose American interests abroad. While there was some debate between the Governor and the President as to how this view might be realized, they shared the assumption that we should. A specific example of this is the view that we should blindly support Israel. The Green Party platform calls for the United States to suspend military aid to Israel until they recognize a Palestinian state and cease their illegal—apartheid like—military occupation of Palestine. The Green Party platform calls for the closure of all military bases that are not directly operative under a UN peacekeeping mandate. They also call for a halving of the military budget.
Aside from the unqualified endorsement of Israel, one of the most troubling aspects of the foreign policy debate was the unqualified endorsement of the use of drone strikes. The fact that the United States has the capability to execute anyone anywhere in the world without judicial oversight is an egregious violation of the checks on power that we, in a democracy, ought to love. What judge issued an arrest warrant, much less an execution order, for Anwar al-Awlaki or his sixteen-year-old son? They were both American citizens living in Yemen last year when they were assassinated by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States because they were suspected terrorists.
Aside from violations of civil liberties and misguided notions of American exceptionalism (which, by the way, the other large third party—the Libertarian Party—also robustly challenges), the establishment candidates take common cause in their shared belief that healthcare is something to be controlled by profit driven corporations. While the Affordable Care Act was a small step in the right direction, Obama and Romney both agree that insurance companies should be the one’s to provide healthcare. The regulations found in the Affordable Care Act are laudable, but they entrench massive insurance companies by providing them with government subsidies. In much the same way that the government under Obama has increased aid to college students while cutting costs by directly managing the federal loan program, so too the government should eliminate the middle-men entirely and directly provide healthcare. The Green Party platform calls for a universal, single-payer healthcare system. It calls for an actual overhaul of the system.
The issues I have indicated here are only a small number of ways a robust Green Party would challenge the establishment and force a true national debate. And while there are many others I could talk about (especially climate change, education, and election reform), these issues have served to demonstrate the importance of a diversity of voices in the national conversation. What if Jill Stein could actually debate Romney and Obama? What would happen? In the foreign policy debate, the two establishment candidates would actually have to defend assumptions they take for granted, and perhaps they would have to actually analyze those foreign policy positions which they have inherited. In the healthcare debate, Romney and Obama would no longer be able to pretend like a large gulf exists between them. In short, a spectrum of ideas would be presented rather than pretending that only a binary that somehow encompasses all viewpoints exists. Voters would have choices.
To conclude this whole series, I suppose I should say that I voted yesterday. I voted for a Green Party candidate when available. If no Green Party candidates were running in a particular race, I voted for the Libertarian because, out here, there is little discernible difference between Republican and Libertarian economic policy, but there is a massive gap as regards social policy, and I am much more in favor or Libertarian social policy than I am in favor of Republican social policy. In West Texas, it is actually fairly common for a local election to be contested by only a Libertarian and a Republican.
Despite my vote for her, I don’t actually think Jill Stein is qualified to be president. Her highest elected office is to a town council. My purpose in voting for her is not to get her into the Oval Office, because there is no way that will happen in this election. My purpose is to raise the profile of the Green party so that 2016 and 2020 and beyond can, perhaps, include a diversity of voices. Without that diversity, our democracy will continue to wither until we are no better than a single-party state like China.
Please go to the polls and vote. It’s important. Even with the control exercised by the establishment parties, it is still a beautiful thing that we have the right to choose our government. Let’s make sure we keep that right.