There has been a second article that I recently read in the LA Times that speaks to the electorate, and in this case, the electorate in California. More exactly, the article is about the Political Parties in California. The title of the article is "California GOP sinking into third-party status", but after reading the article, it says more about the direction the electorate, and therefor, the direction that the politicians are going in.
The article provides some telling statistics in the decline of GOP's share of the electorate in California, which has fallen from 37% to 30.2%, or a decline of almost 18.5%. Now this should not be seen as a score or the Democrats, they too have seen their ranks shrink, but not as dramatically, dropping from 47.1% down to 43.4%, which is a decline of 7.86%. Where the statistics do get interesting is where the electorate is going, and in this case, they are preferring to list with no party preference. The article states, "More than one-fifth of registered voters, 21.3%, are listed with no party preference, according to the Secretary of State. That's double the 10.7% in 1996 and more than quadruple the 5% in 1972."
One of the main subjects in the article is Bruce McPherson, 68, who is a former Republican and California secretary of state, as well as a self proclaimed centrist legislator. McPherson is currently running as a candidate for the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, and has re-registered as an independent - "no party preference." McPherson presents his reasoning this way, "I walk precincts door to door and people tell me they're looking for an independent voice,… They see partisan politics as paralyzing the governing process. They see no movement or communication. They're frustrated and fed up."
Mr McPhearson is making the point that I have stressed recently, that the two main parties are slowly making themselves irrelevant to the voters. There is the belief amongst many that we have a "Two Party System" but in reality, the only ones pushing that notion is the two largest parties. The Constitution does not speak to the formation of, or the need for political parties. It was written with the needs and possible conf*licts between the various states, and not the needs or possible con*flicts of political parties, which are no more than special interest groups. When the Constitution was written, there weren't political parties, but soon after the Federal Government started to operate, they presented themselves in the form of the Federalist Party, and the Democratic-Republican Party (today's modern day Democratic Party), as well as a number of minor, lesser known parties. President Washington did not formally belong to a party, but aligned himself with the Federalist Party.
For a long period of our history, the system was known as the 2nd party system, with one dominate party, and a 2nd, opposition party, which at first was the Federalist as the dominate party, and the Democratic-Republicans as the opposition, or 2nd Party. After Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, won the presidency to become the 3rd President, his party became the dominate party for decades to come, and the Federalist Party eventually fading into obscurity. The 2nd party title went to the Whig Party, and then in the mid-1800s the Republican Party gained the title. There is a long list of "minor" parties that have existed through out our history, which were typically single issue focused parties, and worked at forming coalitions with other parties in order to push their agenda.
Bringing us to todays world, Californians are doing what they are known to do in this country, and that is to lead. The two major parties have wandered off from where they had positioned themselves, and the electorate are finding the parties out of step with their needs and desires. The article quotes current Santa Cruz county Treasurer Fred Keeley, who himself is a liberal Democrat and former fellow legislator to Mr McPhearson, who stated, "The Republican Party left him a long time ago. He's an old-school Republican, but the party wandered off on social issues. He's not a social bigot." of McPhearson. Campaign manager, Matt David, who was former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's communications director, is also quoted in the article as saying "In California, the Republican Party has done tremendous damage to its brand with its positions on immigration and gay marriage,…Add to that the no-tax pledge". "You can be fundamentally opposed to a tax increase, but to sign a pledge never to vote for a tax doesn't allow you to have honest negotiations with the other side."
Two things should be noted, first, the article is directed at the standing in the electorate's eye of the California Republican Party, and secondly, the GOP as a whole, locally and nationally, have driven out moderates and liberally minded members in a quest to purify and focus on the Conservative nature of their party. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, since in my quest to see more parties who mean what they say and to say what they mean, this would be the natural direction that the two main parties would move in. It would be logical then for the Democratic Party to follow suit, and to fine tune their message as to what they stand for. As it currently stands, they have shown actions towards solidifying personal rights, but after that, they seem to have become a party that is just in opposition to the GOP platform. I am providing an extremely narrow view of the Democratic Party's platform, but an issue that I see with our current "two party system" is that the duoploly that we have try and sell themselves as all encompassing, while singly focusing their interests once in office. If the parties were less "etch-a-sketch" and more focused in their interests and platforms, it would open the door to other parties with more focused platforms, then requiring coalitions and cooperation in order to do the people's work.
California's recently held primary was a good example of giving the electorate a greater voice in who represents them, and less to the parties. Even though the results did not show enough independent and/or third party results for my liking, it did allow for some interesting results none the less. In some districts we will see two members from the same party on the ticket competing against each other come the November election, which in itself is a deterioration of the "Two Party System." The primary results can be found here at this link: http://vote.sos.ca.gov/contests/district/state-senate/
Again, we can see California's leadership being reflected across the nation in other states. Politicians from both parties are announcing that they will not be attending their party's conventions this election season. On the Democratic Party side you are seeing the likes of Sen. Clair McCaskill (D-Mo.), Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Reps. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Mark Critz (D-Pa.) as well as West Virginian Sen. Joe Manchin, all of whom are running for reelection in 2012 -- aren't going to the convention. The GOP candidates who have stated they will not be attending their Party's national convention are New Mexico Senate candidate Heather Wilson, Linda Lingle, the presumptive nominee in Hawaii, and Rep. Denny Rehberg, the Montana GOP nominee, will also be absent from the event. These candidates are finding it necessary to show independence from their party due to the nature of their electorate. The voters in these districts and states are looking for candidates that will address their needs and desires, and not those of the candidate's party.
I have been promoting the idea of voting for the Libertarian Presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, based on the issues he states he is running on, and also his past experience as two term Governor of the state of New Mexico. My endorsement of his candidacy is in no way to be an endorsement of the Libertarian Party, but rather his Libertarian principles, which crosses party lines. He faces an up hill battle against the two main parties, due in part to their writing election laws that favor their two parties. This came about after the 1992 elections that saw a strong third party candidate in Ross Perot, siphon off votes from both of the candidates in the 2 major parties, thus, creating a threat to their duoploly.
Some of the exit polling from the recent Wisconsin Recall election showed that the outside money spent on the media campaign had more to do with the election results than did the action of the "Get out the vote" ground forces. This promises to be a prelude to our upcoming election, especially with the onslaught of Corporate money being brought on by the Citizen's United decision. This will make it even harder for a alternative to the main two parties to buy media time to get their message out, and to set themselves apart. One positive notion is, that even though Coke and Pepsi spend the most money in both advertisement and to gain shelf space, they aren't each other's biggest threat. Coming from one of these beverage giants, I learned that their biggest competition is the store brand, who provides a good product at a reasonable price without the expense of major advertisements.
So with that in mind, it brings me some encouragement that the most populated, and the most progressive state in the union is making inroads to breaking the strangle hold that the established major parties have had for way to long. So I encourage all of you to look beyond the Coke and Pepsi of politics and take a look at what the alternative candidates have to offer. We keep hearing that its time for a change of direction, and the old definition of stupid is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.
Sometimes standing as an independent you will find that you are standing alone, but at least you are true to your beliefs and convictions.
A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.
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