The monopoly held by the Democratic and Republican parties rests on two premises that are rarely questioned by the political establishment or prominent journalists. One, that our two-party system is inherently better for its simplicity and maintenance of continuing political order; two, that our traditional parties, the GOP and the Democrats, are the institutions offering the best quality candidates.
The latter claim seems preposterous in 2016. The presumptive Republican nominee makes the fumbling George W. Bush look like a statesman. Donald Trump is no ordinary presidential candidate. The Grand Old Party is offering us our very own Silvio Berlusconi, but worse: a candidate so preposterously unsuited to wield presidential authority that, combined with the inability of Congressional Republicans to deliberate and govern responsibly, there is serious talk among conservatives of a new party. The Republicans may not have many election cycles left to avert the fate of the Whig Party it supplanted.
The Democrats, meanwhile, are poised to nominate Hillary Clinton despite favorability ratings that put her neck-and-neck in early matchup polls with a racist demagogue who thinks he can renegotiate the national debt and force Mexico to pay for a Great Wall of America. Given the choice between a “New Deal” Democrat in the vein of FDR who enjoys significantly higher popularity, the Democratic Party is bent on fulfilling the imperial prophecy of the ascension of Hillary Clinton, whose extensive record shows a ruthless fidelity to the interests of international capital; privatization, austerity, and mass incarceration; and a geopolitical view resembling that of Henry Kissinger.
The traditional parties’ selections are sufficiently loathed that at least two alternative parties, the Libertarians and the Greens, are attracting attention even inside the beltway with its establishmentarian mindset. The Libertarian nominee is New Mexico’s former governor, Gary Johnson, on a ticket with former Massachusetts Governor William Weld. The ticket could appeal strongly to free-market conservatives disgusted with Trump yet not “ready for Hillary.” Meanwhile, the Greens’ presumptive nominee, Jill Stein, is advancing a policy package that updates FDR’s New Deal for the age of renewable energy. As we move into the general election, we would do the republic a favor by demanding that the Commission on Presidential Debates include Johnson and Stein in the general election debates this year.
The CPD is a private organization controlled by the two major parties and has run the presidential debates since 1988. Before then, the debates had been managed by the non-partisan League of Women Voters. The CPD uses the debates to maintain the duopoly by excluding alternative candidates. Although Johnson and Stein will appear on enough state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning the required electoral vote, CPD also uses selective polling data to exclude candidates outside of the traditional parties. This year and onward, the CPD should drop the polling criterion and allow Stein and Johnson to present themselves at the 2016 presidential debates.
If we have any, that is. It is conceivable that Donald Trump will avoid debating Hillary Clinton at all, unless he must compete for the anti-Clinton vote. Neither Johnson nor Stein appear likely to win the presidency outright, but without them there might not be any official debates at all, the discourse left entirely to advertising and stage managed spectacles.
If voting means anything at all anymore, our candidates must engage in a contest of ideas and persuasion. The Greens and the Libertarians have earned their places in that adversarial process. Let them debate.
Algernon D’Ammassa is Desert Sage. Write to him at DesertSageMail@gmail.com.
Las Cruces Sun-News
By Algernon D’Ammassa
June 5, 2016