I have yet to hear one person on this campus express delight in the 2012 election season. And why should they? Republicans and Democrats argue incessantly about why their party represents the “right” decisions for America. You hear debate and bickering everywhere — the news, radio, web and especially Facebook. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg’s digital wonderland of information often becomes a battleground of enough political statuses, memes and videos to tire out even the most politically involved of citizens. The verbal contempt between “commie liberals” and “wacko conservatives” is astounding.
In fact, even the people who should be solving the problem argue too much. Journalists and researchers alike consider the 112th Congress — our current Congress — to be the most unproductive in history. They have passed fewer public laws than any other Congress, reduced America’s international credit rating and eliminated senate budgets. No wonder they have a nine percent public approval rating, which Gallup reports was lower than BP’s rating during the oil spill!
Take this statement by Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, two veteran congressional scholars who’ve tutored legislators in both parties for decades: “We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.”
Each party is so hell-bent on passing or killing off legislation that they turn to corporate-funded super-PACs, which raise large sums of money, to make sure their golden boy gets into the White House. Last week, for instance, the oil company Chevron made a last-minute $2.5 million donation to a pro-Romney super-PAC, while Obama received a $3 million contribution from three Silicon Valley companies, including LinkedIn. Currently, Romney’s super-PAC has double the cash of Obama’s, raising over $127 million in total. Thus, Romney can afford more advertising and campaign necessities than Obama, which could snag him the election. It is fundamentally anti-democratic for those with the biggest bank accounts to have the most say in the election of a leader. Isn’t that the point of the “one person, one vote” idea? But no, it seems the two-party system can’t function unless each party races to see who can fill up their piggy banks first.
And why must America insist on only having two viable options? Look at how constricted the topic set was for each presidential debate. Neither Romney nor Obama talked about how America’s income disparity is higher than it was in 1965 or the impending effects of climate change. Additionally, neither candidate laid out a solid plan to address student debt in any of the three debates. They made plenty of sugar-coated comments about how “students are the future,” but they didn’t explain how they were going to assure they have a future.
But some think that third-party candidates don’t have feasible plans to safeguard the nation’s future, either. On the contrary, many third-party candidates such as Jill Stein (Green Party), Rocky Anderson (Justice Party), Stewart Alexander (Socialist Party USA), Virgil Goode (Constitutional Party) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party) all have differing but comprehensive plans on how to deal with foreign conflicts, climate change and student debt (among other issues), which they outlined during the U.S. Third Party Presidential Debate. But of course, they had only a fraction of the “big two” viewers.
The majority of American media doesn’t discuss the possibility of a third-party candidate succeeding because it doesn’t happen often, but many elections throughout history have involved competition between three or more parties. If a third-party candidate were to be elected into office, they would need 270 electoral votes (or the majority of the electoral college’s votes) and plenty of support from voters.
I can’t predict the future, but it seems clear to me that we might be better off choosing someone other than Obama or Romney. Chances are, they would have a lot to learn about the workings of the economy, national security and other confidential areas of the government we don’t know about. Consequently, just like every presidential candidate, they wouldn’t be able to do everything they said they could. But likely, their passion for change would lead them to not sell out to Wall Street like the two major parties, and have a fresh outlook of how America should be run, since they would not have to depend on partisan approval to introduce solutions.
Historically, any prospects of a third party candidate winning a federal election were laughable. But with the plethora of dire economic, social and domestic issues tormenting Americans, and the clear incompetence of both Republicans and Democrats, it is more than reasonable to give third-party candidates a chance to become president. Americans pride themselves on living in a nation of freedom. What’s freedom without choice?
Dominic Fante is a contributing columnist