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That elusive third party everyone might like to see get crankin’.

Rally in Bozeman, Montana; photo by Sheila Velazquez
Rally in Bozeman, Montana; photo by Sheila Velazquez

What if we had a party, and everybody came. Well, it wouldn’t have to be everybody, just the majority of Americans who haven’t been invited to the parties of either the Democrats or the Republicans, the folks whose interests aren’t served when the toasts are made and the swag handed out. Now that would be some party.

I haven’t voted for either a Democrat or Republican presidential candidate in a long while. I would have if the DNC hadn’t sabotaged Bernie’s campaign. That’s one I supported with all my heart and one to which I contributed. Not a huge amount, but considering what a cheapskate I am (ask my kids), it was a lot for me. 

We have three viable third parties, the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Parties. I once belonged to the largest and oldest of these, the Libertarians. Libertarians take the Bill of Rights, personal responsibility, and civil liberties seriously. I don’t agree with all of their positions, but there are parts of the platform that appeal to me.

Turn to the left, turn to the right
Stand up, sit down, fight, fight fight!

(my old high school cheer)

One hot summer day, I manned their table at a county fair, handed out literature, and invited people to take the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” (http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz.html) so that people could see where they fall in the political spectrum. I laid out the printed materials, voter registration forms and a bowl of candy and nervously waited for my first visitor. 

The attractive young women at the table opposite mine were giving away free mugs. Well, they weren’t exactly free. You had to sign up for a credit card. They were nice mugs–white and blue with touches of red. The cardboard cartons containing the mugs had “Conoco Greeter Kit” and “Made in China” stamped on their sides. The crowd grew quickly as people stopped to sign up. I couldn’t compete for their attention. Give me liberty or give me a free gas credit card mug.

The people who came to my table were an interesting mix. Some wanted to talk about their freedoms, and violations thereof. A farmer told me his fields had been buzzed by helicopters flying dangerously low, so close to his workers that he had experienced real fear, which had since been replaced by real anger. Another man looked over at the table to the left of the free mugs, where a security system company sign read, “Make your neighborhood a safer place to live,” and commented that he preferred his own form of security. Taxes were a big issue with nearly everyone, as was the loss of decent-paying jobs.

I was surprised by the number of people who were honest in their agreement or disagreement as to Libertarian principles. Several were in favor of nearly the entire platform but asked about the party’s stand on abortion. I told them that Libertarians believe in freedom from government interference on this and most issues and so feel that women have the right to make their own decisions. This didn’t seem to be enough for those who personally wouldn’t choose abortion but who also wanted the government to prevent other people from choosing it. They thought that some personal freedoms are great, but we need to restrict others. Unfortunately, there are Libertarians who take positions that are in direct opposition to the platform, often based on religion. 

I took the quiz today. I am closer to being a liberal now than I was then, which only reinforces how important it is to be open-minded, especially as the times and players change. I’m sure most Democrats and Republicans see flaws in their parties, and yet many would defend them to the death, as though they were perfect. The trick would be if we all could put aside the party labels and agree to go forward with a reasonable set of goals. The Founding Fathers were against partisan politics. Hamilton and Madison wrote about the dangers of political factions in Federalist Papers No. 9 and No. 10.

The majority of the people who stopped willingly signed a petition for third-party ballot access. I told interested teens too young to vote that they were welcome to take literature, and a piece of candy, if they liked. The last man to spend some time with me was a visitor from England. We talked about government here and in Europe. He said, “You do have the best country and the most freedoms in the world you know.” I replied, “Yes I know, and we want to keep it that way.”

Other third parties may be an option, but establishing a third party has been made more difficult in the United States than anywhere else in the world. This is just another example of how the two major parties enact laws that enable them to keep their butts on their gilded thrones, playing musical chairs once in awhile to keep us thinking that we have actually made a choice. Once the big players decide on their anointed ones, they manipulate the media, the candidates and the money, which is not equally distributed to help candidates across the country, but rather is concentrated on the campaigns of the party favorites they want to win.

If we are to recapture our freedoms and restore morality and ethics to the governance of the United States, we must be willing to fight, to make it clear that this is our country, not theirs, and that they are in service to us, the people, not their own interests. Revolutions are fought by people who have nothing to lose, and if we continue on the path upon which we are traveling, that will soon be most of us.

Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau

“The authority of government … is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it…. There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.” – Henry David Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government,” or “Civil Disobedience.”

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Sheila Velazquez is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in more than 100 print newspapers and magazines, including Grit, New Woman, the Hartford Courant, the New Haven Register, the San Antonio Express-News and Bay Area Parent. Her awards include two from the Society of Professional Journalists for a syndicated column. Sheila has contributed to online websites, including commondreams.org and dissidentvoice.org. She served as contributing editor of Organic Producer magazine and wrote biographical material for reference collections that include “Contemporary Authors,” the “Encyclopedia of International Biography” and “Notable Sports Figures.” Feel free to send her an e-mail.

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