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Last night’s Commander-In-Chief Forum on national security and foreign policy was dominated by militarism and the politics of fear. Donald Trump, who had just called for large increases in the military budget, said we wouldn’t have problems with ISIS in Iraq if we’d just “taken the oil.” And Hillary Clinton, while she called the Iraq war a “mistake” and said no boots on the ground in Syria, advocated for an intelligence “surge”. Given Clinton’s hawkish positions as Secretary of State and Trump’s know-nothing bellicosity, those of us who yearn for U.S. foreign policy based on diplomacy and the promotion of peace have little to celebrate. We can’t trust Clinton’s past experience or Trump’s unpredictable future. Both the 2016 Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns are spending billions emphasizing that America, indeed the world, will descend into disaster without military might. It’s the politics of fear.
It’s scary to think that there is no alternative. We have to “vote for the lesser of two evils,” even if that means perpetuating evil policies. Third-party candidates are put down as unrealistic and even dangerous.
But if we don’t break the cycle of fear and despair, we can’t have a truly progressive politics.
Let’s take a closer look at this problem.
Republicans were once a third party, founded in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1854. Multiple political parties have played an important role in U.S. history. The Progressive Party of Wisconsin’s Senator Bob La Follette, who ran for president as a Progressive in 1924, championed many of the reforms later codified in the New Deal.
Most countries in the world have more than two parties. Many of our allies have multiple parties in their governments who work in coalition to benefit a broader spectrum of their citizens.
Our two-party system is not working. Congress has been embroiled in partisan gamesmanship for so long, we’ve forgotten what a functional government can be.
Despite all you’ve heard, the Greens and Ralph Nader were not, in fact, responsible for the Democrats losing the 2000 elections. How can you blame the Greens when only 40 percent to 60 percent of people vote in presidential elections? The Official Democratic Party 2000 Election Report attributed the Democratic defeat to Al Gore’s losses in the Midwestern states and his home state of Tennessee. This was helped along by a National Rifle Association campaigns against Gore.
According to political analyst Tony Schinella, “CNN 2000 exit poll data pointed out that more Democrats voted for Bush than for Nader and in Florida 13 percent of registered Dems voted for Bush. Gore couldn’t hold his own base and he lost.”
Now we face the same situation all over again with Hillary Clinton. The Democrats argue that a Trump presidency would be a disaster, so we must support the corporate Democrat. But as the Republicans put up more and more radical rightwing candidates, the Democrats are running the same tired, old corporatists. Browbeating progressives into voting for someone they don’t like is not a good long-term strategy. It’s time to start sticking up for true progressive values.
Public knowledge of Greens and other third-party candidates is mostly blacked out by corporate media. Presidential debates exclude third party candidates based on their rankings in public opinion polls. Yet the Greens are among the nation’s leading alternative political parties, and alternative media reflects this. The day that Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s Facebook page received more than 1.5 million “likes” in an hour and a half.
Waiting to support a third party until those in power state that a third party can win is like waiting for all the streetlights to turn green before you leave your driveway. You will be in the same place forever.
George Martin is a Wisconsin-based peace and justice and climate activist and Ambassador of Peace for the Shadow Cabinet of the Green Party of the United States.