Recently, on the anti-Bush, Democratic Party leaning website Daily Kos an open letter was published urging me to run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in Maryland rather than independent of the two political parties. Below is my response to the suggestion.
Dear Daily Kosers:
Elections should be about current issues and a vision for the future. For me that vision is of a truly representative democracy. I want Americans to look back 50 to 100 years from now -- when we have a vivid multi-party democracy and say -- “can you imagine in the last century how there were only two major parties and dozens of colas? Boy, were we an immature democracy!”
A survey published in the July 16 Economist asked U.S. voters whether they felt their elected officials represented their priorities. Only 17 percent said “yes.” In the greatest democracy on earth 83 percent can't say they are represented! It is no wonder we have such low voter turnouts. (A survey of non-voters found that that a majority of non-voters felt that the candidates did not represent their concerns -- even in the last election 40% of registered voters didn't vote, Kerry gave them no reason except not being Bush -- not good enough.) It is also not surprising that Democrats are at their lowest popularity in more than 50 months while Republicans are also dropping in the polls. Neither party represents the priorities of the people.
As writer Andrew Gumbel recently said: “Both the Republicans and the Democrats over the past century have shown more interest in preserving than reforming a system that does not involve all of the voters. The US has had a low turnout rate for the past 100 years, and the parties are much more interested in controlling the voters they know than in expanding the electorate or having other parties crashing in on their duopoly.”
In Maryland, the Democratic Party leadership has been blocking voter verified paper ballots for electronic voting (the Republican governor says he is “open” to it). They have also put in place partisan administration of elections with the “Linda Lamone for Life Bill” -- a bill making it impossible to fire the Democratic election administrator who spent $100 million on paperless voting machines that cannot accommodate an independent recount. The machine Democrats who control Maryland politics are not interested in reviving our democracy, i.e. having more choices for voters, or having a voting system voters can trust. They just want to hold onto power -- that is why Democratic registration is shrinking, while Republican and non-major Party/independent registrations are increasing -- the latter most quickly.
The two party system reminds me of when I was raising my kids. If they were doing something I didn't like, call it “C,” I would say -- “you can do either A or B.” They felt they had a choice and stopped pursuing “C” but in reality I had already made their choice for them. The two party system is much like that for voters -– treating us as children.
Will either Party challenge
the military industrial complex? Will they challenge the pharmaceutical or
health insurance industries in order to provide health care for all? What
has either Party done to ensure decent jobs at home that pay a living
wage? Haven't both parties supported the corporate trade agreements that
masquerade as “free trade” but really empower international corporations,
undermine the environment, labor standards and consumer protection? Will
either Party criticize Israel when it violates international law or the
basic human rights of the Palestinian people? Will either Party end the
failed war on drugs? Will either Party put in place universal voter
registration -- the international standard for elections? Will either
Party reduce barriers to third party and independent candidates -- or will
they cynically hold onto power by denying democracy? Will either Party cut
$300 billion in annual corporate welfare? On all of these and many other
issues both parties fail to represent the interests of the American
For years, indeed decades, people have tried to reform the Democratic Party from the inside. It always fails. When political movements go inside the Democratic Party -- they weaken and disappear –- look at the anti-war movement in 2004, the union movement over decades, efforts at African American equality –- on and on. What ever happened to the Rainbow Coalition? What has the Democratic establishment done for those that are calling for change from within? Nothing. Even Howard Dean has stopped talking about ending the Iraq War since becoming DNC Chairman. The only way to create the politics we want is by challenging the corrupt system in place.
Already my outside challenge has gotten Ben Cardin to finally do something on paper trails for e-voting. For 2 ½ years Rush Holt has had a bill to require a paper trail for recounts. Ben Cardin was silent. I wrote him about the issue and started to publicly criticize him. Two days after doing so he signed on as a co-sponsor to the bill. This will make him a better candidate and a better Member of Congress for the remainder of is House term.
I know some of you say it is impossible -– the two party system can't be challenged. But certainly this corrupt method of governance is not as embedded as slavery, the denial of women's rights, nor as strong as the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union or Maoism. Yet, those have all crumbled. Change is possible. Even our founders warned against “factions” as political parties were known in their day. This corrupt two-party system is inconsistent with the vision of a robust representative democracy -– with our vision for being the greatest democracy in Earth's history. We have the power to create the future we want -– but if we keep supporting candidates based on party label and not on issues we care about then we will keep getting political leaders that do not represent our interests. We will only get what we want by voting for what we want.
I know the challenge of a third party race but I am running to win, not to spoil. I know the system is rigged against non-major party candidates and that the money will flow to the major party candidates. Rep. Cardin has already raised $4 million dollars and his Republican opponent has not yet even announced. As a recent article about the Maryland campaign pointed out his campaign support has come from “banking, finance and real estate lobbies, the largest single category of his supporters. Well-known political commentator Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University, noted that Cardin is 'the biggest percentage recipient of corporate PAC money of any national Democrat in Maryland.'” Is Ben Cardin going to lead our country to a government “of, by and for” the people -– or are the interests of his contributors going to dominate?
And, look how the Maryland Democrats are taking African Americans for granted -– steam rolling Kweisi Mfume, picking a former Republican military officer over Ike Leggett as Lt. Governor in 2002 -– African Americans have been the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party. What have they gotten for it? A downward spiral on every measure -– jobs, income, wealth, health, incarceration, education. African Americans need to wake up and demand representation. They can do this best outside of the Democratic Party.
I am no fan of Michael Steele
the Republican. And, I will challenge his base as well campaigning in
Republican parts of Maryland. Republican Party Wall Street values do not
match the rhetoric of Main Stream values. Their support for the Patriot
Act is not consistent with protecting individual rights in the
Constitution. Their support for nation building in Iraq is not consistent
with their base's view of investing in America. They have fissures that I
will highlight to break apart their base.
Thanks for asking me to join
the Democratic primary, but as you can see doing so would be inconsistent
with my vision for a genuine democratic future.
P.S. On the “spoiler” issue there is a simple solution that the Maryland Democratic dominated legislature could enact whether the Republican governor approved or not –- instant run-off or majority voting. This allows voters to rank their candidates and if no candidate wins a majority then the lowest candidates votes go to the voters second choice. So, if spoiler is your concern, the power is within the Democratic Party to avoid it. Don't blame me if once again they fail to act in the interests of the voters.
Kevin Zeese is a candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland seeking the nomination of the Populist, Libertarian and Green Parties. For more information visit: www.KevinZeese.com.
Kevin Zeese’s Antiwar Campaign for the US Senate by Joshua Frank