Two Philippine lawyers share their experience at a development forum held at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
Daniel Rudin is an independent documentary filmmaker and video artist. He is currently working with Rappler as a Luce Scholar.
It may seem, from the Filipino point of view, that the opportunity to choose between two candidates would improve political stability and result in a more pointed public discourse. In reality, the American two-party system stifles free speech and warps public opinion through a commercialization of politics. Yet many independent voters feel they need cast a strategic vote to prevent another Republican presidency.
I cast my first presidential vote at age 18 for Ralph Nader. Nader is blamed for costing Al Gore the 2000 election.
How? Americans don't elect the president. The president is elected by members of the Electoral College, who are (usually) obliged by their states to cast ballots based on a "winner takes all" policy. Electoral College members vote in a block based on the winner of their state.
Although Nader caused no danger to Gore's share of the popular vote, arguably, he stole votes in Georgia and Florida, dulling his edge enough to cost him the electoral college vote in those states. But since all Illinois went to the Democrat, Gore, I felt no guilt.
In 2004 I voted in Illinois for David Cob of the Green Party ticket. And watched in disbelief as Democrat John Kerry lost the election. Yet, in that year, all Illinois electoral votes went to Kerry. Again, I felt no guilt.
2008 was different. That year I cast no ballot. I was living abroad and, thoroughly disenchanted by the ongoing wars, had difficulty self-identifying as an American. I felt no guilt.
I won't vote today, nor could I, despite my American citizenship. I live in Manila, and have no fixed address in the States. I could register to vote in Texas, where I used to live, or Illinois, (supposedly) my permanent address. In fact, in a last minute flurry of guilt, I tried to register but came to my senses when I realized that each absentee system requires too much paperwork and postage.
Although in the short term, failing to vote is a grave failure, in the long run, a vote for the dual-party system will prove the greater failure. Therefore, in lieu of voting, and in hopes of assuaging the guilt of potential independent voters who fear they will contribute to a Romney victory, I'll do the next best thing and take a moment to highlight what the Third Party candidates say about the dual-party system. The following quotes are taken from the Third Party Debate in Chicago, October 24.
Jull Stein (Green Party): “The top-two (party system) obscures the meaning of those parties, and it essentially puts everyone together so that you really can’t tell who’s representing you. And whoever has the biggest budget stands to win that primary…We are calling for getting money out of politics through public financing.”
Rocky Anderson (The Justice Party): “A top-two system is a sign that these two parties; this political duopoly in this country, is trying to put their stranglehold on our democracy…The corrupting influence of money in this country is at the root of every major public policy disaster. That’s why we don’t have healthcare for all, as in the rest of the industrialized world. That’s why we aren’t providing international leadership on the climate crisis because of all the corrupting money coming from the fossil fuel industry. And that’s why we have this enormously wasteful military budget with this military-industrial complex putting pressure on Congress and the White House.”
Virgil Goode (Constitution Party): “The top two system, as others have indicated, favors the Super Political Action Committees and political action committees (PACs). There are political action committees not just of businesses but of unions. I’m for no political action committee—individual contributions only and no Super Political Action Committees” (Note: Super PACs can engage in unlimited political spending, and can fundraise from corporations).
Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party): “I will tell you that regardless of whether or not Romney gets elected or Obama gets elected 3 things are going to happen. We’re going to find ourselves with a continued, heightened police state in this country. We’re going to find ourselves continuing to militarily intervene in the world. And then lastly, we are going to find ourselves in a continual state of uncontrolled spending or borrowing to the point that we are going to experience a monetary collapse unless we fix this.”
The Third Party debate was scarcely publicized. Nevertheless, the points of view expressed there are hardly marginal.
According to a poll conducted earlier this year by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC), in collaboration with the Stimson Center and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a vast majority of Americans support spending cuts to the military.
However, during the recent presidential debates, while Obama boasted of increasing military expenditure, Romney promised further expenditures. The absence of a Third Party candidate in the “official” presidential debates is thus a massive disservice to the American public.
Although in the short term, the dual-party system seems convenient, the inability of Republican and Democratic candidates to accurately debate the effect of, say, military expenditure on the economy, exposes the glaring weaknesses of an electoral process dominated by the dual-party system.
Independent voters should realize that a strategic vote for Obama is also a vote for the two-party system. - Rappler.com