Looking Outside the Two-Party Box

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If, as the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results, it would stand to reason that it is long past time to seek out alternatives to the forced choice between the Democratic and Republican parties. Independents\ pride themselves on their willingness to consider candidates regardless of their political affiliation. Given the general disapproval for President Obama and the Republican field of candidates, this year many may be wondering who else is going to be on the ballot. Two candidates to keep an eye on as the presidential contest moves forward are Libertarian and former Gov. Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein of the Green party.

Stein, a physician from Lexington Massachusetts, has been involved in the Bay State’s Green-Rainbow party for at least a decade, as a candidate for both local and state offices. She was the party’s candidate for governor in 2002 and 2010. The cornerstone of her campaign is the Green New Deal. The ambitious platform calls for full employment, a transition to a green economy, financial reform and electoral reform. Stein writes:

“Right now, our federal government subsidizes the rich agribusiness corporations and the oil, mining, nuclear, coal and timber giants at the expense of small farmers, small business, and our children’s environment. We spend tens of billions every year moving our economy in the wrong direction.

The model for the the Green New Deal is, of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Depression-era New Deal program and the Economic Bill of Rights he presented to the Congress in 1944. It calls for a full employment program that would be nationally funded but locally controlled, a single-payer universal heath care system, and a restructuring of tax and financial incentives to transition from a fossil fuel based economy to one based on renewable resources.

“Our Full Employment Program will create 16 million jobs through a community-based direct employment initiative that will be nationally funded, locally controlled, and democratically protected against conflicts of interest and pay-to-play influence peddling.”

The program’s financial reform planks would break up the big banks, regulate financial derivatives and re-instate the separation of commercial banking from investment banking. The Green New Deal supplements the Economic Bill of Rights with a Voter Bill of Rights focusing on electoral reforms aimed at ensuring a level playing field for all voters and all candidates for elected office. It would establish a public financing system for electoral campaigns and non-partisan elections commissions, while simplifying voter registration and promoting alternative voting methods.

Gary Johnson’s candidacy for the Libertarian nomination for president provides us with a stark alternative to Jill Stein. A former Republican governor of New Mexico, Johnson withdrew from the Republican party presidential nominating contest and announced that he would seek the Libertarian nomination late last year.

The tension between Johnson’s civil libertarianism and the big government republicanism of the GOP became clear early in his candidacy, when he criticized the “social conservative fringe” of the party for “hypocrisy and inconsistency.”

“I am convinced that this obsession with imposing values and legislating morality is leaving a large slice of the American electorate on the sidelines. The result, I fear, is that we Republicans – by the time we run our candidates through the gauntlet of social litmus tests – will end up with a nominee and a perception that will relegate us to a minority status for a generation or more.”

Johnson’s candidacy is based on a consistent small government platform across the board. He calls for a balanced budget based on entitlement reform, spending cuts on stimulus programs, an overall reduction of the federal government’s involvement in the economy and an end to costly military adventures abroad. Indeed, his plan goes so far as to call for the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service, replacing the monstrous IRS code with a national sales tax.

Despite their differences, there are quite a few issues on which Johnson and Stein’s platforms overlap. For instance, both call for the protection of civil rights and liberties from encroachments by government, and an end to the failed war on drugs, as promulgated by the Democratic and Republican parties.

To a great extent, the American people have already begun to move beyond the deadlocks and charades that define the nation’s politics today, as is evident from the ongoing exodus from the major parties. It is time for Independents to consider the alternatives.