George Washington, in his 1796 farewell address to the young nation, set forth some guiding principles for America. Among his concerns was the “baneful” effects of political parties. He cautioned that, although parties might now and then be responsive to the concerns of the electorate, “they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people.”
Well, it’s 2016, 220 years later, and George was right on the money.
The two-party duopoly has given voters two severely unpalatable choices for president. A majority of likely voters knows that when character, temperament and trustworthiness are considered, “none of the above” is the principled choice. Yet we also know, with reasonable certainty, that one of the two major party candidates will be the next president.
Even the most ardent supporters of any of the presidential candidates, major party or minor party, must admit that a political process that produces candidates that are so unacceptable to a majority of voters is horribly broken. Out of disgust — not apathy — approximately 43 percent of registered voters have consciously chosen not to affiliate with any party. Independents understand that the current system, although largely taxpayer-funded, conspires to disenfranchise all but the most partisan, ideologically-driven voters.
National independent voter organizations submitted petitions bearing thousands of signatures to the rules committees of both major parties asking that party primaries, funded by taxpayer dollars, be opened to all registered voters. These petitions were summarily ignored. This confirms that the parties have no intention of acting voluntarily in the broader public interest.
So what can we do to avoid being in the same sordid situation in 2020?
In 2016, it is apparent that if every state had a legally-binding “none of the above” option on the presidential ballot, “none of the above” would win. Is this not substantial evidence that the current system is broken?
To empower all registered voters and to reduce the power of special interests and “dark money” contributors, we need a national movement for a state-by-state effort to establish “none of the above” as a binding option on the ballot for every office.
A new election would have to be held if a binding “none of the above” option received more votes than any candidate listed for a given office. Power brokers and monied interests could spend all they want in support of a candidate but it would be a different ballgame if the voters held the final power to reject candidates. Parties would have a powerful incentive to put forth broadly acceptable candidates. Under such a system, the ultimate power would be returned to the voters.
Haven’t we had enough of voting for the “lesser evil”? Think about it. Editor's note: This opinion piece originally published in the Arizona Daily Star and has been republished with permission from the author.