America’s “two-party” version of democracy is unsustainable. The good and bad news is that local and state politics is more important than ever.
If there is to emerge some third way to take advantage of the vast pool of frustrated and virtually disenfranchised independent American voters, it will likely begin in a state election.
That’s a big conversation. And it’s happening all across America. But let’s focus our attention right now on the hotly contested New Jersey gubernatorial election and to some of the underdogs in the race.
Some of these political parties wear names you might be familiar with. Others might be new to you. Either way, you’ll find it refreshing to know that in America, the land of choice and opinions, the New Jersey governor’s race offers both in spades.
Gina Genovese (Independent)
Gina Genovese is proudly running for the governorship as a capital-I independent and, possibly, as a single-issue candidate. In her words, she hopes to bring a very specific message to the race even if it doesn’t result in her victory.
The issue concerns New Jersey’s 565 municipalities, which rely on and result in a tangled and wasteful web of private and public services. Genovese has gotten people talking about combining and consolidating a lot of these services to potentially save property owners 15 percent on their tax bills.
Vincent Ross (We the People Party)
There’s not a lot of information available on Vincent Ross online. If the provenance of this un-proofread campaign dispatch is to be believed, We the People candidate Vincent Ross proposes New Jersey “stops the bleeding” and halt new taxation on the “working poor.” Beyond that, he doesn’t appear to have a platform to speak of.
Peter Rohrman (Libertarian Party)
Libertarian candidate Peter Rohrman wishes to “end corporate welfare” while also pursuing libertarian economic philosophies. Rohrman supports marijuana reform and its wholesale legalization.
Beyond that, his platform promises to “maximize personal freedom.”
Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale (Green Party)
You’ll see two things right away on the official campaign website for Reverend Seth Kaper-Dale: a promise to address New Jersey’s water crisis and a promise to apply the Biblical principle of “the last are first” to New Jersey’s political, economic, and social conversations.
The reverend takes a strong stand on defending families and children who face separation and/or deportation, is against torture of military combatants and condemns inhumane treatment in prisons.
The reverend also supports reversing the current national economic trend: to replace “trickle-down” with a “well-spring from the bottom.”
Matthew Riccardi (Constitution Party)
Hailing from the Constitution Party, Matthew Riccardi makes a strong stand on his website against corruption in politics. He went as far as drawing up a legally binding contract based on feedback he received from voters on the campaign trail. If he is elected and behaves in a way that’s contradictory to the platform this “contract” represents, he claims he will personally incur a legal and monetary penalty.
It’s a novel and even noble idea, certainly, but the contract so far carries a laundry list of virtually impossible “campaign guarantees” — his words — which include not signing “any” legislation or program into law, ever, that increases the state’s debt or budget or tax rates.
“Steering Clear of the Center”
As observed in Politico, the representatives of America’s two major parties in the race to New Jersey’s governorship seem to be avoiding the murky political center. They’ve staked their claims at the farthest reaches of the political spectrum. The Democrat supports sanctuary cities, a living wage, and legal pot. The Republican wants to crack down decisively on immigrants.
It’s a mirror of the national political climate: voters clustered at the political fringes even on issues for which practical sciences have already delivered verdicts. And what’s missing is all the shades of gray in between social democracy and police-state kleptocracy.
What's missing from the mainstream conversation are the compassionate Reverend Kaper-Dales and the practical-minded Gina Genoveses, meeting in the middle to talk less about ideology and more about real-world solutions to observable problems.
Unfortunately, beyond the ideological divides and the too-easy party classification system, very real barriers remain for independent and third-party candidates who wish to become competitive in a duopolistic political system:
According to New Jersey voters, not a lot of folks felt they knew even the more mainstream candidates well, to say nothing of the third parties running. And then there’s the problem of “party bosses” choosing candidates behind closed doors — a pattern voters at the national level witnessed most recently in November 2016.
Such a system precludes meaningful social change from within the mainstream parties while the preferential treatment paid to mainstream parties by the media precludes truly competitive challenges from without.