Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Barriers to democracy

I've said it before, but sometimes it bears repeating by somebody with a little more clout:
In no other Western democracy do third-party or independent candidates confront more obstacles and exclusions from contributing to a competitive democratic process than in the United States. These include both legal obstacles and an abject lack of media coverage.

Legal impediments include ballot access barriers, such as requiring huge numbers of verified signatures subject to arbitrary challenges by state officials, as well as a winner-take-all system without the benefit of instant runoff voting or proportional representation.
That's the opening of a recent posting on Going beyond the usual listing of barriers and complaints, Nader goes on to explain that "It was not always this way."...
In the 19th century, it was much easier for third parties to get on the ballot. Over and over, a plethora of smaller parties and their candidates challenged the major parties by pioneering major reforms that we now take for granted.

There were parties that advocated for the abolition of slavery before the Civil War and parties that championed for the right of women to vote. There were parties that fought for many reforms for workers, including the 40-hour workweek and a living wage. There were parties that demanded federal regulation of the giant corporations and monopolies and urged the graduated income tax and health and safety protections.
Ballot access and other barriers became much more difficult during the first half of the 20th century. These restrictions on third parties and independent campaigns largely remain on the books, with regular additional accretions legislated by both major parties. They do not welcome small electoral starts.
[Regarding why the media won't cover 3rd parties]:
After all, only one of the two major candidates is going to win, right? Foregone conclusion, right? Self-fulfilling prophecy, right?

These are mindsets that no open democracy can ever embrace. For down that road is stagnation, complacency, corruption and the stifling of any public expectation for renewal. Imagine if nature did not allow seeds to sprout or if laws allowed major businesses to block small entrepreneurs from emerging.
Read the full posting at, and do something about it.

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