Now that the Republican convention has officially presented a ticket, we can start to discuss the race for the presidency.
Certainly, the chair cannot remain empty (although perhaps Clint Eastwood would prefer that it did). So presumably either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will occupy that seat.
Before we delve into new posts invoking the discussion of who deserves that role, I think it is worth pointing out that the decision of who should be our president is far too important to narrow your choices to only two candidates.
Granted, we have made strides recently with Third Parties. Ross Perot is probably the most memorable recent example. The reality is that the Libertarian Party consistently field a candidate for president, as do several other increasingly unrecognizable groups.
Occasionally a high profile candidate will suggest (read this as threaten) a third party bid. Ron Paul is an excellent current example. And the invocation of the word ‘threaten’ here really drives my point home.
Because we are stuck with two parties, it is impossible to have an additional option without causing real damage to one of the two existing dominant parties. Regardless of who the candidate is, they will inevitably divide the vote of one of the major parties.
If Ron Paul were to run, for example, he would inevitably be siphoning voters from the Republican ticket. The institutional barriers to such a ticket, the outcry and backlash from the establishment, make it essentially a non-starter. Ross Perot pulled it off because he had the deep pockets to fund his own ticket.
Yet I would suggest that America would be immensely better off if we had more than the same tired two choices every few years. I think an increasing number of Americans feel this way; that in essence Republican and Democratic politicians have far more in common with each other than they do with the people they are meant to represent.
How do you break that gridlock? If a third party will always be rejected by the established party they will siphon votes from, won’t it always be a nonstarter? Perhaps, but for me, the solution is in a little creative math. Simply put, 4 must come before 3.
I think there are a great many deeply conservative people that would love to see a fundamentalist approach embodied by a ‘Tea Party candidate. Similarly, I think there are a large number of progressives that are tired of the mainstreaming of their movement, and might appreciate an Occupy candidacy.
I am not trying to decide the parties for America. I am simply pointing out that with the system we have right now; with the complete lack of substantive debate, with the absurd mendacity, with the ‘winner takes all, zero sum, it is us or them‘ approach, we are doomed to keep doing nothing.
We need to insert the possibility that it is neither ‘us, nor them’ but rather the other party. Doing so is the only way to inject some actual honesty, some real debate, and ultimately perhaps some genuine accountability back into the process.
Otherwise, you might as well get your novelty silver dollar out with the heads emblem on both sides, walk into the polling booth, and punch buttons blindly. More doesn’t always mean better, but when it comes to choices, it seems likely that it does… and in this case, 4 has to come before 3.