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An Occasional Note on the 2008 Campaigns, No. 7

Stateside With Rosalea Barker

An Occasional Note on the 2008 Campaigns, No. 7

::Obama Butterfly::
Please pardon this fat lady while she sings you a metaphor. The National Cherry Blossom Festival began in DC this Saturday prompting me to wonder if Obama is feeling optimistic.

In Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, the heroine excitedly asks her maid to “shake a branch of the cherry tree and cover me with flowers” when she sees the “Abraham Lincoln” dropping anchor in the harbor. She thinks that Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton—the Marine who married then abandoned her—has returned for her and their son.

Come summer, will Obama’s ship come in, or will he be singing the words Butterfly addresses to Pinkerton’s American wife: “Under the great bridge of heaven there is no woman happier than you”? Ominously for this metaphor, most flowering cherry cultivars do not bear fruit because both the male and female parts of the flower have been replaced by petals to make a more showy bloom.

::The Wannaveep::
Progressive Democrats rejoice! According to Independent senator Joe Lieberman, who is brown-nosing John McCain like crazy in an attempt to be his choice for vice presidential running mate, the Democratic Party has been taken over by a small group of lefties and isn’t the same party it was in 2000!

A video clip of this morning’s interview with George Stephanopoulos is on the ABC This Week website, entitled “Lieberman in McCain’s Corner”. Since the ABC page changes quite often here’s a link to the YouTube posting, which also has viewer comments. In the clip, Lieberman calls the new Democratic Party isolationist and protectionist.

::Commie Republicans::
If any party in the US deserves to be called isolationist and protectionist, it’s the Constitution Party, which has the third largest number of registered voters in the country. Its platform supports “a tariff based revenue system, as did the Founding Fathers, which was the policy of the United States during most of the nation’s history. In no event will the U.S. tariff on any foreign import be less than the difference between the foreign item’s cost of production and the cost of production of a similar item produced in the United States.”

And it condemns “the presidential assumption of authority to deploy American troops into combat without a declaration of war by Congress, pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution....We should be the friend of liberty everywhere, but the guarantor and provisioner of ours alone.” The Constitution Party rejects U.S. membership of any international organizations or its being party to international treaties.

The Constitution Party is known by different names in different states—here in California, it’s known as the American Independent Party. Its natural constituency is gun-toting, bible-carrying, pro-lifers to the far right of the Republican Party. But according to a party insider, who wished to remain anonymous, it has been “taken over by self-serving Republicans” to the extent that the results of the party primary elections will be meaningless at the Constitution Party’s nominating convention this April in Kansas City.

Apparently, in early March, the executive leadership of the CP had a meeting in New Orleans to interview three candidates “whom they—the national leadership—wants as ‘their’ Constitution Party presidential candidate with no, no input from the members of the Constitution Party. This is behind-the-door, back room, dirty Republican Party-type politics, just like the Communists have done for years.”

The three are “all good Republicans who will do nothing to build the party after 2008” and include former Judge Roy Moore from Alabama, former U.S. Senator Smith from Vermont and “the very worst of the lot—neo-con Republican Alan Keyes. He would be a disaster for the party. This is stab-in-the-back, dirty politics by a group of people who can’t even get our party on all 50 state [ballots].”

::Green and Not Green::
Ralph Nader’s choice of Matt Gonzalez, a member of the Green Party, as a running mate caught my attention back in February. Gonzalez is a former San Francisco Supervisor who captured 47 percent of the vote against Gavin Newsom’s 53 percent in the 2003 SF mayoral race.

Nader ran as the Green presidential nominee in 1996 and 2000. In 2004, David Cobb won the Green nomination, while Nader ran as an independent. He’s running as an independent again this year. The Green Party’s national convention will be held in Chicago in July. Four candidates will be vying for their party’s nomination as presidential candidate: Jesse Johnson, Cynthia McKinney, Kent Mesplay, and Kat Swift.

“The Green Party intends to run a ticket of Green nominees, and we're working hard to get their names on the ballot lines of every state and the District of Columbia. We look forward to party unity behind our nominees. We wish Ralph Nader and [running mate] Matt Gonzalez well in their independent campaign,” according to a February 29 press release.

::Take a leaf::
At the risk of being charged with treason for questioning the U.S. political system, I have to say that coalition governments produce far better outcomes than what we have here in the U.S., which is coalition parties. Having only two viable parties—and writing the redistricting and ballot access laws to keep it that way—forces those two parties to be coalitions of interest groups operating under the radar to have their own agendas fulfilled.

By contrast, in a multi-party, proportionally elected system, those pressure groups come out into the open as their own parties with a viable chance to get elected. Such an electoral system is particularly suited to the U.S. because here there is no “Government”. There’s an Administration—appointed by the President—and there’s Congress, the members of which can vote however they like on legislation, unfettered by the party loyalty rules found in parliamentary systems.

As in New Zealand, where coalition agreements are signed (and made available publicly) in order that the major party with the larger number of representatives elected can achieve its legislative aims, the U.S. House and Senate Majority leaders could negotiate publicly available memorandums of understanding with the smaller parties whose support they need in order to pass legislation.

Ultimately in the U.S., any member of Congress is held accountable not to their party but to their constituency for their vote, so any attempt to bind all and each representative and senator of a particular party to voting a particular way wouldn’t work, hence the suggestion for an MOU instead of an agreement.

Not that I’m holding my breath for anything even remotely like that to happen, largely because it would lead to Democrats and Republicans having to share their all-powerful Committee spots with upstarts from the smaller parties. On the other hand, any prescient Representative or Senator from either the Dems or Reps must surely see their chance to get onto a committee by leading a small party that openly and more accurately reflects their constituents’ concerns.

The world does not come to an end when you allow a rainbow of voices transparent access to political power, as this set of seven videos shows. It’s the opening Minor Leaders Debate featuring NZ’s minor party leaders in the 2008 election. All five parties represented have been part of coalition governments, as has the sixth party whose leader did not appear in the debate. He and two other of the leaders were members of NZ’s two main parties before Mixed Member Proportional representation was introduced in the 1990s.



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