On Third Parties

I always try to support my friends/comrades/acquaintances running for office, most notably David Daniels, the Grassroots Party candidate for Senator against Mark Dayton.  David and I both started out in Minneapolis, performing together in a  community play. Since then we have frequently been guests or features in each others shows.

August Nimtz Jr, I met during the South Africa Divestment struggle at the University of Minnesota. He ran for Mayor with the Socialist Workers Party. Fancy Ray McCloney ran for Governor in the race which Jesse Ventura eventually won. Fancy Ray was an enormous help to my son, Tim Mitchell, in his comedy career.  I must confess, I do know some Trotskyists whom I would never want in national office. The first thing they'd do is bomb Moscow. Revenge on Stalin at last! I may not have actually voted for these friends.

This year Cheri Honkala, is running for Vice-President with the Green Party. I first met her through my family in the  early 1980's. Later she started organizing homeless people in the Twin Cities to take over vacant HUD homes. I interviewed her for the Wobbly newspaper. One afternoon I spent a pleasant half hour sitting down beside her.  This was blocking the doorway to the HUD office in downtown Minneapolis.

Last Friday she spoke at the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis. She's still fighting, her street smarts combined now, with sarcasm and a tough-minded sense of humor.  Refreshingly, she's not afraid of technology or social media.

Other Green Party activists impressed me too. Third party movements in the US have always centered around a charismatic leader: Teddy Roosevelt , Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, or Jesse Ventura. They make a big splash but they never do the follow-up, building infrastructure to keep their ideas alive. The Green Party of Minnesota seems to be competent and dedicated to doing the necessary groundwork, already organizing for several years down the road. Right now they have one City Council member (two earlier ones were gerrymandered out) and one member on the Park Board.


Four years ago I wrote that if Obama were President, the rich would still be rich and the poor would still be poor, but at least they would have health care.   I voted for President for the first time in 25 years.

There's an article here http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/09/why-i-refuse-to-vote-for-barack-obama/262861/ that expresses my current opinion better that I could. I tend to get rather shrill about things like murder and torture.

There have been other times of massive civil rights violations in the US. John Adams used the Alien and Sedition Laws to jail writers and editors. During World War II over 100,000 Americans were jailed for the slant of their eyes.

Japanese families were released from prison at the end of World War II. Thomas Jefferson freed everyone jailed under the Alien & Sedition Acts. But by now the federal government and its institutions are more massive and pervasive than ever. They are infinitely slower to change course. The War Power Acts have not only continued under Obama but extended to include secret imprisonment and assassinations.

Obama was a professor at the University of Chicago, a professor of Constitutional Law. He knows full well that extrajudicial  killings have no basis on American or international law. Even the Terror or Stalin's Purges or the Cultural Revolution in China had trials. Staged trials to be sure, but at least they left a record of the disappeared. The United States is now on a level with the Mafia. They are the Borgias with lousy arts funding.

Third Parties

In rebuttal, check out http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/why-i-refuse-to-refuse-to-vote-for-obama/263116/ which makes some valid points, but is essentially the same argument used by those who blame Nader for Gore's defeat.

By that logic, all votes for losing candidates are wasted votes. In 1972 Democrats  voted certainly knowing that McGovern was going to lose to Nixon or in 1984 that  Reagan would beat Mondale. Yet they never told their partisans "Stay home! Don't waste your time!"

By that logic in fact,  every vote is a wasted vote except  one for the winning side in an election decided by a single ballot. Outside of small towns, the likelihood of this happening is negligible. Negligible but not zero, I should point out,  especially in Minnesota which has known some very close elections.

The theory behind democracy is very simple, It's taught in high schools in the United States. Every person casts a single vote for whom or whatever whatever they want. The person or policy with the most votes wins. This automatically ensures that most people will get what they want. Fair enough. It's not the greatest good for the greatest number - people aren't always the best judge of what's good (talk to any drunk,)  but they are always the best judges of what they want.

Admittedly, like ordering pizza, with more than two choices the process can get complicated. Different variations like weighted voting, proportional representation or elimination runoff's have been tried, but the goal is always to ensure that the winner reflects what most people want. If anything can be called a wasted vote, it's a vote for someone whom you don't want to win.

In fact, it's not only the vote total that matters, but the margin,  The one election where I did support the lesser of two evils was 10 years ago in France when Jacques Chirac, a moderately corrupt French bureaucrat, ran for President against Jean-Marie Le Pen who was an open racist and a fascist. It was important to France not only that Le Pen lose, but that he be overwhelmingly rejected by the French electorate (He was: 82% to 18%)

In the US, the percentage of the vote also bears on the winner's mandate as well as some very practical matters: five percent in Minnesota means majority party status, they don't have to petition to get on the next ballot. Five percent nationally means matching funding.

The rebuttal article make one correct point. With the Republicans in power, more people will die. The common thread in the entire Republican agenda: pro-war, anti-abortion, environmental degradation, willful ignorance, is that they will all make people suffer and die. Republicans like hurting people more that Democrats do. It's the usual good cop/bad cop act between the Democrats and the Republicans to get our vote.

The problem is that is that if  Democrats can always get our vote, they have no incentive to change their policies. They could have picked up most of Nader's votes by emphasizing environmental issues. They could probably get my vote if they stopped killing people.

Electing Democrats saves lives now, but ensures continued slaughter, at home and around the world. This isn't even good foreign policy. The first article speaks of "deal breakers". I always think of lines in the sand.  Those who cross it should be resisted.

And, as Rabbi Hillel asks, "If not now, when?"


  1. Here's what I've said in Southside Pride:


  2. I even support my friends when they're running for a major party


    His ex-, writer-performer Colleen Kruse, has endorsed him, so he's got to be doing something right.