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Sunday, December 18, 2005

RALPH NADER AND DEMOCRACY

Some people say that Ralph Nader has every right to stand for president, but that this is not the time for him to do it. After all, the outcome of his candidacy was poor in the previous election. Further, in the current polls, the two main candidates are close; those who think that it is urgent to remove Bush from the White House think that Nader would better serve America by stepping aside in the election. He is also without the support of the Green party, giving the appearance that his support, small as it was the last time, has slumped further, although he does appear to be picking up support from the Reform Party.

Is Mr Nader a fool as his detractors suggest? An egomaniac, perhaps?

Well, Nader hits the nail right on the head when he says no one in a democracy has the right to insist someone else not run. Democratic Governor Bill Richardson has even cried that Mr Nader should not run because he has zero support. But this is an odd comment to make, and to need to make. If he has no support, clearly he can do absolutely no damage, and there is no need for anyone to be so angry about it.

A further question this whole kerfuffle raises is that if the electoral system is so distorted that only two candidates ought to run then why not at least look into changing the system? How difficult could it be to get electoral reform on the table as an issue?

Nader should say "Listen, Democrats. Let's make a deal. Instead of either you insisting I not run or for that matter me insisting you not run, which as you will readily agree is far from ideal in a democracy because it is fundamentally undemocratic, lets join our tickets together and make electoral reform, such as proportional representation, our over-arching goal. When that is done everything else should follow, because more people (including especially those I represent and those you claim to represent) will have more say and greater input, and we will all be better off!"

In other words, he should request the Democrats help him to install a system of proportional representation to make every vote count and therefore make his nation more democratic.

That will surely call the Democrats' bluff. If the Democrats need him not to run as much as they claim, they can enter dialogue with him on what ought to be his own territory, if it is not already: electoral reform.

Democrats and Nader could eventually come into coalition together under proportional representation, instead of blocking each other out and allowing the Republicans to squeeze back in, as under the current system.

And if Democrats end up losing thanks to refusing any such proposal of reform, they would not be able to blame Nader.

All of this points to a big mystery: why is electoral reform and proportional representation so singularly absent from the US political agenda? Especially taking into account the extremely skewed method in place for electing a president; that is the mechanism of the electoral college.

The silence on this topic in American news media and within the parties is deafening. I guess it is one of those things that are so gigantic nobody sees them.

There are many arguments, such as those provided in Political Parties and Democracy by Arthur Lipow, which show that the two major parties have frozen out competition by creating laws and regulations which serve to exclude smaller parties from the system, for example, by awarding state funds to parties which reach a certain threshold of support. This has the effect, as this book neatly puts it, of 'embalming' the established parties.

Change has to come from the grassroots up, the book claims in essence. It cannot easily do this however, because it is frozen out. Which seems to serve the purposes of some.

Are there any grassroots-up parties in America, ones strongly based on organisation from the ground, and small-membership donations? If so, why are they so quiet, and if not, why not?

This shows one outstanding problem with state funding of political parties. It ultimately corrupts democracy. Established parties became embalmed corpses, giant lumbering zombies as it were, who survive long beyond their usefulness has expired.

Also, you practically end up with involvement in political parties by the state: agencies govern how parties (which are normally supposed to be entirely self-governing, voluntary associations like any club or society) are run, often in return for cash, and start imposing their own rules on them. This neatly makes parties become part of the establishment, since such agencies are controlled by the main parties! Political parties become part of the state; public utilities, like water and electricity provision. People don't join them. Instead people get appointed to them and become staff and management.

And that's wrong because parties are worthless unless they are voluntary, attractive and vital – to someone.

J.D.Newman
this writing first appeared in Update no. 20 June 28, 2004

PS:
The outlook isn't all bad. One thing I never considered when I wrote this polemic is that some states which are safely in the pockets of one party over another are switching to proportional representation. This is because they are getting ignored by candidates from both parties (the state is 'in the bag' for one party and the other party has no hope). This is a good sign, and proportional representation can give them more attention.
-author

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

NOTICE: BOOK SWAP DATE CHANGE

THE Monthly Adoxist bookswap for December has now changed to the following day, from Saturday the 17th to Sunday the 18th.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

FOUR HORSEMEN and ONE BUNNY RABBIT of THE APOCOLYPSE

We're creating a new religion! Add your newly created chapters and verses under here, in order of course.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

FASCINATING FACT No. 1110

Did you know that the word dollar is based on the latin word talent, which was of course the old Roman currency?