Citizen Tleilax


Third Parties are Critical for an Informed Public – Multiple Perspectives Should Be Considered When Making A Decision

In general, I value open discussion and the consideration of multiple perspectives when searching for solutions to particular issues. I feel that weighing what everyone has to say is a crucial process in formulating a stance on something, and whenever I neglect to do this I end up wishing that I had been more thorough. This is why it is very important to not limit our sources for information to only a few channels–if we do we tend to absorb the bias inherent in them. Naturally, it can be assumed that just about everything is biased at least to some extent, making it our duty to analyze multiple perspectives if we intend to have a logical and objective opinion. We must listen to as many sides of the story as possible.

When it comes to politics this multi-sided approach to issues is of the highest importance, because both public policy and public edification (not to mention the state of the world) is at stake. Essentially, each political party represents a perspective on any given issue, and as a society, America currently seems to believe that out of all of them only two are important–those of the Republican and Democrat parties (and it’s arguable those perspectives are in many instances quite similar in practice). There are obviously more ways of thinking about things than represented by just these two views, and other approaches are just as important to be aware of when trying to figure out what we should be collectively doing in the world of politics. Though there are people who exert the extensive effort required to educate themselves on an individual basis, as a whole Americans are not hearing all sides of the story and are thus making intrinsically uneducated decisions about who should be running things and how.

The blame for this falls primarily upon the media and the political establishment represented by the big two parties (the “Titanic” parties), because these powerful organizations are, of course, concerned more with using their power to push their own viewpoints and achieve their own goals rather than letting others share the spotlight for the good of society. It’s an unfortunate reality that the establishment does not share my affinity for open discussion about a topic regardless of party affiliation, and that its agenda rarely seems to involve solving a problem effectively. The two-party system has a stranglehold on American politics, and it actively attempts to prevent the public from hearing critical perspectives that are necessary for understanding issues. Third parties (“independent” parties) such as the Green Party and Libertarian Party represent these wrongfully suppressed perspectives on issues, and when they are consistently excluded from the discussion, everybody loses.

I want to be very clear–I’m not talking about independent parties winning elections. I don’t necessarily think that’s an absolute requirement for improving our society, though certainly it would speed things up a bit in many cases and I’m quite supportive of it. For my purposes here it doesn’t matter who actually wins, but what they’re saying needs to be included in the debate–even if the Titanic parties keep winning, more stimulation and competition is absolutely necessary to keep them in line. By introducing important points into the arena, all candidates who are participating can still influence the platform and the expectations of the winner. I’ve seen this exact thing at work in local non-partisan elections. Even establishment candidates will adopt something they otherwise wouldn’t if they were faced with a wall of people who demanded it. People get smarter when they consider things from more angles–for example, they might take one thing a Green is saying and start asking all Democrats to adopt it because it makes sense. But if it’s never shown to them they may never think to take that step, and we collectively fail to progress.

Voters’ final choices should be made once they’ve incorporated information from every side of what’s going on, otherwise their decisions will be flawed*. When media outlets, organizations, Republicans, and Democrats try to keep independent party philosophies away from the American public, they are purposefully trying to create a herd of ignorant voters who they can easily take advantage of. They are giving a presentation that is far from comprehensive under the guise that they hold the only plausible options. When they pretend that independent parties don’t exist it should arouse suspicion about their true motives. Why do they want to hide information from the public eye? I think it’s generally safe to assume that when one group suppresses the voice of another group, they have something to lose should the other group’s message be publicized. I tend to think it’s because they are scared that people will recognize the faulty logic that’s been pushed on them once fresh perspectives are floating around. And people might actually do something about it, like evict the status quo.

Some may object that it is independent parties’ own fault that they do not receive coverage, claiming that they are not “getting themselves out there” enough, or that they are not presenting “viable” enough candidates with enough pre-existing public support to justify their inclusion in debates or articles. Independent parties actually try very hard to be included and are consistently blocked from the most far-reaching channels. The doors are not exactly standing open to anyone who comes, and anyone who claims they are is simply inexperienced or has other motives. And as regards the latter objection, it is fundamental that the logic of any given argument should be weighed for its own merits, regardless of how popular the person saying it is at the time–a lesson that frequently seems to be lost on those who consistently support philosophically inferior politicians simply because they come from a more established organization. In addition, I think the label of “viable” as used today to refer to candidates is purely a result of our current election system. If certain election reforms were enacted–such as public financing and instant runoff voting to name a couple–then there would be more “viable” candidates running because the system wouldn’t be so frontloaded towards Titanic candidates from the beginning.

In any case, these objections are beside the point. Ultimately it seems to me that the media should itself be at least to some extent institutionally responsible for including candidates who have qualified for the ballot in debates and public forums, regardless of how much popular support they currently have when compared to the Titanic parties. As the primary way that most people receive information, it is the media’s duty to report on things relating to the public interest, and an inclusive approach to all sides of the pinnacle of our supposed democracy–elections–would be among the highest ways of serving that interest. It’s not just a fair way of operating a democracy, it’s simply more intelligent and beneficial to society for all the reasons I’ve discussed here. We should therefore demand that independent parties be regularly included and each strive to pay more attention to them, instead of passively allowing ourselves and the rest of our communities to be strategically manipulated through the censorship of alternative viewpoints.

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(* Voters’ decisions are also flawed when they vote for the “lesser of two evils” instead of what is actually the best choice. Doing so is adopting a loser mentality that perpetuates an inferior government and corrupts the very purpose of democratic voting in the first place, creating instead an indirect and crippled version of democracy based on a fear to risk expressing our true desires. I believe we should instead be authentic and vote for what we feel is best regardless of whether or not we think it will “win”. I find it a far more potent statement than voting for something I know is worse and don’t actually support. It’s a choice we’re given and I personally wouldn’t want to be on record saying I want something that I really don’t. Additionally, an efficient and totally necessary election reform called Instant Runoff Voting completely solves the “lesser evil” problem in the current voting system. Look it up!)

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So because I believe that philosophy should lead to action, I wrote to Warner Chabot–head of the California League of Conservation Voters, a prominent environmental organization. The CLCV created a website for the 2010 California gubernatorial election called “GreenGov2010” and didn’t even deign to mention that there is a Green Party candidate in the race, while shamelessly using what obviously sounds like a Green Party website title. I find it absurd that an environmental organization would refuse to allow the Greens into the room to talk about being green, and plain deceptive to not even acknowledge that they exist. It is abundantly clear that something is fundamentally wrong when such a contradiction is presented without saying a single word, especially when they are well aware of what they’re doing. Ultimately, the CLCV damages its own mission when it ignores what the Green Party has to say about the issues.

I am writing to express my disappointment with the GreenGov2010.org site and its failure to include the Green Party candidate Laura Wells.  I can’t help but feel like you are playing party politics again.  The one thing that I’ve never liked about the CLCV is that one of the unstated “conservation” goals it seems to have is to maintain the status quo of the two party system and block valuable third party candidates from participating.

If we are to truly progress, people need to be aware of what everybody is saying about the issues.  I don’t understand why it seems like you’re so determined to keep your thought process directly inside the box when it comes to this type of thing.  The Green Party brings valuable, important insight to a wide variety of environmental issues, and can help to stimulate collective thought that will quicken our arrival at beneficial solutions.  Why line up with everyone else who thinks that Republicans or Democrats are the only people who should be allowed to have a voice in discussing important issues?

Your latest decision to exclude the Green Party and Laura Wells lowers your credibility and that of the organization you direct.  When an environmental organization stonewalls a political party that has been concerned with such issues for decades, I can’t help but feel that you’re far too biased to be trusted for real objectivity.  While the work you do is good, you are unfortunately stunting the progress of the very things you fight for by refusing to at least allow them into the discussion.

Sincerely,
D. Bene Tleilax



“Easily Seduced” Not Limited to Youth by Any Means

Recently Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill that lowers the voter registration age in California from 18 to 17. Note that this does not affect the actual voting age, but is intended to engage students still attending high school and interest them as citizens in preparation for when they become eligible to vote once they do turn 18. The prospect of actually lowering the voting age would certainly provide a great deal of controversy, because many people tend to feel that the youth is much more likely to be “easily seduced” by slick politicians who make attractive promises with no intention of actually following through and delivering them. People would argue that young folk are simply too irresponsible to be handed such power, seeing as they are so commonly in the throes of idealistic passion, only partially thought out viewpoints and the like, and would vote for anyone who claimed to represent some romantic, yet unrealistic, perspective.

Of course, if anybody believes these things only apply to those under 18, they must not be very observant when it comes to social matters. Perhaps “idealistic passion” is more common among those who haven’t yet aged into jaded or apathetic pessimists (since most people certainly don’t age into intelligent and conscientious activists), but I think that being idealistic is a good thing, if one approaches it in a practical manner. In any case, I would certainly posit that, in general, high school age adolescents are equal in their decision-making abilities to the average American voter from any other age bracket. I will partially illustrate my perspective using an example from my personal experience with numerous “responsible” and “thorough” (as they often are assumed to be) citizens of legal voting age.

During August and September of 2009 I volunteered with a grassroots campaign for LA City Council. It was a race which had a few extremely well funded candidates, and several barely funded independent candidates. One of my roles in the campaign was to call voters on the phone, as well as engage them face-to-face in public places like Farmers’ Markets. Since the candidate I was volunteering for had little money, his name was not known to the thousands of voters who received several mailers from the big-money candidates. I definitely talked to far more people than what sociologists would consider a truly representative sample (at least of people living in a particular district of LA), and of those who were planning on voting, a massive majority had no interest whatsoever in learning about a candidate they had not already heard of–they had already chosen based purely on what came in their mailboxes, or in the instance of one candidate, how their official party affiliation told them to vote. If this does not qualify for “easily seduced”, I’m not sure exactly what to call it… other than completely willful ignorance. Voters absolutely did not want to pay attention to–much less authentically consider–the actual choices they had or look into the differences in the actual issues, simply because the grassroots candidates did not have material that arrived en masse in the voters’ mailboxes with flashy colors and almost insultingly simplistic promises and goals.

These voters were not informed, nor did they want to be. Very few knew enough to tell me anything about what they were actually voting for or why (besides just whimsy or being told to), and these were the people who actually were voting–which ultimately was less than 12% of eligible voters in the district. And they are the ones who decided which candidate was elected to City Council–which by the way is a very important post, particularly in Los Angeles. I can honestly say that high school students, (hell, even middle school students!) have the exact same grasp on issues as many of these people–people who paid attention to nothing but the base fact that there was an election, and a plethora of shamefully superficial ads that came in their mailboxes. A child of any age can point at an image it likes and “choose” it. The quality of information commonly presented in mailers is more or less equivalent to a promise to give the voter candy in exchange for a vote, while the opposing candidate(s) will take it away from you if you vote for them–useless and deceptive.

While I don’t know what would happen if the voting age was lowered, I definitely wouldn’t make the typical arguments against it. For all I know, it might even be a positive thing to shake up our desperately ignorant country. There is already a massive problem with voters not being authentic or informed, so it is a rather incompetent move to hold voting-age people up as any sort of example opposed to what slightly younger voters might be like. My experience with directly talking to hundreds of voters in a very condensed period via phone calls and face-to-face conversations has clearly illustrated to me that the youth in general is no more “easily seduced” than every single other demographic.

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As a side note, it’s well known that local elections generate less interest and turnout than statewide or national elections. They are of course just as important, perhaps even more so at times since these are the people that directly affect our immediate environment, and ones that we have easier access to as our representatives. Despite this decreased interest, I believe that the same amount of ignorance and deceivability is present in larger elections. Though I have only my own experience to draw from, I find it reasonable to assume that the percentage of ignorant voters versus highly informed voters scales for any size election for an official (ballot propositions are a different matter). I.e. if only 5% of voters in a local election are truly informed, I find it likely that only 5% of voters in a larger election are truly informed. There’s more of them, but still the same percentage of those actually casting a vote and making the decisions in our society. This assumption is reinforced by the fact that mass media consistently refuses to cover candidates who are not Democrat or Republican, and the fact that candidates of those stripes rarely convey detailed information themselves, requiring people to actually dedicate an often significant effort towards doing their own research. And anybody interested in politics knows how few people actually spend their valuable time on that.