Choices and Options

Anonyme, Monday, December 6, 2010 - 06:40

Sudhama Ranganathan

Few of the people in my country, America, dispute the fact we live in a nation which savors freedoms and liberties. Often taken for granted, we have so many choices. We can converse with who we choose and when. We communicate online with whomever we wish barring few exceptions. We can send mail to almost anyone. We can hear from any and all political parties during presidential elections - that is given they're Democrat or Republican.

If they're not the chances of Americans hearing from them are well... unlikely. What could any party not Democrat or Republican have to offer or say anyway? Democrats and Republicans must cover the gamut of what Americans hope to hear or surely there would be alternate voices. Two parties would never be the beginning and end to American political opinion if they did not represent a desire on the part of the American public to be boxed and limited.

Surely there must be some wise omnipotent body of scholars who understand this, and, though we think of ourselves as more of a melting pot, have decided two was enough - no more, no less, no way. Kind of like when the big three American auto makers decided they knew what was best for us. That worked well (rollseyes).

And after all who are we Americans to question it? It's only our hard earned dollars which fund all military, infrastructure and any other publicly funded endeavors our governments at all levels seek to undertake including public campaign financing. All on our behalf of course.

But, maybe not. When we were getting the strange feeling we'd been duped by the G.W. Bush administration with regards to the case for invading Iraq perhaps another voice would have helped. After the economy had come unglued over the past few years perhaps the input of another view or maybe two to help us balance our decisions could have helped to bring clarity to the debate. Perhaps a voice other than Republican or Democrat does not have to be radical,"out there" or necessarily "nutty."

What were our choices and who did we hear from in the last few elections? As usual it was... "those other guys." If the ones offered weren't up to snuff or had no alternate counter to round out the arguments we were stuck. We had to resort to that old cliche - "choosing between the lesser of two evils."

Every day on mainstream news programming we are handed copious amounts of opinion and party rhetoric on issues and events - Democrat or Republican opinion. How are we to know another option for ourselves if one is never presented. How are we to be able to take any third candidate or their party seriously without knowing their views?

It is of course up to Americans to vote based on a knowledge of the candidates out there and our understanding of their stances, but when we are treated to two out of the many, it would seem our view is being shaped a bit. As most of us rely on mainstream media, we are placed on a sort of track towards the elections with blinders on as to what other candidates have to say about the elections in Iran, the level of unemployment or even abortion for example. Where are the varying perspectives sought by Americans on the issues?

When reporting on sports we don't hear about only two teams. Imagine the NBA Playoffs and networks only showing games, highlights and interviews of just two teams. Talk about boring! If any major sports leagues were run by commissions comprised solely of members of two teams how would we really expect the rules to be shaped regarding fairness towards the other teams?

With the economy the way it is there must be other voices. The Libertarian Party, second most popular party on the right, surely must have something to say for example. What would be the harm in hearing it? The bi-party treadmill seems to be getting so tired. When they both agree there's never another sentiment voice many may share? The game might be stacked in our favor if this were to change and those changing it (like the media) would only find themselves empowered.

In 2004, a year Americans were yearning for that alternate voice as we were all starting to wonder about the invasion of Iraq, a poll taken by Zogby showed 57 percent of Americans believed third parties should be included in the presidential debates that year.

A little digging reveals the debates we watch and listen to in the mainstream media billed as non-partisan are not that at all. This is not opinion but historical fact. Let's go back to 1976. The League of Women Voters, a civic organization which sponsored the debates, was responsible for and ran the debates as some know. They were truly non partisan being neither in favor of the Democratic or Republican party and as proof when there were popular third party candidates they allowed them to debate regardless of objections.

However, in 1986, Republican National Committee chairman Frank Fahrenkopf and chairman of the Democratic National Committee Paul Kirk ratified an agreement between the two parties "for the parties to take over presidential debates." Thus they stated their deliberate intent to undermine non partisan debates. This would also serve to effectively disenfranchise the League of Women Voters as the country's official debate sponsors with no real public explanation as to why they really wanted to get rid of them.

A year later the Commission on Presidential Debates whose stated purpose was among other things "party building" put it's plans into effect. In 1987 the two parties dew up a Memorandum of Understanding which (unlike The League of Women Voters' doctrines) was secret, agreeing which tough questions would be ignored and what the rules would be for that year's debates. The League of Women Voters pulled out of the debates citing the discovery Republicans and Democrats were colluding to control the debates and had made it impossible for them to hold debates by repeatedly pulling out.

How is it in the voters best interest to hear debates put on solely by two organizations? The League of Women Voters was roundly agreed upon to be non partisan because tough questions were asked, follow up questions allowed, third parties participated and they were a non affiliated. They were not a bi partisan group formed by the chairmen of two parties who are the only parties we have heard from except one year. (After that year they changed the rules.)

Choices and options were supposed to be included in the package when Americans opted for change last November and we expect it. I voted for President Obama and probably would have done so regardless as I was very impressed by him. It's too early to say who I would vote for next, but he has not done anything major to convince me he isn't up to the task. Although for real change I'd like to see him appoint someone from a third party camp to his administration and debate third party candidates. That would signal real change.

This is the land of opportunity for anyone willing to work hard. We are the nation that hails itself as among other things a melting pot. We are a land of diverse religious backgrounds, ethnicities and political opinions. We should be able to have this same variety reflected in our political parties. Change should be about selecting the best for the country regardless of political stance and about hearing all opinions.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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