There is one important way in which the Democratic and Republican parties work together in bipartisan harmony. They collaborate to rig the election system to keep third party and independent candidates off the ballots and out of the public debates. They also use their vast financial resources and connections to litigate fledgling political movements into submission or even bankruptcy.
In Ohio, 2008 ballot access requires that a party must either collect petitions equal to one half of one percent of the total vote, or have received five percent of the vote in the previous election. Since Democrats and Republicans always get five percent of the vote, they don't have to collect vast numbers of signatures. Third parties must collect around 20,000. For independent candidates such as Ralph Nader, who have no party affiliation, 5,000 signatures must be collected, but no more than 15,000 may be submitted (the maximum limit makes it easier for the Dems/GOP to challenge the signatures later, as you will see). Ohio's election rules have been declared unconstitutional, but we still use them.
Guess what happens when the third parties and independents submit their petitions ? The Democrats and Republicans send their lawyers on the attack to invalidate them (btw, this is how Barack Obama won his first Democratic primary in Illinois, by getting the petitions of all his opponents invalidated, including the incumbent. Change We Can Believe In). In addition, the Ohio Secretary Of State is always either a Democrat or a Republican, so guess whose side they tend to be on ? And when the third parties fight in court, guess which political parties the judges come from ? Third parties and independents have to fight legal battles in courts where the judges represent the very Democrats and Republicans they are fighting against.
Consider this - For the 2008 Ohio presidential election, the Libertarian Party won a Cincinnati court order to get candidate Bob Barr on the ballot (note - the state of Ohio is run by Democrats now. They WANT the Libertarian on the ballot to take votes away from McCain. Democrats are the same ones who got Ralph Nader kicked off the ballot in 2004, It's two sides of the same dirty coin), the Green Party has filed a federal lawsuit to get on the ballot, The Socialist Party won a federal lawsuit to get on the ballot, and Independent candidate Ralph Nader only recently submitted his petitions, so it remains to be seen what the Democrats will try to do to him. The point is, it seems to take court decisions to get on the ballot, with Democratic and/or Republican lawyers and the state fighting them every step of the way. In 2004, Nader was kicked off the Ohio ballot even though he collected the maximum number of signatures allowable, 15,000. Nader was denied an appeal of the decision. This year, the same method is being used to remove Nader and Green Party senatorial candidate Carl Romanelli from the Pennsylvania ballot. Here's a Green Party description of the events:
Pennsylvania requires that third party and independent candidates for major office submit over 67,000 signatures, while only requiring 2,000 signatures for Democratic and Republican candidates. After Mr. Romanelli submitted nearly 95,000 petition signatures (more than any candidate in the state's history), lawyers acting on behalf of the Democratic Party undertook a line-by-line challenge of the petitions. Despite Mr. Romanelli's attempt (with the help of volunteers) to defend the signatures he collected, the court sided with the Democratic Party lawyers and invalidated enough of Mr. Romanelli's signatures to have his name removed from the ballot. "The judge never looked at our signatures. They just took the word of Democratic Party lawyers," said Mr. Romanelli. "When we were able to show the validity of a large portion of the signatures the Democratic lawyers claimed were invalid, we were not allowed to enter the evidence in court." The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court also honored a request from Democratic lawyers to impose punitive expenses on Carl Romanelli because of the disqualified signatures. The court ordered Mr. Romanelli to pay more than $80,000. In Mr. Nader's case, the fine neared $89,000. "The fees imposed were an attempt to bankrupt me personally. The court also ordered my lawyer to pay expenses for the disqualified signatures, which is like sentencing a defendant's lawyer to prison along with the convicted defendant -- and which intimidates lawyers from representing third party candidates in future disputes," added Mr. Romanelli.
Carl Romanelli is now appealing to the state Supreme Court to reconsider its November 20 decision upholding the lower court ruling. Mr. Romanelli intends to file a federal lawsuit, claiming violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights because his political speech was limited and he was denied due process in his appeals.
If non-Dem/GOP candidates DO manage to survive the political grist mill and get on the ballot, and aren't bankrupted in the process, guess what happens next ? They are excluded from the national presidential debates, our major news media won't cover them, and most voters don't even know who they are until they see their names on the ballot in the voting booth, at which time the voters say to themselves "WHO ?". The national debate organizers only include candidates who meet a certain polling threshhold, which varies from debate to debate. Now, I ask you, how is a third party candidate supposed to generate poll numbers when he/she can't get on ballots and doesn't get any debate or news coverage to get his/her political views and name out there ? It's a Catch-22, and you can't tell me it's not by design.
Democracy is great. Wish we practiced it. It's easier to get on the ballot in Iraqi elections than it is here.
I wonder why, when the Dems and GOP complain about the country being in the grip of rich and powerful special interests, they never include themselves in that equation, because they are the biggest special interest groups in the country, bar none.
And who decided there were only TWO valid political views anyway ????
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