The Implosion of the GOP, and the Rise of Third Parties

Which political party calls itself "pro-life," yet fights to deny health care to the most vulnerable and wants to keep weapons on the streets that can kill 30 people in a second? It's the same political party that says we need the 2nd Amendment to defend ourselves from tyranny, yet fights to give the government a blank check to buy more weapons. It's also the same political party whose representatives in Congress across 20 states voted to deny aid to hurricane victims. The Republican Party is no longer the anti-abolitionist, populist party of Lincoln -- it's the party that selects their leader in Congress based on their willingness to hold back aid to American disaster victims.

This is the same party that had a legitimate shot at controlling the U.S. Senate until Todd Akin, one of their high-profile candidates in Missouri, uttered the "legitimate rape" phrase that effectively ended his candidacy. Richard Mourdock, the candidate who defeated longtime Senator Dick Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary this year, marketed himself as the more conservative candidate. He lost an election that was his to win after saying rape was something "God intended to happen." Most recently, Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey defended Todd Akin's comments as "partly right." And even when distancing himself from Akin and Mourdock's comments, Mitt Romney couldn't keep his foot out of his mouth at a top-dollar fundraiser where he confided to his fellow millionaires that 47 percent of the country was too poor to pay taxes, and that it was their own fault because they were all lazy government moochers. Ironically, Mitt Romney ended up with 47 percent of the vote.

In a frantic effort to rebrand their party, Republicans have discussed adapting their platform to not embrace marriage equality and a pro-choice stance, but to just shut up about them. Their plan actually involves having less debates in an effort to win over more voters. That's essentially the Republicans saying to themselves, 'If we just keep our mouths shut, the public won't know we're batshit crazy.' The party that has spent the last several decades vilifying and working directly against workers, the poor, the black community, immigrants, women, students, the elderly and LGBT voters have finally begun to realize that eventually, the stuffy old white men that make up a majority of their base will become a minority. They can try to deny it all they want, but the Republicans of today have become irrelevant, just as the Whigs were in Lincoln's era.

All that being said, the Democrats aren't much better. The Democratic president we just reelected just picked his drone warfare czar to lead the CIA, and oversaw a Department of Justice that ruthlessly prosecuted 26-year-old Aaron Swartz until he was driven to suicide while letting bankers that committed legitimate crimes go free. The Internet censorship bills, SOPA, PIPA and CISPA, which Swartz organized efforts against, were championed largely by Democratic members of Congress. The latest $631 billion military budget passed the Democratic-led senate by a 97-0 margin. And corporate donations for the 2012 inauguration have been pouring into the Obama administration's coffers, just as they were when he was running for reelection. The Democrats of today are not the champions of labor and the enemies of high finance like they were in the days of FDR. Rather, today's Democratic Party is a center-right version of the Republican Party -- just as corrupt, but not inherently evil. Both the Republicans and the Democrats exist to primarily serve the 1 percent, as our Congress is increasingly made up of the richest top 1 percent of the richest top 1 percent.

Given the irrelevance of the Republican Party and the ineffective leadership of the Democratic Party, it's no surprise that 53 percent of Americans now say that neither major party represents Americans any longer. The coveted bloc of independent voters that both parties battle for grows larger with each election, covering 40 percent of the electorate at this time last year. It's time for fresh faces and fresh ideas in the stuffy chambers of Congress, and this decade will mark the rise of third parties to hold true political power at the highest levels of government. Here are some of the leading contenders:

Green Party: The Green Party garnered nearly half a million votes for Dr. Jill Stein (full disclosure: I worked on the Stein campaign in 2012). Her goal was to implement a "Green New Deal" that would oversee a massive jobs creation program for the unemployed through aggressive investment in the renewable energy sector. The Green New Deal also called for an end to drone wars, a 50 percent reduction in the military budget, the overturning of the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, and an end to the drug war among other policies.

Green's strength lies in their progressive policy, which appeals to labor, youth, environmentalists, and the antiwar movement. Their chief weakness is the median age of their activist base, often making it difficult for young people to be recruited into the party's activities. Many on the left who have lost faith in the Democratic Party, such as myself, have defected and joined the Green Party.

Libertarian Party: Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson ran as the Libertarian Party's candidate in the 2012 election, and won the most votes out of all third-party candidates. His name was on the ballot in 48 states, while Jill Stein was on the ballot in just 38 states. Like most Libertarians, Johnson strongly believed in low taxes, minimal government regulation of business, and opposed foreign wars and occupations. Johnson regularly condemned the war on drugs, and promised to bring the troops home from Afghanistan if elected.

The Libertarians' strength is in their base, which is very young and already very engaged in politics, and in their warmth toward social policies like gay marriage, which are important to young people. Their chief weakness is in their economic policy, which many on the left criticize as being too lax to the fossil fuel industry, as well as supportive of tax policies that would favor the rich and hurt the poor. Libertarians are also mostly white, since many hardline Libertarians like Ron and Rand Paul believe in overturning the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because it involves government telling businesses that they don't have the right to close their doors to non-white customers. Many on the right who have become disenchanted with the Republican Party might find a home in the Libertarian Party.

Working Families Party: (full disclosure: I once worked for the Connecticut Working Families Party) While the WFP hasn't yet ran a candidate in a presidential election, they've succeeded at the municipal and state level since their founding in New York in 1998. Through WFP leader Dan Cantor's method of fusion voting, the WFP cross-endorses Democrats in primary races who abide by the WFP principles of more good jobs, more access to health care, and more worker benefits like paid sick days and a higher minimum wage. Through their fusion method, the WFP has become a powerful political voice in New York, helping voters vote for minor parties without seeming like their vote was "wasted." WFP affiliates have since taken power in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Oregon, and is on the verge of going nationwide. The WFP's strengths lie in its support from organized labor, where many unions have lost faith in the Democratic Party. Their platform also consists of bread-and-butter, kitchen-table issues that appeal to most working-class Americans. However, the WFP is still relatively unknown outside of the New England region and has a lot of hills to climb before it becomes a household name and brand like the Greens or the Libertarians.

Third parties have been criticized as "spoilers," both from the left and the right. Republicans feared Gary Johnson would siphon potential Republican voters away from Romney, just as Democrats feared Jill Stein would draw in many progressive Democrats in battleground states. But neither party should blame the Democratic process for allowing multiple voices and views. If Gore had won over just 600 of the hundreds of thousands of Florida Democrats who stayed home in 2000, he would've won the election. The day of the third party is here, and if we want to call this country of ours a democracy, we better let them have a seat at the table.

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