There are four non-Democrat, non-Republican, real-life candidates for the real-life presidency whom you can cast your real-life vote for. Swear to God. Their platforms span the spectrum, but you will find they all seem to have the coherence of intent and expression afforded by not being pulled in a bunch of shadowy, contrived directions by soft-spoken but powerful behind-the-scenes forces. In other words, they actually seem to be real people, kind of like how Ron Paul emits the refreshing aura of realness among marionettes during the Republican presidential debates, regardless of his political positions. While writing this has felt much like a homework assignment, it has had its rewards. In reading and listening to these candidates, it felt like I had found a hidden oasis of political sanity. In alternate party world, for example, being conservative doesn’t entail vast expansions of government power, and being liberal doesn’t include the trampling of civil liberties. Underrated congruences like this make everything there more sensible. I found the alternate party oasis a welcome place to stop and wet my whistle after months of shambling through the barren wasteland of an American election year.
Before we start, let’s address this “waste of a vote” notion. People might actually vote for these kinds of candidates if it wasn’t for that token cynical friend that we all have who dissuades our honest graspings for a more representative candidate by saying, “Well, they have no chance of winning, so you would just be throwing your vote away.” What stale logic. By similar logic, unless your candidate wins by two votes, your vote would be meaningless too, dick. Actually, losing campaigns can have very real and important effects on policy, despite having lost. Although Teddy Roosevelt lost the election of 1912, his alternate party platform resonated enough with Americans that much of it was incorporated into the policies of the winning administration. Ross Perot, running as an independent in 1992, was initially the only presidential candidate talking seriously about the national debt and budget deficits. He lost, but he was for much of the election cycle the lone representative of a particular discussion important to Americans—a discussion that, thanks to his platform and the surprising chunk of votes it won, was deemed pressing enough to have on the national stage. In this way, we can give a certain thanks to Perot for the political energy expended by the government under the Clinton administration to achieve budget surpluses. And of course there is always the simple but powerful argument concluding that you should vote for the candidate that represents you the best, regardless of his or her forecasted chances of victory. Picking a loser isn’t something to be ashamed of, and it certainly isn’t pointless.
If these candidates are new to you, as they largely were to me in writing this, then I hope that the unsatisfying briefness and narrowness of these overviews makes you follow any interest they might arouse to where it leads.
Rocky Anderson – Justice Party
“The [people of this country] want an equal playing-field. They want the laws to apply to everyone equally, and they don’t want our congress and our president simply serving the interests of the economic aristocracy in this country any longer.”
Rocky Anderson’s platform is bound together by the notion of a corrupt plutocracy in control of the federal government. Before we can even try to solve the problems we face, he would say, we must destroy the mechanisms in place that allow our elected officials to be corrupted by the money of private interests. His campaign mirrors this notion by talking more about how the government should function than it does about what the government should do. In that spirit, Anderson spends much of his time calling for the end of corporate personhood and the repeal of Citizens United, identifying them as points of entry for the corrupting influence of money in politics.
It sounds like he’s read Glenn Greenwald’s book With Liberty and Justice for Some when he describes a two-tiered American justice system in which elite criminals are immune from the law, and average citizens who commit petty crime are bludgeoned with punitive sentences that are unique among nations in their severity. Anderson would repeal the prohibition of industrial hemp production, and would work to end the prohibition of all drugs that are currently illegal, arguing that we should get drugs out of the criminal justice system and treat them as the public health issue that he says they are. As the mayor of Salt Lake City, Anderson ended the city’s D.A.R.E. Program, citing its ineffectiveness and sometimes counter-productiveness, along with its immense cost to taxpayers. Anderson is an outspoken critic of the privatization of prisons, and speaks of a prison industrial complex that has been known to lobby government to enhance prison sentences to keep criminals incarcerated longer, bringing them more business. The for-profit-college system is also in his sights. He uses University of Phoenix as an example of a travesty resulting from the corrupting influence of money in congress, describing a turn of events in which the company bought an extensive lobbying campaign to make its student debts both non-dischargeable in bankruptcy and guaranteed by the federal government.
With regard to US foreign policy in the Middle East, Anderson likens our policy thus far to a bully who has yet to receive counseling, and who still wonders why none of the other students he has beat up likes him. He criticizes the imperialism that has characterized our foreign policy for a long time, and thinks we should be working with Russia rather than antagonizing them as Mitt Romney has done. His stance on education is for public school curricula to be set by national standards, but he says states would be allowed flexibility here. Universal healthcare, equal marriage rights, raising the minimum wage, opposition to international trade agreements, and stricter gun control laws all find themselves in his platform. Most of his positions are cast as responses to inequities caused by the corruption of government, and indeed reforming government to be immune to such corruption remains the meat of his message.
Ballot Access: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington. Write-In Candidate Access: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, DC, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Gary Johnson – Libertarian Party
“I think most people in this country are fiscally responsible and socially tolerant, and with a broad brushstroke, I think that’s where a libertarian lies…if you take the best of what republican is supposed to be about, and you take the best of what democrats are supposed to be about, you end up with a libertarian.”
Gary Johnson will be the first to tell you that you needn’t look much further than Ron Paul’s campaign to know what his is about. But he adds that voters should recognize that they now have a viable libertarian option whose platform is without the compromise necessary of one that has merged with the GOP, since Ron Paul was not chosen as the Republican nominee. He says that a libertarian president would be very effective at handling the economic problems and civil liberties deprivation we face in this country. He notes that republicans, who are supposed to fight for reduced spending in government, have been on a trend of spending a lot of money, and that democrats, who are supposed to fight for civil liberties issues, have not lived up to that reputation.
He would throw out the entire federal tax system and install a consumption tax, which is basically a sales tax designed to be larger and to fund more things. In the process, income tax, corporate tax, and tax witholding would be thrown out. Abolish the federal department of education, he says, citing the fact that although the federal government gives money to states for education, that money comes along with obligations that he says seats the states on the downside of the deal. So he wants to put education back in the hands of the states. He would do the same thing with Medicaid and Medicare; block grant the states a fixed grant of money 43% less than what we are currently spending, and rely on the states to come up with an efficient way of spending it. “Washington Down” has us in the predicament that we are in now, he says.
He sees Iran’s recent global posturing as a natural result of our aggression with regard to Iraq, reminding us that, despite popular propaganda, there is no evidence that Iran has nuclear weapon capabilities. In that thread, he warns us against the repercussions of attacking Iran now, which he says would include gaining more enemies and being engaged in a “2 year bombing maintenance program.” He is a self-described non interventionist, saying we shouldn’t use American military power unless we are attacked, or unless attack is imminent. He was against Iraq from the very beginning, and recalls thinking that going into Iraq would incite a civil war that would have no end. He supports our attacks on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, given that it was warranted on the basis of us being attacked by them. But he argues that it took us around six months to wipe out al qaeda there, and that we should have gotten out then—11 years ago. In one of his most insightful rhetorical moves (I think), he draws a distinction between defending against terror and waging prolonged war across the world. End wars. Complete troop withdrawal. Marriage equality. Drug law reform. These are some of the things you’d see in Gary Johnson’s Libertarian administration, or at least an effort to realize them.
Ballot Access: The Johnson/Gray ticket is on all state ballots except in Michigan and Oklahoma where its ballot access has been challenged. Write-In Candidate Access: Michigan.
Virgil Goode – Constitution Party
“If the massive invasion [of illgal immigrants] is not stopped, we are going to be flooded to the extent that we will drift into third world status. For our children and for our grandchildren, we cannot fail on this issue.”
The most defining piece of Virgil Goode’s platform is his stance on immigration and foreign workers in the United States. Goode argues that a successful reaction to our ailing economy must include a reevaluation of how the presence of foreigners in our country hurts taxpayers. Strain on health care costs, social service utilization, emergency room fees, and prison expenses are among the harms inflicted on our economy by illegal immigrants, he says. According to his website, 50,000 of the 189,000 federal prisoners are illegal or recent aliens. He pledges to fight for funding for the fence currently spanning the southern border in order to increase and maintain its effectiveness, and says troops must be utilized to police it. Amnesty for illegal immigrants and birth right citizenship, he argues, also promote illegal immigration and exacerbate its effects on our economy, and both must be eradicated from our policies. With regard to workers here legally, he wants to stop issuing green cards until unemployment falls below 5%, adding that Americans should be first in line for jobs in these tough times. With similar justification, he would strive to make it harder for foreign students to attend American universities.
Interestingly, Goode is the only presidential candidate who is unequivocally pro-life and against gay marriage. With regard to health care, he would fight to end the Affordable Care Act, work to pay back the Social Security trust fund that has been depleted by the federal government for other expenditures, and fight to mitigate the financial burden incurred by doctors in the face of medical malpractice lawsuits in an effort to lower healthcare costs across the board. Similar to his libertarian opponent, Goode would work to end the federal Department of Education, arguing that schools should be run by states, counties, cities, and towns.
I find the most interesting part of his platform to be its critique of the international trade agreements that the US is party to. He describes the Central American and North American Free Trade Agreements as agreements contrived by powerful special interests to bolster the financial positions of large-scale retailers, while inflicting devastating harm to American production industries like textiles and agriculture. In this way, Goode ties himself in with a commonality among alternate party candidates; he thinks the hardship we incur as Americans is in part the result of an intrusion into governance by private interests—this is something it seems most Americans think, but will never be heard from the lips of Obama or Romney for obvious reasons.
Ballot Access: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming. Write-In Candidate Access: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia.
Jill Stein – Green Party
“We are paying over two trillion dollars a year to treat chronic diseases that are largely preventable upstream if we are doing the right things in our communities. And fortunately, the Green New Deal takes care of all of that because it moves to clean, renewable energy–so it stops polluting our air, our water, and our food supply. In addition, it also creates a healthy, local, sustainable organic food supply.”
Stein’s Green Party platform contains its familiar calls for investment in clean energy production as part of the “Green New Deal” it proposes. Stein’s argument for this goes a bit further though, pointing to more than the effect it would have on climate change. She connects it with jobs, arguing that fossil fuel production employs a few smart people, but doesn’t require investing in a large workforce. “For every dollar spent in clean energy,” she says, “we create three times as many jobs as we do in the fossil fuel and nuclear sector.” She also connects investment in clean energy with public health and healthcare costs. Stein, a medical doctor, argues that air, water supply, and aquatic food supply pollution from power plants contributes to a degrading of fish population which hurts our food supply, and an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases like asthma, cancer, heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. A move to clean energy, she says, will improve our health, and also help our pocketbooks via reduced healthcare costs.
Her attitude toward the economy as a whole is characterized by a stern criticism of wall street. Pointing to the financial crash of 2008 as the primary cause of our current recession, she calls for a wall street transaction tax, arguing that the business of wall street should be taxed just like the business that the rest of the American people engage in. In addition to added tax revenue, she says this tax would promote responsible practices on wall street and help prevent the financial industry from endangering our economy in the future. She says the Bush tax cuts are largely responsible for our debt, and would presumably try to roll them back.
She says our foreign policy should be geared towards the preservation of human rights, not the procurement of oil. Stein is an outspoken critic of Obama’s expansion of the wars, particularly the expansion of the unmanned drone program. She says that our defense spending has doubled since 2000, and argues that this increase hasn’t been worthwhile to the American people in terms of added security. She adds that the real fight for national security should be happening here in the USA, where we should be securing our future by investing in health care, jobs, and education. Stein contrasts the quantitative easing stimulus strategy of the current administration with an investment in making higher education more available, citing the GI bill as an example of this kind of investment being a great success.
Ballot Access: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, DC, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin. Write-In Candidate Access: Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri.