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By Red Phillips
In all the hoopla over the Iraqi elections, one seemingly obvious detail has been almost entirely over looked. The United States is allegedly exporting democracy to a part of the world that has not experienced much of it. But apparently we aren’t exporting entirely American style democracy, as is evidenced by one glaring difference. The Iraqis had over one hundred parties to choose from. If we were exporting American style democracy, they would have had only two centrist parties that differed very little but had automatic access to the ballot and nearly impossibly high ballot access barriers to all other parties.
Does anyone else see the irony in this? We are the ones exporting democracy, but in Iraq’s first free election in years, they already have a more thriving democracy than we do. Why is what is good for the goose not good for the gander? If Iraqi democracy is allowed to have multiple parties, why shouldn’t the United States?
I have heard all the arguments before. The winner take all system in the United States lends itself to a two party system. That I do not disagree with. But why does that necessitate that there should be high barriers to ballot access for other parties as there are in many States? If they are destined to remain minor parties, then why not just indulge them with ballot access? Also, what grand oracle from on high decided that it would be the Republicans and Democrats who have automatic ballot access? Why not the Libertarians and the Greens? Why not the Libertarians and the Constitution Party? We currently limit people’s options to the center of the political spectrum. Why not limit them to the right? (Hey, maybe I’m on to something.) Why not limit them to the left? We could have an election between the Greens and the Socialist Workers Party.
Another objection I often hear to liberal ballot access (See, I do favor a few liberal ideas.) is that it will confuse people. I’m sure that the average Iraqi is reasonably bright although many are poorly educated and illiterate or minimally literate. Yet no one was objecting that all those parties on the Iraqi ballot might confuse them. All those names on the California special election ballot for Governor didn’t seem to confuse Californians too much either.
I can really think of no good reason why we should restrict ballot access any more than minimally. I would favor allowing Average Joe to go to the elections office and declare himself a party of one if he so desired. But I could understand an argument for some minimal standards for ballot access just to keep people from putting themselves on the ballot for the sake of vanity or in response to a dare. But any restriction should be minimal and easy to overcome.
If the current two party duopoly is so clearly the inevitable outcome of our system, which I am not necessarily disputing, then what have they to fear? The two party system wants you to believe that it is the only alternative. That way they can keep pandering to the middle with the realization that their left and right base has "nowhere to go." That their base might actually have somewhere else to go threatens their cozy little system. That is why they continue to uphold a system that inevitably favors the status quo. That is why the Republicans hysterically rant about "wasted" votes for Peroutka or Badnarik, or the Democrats pathetically plead with Ralph Nader not to run.
If I was a mainstream conservative, happy with the status quo and content to watch my country drift ever closer to outright Socialism, then I would be OK with the current two party duopoly. But I am a real conservative actually interested in making some progress away from Socialism. Therefore, I say give me the chance to vote for a candidate and party that actually reflects what I believe.
If not, then maybe next election we need some Iraqis observers over here to monitor our elections for "fairness."
"Published originally at EtherZone.com": republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."
Red Phillips is a physician from Georgia. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the February 9, 2005 issue of Ether Zone. Copyright (c) 1997 - 2005 Ether Zone.