The last election was not the first time many people felt they did not have a real choice. Of course, “not having a choice”, or rather only having highly filtered choices, is what our system is all about. Occasionally, a minor rebellion to create some serious alternative is beaten back with the programmed responses: “You’ll be wasting your vote.” “Voting for the lesser of two evils is the responsible thing to do.” “We have a better chance to change one of the parties from within.” The result of this strategy is to discourage the entrance of new players in the game to begin with.
Obviously there are structural barriers in our system that prevent break outs from below. New parties end up wasting all their “none of the above” political capital on transient candidates who will be moving on long before the first barricade has been breached. Motivated more by rage, righteousness, and indignation than substance, the upstart party then slides into oblivion.
What if a new mindset, disguised as a political party, promoted the heretical idea that this established process needed to be changed first before any challenge on issues can succeed. Agenda Item #1. They would not claim ownership of this goal since it is a premise that all excluded political entities could embrace. It would be a cooperative venture, for if it prevailed, they would all win by having the artificial barriers abolished.
The first filter is access to the voting ballot. The one and only voting ballot, where precious time and money has to be spent for voters to see you. For electoral purposes, you are not even considered a political party until you clear this hurdle. If you file papers indicating you are currently trying to achieve the exalted status of a “ballot qualified political party” you are awarded the provisional title of a “political body.”
In California there are five political bodies attempting to gain ballot status for the June 2018 election. The former Unified Progressive Party dropped out and has decided to work as a caucus within the Democratic Party, where they have had some early success. For the record, the functioning political bodies are California Pirate Party, American Solidarity Party, California National Party, Constitution Party, and the People for Justice.
Some of these bodies have one or more issues in common. So you could say they are in competition with each other. But there are good reasons why they should be working together or at least becoming knowledgeable about what each other is about. The strongest bond they have in common is being effectively shut out of normal political discourse and participation. They are all burdened by restrictions imposed by the two-party monopoly, even though new ideas tend to originate from outsiders. All political bodies should be presenting a common front to roll back this affront to democracy.
The first objection we hear from the average citizen is “we have to have some standards or the ballot will become too cluttered or confusing. This will not encourage democratic participation.” Before the backlash against “foreign ideologies” in the early 20th Century there was no problem. This was because what made a ballot official was not who printed it but the fact that one person turned in one ballot on a specific day with at least one person listed who filed for an office. Why do all ballots have to have a preselected subset of people running? Groups printed and circulated their own ballots which was less ballot restrictive. With the introduction of machines in counting votes, standardization was cited as the reason we have limited ballots.
The irony today is, machines, that is computers and computer programs, have made the restricted ballot obsolete. Secure ID technology has arrived, making voting online practical and inclusive. For people who have limited access, there will be voting stations where they can use official computers, the way we go to testing centers now to take standardized tests on computers. The disabled will still get assistance to vote the way they do now.
The only technology problems with online voting are the same tech problems we have with the present system. Those problems revolve around proprietary software and hardware owned by corporate contractors. Many of these contractors have a vested interest in the outcome of elections. Many anomalies have been noticed in proprietary voting equipment with the most “backdoors.” With state of the art encryption there are no compelling arguments against open source voting software. The popular fraud solution of “paper voting trails” is grossly inadequate.
On the core issue of information security, accessibility, and proliferation the Pirate Party will simply have to take the lead. They are the geeks of the political body front. For other issues they may have to step back and support other political bodies. So how will the disenfranchised political bodies support each other in the competitive world of limited independent voters and even more limited attention spans? They will cooperate in punching through the second filter. This is the filter of entertainment. If it is not entertaining today’s voter will tune you out. The power elite have more money, which is the third filter. They can buy more professional productions, media whores, and ditto time on TV. Knowledge presented in a compelling way will reduce this advantage.
To be brutally honest, none of the five functioning political bodies in California are making a compelling presentation to convince dubious voters to reregister. When approaching people who know little or nothing about you, to not just sign a petition but fill out a personal official document, you are going to have to sell sell sell. That means a schtick, a repertoire of answers, and an environment of entertainment. Most people have to be bought, entertained, or at least intrigued to gain their attention. Since no billionaires or celebrities have appeared, the political bodies are going to have to cooperate with each other to create an energetic scene.
Its hard to imagine anything else working. Just as the insiders stage phony debates, the outsiders are going to have to stage their own outsider debates, produce multi political body videos around common issues, and sponsor spectacles as a gift to the public.The concept of supporting a political body must become mainstream and fun. Mailing lists and social media are still relevant but no excluded wannabe will attract established media attention by themselves. That requires a coalition of wannabes, creating events that have the feel of “fairs.” Any registration defector from the electoral con game is a victory, even if your body doesn’t get all of them.