Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Draft John B. Anderson
February 8, 2000

From: "BillB \(FL/NC\)" BillBecker1@prodigy.net
Sent: Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 02:39:07 -0500

Are you aware of the grass roots effort that has sprung up on the Web to draft John B. Anderson (1980 Independent) as the Reform Party's candidate for President?

See URL: http://www.DraftAnderson.org, KevOMalley@juno.com, webmaster

Also, more information available at URL: http://www.prairienet.org/icpr/anderson/getinvolved.htm

It will be interesting to see what this project can achieve in this age of the "Information Super Highway".

William H. Becker, Daytona Beach, FL

The following is a statement by Mr. Anderson:

"A Time for Principle"
By John B. Anderson
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, November 19, 1999.

In 1980, I ran for president. Many of those who supported that effort have approached me about another campaign. Let me explain why I am compelled to listen.

On the brink of a new century, we cannot afford complacency. The complexity of our global society and the degeneration of our democracy demand boldness, innovation and frank talk.

But let me make a prediction about next year's presidential election. After winning their respective nominations, the Democratic and Republican nominees will spend far more time avoiding substantive debate than addressing the challenges facing us.

I cast no aspersions on the leading contenders. They include several admirable public servants. But in the zero-sum world of winner-take-all elections, their consultants urge them to focus on safe generalities and a handful of wedge issues to pry support away from their opponents. "Move to the center," they say, but their center is a void rather than the progressive spirit at the heart of the American people.

Elections have too much promise for galvanizing citizen participation and promoting new ideas to be left to pollsters and focus groups. We need authentic voices offering real choices.

Turning to other parties is the obvious solution. Indeed, I have spent much of the last two decades promoting a multi-party democracy in the United States. That is why I passionately support fair access to the ballot, public financing of elections, non-partisan redistricting, instant runoff voting and proportional representation.

Yet the party best positioned to challenge the Democrats and Republicans is in disarray. Building on Ross Perot's campaigns of 1992 and 1996, the Reform Party has great potential to bring Americans together around a package of issues drawing from the best of all parties, including fiscal responsibility, environmental protection, global problem-solving, responsive government and competitive elections.

Neither of the leading contenders for the Reform Party nomination, commentator Pat Buchanan and businessman Donald Trump, seem well-prepared to offer the optimistic, forward-looking message that is so important to building a lasting third party movement in America.

My 1980 campaign as an independent stands in contrast. Although unsuccessful in the short-term, my campaign inspired many people to challenge the two-party system. The movement for a multi-party democracy in the United States has grown steadily ever since. In the 1990s, more minor party candidates have run for Congress than in decades. Four states have elected governors running outside the major parties. Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura's victory was due in no small part to supporters of my 1980 bid.

To gain a lasting foothold in American politics, new parties must address the future, not the past. Let me provide three examples.

First, we must urge full participation in the global community, seeing the world as the first astronauts saw it years ago: one world whose political lines fade in the face of such issues as global warming, population growth, fair trade, conflict resolution and nuclear proliferation. Making the United Nations and other global bodies a success is imperative for those wanting a secure future.

Second, we must create a more muscular, participatory democracy. Major party candidates might support democratically financed elections, but actually winning real campaign finance reform in Congress will demand a true outsider ready to challenge the leaders of both major parties.

Third, despite shocking declines in voter participation, particularly among young people, no candidate is talking about the key to bringing people back to electoral politics: systems of proportional representation that promote a free marketplace of ideas, principled candidacies and a fair share of seats for any political grouping able to mobilize support.

It is imperative that we find a candidate willing to promote such an agenda. We cannot afford silence in the face of demands for a better world and more vital democracy. (End of Statement)

[John B. Anderson served 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from Rockford, Illinois. He is President of the Center for Voting & Democracy (http://www.fairvote.org) and the CEO of the World Federalist Association (http://www.wfa.org). He currently is a distinguished visiting professor at Nova Southeastern Law Center: 3305 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314, and the author of several books. In Jan. 2000 a grass roots effort sprang up on the Web to draft Mr. Anderson as the Reform Party presidential candidate. See URL: http://www.DraftAnderson.org]

BillB (FL/NC)

The Green Papers Respond:

First of all, let it be clear that "The Green Papers" does not endorse political parties nor their candidates; we are a wholly non-partisan site dedicated to the providing of as much information about the 2000 Presidential Campaigns and the Electoral Process itself as we reasonably can.

Secondly, we would like to remind users/readers of this site of that which is in our Mission Statement- to wit: that "when we do comment on the goings-on in the course of the election campaign, it is with no attempt to raise the fortunes of or to denigrate one or another of the several presidential contenders"; the same holds true for political parties other than the two major parties. Mr. Berg-Andersson's Commentaries, for example, are wholly his own and he writes them in the spirit of someone calling things as he sees them and their publication on "The Green Papers" is not an attempt to attack or undermine any party, ideology or candidate; likewise, our comments below should be seen as having been taken in that same spirit.

One thing former Congressman Anderson says in his piece "A Time For Principle" and included by Mr. Becker intrigues us. Mr. Anderson writes the following:

"Move to the center," [consultants to the leading presidential contenders] say, but their center is a void rather than the progressive spirit at the heart of the American people. Elections have too much promise for galvanizing citizen participation and promoting new ideas to be left to pollsters and focus groups. We need authentic voices offering real choices. Turning to other parties is the obvious solution.

There are three basic problems with Mr. Anderson's conception of the place of third parties in America:
The first is that the center is not a void- it is, at best, the peak of the "bell curve" and, at worst, the "lowest common denominator". However vapid, the center is- however- not empty; it exists and it plays into the hands of those Mr. Anderson decries (in however polite language) precisely because it not only exists but ultimately holds the balance of power in any national election.

But suppose that Mr. Anderson is correct, that the center IS, in fact, void and that we DO need his "authentic voices offering real choices" (which we very well might): are the most viable alternate choices- the major third parties out there now- the answer to this need he himself perceives? The answer to this question brings out the second problem with Mr. Anderson's conception of the place of third parties in our system: none of them necessarily offer any more of a real choice than what we already have coming out of the two major parties; the third parties, it is true, offer DIFFERENT choices but "different" doesn't necessarily mean "real" and, however real, "different" certainly doesn't necessarily mean "better"!

The natural place of those who tend to support the Green Party, to take one example, would be in the environmental and consumer-oriented wings of the Democratic Party (certainly the GOP as a whole- although there are individuals within that party who are concerned about the environment and the consumer- is not perceived as a party that much more likely than the Democrats to ordinarily achieve the Green Party's aims); the Green Party exists because most of its members are dissatisfied with the Democrats and they are so dissatisfied because they generally perceive the Democrats to have moved too close to the center at the expense of their conception of the progressive left.

Likewise, the natural place of those who tend to support the Libertarian Party would be the Republican Party (certainly the Democratic Party as a whole is not perceived by them to be a party which will be more libertarian than the Republicans ordinarily would be); the Libertarian Party exists because its members generally see the GOP as having moved toward embracing more governmental intervention at the expense of liberty in order to woo the center come election time: its presidential nominee in 1976, to take an obvious example, had previously been a REPUBLICAN Elector who- four years earlier (in the election in which Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern)- refused to cast his electoral vote for Nixon and instead cast it for the 1972 Libertarian Party nominee!

The point of all this is to show that these two major third parties (of the three that have a wide enough appeal to become the foundation of a viable alternative to the two major parties) are further from the center- an actual center, not a void (again, regardless of how vapid)- than the two major parties themselves. If you believe otherwise, have a Libertarian and a Green sit down and have a discussion on, say, individual property rights versus governmental regulation of same for sake of the environment and see whether they can agree- and, when they can't, check again as to whether EITHER view is at the heart of the average American's conception of Liberty in Property in which one does not want overly restrictive property regulation but neither does one want property use left completely unfettered!

But there is a third problem with third parties as an alternative and that is their general unwillingness and/or inability to become a "second party". In terms of unwillingness, this is partially a problem of the two third parties I have already used as examples- the Greens and the Libertarians- being largely made up of more or less "true believers": admitting more people into the club runs the risk of diluting the trueness of belief within the club's membership (or, to put it another way, the more the parties will come to resemble that "bell curve", that "lowest common denominator" against which these parties have set themselves up). There are certainly those in the hierarchies of these two parties who would not wish to so muddle their message.

However, there is also something of the unwillingness to unwittingly promote the fortunes of those who are the natural adversaries of a given third party. There has only been one third party in American History which has been successful in the long term: the Republicans; it became successful (this success largely due to a political aberration called the Civil War) because it was willing to become- or, at least, was forced into becoming- a "second party" to challenge the Democrats and at the expense of not the Democrats but the Whigs. The original GOP of the 1850's was made up of Free Soilers (a third party in the 1848 election) and dissatisfied Whigs who were not afraid to topple the Whig Party (even though they probably would have preferred the Democrats, rather than the Whigs, to disappear from the political scene).

But the Slavery issue as a thorn in the Nation's side was somewhat prolonged by the electoral success of the Democrats while the Republicans replaced the Whigs as the new second party. Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 Election due to a split among the majority Democrats: his election pushed the South to secede (which they might not have done had a nominee of a unified Democratic Party been elected); I have to question, absent the Slavery issue, whether the Republicans would have been able to so successfully replace what would have been a stronger Whig Party than that which Slavery destroyed- and I also have to assume that, had the Civil War been delayed by subsequent Democratic victories, the GOP would have been delayed in becoming that new second party. To bring this into today's political climate, would the Greens really like to turn the Democrats into a third party if it meant that the Republicans would have many years of unfettered electoral success in which to enact laws the Greens could not support? Likewise, would the Libertarians really like to turn the reins of power over to Democrats- who could then enforce policies the Libertarians themselves could not stomach- for several years while they pounded on that GOP they would have to replace as a second party??

There is also the inability of third parties to replace one or the other of the two major parties. When the Republican Party was organized, sitting office holders willingly joined it: Whig Senators, Congressmen and Governors openly declared themselves Republicans. But what would happen to office holders such as Whig New York Governor and Senator Bill Seward- later Republican Lincoln's Secretary of State-if they were alive and serving in public office today? If you don't know the answer, just ask New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith what happened to him at the hands of the Republican Congressional Leadership when he attempted to run for the Presidency under the banner of the U.S. Taxpayer's Party (assuming he'd be free to tell you on the record)!

These two factors just outlined in previous paragraphs- unwillingness and inability- end up dragging down the third party rather than raising it to better electoral success: even absent the campaign financial pressures put on office holders by the two major parties, just how many office holders are ready to make the great leap to one of the third parties? It is, all in all, a vicious circle: their unwillingness to become a second party makes the third parties less viable which increases their inability to become a second party (for major party office holders are not going to bolt for a less than viable third party) which increases the third party's unwillingness to become a second party (why expend so much effort and the few resources the party has- compared to the two major parties- for such a quixotic battle and/or for so little gain?), etc., etc., etc.

Now, lest one think "The Green Papers" is denigrating two of the three major third parties to the benefit of the third: let us turn to the Reform Party which seems to be the focus of the "Draft Anderson" movement Mr. Becker refers to. If John Anderson were to run for the Reform nomination, it would make things in that party quite a bit more interesting- but only just that! Pat Buchanan, who has already declared himself a member of the Reform Party in order to seek its presidential nomination, is one who is very concerned about American Sovereignty in relation to the United Nations to the point of being what one might fairly call a "neo-isolationist"; John Anderson is affiliated with the World Federalist Association, a body which seeks to achieve world federation (i.e. global government). I tell you I might actually PAY to see THAT debate!- but these issues will do little to make the Reform Party achieve electoral success (which should be the goal of any political party); the average American does not right now want a World Government at the risk of it not having American values but neither do they want the United States to wholly abandon the United Nations.

How then, in the 2000 Election, is the Reform Party to move to the center (even if the center isn't what Mr. Anderson thinks it should be: that "progressive spirit at the heart of the American people") in a situation where the likely supporters of Mr. Anderson and those of Mr. Buchanan are not going to here agree and neither candidate would be- on an issue such as this- in sync with the current will of the American people? If you are going to go down in flames, do it when it will conceivably begin to turn the tide of battle: don't turn the Presidential Election into a kamikaze run!

In the end, while it may yet prove to be desirable to have a more multi-party democracy, the United States is currently locked into a two-party system made up of three political groupings outside of extremists on the Far Left and the Far Right: the Left of Center (which will always tend to support the Democrats with some among its ranks drawn- on principle- into third parties, such as the Green Party), the Right (which will always tend to support the Republicans with some among its ranks drawn- on principle- into third parties, such as the Libertarian Party) and the Center (which, regardless of Mr. Anderson's perception of it, is that to which all parties- the third parties as well as Democrats and Republicans- must appeal to add to their core of support on either the Left or the Right if they hope for electoral success).

John Anderson might very well be right when he suggests that the Reform Party is "the party best positioned to challenge the Democrats and Republicans" (at the expense of the Greens and Libertarians for many of the reasons we have already outlined above), but- in order to achieve short-term electoral success- it, too, will have to "move to the Center"- even with Mr. Anderson's "package of issues drawing from the best of all Parties"- and in order to achieve more long-term electoral success, it is- like the Republicans of the mid-19th Century- going to have to decide which of the two major parties it intends to replace. "The Green Papers", of course, doesn't know whether Mr. Anderson and Mr. Buchanan would be able to agree on the answer to that question either.

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