Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

The New Jersey Election
Saturday, October 5, 2002

by Roger Chambers

I came across your site while doing some research on the Senatorial election, having been stimulated by Weekend Edition on National Public Radio. After first noting that this idea came from this program with Scott Simon: there are other candidates listed on the ballot from so-called "minor parties" including Greens, Libertarians and I think two others.

What is wrong with the withdrawn candidate (Senator Torricelli) not being replaced on the ballot, in keeping with the supposed legal issues? This would then still entail a campaign of some 4 or 5 candidates, and some of these may now have a chance to express their ideas, in a format never before expected-- that is, WITHOUT two "major party" candidates. [Reference: New Jersey Senate Class 2]

Is it just conceivable that one of these might win? If so, despite the stakes of Democratic or Republican domination of the Senate, what would be wrong with that? After all, this is a democracy, isn't it? I do not recall who, but someone once said, "Democracy. Gee, that is a pretty good idea, maybe we should try it sometime."

The Democrat slot for Senator, therefore, should not be filled. Let the voters decide on the one they want as Senator without having a last minute "party boss" decision shoved down their throats.

Roger Chambers
Utica, NY

In his capacity as Researcher/Commentator for 'The Green Papers', Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

As I have already opined, and should Senator Torricelli's name not be allowed to be replaced on the ballot, what Mr. Chambers suggests- that is, "[l]et the voters decide on the one they want as Senator..."- is, indeed, what will happen (for the reasons I have already addressed in my two Commentaries [1 October and 3 October] on this subject). However, his further contention that "[t]his would then still entail a campaign of some 4 or 5 candidates, and some of these may now have a chance to express their ideas, in a format never before expected-- that is, WITHOUT two "major party" candidates" is rather a pipe dream, I am afraid.

Anyone who has perused this website- from the numerical arcana of its databases to the verbiage of my own Commentaries and responses to various 'vox Populi'- will know that I am not necessarily the biggest fan of a 'two Major Party only' system. I personally think that the United States as a whole would best be served by at least five Parties of national reach: a centrist one, a liberal one to the left of center, a conservative one to the right of center, a so-called "hard right" party to the right of the conservatives and an equally "hard left" party to the left of the liberals- and these five would almost certainly include all of the "bell curve" of the American political spectrum.

The history of why American politics revolves around only two Major Parties is largely shrouded in myth and legend; even absent this, having only two Major Parties is not at all a necessity (our neighbor to the north, Canada- for example- has had two dominant Parties nationally, the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives [though the Progressive Conservatives have been in some disarray since the mid-1980s], but it also has some other what we might call near-Major Parties of national import [the Canadian Alliance- which grew out of the earlier Reform Party, the New Democrats and the Social Credit Party]; in addition, in at least one Canadian Province- British Columbia, the New Democrats and the Social Crediters have been the Major Parties in the provincial legislature, not the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives!)

In any event, this website purposely includes the candidates of Parties other than the Democrats and Republicans- as well as Independent candidates- in addition to those of the two Major Parties; we have also featured the views of so-called "fringe" candidates for public office (whether they identify with one of the two Major Parties or not). This very website, then, is dedicated to the very proposition that Mr. Chambers has put forth- that "democracy... is a pretty good idea" and that, indeed, "maybe we should try it sometime"!

Having said all this, this website is also dedicated to bringing people the proverbial "reality check" as regards Politics and the Law as fairly and as honestly as we can; thus- though I hate to be the bearer of bad news- Mr. Chambers' hope that the minor party candidates will now be heard louder than they otherwise would be should Torricelli's name be left on the ballot is, in the end, a rather vain one. Again, regardless of which name is on the Democratic line re: the office of United States Senator on the General Election ballot (and there will be a name on that line- New Jersey Election Law requires it: that's what all these legal machinations regarding NJSA 19:13-20 are all about!), the Democrats in this State are not going to suddenly say "We give up-- we cry 'Uncle!'-- let Doug Forrester take on the minor party candidates only and we'll just shut up and go away quietly!!"; registered Democrats in this State are much too numerous and the Democratic Party of New Jersey much too powerful a political institution to not take on Forrester and the Republicans directly (especially as the issue of which Major Party will control the U.S. Senate in the 108th Congress is one that still hangs in the balance).

As I already noted in one of my responses to a 'vox Populi' from earlier this week, New Jersey Election Law- in fact- actually favors the two Major Parties over the minor ones; Title 19 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes, indeed, does not seem to exist in order to so easily facilitate an election contest "WITHOUT two "major party" candidates" (after all, who actually drafted this legislation?-- and which Parties nominated these drafters of New Jersey Election Law to run for their seats in the State Legislature??).

I do have one pet peeve about the complaint that the legal battle which has ensued as a result of Senator Torricelli's withdrawal is much about so-called "party bosses"- to paraphrase Mr. Chambers' own language- "shoving a decision down people's throats", a pet peeve I have not really at all addressed in either my two Commentaries on this subject this past week nor in any of my previous responses to the various 'vox Populi' on this subject:

For just which Party's "bosses" are seen as doing this alleged "shoving"? Those of the Democrats, of course! Yet I have seen absolutely no credible evidence, in the five days since Senator Torricelli made his announcement of his withdrawal, that the "bell curve" of New Jersey's Democrats are the least bit upset with the actions of these "party bosses" (who, after all, are the "bosses" of their own Party): rather, they seem to be quite relieved that Torricelli has taken himself out of the race and, thus, now allowed them to not have to consider voting for Republican Doug Forrester as an alternative to an, for many of them, undesirable vote for Bob Torricelli. I don't honestly think the vast majority of New Jersey Democrats feel the least bit disenfranchised by the leadership of the Democratic Party of New Jersey, for- if the Democrats could legally hold a new Primary as early as tomorrow- I have no doubt whatsoever (based on my having closely followed the politics of the Garden State with ever-increasing knowledge for more than three decades now) that replacing Torricelli with Frank Lautenberg on the ballot would win by a landslide!

What is all this about "party bosses shoving a decision down people's throats" anyway?! The Republicans here in New Jersey, for instance, have talked about how, among other reasons for their legal challenge to the Democrats being able to switch candidates, they are acting in order to defend the State's electoral process from the disenfranchising of those who have already voted in a nominating Primary. Now, they can't possibly be complaining about those who voted in their own Primary this past June (and if the New Jersey GOP is, indeed, so all-fired concerned that, should the New Jersey Supreme Court's ruling of 2 October stand, Republicans would then be able to act as the Democrats already have ['stop us before we switch our own candidates!'], there is a very simple solution: Don't Do It!... Surely a Party that has banged the political drum, particularly as regards sociocultural issues, of Personal Responsibility should itself then be responsible enough to not do that which they themselves consider to be most unethical!!)... thus, the Republicans must be talking about the potential disenfranchisement of Democratic Primary voters. But since when has the Republican Party as an institution ever given a hang about the voters in a Primary conducted by the other Major Party?

We have already had a situation in Florida this past 10 September in which the State's Democratic Primary was terribly botched largely in two heavily Democratic counties of that State (although, to be fair, there were problems of not quite the same magnitude in other counties throughout the State that day- counties dominated by Republicans as well as Democrats; still, the most glaring- and, indeed, worst- messes were to be found in Broward and Miami-Dade); the Democrats attempted to blame all this what can only be described as a massive screwup on the Republicans by trying to pin the main responsibility on the administration of Governor Jeb Bush, who happens to be running for re-election and who happens to be a Republican (as well as having the additional "lightning rod" of being the brother of the President of the United States... a President whose victory, in the end, depended on being the winner of the Electoral Votes of Florida... and we all know how easily the wounds of Florida 2000 can still be so easily reopened among the defeated!).

The Republicans of Florida (and rightfully so!) cast the blame for the problems in that State's 10 September Primary in the two counties already noted as having the worst problems right where they belonged- on the Democratic Party of Florida: for the conduct of elections in these counties was governed by county election-related offices occupied by Democrats, not Republicans. But, up here in New Jersey, we now have Republicans suddenly arguing in favor of their having to take responsibility for the sanctity of a Democratic Primary?! For the Republican Party of New Jersey to be so talking about their now attempting to prevent the disenfranchisement of Democratic Party Primary voters is, frankly, more than a little disingenuous!!


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