Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama and former-Governor Mitt Romney came together for the highly publicized third and final presidential debate. On Wednesday, several other voices made themselves heard. Representatives from six underrepresented political campaigns came together in the Ville on Wednesday to discuss their unorthodox viewpoints with the Swarthmore community.
The forum, put on by Democracy Unplugged, brought around thirty members from as far as Havertown and Germantown to the Swarthmore Borough Library to listen, talk, and debate for two hours.
The six representatives made their differences clear from the get-go. When asked, “What is government, and what should its role be?” Green Party representative Jocelyn Bowser-Bostick responded, “They should be working to make sure that all aspects of our society work to the benefit of our citizens.” She was joined on the political left by Walter Smolarek representing Peta Lindsay for the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and Osborne Hart representing James Harris for the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).
On the opposite side of the aisle–so to speak–were Roy Minet, representing Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Party and Constitution Party representative Jim Clymer. Clymer said his party believes the government exists “To protect our fundamental rights. We’ve lost sight of that; we think government is a benefactor, the sugar daddy.”
But not all the representatives could place themselves within the existing political framework. Jim Babb, speaking for the Vote for Nobody campaign, said “Government is force; it’s for whoever wants to enforce their rules, with guns.” His party advocates that the public skip the polls and work outside the system because the government is simply too corrupt. “The corporate parties are united on war and empire,” he said. “They have debates and argue about who’s the most bloodthirsty.”
All those involved were eager to discuss issues and perspectives that they felt had been ignored by both Obama and Romney in the three presidential debates. “I guess everyone has been watching the ‘debates,’ and I understand there are a lot of things that didn’t get discussed in the debates,” said Owen Powell, a former 99% Party candidate who introduced the debate.
“Neither candidate spent a lot of time talking about poor people,” he said. “I guess they don’t really exist in mainstream America. I’d like to hear about the other America.”
Other questions discussed what should be done to improve the Philadelphia school system, how to abolish CAFTA (the Central-American Free Trade Agreement), and how these minor parties and the Vote for Nobody campaign intend to work to make their policy goals a reality.
The organization Democracy Unplugged has made it an effort to encourage more diverse discourse by inviting minor parties to express themselves. Minor parties get very little coverage in the mainstream media, so they are eager to capitalize on opportunities such as this forum to reach out to the public. Democracy Unplugged also supports the Voters’ Choice Act, which would establish less-restrictive ballot access legislation to give minor parties a place on the November ballot.
Although third parties scarcely ever win elections, the representatives view the campaign as an effective way to make their message heard, offer alternative plans to the American public, and allow individuals whose ideas coincide with those of minor parties to vote “according to their beliefs instead of the lesser of two evils,” as Clymer puts it.
“We think the election campaign is another vehicle to put out our ideas. We want to contest the capitalist parties,” said Chris Hoeppner, audience member affiliated with the SWP. “There’s more discussion and debate taking place [during the election], so you get a hearing, you get a chance to speak to more people and discuss an alternative.”
What all the representatives agreed on was that just about the last place Americans can look to represent their best interests is the two-party system that currently dominates mainstream politics.
Featured image courtesy of Democracy Unplugged.