What U.S. Third Parties Don’t Do, But Must Do

"The deep disillusionment and anger that led to Donald Trump’s election—a reaction to the corporate coup d’état and the poverty afflicting at least half of the country—have destroyed the myth of a functioning democracy."(Photo: Mr. Fish)

by Valleria Ruselli and the Oxman Collective

“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” Emma Goldman

“If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.” Mark Twain 

Oh, voting can change some things, but let’s go beyond that bumper sticker mentality.

When powerful social tensions have roiled the U.S. throughout its history — making progressive and radical forces recoil in horror over the frightful sight of hysteria and fear rearing their heads, and filling the air with the kind of dynamics we’re now experiencing (with Trump, the easy target) — rights and values that were taken for granted were easily eroded. In the dispiriting spirit in which they are threatened today, they were cavalierly done away with during Woodrow Wilson’s time, and at a number of other junctures in sordid U.S. History.

Our times are not exceptional in that sense, not any more than the nation itself is “exceptional” as per our ever-popular Good Guy mantra.. There is a rottenness down to the core here which is not beholden to the law. Not acknowledged by the raw recruiters for third parties, the subject of this article.

William Holden was best man at the wedding of Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis, but he was known as not getting involved in politics. Nonetheless, he told a reporter I know — shortly before his death — that Reagan loomed as a threat to the country in his eyes, because he considered him to be an executive who would easily do away with civil liberties if push came to shove.

The freedom to publish and speak, and protection from vigilante justice are two examples of what actor Bill felt would most likely fall under an appalling Reagan presidency, as they had in very dramatic fashion under President Wilson. He also underscored the fragility of voting results, emphasizing that “unacceptable results” might not be honored. That’s the sort of thing the U.S. has been doing — not honoring election results — around the world for a very long time, its “Exceptional Good Guy” (carefully honed democratic) image notwithstanding.

Adam Hochschild recently recorded something that came down on that score during Wilson’s tenure:

“When… in 1918 and again in a special election the next year, Wisconsin voters elected a Socialist to Congress, and a fairly moderate one at that, the House of Representatives, by a vote of 330 to 6, simply refused to seat him. The same thing happened to five members of the party elected to the New York state legislature.”

Third parties in the U.S.  don’t tell their members that if they run a candidate for a major office there’s the strong possibility that electoral fraud will kick in if the candidate wins and is seriously offensive to the powers that be, the two major parties and those they really represent for the most part. Which is not the people, of course, in an oligarchy. Or is it a plutocracy? It should be discussed. In schools. Instead of the ideal democratic checks and balances being given more time than they deserve in the classroom, options for dealing with our macabre momentum could be the subject of spot on, useful exchanges.

But third parties themselves have an obligation to do this. To really get down with their members respecting why their major candidates don’t have a shot in hell at taking office even if they win. Again, not just in the context of electoral fraud, but because newspapers and other media outlets — just as they did during Wilson’s wartime antics — are likely to be supportive of anti-democratic actions which keep radicals out of office. Whatever form they take.

It would behoove all third parties, then, to have a Plan B that could kick in if and when a vote count was suspect or not honored. But that isn’t ever talked about. Not among any of the third party circles. A viable game plan needs to be drawn up by leaders of third parties for dealing with this fact of electoral life. But that’s not being done, is it? It should be highly instructive to address why that’s the case.

And, truth be told, it’s not being too bold to suggest — since the powers that be usually listen in on the discussions of dissidents — that a Plan C (discussed in the utmost confidence) needs to be considered. With all members pledged to secrecy to some degree, and prepared to act along some previously agreed upon lines.

Yes, when one operates beyond the make-believe world of Holden, Reagan and the common U.S. classroom, the element of surprise needs to be honored, the factor of class interests considered anew.

Valleria Ruselli is a member of the Oxman Collective, and can be reached at [email protected].


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