Published at Southside Pride:
Time for an alternative to business as usual?
by Michael Cavlan
The swing to the far right initiated and pushed by the extreme Republicans and quickly followed by the Democrats is the political reality we face today. For anyone willing to be honest it is the chase for corporate dollars to fund campaigns that drives this rightward trend. This fact is well known by the Minnesota and American electorate.
If this is the case, then depending on a political system that is awash in corporate cash is not an effective way to change this reality. This can be shown no more clearly than in the election campaign and now administration of President Obama, the very best advertising Madison Ave has ever done for the corporate powers that purchased the political status quo of today.
Minnesota has a long and proud history of third party participation and success in our government. Governor Jesse Ventura may have been a one off, lone governor who was hobbled by both Democrats and Republicans sabotaging his governorship, but that was not always the case. Floyd B. Olson was the governor of Minnesota and a member of the Farmer-Labor Party. With him was a majority of the Minnesota House and many in the Senate. They promoted the ideals of a cooperative commonwealth and the rights of the trade union movement. To this day Minnesota enjoys a better standard of living and services than most Americans because of their work.
But what of the national level? It could be said that there have been no “successes” on the national level, right? Well, actually, that is also not the case. In fact, one of our most famous presidents was the result of principled third party politics.
In the mid-1800s the United States had two parties, much like today. They were the Democrats and the Whigs. Then, due to pressure from the abolitionists, there emerged a new political party. That party was of course the Republican Party. It must be noted that the Republican Party today is a far, far cry from its noble origins.
However, the successes and influences of third party politics go much deeper than even the apparent cosmetic victories of winning elections. It can easily be argued that we owe much of our freedoms and rights to the pressures applied by people willing to take principled stands in the third party arena. From women’s right to vote, people of color earning their right to vote, Social Security, ending the Vietnam War. All of these victories and more were earned, in part by a determined and principled section of the population willing to challenge and threaten the status quo.
Therein lies the true purpose, strategy and vision of so-called third party politics. To give voice to the voiceless and to those shut out of the political process. The election of Governor Jesse Ventura showed how this happened and how it can happen again. It is true that the Republican Party establishment is willing to engage in voter suppression of African Americans and poor people. But, by the same token, the Democratic Party establishment has also been willing to engage in voter suppression of those to the left of their own far right policies.
But to both these parties, be aware. We are here and we are organizing. We may not have the money or the clout that you do. We may not have access to your golden microphone and propaganda outlets, but we are organizing and building, nonetheless. Expect us.
Michael Cavlan was the Minnesota Green Party endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate in 2006. He recently announced his candidacy to run for the U.S. Senate in the 2012 race, under the Minnesota Open Progressive banner.