November 07, 2006

In California, this is the year to vote third party

Tuesday's election gives progressives a unique opportunity to give a boost to third parties, especially Peace & Freedom and the Greens.

Perhaps because she is neither as smug nor as arrogant in her affect as Joe The Kiss Lieberman, Diane Feinstein doesn't inspire the same degree of liberal loathing as the odiferous Connecticut senator,The Peace & Freedom Party even though California's senior senator has supported the war, is as insensitive to civil liberties as George Bush's favorite Democrat, and, if anything, is more reliably pro-business. Since she is no danger of defeat at the hands of the GOP's sacrificial lamb, a vote for Peace and Freedom's Marsha Feinland will help that venerable party of the left stay on the ballot ...

The Green and Peace & Freedom candidates are as qualified as their opponents, in many cases considerably more so, P&F's Feinlandso there is no reason not to give them support. Feinland, for example, is not simply an anti-war candidate. She has outlined progressive positions on issues as varied the minimum wage, universal health care, labor laws, the death penalty, the "war" on drugs, education, the environment, electoral reform, among other topics. The bottom line, however, is that a vote for Feinland is a vote for keeping the Peace and Freedom Party on future ballots where it may be needed (the Green Party doesn't face the same risk, because a sufficient number of voters have registered Green).

Phil Angelides, who as the state's treasurer shifted California's pension dollars from the stock market to community investments Angelides and friendand who is a strong proponent shareholder activism, would normally be a natural choice for voters who favor universal health care, public campaign financing, and strong environmental laws. The Governator, on the other hand, vetoed universal health care and almost every environmental bill that he could lay his hands on, the good press he's been getting on Global Warming notwithstanding. He also helped defend the unjust, counter-productive and expensive "three strikes" law when it looked like the voters might reform it in the last round of ballot measures two years ago, and has no compunctions against executing people. Arnold has raised more money from special interests than any governor in history; even his allies don't The GreenPartytrust him to have a solid position on anything: he is the very model of the packaged candidate -- when the new "conservative" Schwartzenegger was a political disaster in 2004, he reached into the wardrobe department for the "moderate" costume he wore originally to win his office from Gray Davis. It seemed for a while that the real Schwartzenegger had emerged in 2003-4, but it's become clear since he has no principles whatsoever.

However, with the polls showing that Angelides is about to be crushed like a Dixie Cup at Gold's Gym, progressives should consider giving their vote for governor to Peace & Freedom's Janice Jordan. Angelides has run such a disastrous campaign against the incumbent -- for most of it, hisP&F's Jordan principal argument was that he should get your vote because the Republican governor had been seen from time to time in the company of the Republican president -- that you were left to wonder how smart his decisions as chief executive would be. Too bad, because there was a case to be made against Schwartzenegger and Angelides had a strong record from which to make it.

Although, like most reasonable people, Janice Jordan opposes the war, as a candidate for state office she has sensibly not made foreign policy a focus of her campaign. Instead, she has outlined programs to advance health care, public safety, small business, wages, low cost housing, public ownership of utilities, and the arts, among others. Take a look at her website for more details.

Also worth considering is the Green's Peter Camejo, whose biannual runs for office on a sensible reform platform is turning him into the Norman Thomas of the 21st Century Norman Thomas(okay, I admit that comparison is a wee bit over the top). Someday, perhaps in the lifetime of someone not yet born, Camejo's calls for reigning in the corporations, for labor rights and a living wage, for fair elections, campaign finance reform and run-offs in state-wide elections, for a just criminal justice Green' Camejosystem and an end to "three strikes" and the death penalty, for women's rights and reproductive freedom, for a guaranteed quality education for everyone (including equal access to resources such as books, school facilities that work, and great teachers who are paid enough to stay in the profession), for a more rational approach to drug addiction, for universal health care, and so on, will be as commonplace as Thomas' once-radical call for Social Security.

The race for State Treasurer is another chance to boost the third parties. As Attorney General, the Democrat aspirant, Bill Lockyer, scurried to the head of the lynch mob that descended on the capital, faggots ablaze, to execute Stanley P&F's Sanders"Tookie" Williams, which is enough for me, but in his role as AG, he also actively failed to take on predatory lending, a big problem in California; and he accepted contributions from companies that, as the state's top cop, he was supposed to regulate. By contrast, long-time Oakland community activist Gerald Sanders (Peace & Freedom) and Mehul Thakker (Green) The Green's Thakkerhave each put forward thoughtful, progressive ideas on how the state should handle its finances, including tax reform, moving the state's deposits away from corporate banks, investing in renewable energy and otherwise using the state's cache of cash to benefit the environment, the schools, and the state's low-income communities, although Sanders, especially, has a little trouble staying focused on the issues at hand. (You can see and hear Thakker in a video on YouTube.)

Cruz Bustamante's political career would have been more fun to watch if we hadn't also had to endure it. Termed out of the Lt. Governor's chair, where fecklessness is a job qualification, he is running for Cruz ControlInsurance Commissioner as the candidate from Weight Watchers. While it's clear he's taking a lot of pride in having slimmed down, the other sources of his self-esteem are a mystery. You'd have thought that his pathetic run for governor in the election that rewarded us der Ahnold would have put a capper on his career in Sacramento, but now he wants a job where, ethically challenged and lazy, he can really do some harm.

In the current contest, Cruz began by accepting contributions from theThe Green's Cafiero insurance industry he is promising to oversee, then turned them back when it looked like enough voters might be offended by this lapse in judgment to force upon him the need to look for real work. Plus, there is no evidence he has -- you should pardon the expression -- the stomach for the job. His P&F's ConditRepublican opponent, businessman Steve Poizner, will be even less inclined than the feeble Cruz to fight for consumers, leaving voters with a choice between the Green's Larry Cafiero (who earned the coveted endorsement of the San Francisco League of Young Voters' aptly titled "Pissed Off Voter Guide") and Peace & Freedom's Tom Condit, either of whom is preferable to the hacks served up by the major parties.

In a few congressional districts, Green and Peace & Freedom candidates would be the best choices by far.

In the far west's 36th CD, Peace & Freedom's Jim Smith, P&F's Smitha labor activist, is waging strong but, alas, futile campaign in the Beach Cities against militarist Jane Harman. Although the right-wing Democrat is wildly out of sync with her district -- she supports every iteration of war and all restrictions on civil liberties (she backed Bush on torture, for pete's sake), as the richest member of Congress (her wealth comes from military contracts, natch), the steely Harman is nearly impossible to challenge. Still, any vote against her will be rewarded in heaven.

Meanwhile, in the 30th, on the west side of L.A. County where I live, Peace & Freedom's Adele Cannon, Adele and Oneil Cannona veteran campaigner for radical causes, is running against Henry Waxman, outraged at the Democratic congressman for voting for the war and the Patriot Act. Waxman is not nearly as liberal as his reputation, or the politics of his constituents, would lead you to believe. He gets good marks for standing up to the Republicans on the easy issue of corruption, but he has been terrible on the mysteriously difficult-for-Dems matter of U.S. predatoriness in Iraq and (soon) Iran. Send Waxman a message: Give your vote to the feisty Cannon.

The only reason to consider Harman a bigger problem than Howard Berman is that she is infinitely more powerful inside the House (although Nancy Pelosi has promised to depose her from her seat on the intelligence committee should the minority leader become Speaker). The race against Berman is more important than either the Harman or Waxman races, however, because the challenger, Byron De Lear, could actually win! Berman also represents a liberalThe Green's De Lear district -- the 28th covers San Fernando, Pacoima, Arleta, Panorama City, Van Nuys, and North Hollywood. The Valley congressman is the only California Democrat who still supports the war, but if he were as dovish as Ghandi he still should be kicked out for being anti civil liberties, anti corporate accountability, and anti anything that gets in the way of an imperialist foreign policy. De Lear...Now! De Lear...Now! De Lear...Now! Consult the list of towns in the 28th, call your friends who live there and tell them to vote.

In the 29th, covering Glendale and vicinity, another dedicated peace activist, P&F's LlamasPeace & Freedom's Linda Llamas, and the Green Party's Bill Paparian , a progressive lawyer and former mayor of Pasadena, are spotlighting the dismal record Green's Paparianof Democratic incumbent Adam Schiff (no similarity to his namesake on early episodes of Law and Order) rivaling Berman's on civil liberties, foreign policy and the war. Give Schiff a passadena and vote for Llamas or Paparian.

On the Assembly level, Green Ricardo Costa, in the sprawling 44th, centered on Pasadena but extending from La Canada to Duarte, and, in the 53rd running along the beach from Venice to Torrance, Peace & Freedom's Karl Abrams are seasoned activists who would bolster the progressive agenda in Sacramento.

Historically, third parties have been mechanisms for advancing new or initially unpopular political ideas, provided a brake on the excesses of the major parties, and held out the possibility of political change. Rather than vote for defective Democrats because the Republicans have offered someone who may be even worse, this year liberals get a chance to cast votes for third party candidates with clear consciences. The Dems have managed to come up with candidates in some races that are so bad it literally doesn't matter who is victorious. In no contest mentioned here will a third party vote throw the election to a Republican. Nor will any harm come from voting third party in the rare instances where a Green or Peace & Freedom candidate might win: De Lear, for example, has promised to vote with the Democrats to organize the House should the party gain a majority; besides, control of the legislature will be useless anyway, if it is dependent on the likes of Howard Berman.

The Green's Camejo has a TV ad budget of about $7,000, barely coffee money for his bigger rivals, to get a little cable time in Sacramento, the Bay Area and L.A. The gubernatorial hopeful suggests that many Democrats would like to vote Green, but don't want to waste their vote. "This time," Camejo says, "the Democratic candidate is not going to win, so you're free to vote for whoever you want. In fact, a vote for the Democrat will send no message. But a vote for the Green Party...this would be a powerful message." The same argument could be made by the Peace & Freedom Party, if it had $7,000, and a vote for Peace & Freedom for governor and senator is more than a vote against the war; it's also a vote for the long-term viability of alternative politics.


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