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None of the Above: Democrats and Republicans Say "Two's Allowed, But Three's a Crowd"

Aug 13, 2008
Did you know that unaffiliated voters are the fastest-growing voting bloc in America? In more than a few states, independents now outnumber both Republicans and Democrats, creating a huge swing vote that could determine the outcome of this year's election.

Ross Perot ran the most successful independent campaign for president in U.S. history sixteen years ago. During his 1992 campaign, Perot was invited to participate in the televised presidential debates watched by almost 100 million people. On election day, he received nearly 20 million votes.

The major political parties were determined not to let this happen again. Before the 1996 election, the Republican/Democrat-controlled Commission on Presidential Debates concocted requirements to keep both independent and alternative party candidates out of the debates. As a result, Perot received less than 9 million votes that year.

How desperate were the established parties to prevent access to the debates and media by alternative party candidates and their supporters? One answer is shown in the following excerpt from my book, "The Perot Legacy: A New Political Path."

Donna Donovan, the national Reform Party communications chair, explained:

"When Ross Perot was excluded from the Presidential Debates, his Connecticut supporters decided to stage a 'Demonstration for Democracy' in Hartford, the state capital, while one of the three debates was taking place on October 6, 1996. Our goal was to create a big enough media event to bring attention to the stranglehold that the two major parties and their accomplice, the bipartisan Debate Commission, maintained on the debates....We planned to march through the city to the park a block from Bushnell Theatre where the debate was taking place....That night, nearly 700 people...converged on the park...where we encountered police, who immediately herded us into a 'corral' constructed of a snow fence in the center of the park....They marched in military formation, eventually surrounding us completely....

"Police officers on horseback formed another ring around the riot squad. Then, unbelievably, National Guard forces arrived with tanks and took their places in the street around the park...

"A freelance cameraman was shooting footage for C-SPAN, but days later we were told it was too dark to use. And what about the rest of the media? ... We later heard from some that police and other security told them there was no one in the park, and since the direct-access streets were closed off, they assumed it was true."

Because of a charismatic leader with access to millions of dollars, the presidential campaign of Ross Perot and the newly created Reform Party were perceived by the major party leaders as a threat to their established two-party system. Rather than viewing this event as an exercise in democracy and an expansion of choice, the party operatives did all they could to prevent the establishment of a third option.

Some of the other attempts to exterminate the Reform Party's influence included misuse of ballot access laws, attempts to gain control of any federal election funds available to the Reform Party after the 1996 presidential election, and the use of a politicized judicial system.

In spite of it all:

* The Reform Party still survives today.

* A new issues organization (ICAN--Independent Citizen Action Network) is being established.

* The number of independent voters in the United States continues to grow dramatically.

* A tell-all book has now been published so that more people will know the facts, and can learn from our na´ve mistakes while establishing new political organizations.

"The Perot Legacy" presents a model for a vehicle "that turns peoples' anger into action." The worst thing the American people can do is give up. Remember the quote by Winston Churchill that appears above the entrance to Ross Perot's office complex: "Never Give In. Never, Never, Never."

Don't let the major parties shut out other voices in politics. This election year, please cast your votes for the strongest candidates, whether they belong to an established party, an alternative party, or are running as independent candidates.
About the Author
What's Your Political IQ? Take a free quiz at http://www.theperotlegacy.com/pq1.aspx. A political activist since the 1960s, Pat Benjamin is an expert on independent politics and author of THE PEROT LEGACY: A New Political Path, she was deeply involved in Ross Perot's independent and third party campaigns.
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