Friday, October 03, 2014

Independent Socialist Headlines Democratic Party Event, Cats and Dogs Living Together

I'm a major party hack, and proud of it, but I've always tried as a writer to be fair to third parties. I felt that attraction to alternative parties in my youth before I "sold out," as I've been accused.

And one of my current pet peeves is the increasingly popular "top two" primary, or as it's mis-named in California the "open" primary, that pits the top two finishers, regardless of party, against one another regardless of party. So you may have a general election between two Democrats or two Republicans, which is supposed to make things more "moderate." But what it definitely does is it shuts the third parties out of November completely.

Here in Iowa it's an interesting time for the un-parties, with an independent socialist headlining the Johnson County Democrats' barbecue this Sunday. It's Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' fourth recent trip to Caucus Land.

One of the issues Sanders faces, should he run, is whether to run as a Democrat. The election outcome of 2000 set third party activism on the left back at least a generation, so activists who consider themselves both lefty and Democrats - including more than a few elected types who don't pass every local lefty purity test - are not Ready and are approaching Sanders with cautious optimism.

Vermont doesn't have party registration, and Sanders personally has had a friendly relationship with Democrats. But to make a serious run he needs a Today I Am A Democrat moment, and wouldn't Iowa City be a perfect place for it.

There are those who don't call themselves Democrats, of course. In my professional journalist days, when writing was a paying job and not just a hobby squeezed into personal time, I might have gone to Wednesday's third party candidate's forum. (More here) Instead, some followup:

There's a not insignificant chance that Iowa will get a third full status party out of this election. It takes 2% of the vote, for governor or president only, maintained every general election, to earn that status in Iowa, one of the higher standards in the country. (Other states use other offices, or allow the status to last longer.)

The Greens were a full status party for two years post-Nader, but they only have one candidate, a legislative contender, in the whole state. The Libertarians are trying but they always seem to fall short, especially with small l libertarianism playing a big role in Iowa GOP politics recently. Both these parties have a third party "organization" status, earned by petition.

No, the group seriously contending for full party status is Jonathan Narcisse's Narcissist Party - oops, "Iowa Party," which has no other candidates for any office.  Narcisse came close to the magic 2% in 2010, with 1.8%, and if the governor's race is still seen as uncompetitive come election day - people don't LIKE Branstad but don't KNOW Hatch - Narcisse may seem like a place to throw a protest vote.

What would an Iowa Party Of One Mean? Don't ask the Nebraska Party, because they're just the one-state name for the arch-conservative Constitution Party. The better example may be the Reform Party, Ross Perot's abandoned plaything that won full status in Iowa in 1996 following his second run.

No more than a couple hundred folks ever registered Reform (which was abbreviated F to avoid confusion with the other R party) but the state paid for a full-fledged Reform Party primary in 1998, with thousands of ballots for dozens of voters.

Not to sound election office whiny. The point is an orphaned political party with legal status can be a vehicle for anyone or anything. Ask Jesse Ventura, the only Reform Party member to actually win an election, who saw the remnants of the national structure taken over by Pat Buchanan's hard-right minions.

(It was less cute than this. Can anyone explain why some minions have one eye, and some have two?)

Ventura withdrew himself and the Minnesota organization out of the shell of the  Reform Party, and the group carries on as the Minnesota Independence Party. (Much credit to their chair, my friend and collegiate roommate Mark Jenkins.)

The Minnesota IndependenCE party is, unlike the Alaska Independence Party, not looking to secede despite the convenient border with Canada. And it is definitely not to be confused with IndependenT, though that confusion is common with any party name that includes any variation of the term. Just recently it came to light that former first daughter Jenna Bush had registered with New York's IndependenCE Party, thinking it meant "independent." (Again, non-secessionist despite Canadian border.)

In all past elections, Iowa candidates who did not list a party - and by "party" I mean full status, third party status , or no status, just nothing - were listed as on ballots as the somewhat legalese "Nominated By Petition." This year's Senate race is different: Rick Stewart has been listed by the ostensibly appealing "Independent," and Ruth Smith is listed with no labels at all. (Interesting thing, that No Labels.) In the past both would have been listed as "Nominated By Petition." Why the change, Matt Schultz?

And if the Narcissists get their 2%, does "Iowa Party" get abbreviated as "I" and cause even more confusion?

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