The Democratic Party in Pennsylvania is once again trembling in fear. The last time it suffered such a political panic attack was when it faced the prospect of having to run against Ralph Nader in 2004. Since it could not possibly deal with Mr. Nader on an issue by issue basis given a candidate like John Kerry, the leaders of the party decided to destroy democracy in Pennsylvania. That sounds like strong language but there are two ways to destroy democracy. One is by preventing people from voting, the other is by preventing worthy candidates from ever appearing on the ballot. In 2004 the Democratic Party removed 63% of the signatures of Pennsylvania citizens from Ralph Nader’s petitions using the minutia embedded in the anti-democratic ballot access laws it helped create and effectively destroyed democracy in Pennsylvania.
The Democrats and Republicans in Pennsylvania worked together, in true bipartisan spirit, to create a set of ballot access laws which would virtually prevent third party or independent candidates from running for statewide offices like Governor, Senator or President. These the same laws even make it four times more difficult for local candidates to run against duopoly candidates. Next to Alabama, Pennsylvania’s are the worst ballot access laws in the nation. In fact, if Pennsylvania’s ballot access laws were to be applied to Utah, the Democratic Party would be disqualified as a major party. If Pennsylvania’s ballot access laws were applied to Massachusetts the Republican Party would be disqualified as a major party.
This year the Green Party candidates, like the Libertarian Party and Constitutional Party candidates, needed to gather 67,000 signatures just to get on the ballot and needed 100,000 signatures to cover any possibility of errors. Yet the duopoly candidates only need 2,000 signatures. Independent and third-party candidates in essence are required to obtain 50 times the amount of signatures needed by the Republicans and Democrats.
This was an impossible number for any party third party in Pennsylvania to reach let alone an independent candidate. Impossible, that is, unless it had professional help. But the tiny Green Party could not afford such help. Help came nevertheless. Help came in the form of contributions from registered Republicans.
The Republican contributors however did not support the Green Party’s petitioning efforts simply because they believed in fair ballot access laws. Like the Democratic Party, they too are responsible for creating the unconstitutional ballot access laws, the modern-day versions of Jim Crow laws, in Pennsylvania which effectively prevent all but Democrats and Republicans from running for statewide office.
The Republicans funded the petitioning efforts of the Green Party simply because they knew that if Carl Romanelli appears on the ballot, progressive Democrats will vote for him. The way Democrats and Republicans phrase it however goes something like this “Carl Romanelli will take votes away from Bob Casey guaranteeing that Rick Santorum will win”. That is the way they talk. The very phrase itself “take votes away from” says it all. No one can take votes away from anyone unless there is presupposed ownership in the first place. That’s the problem. The Democrats and Republicans both believe they actually own our votes. They do not believe that our votes must be earned.
While this is not the most noble of reasons for the Republicans to fund the petitioning efforts of the Green Party it does, nevertheless ensure that justice is done in the final analysis and it is hard to think of a better way for Republicans to spend their money. While it is never ethically acceptable to do something wrong in order to achieve something good, the ends never justify the means; it is quite acceptable to do something right for the wrong reasons. For whatever reasons the Republicans had in contributing to the Green Party, they nevertheless did the right thing. They made sure that the Green Party would not be denied access to the ballot simply because of the unconstitutional ballot access laws in Pennsylvania.
Now the Democrats are even more in a snit than they were in 2004. This year the Democratic Party is running Bob Casey. Like his Republican opponent, Casey is both anti-choice and pro war. With the Green Party’s Carl Romanelli on the ballot, Casey will now have to face a challenge from the left as well as the right and deservedly should go down in flames.
This thought makes many rank-and-file Democrats crazy. “What’s wrong with those Greens; do they want six more years of a psychopath like Rick Santorum?” That’s how Democrats have been taught to think. Instead of saying “now we actually have a candidate who represents our political hopes and desires”, they have been conditioned to settle for the crumbs from the corporate owned table of the Democratic Party.
It should be remembered that the corporate owned Democratic Party could have prevented all of this by creating fair ballot access laws in Pennsylvania and by introducing Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). But they did not. They called Ralph Nader a “spoiler” in 2000 and blamed him for the loss of Gore to Bush. If they truly believed that Nader was a spoiler then they would have enacted legislation to install IRV thereby ending the “spoiler effect”. They took no such steps. They want to continue their little party with the Republicans; once again however they see that someone wants to spoil their little party. Now, when a candidate who offers a real choice comes along like Carl Romanelli, instead of changing the position of their candidate, or dumping him altogether and supporting the Green Party candidate, they have decided to remove Romanelli from the ballot in the same fashion as they removed Ralph Nader.
In a recent press release, “RAMPANT DISCREPANCIES IN GREEN PARTY SIGNATURE GATHERING“, the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania leader T. J. Rooney even compared the Green Party’s petitions to Ralph Nader’s petitions of 2004 signaling that just as the Democratic Party aborted the democratic process in 2004; they were prepared to do the same thing here in 2006. They even quoted from a judge who never even looked at Nader’s petitions. The Democratic Party removed 63% of Mr. Nader’s signatures yet only 1.4% of Nader’s signatures were rejected as forgeries. The other signatures were all rejected as being from people who were either not registered to vote or not registered to vote at the time of signing the petition. The egregious Pennsylvania ballot access laws were used in a way that can only be described as “political profiling“.
In the case of Mr. Nader’s petitions; 6,411 signatures were removed simply because the signers had moved from one home to another between the time they had signed the petition and the time when the petitions were challenged. 1,869 were removed because the signer forgot to write down the date or neglected to put in their middle initial. 7,851 signatures were removed because they were “in the hand of another”. In other words if a husband filled out all the information like name and address for both he and his wife and then passed it to his wife for her signature, the wife’s signature would not be accepted because part of the entry was “in the hand of another”. This also happened in many cases because one signer might notice a missing date next to another signer’s name and then fill in the blank. 3,513 were removed for “other” reasons. This means that instead of writing the name of their borough they wrote the name of their township or city.
Without going into all the other bogus reasons for thwarting the will of Pennsylvania citizens we can see that the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania removed 19,704 signatures for purely frivolous reasons in order to destroy the Nader campaign and at the same time the democratic process in Pennsylvania.
Now the Democratic Party leaders are planning to do the same thing to the Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli. They will probably get away with it. Many rank-and-file members of the Democratic Party literally believe it does not matter how Romanelli is eliminated as long as he is removed. These Democrats have essentially left the mainstream of American political thought and have become virtually totalitarian. Just as the ABB (Anybody But Bush) mania gripped the rank-and-file Democrats in 2004, a similar fear grips them now in Pennsylvania with respect to incumbent Republican Senator Rick Santorum.
Make no mistake about it; Rick Santorum is a monstrosity. Given his record as a pro war, anti-choice Senator it might be supposed that if the Democratic Party wished to defeat him they would have given the people of Pennsylvania a candidate that was significantly different. Instead, their pro war, anti-choice candidate is now faced with a real alternative to Rick Santorum; a pro-choice, antiwar Green who would be supported by an overwhelming number of Democrats. The Democratic Party simply doesn’t care about getting rid of Rick Santorum. The contest between the Democrats and Republicans is no more significant than an intramural softball game. Everybody’s really on the same side after all when the game is over. This is why the Democrats did nothing about voter fraud in Florida in 2000 and nothing about Ohio in 2004.
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party doesn’t really mind if it is beaten by a Republican. But if the Republican wins because a real progressive received a significant number of votes, that is a real defeat. The Democratic Party in Pennsylvania is cornered again just as it was cornered by Ralph Nader in 2004. The Democratic Party demonstrated quite dastardly in 2004 just how it behaves when it is cornered.
It is long past time to give up on the Democratic Party. The creation of the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) as the representative of corporate America within the Democratic Party coupled with the addictive influx of corporate funds has caused the Democratic Party to replace the voter as its constituency with the lobbyists of the corporations that have financed its election campaigns.
The plaintive, futile pleadings to “change the system from within,” to make the party “wake up and smell the electorate” have become both boring and maddening. This pitiful whaling on the part of progressive Democrats is not a strategy. It is nothing more than a tragic, senseless wish. The Democrats must give up their search for Rumblestiltskin. Their desperate desire to “take back the Congress” ignores the question “take back the Congress for whom”.
The rank-and-file members of the Democratic Party are constantly encouraged to sacrifice the long run on the altar of the short and vote for the lesser of two evils; yet voting for the lesser of two evils has never given us better Republicans only worse Democrats.
It is also time to get rid of the myth of the “spineless Democratic leadership”. The leaders of the Democratic Party are not spineless. They are doing just what they are told to do by their corporate paymasters.
It is time to stop fearing what will happen when we have finally given up on the Democratic Party. That fear is really all the Democratic Party has left. The Democratic Party is broken beyond repair; denying that reality supports a sham democracy and one-party politics. The Democratic leaders are not stupid. But those rank-and-file Democrats, who are still expecting something to change, have every reason to wonder about themselves.
John Murphy is independent candidate for House of Representatives in the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania. He has been endorsed by Michael Berg, Peter Camejo, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader and Howard Zinn. He has been endorsed by two county level Green Parties, two county level Libertarian Parties, the Pennsylvania Reform Party, the New American Independent Party of Pennsylvania and the GDI among others. He is also one of the founding members of the Pennsylvanian Ballot Access Coalition, working to change ballot access laws in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.