The Left and Right Must Stop the Establishment’s Perpetual War Machine

November 20th, 2015 by Sam

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, some of us tried to raise questions of U.S. foreign policy. I got my mic cut on O’Reilly’s show. Others got far worse — a friend basically felt he had to move out of his neighborhood he was so reviled for criticizing the U.S.’s militarism. Oh, yeah, and hundreds of thousands of people got killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

The root causes of the 9/11 attacks were hardly discussed — unless it was people deriding Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell for blaming gay folks.

Now, there’s no meaningful peace movement. Party as a result of that, we’re not having a serious discussion we should be about foreign policy after the Paris attacks: How U.S. — and Western — foreign policy manifests hatred and all that brings.

One might have thought that would be possible — the target of this attack was not the U.S., though it could be the next target. But that should give us some breathing room as well as a measure of urgency to think things through.

The major policy debate now is about Syrian refugees.

This is part of a political pattern: The two party establishment agrees on a series of issues and those issues are largely ignored. (Perpetual war.)

Then, there’s something they disagree on and that’s vociferously debated. (Refugees.)

Problem is, sometimes what they agree on (perpetual war) is what causes the other issue (refugees).

Right now, both the Democratic and Republican establishments both agree on a course of perpetual war. There’s virtually no remorse about having pushed for regime change in Syria and Libya and that leading to enormous human suffering that we’re mostly blind to.

When the Obama administration made an overt push for war in Syria in 2013, the left and right united and stopped it.

But ISIS threats gave the Obama administration the pretext it so seemed to desire to have a sustained bombing campaign, with thousands of strikes in Syria and Iraq the last year and a half — which is largely ignored such that now “critics” of U.S. policy suggest that the U.S. bomb Syria, as if it hasn’t been — and that could be the actual problem.

Now, Democratic Party politicos are talking about the humanity of Syrian refugees and ideals of the U.S. as a sanctuary. And Republican politicos are talking about alleged security concerns from letting refugees in. While I think we should let far more than a mere 10,000 refugees, which is what the Obama administration is talking about, I don’t think that’s the issue we really need to be talking about now.

The real issue is that the Democratic Party has participated in perpetual war policies that are leading to Syrians becoming refugees. The real issue is that the Republican Party has participated in perpetual war policies that are leading to greater insecurity for people in the U.S.

The issue of the refugees, while obvious real to real people is being seized on because it’s a wedge issue to keep the Democratic base and the Republican base shouting at each other rather than to examine the underlying issue: Perpetual war and the current set of U.S. colonial allies in the Mideast.

It’s the nightmare of the establishment that the left and right wake up to the fact that they are manipulated by the Democratic Party and Republican Party establishments.

A major issue is that the public is prone to scapegoating the vulnerable, like Syrian refugees, when no other cause of the problem is highlighted. There are obvious causes for the problems coming from the Mideast. But there’s a silence of conspiracy about them. At the top of the list is is the U.S. government’s backing of the authoritarian Saudi regime that has fostered Wahabism, a twisted from of Islam used by al-Qaeda and ISIS.

But even the most progressive Democrats are silent on this. Just this week, Barbara Lee — possibly the most left wing member of Congress — was asked on “Democracy Now” about U.S. arms to Saudi Arabia. She didn’t contemn it.

Bernie Sanders talks about refugees; he can bring a lump to every throat in the hall while talking about economic inequality in the U.S. But his solution for ISIS is to get the Saudis to “get their hands dirty.” Sorry, Bernie, but the Saudis hands are dirty enough as it is. They fostered jihadis like ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and are now bombing Yemen, ripping human beings apart.

So, at the CBS debate the day after the Paris attacks, Sanders didn’t even want to talk about foreign policy. It was tragic really. He could have laid into U.S. foreign policy, he could have said that by arming the Saudis we’ve fostered problems, it would have jolted the campaign and the public could have been engaged in foreign policy in a meaningful way.

But he didn’t.

The most he could do is criticize the invasion of Iraq, which is valid — no one who voted for the Iraq war is qualified for any title other than inmate — but 13 years later, totally inadequate. Whatever you have to say about economy (and even here I think Sanders could be better) will ultimately be trumped by the fact that you can’t articulate a path out of perpetual war. If you don’t show you’ve got a path out of perpetual war, the people will pick someone who they figure knows how to do perpetual war.

But someone is going to have to break with the backing of autocratic regimes and perpetual war, because I’ve got news for you: Perpetual war is going to cost you a lot. The Vietnam War helped undermine the war on poverty — Martin Luther King called it a “demonic suction tube.” Perpetual war is going to make you lose your soul. Perpetual war will make you an accomplice to murder many times over. Perpetual war will mean generations more of Muslim youth driven to madness against the U.S. Perpetual war is going to potentially lead to nuclear war. Perpetual war will mean an even more militarized police force. Perpetual war will likely mean more of a repressive state. Perpetual war will mean you can’t march against climate change — or anything else. Perpetual war will mean that refugees and other folks get treated like trash. Perpetual war means your kid can’t get a job in much of anything other than the military. Perpetual war means soldiers with PTSD coming home and beating the crap out of their wives and traumatizing their children. Perpetual war will mean at every public venue you’ve got to go through security so that you can scratch yourself without court approval.

There’s a hunger out there for another course.

Fact is, the Republican candidates leading in the polls are those — at least in public persona, whatever their faults may be — that are furthest away from the foreign policy establishment.

There was a group called Come Home America that aimed to bring the left and right together against Empire.

Part of the reason that didn’t take off is that elections are movement killers. People constantly being pushed — especially in election years — to focus on symptoms of policies gone wrong, like the Syrian refugees, without looking at the elephant in the room: Perpetual War, brought to you by the Democratic and Republican Parties and which ruined the refugees’ lives — and will ruin many more unless the left and right join to stop it.

Sam Husseini founded the website encouraging Democrats and Republicans to team up in pairs and and vote for the anti-establishment candidate(s) they most want.

The Need for Real Strategic Voting

October 20th, 2015 by Sam

In the aftermath of the Canadian election, The Real News brought on Dimitri Lascaris as part of their panel to discuss the election.

I know Dimitri as a expert on Greece, but he’s a partner at a Canadian corporate law firm and ran for a seat in the Canadian election with the Green Party.

He summarized the quandary of running as a third party quite well:

Well you know, I did knock on a lot the doors. I had a lot of interactions with voters through a variety of methods, including canvasing, but also online debates, other campaign events, and I was pummeled in the sentiment that we had to do whatever it takes to get rid of the Harper government. I would say that you know, some 60-65 percent of the people I spoke to were intensely hostile to the Harper government and that was their singular objective, and the strategic voting argument had a great deal of appeal to them. You know, if I had a dollar for every time I heard “I want to vote Green, but I want to beat Harper more” I would be richer than Bill Gates. I mean, it was something that was a constant refrain in the campaign, and you know, I think it’s reflected in the results. The Liberal candidate won handily in her riding, the incumbent Ministry of Science Ed Holder after two terms has been soundly defeated.

The NDP candidate was a distant third, and I did not manage to improve substantially on our party’s last result in the 2011 elections with 2.7 percent. I’m currently standing at about 3 percent with about 82 percent of the votes counted. so it was really the only way to describe it was a toxic environment for which a small party to operate in, this environment in which you have a “first-past-the-post” system and intense hostility to the conservative incumbent government, and everybody looking to the most viable option to defeat that government cialis generique.

Indeed, people can agree with a third party 100 percent, but unless they break out of the constraints of voting for the lesser evil that seems most likely to win, they will not even seriously consider casting a vote for them.

Unfortunately, most third parties simply come up with platitudes like “voting for the lesser evil is still evil” or such.

What’s needed is a real concept of strategic voting beyond simply voting for the establishment party you least distaste.

Unfortunately, most discussions by progressives, mirrored by discussions among conservatives, debate simply working within or outside either of the establishment parties without a real strategy.

Both these positions are wrong. The people saying you have to work with the Democratic party are entering a situation where they have no leverage — they will end up backing whoever the nominee is and have little leverage over that person.

And the people saying you have to only back third parties have no meaningful strategy for winning and are going to end up being simply marginal, again.The ironic solution, in my view, is for disenchanted Democrats to team up with disenchanted Republicans so the bases have a chance at actually breaking down the two party system and actual victory — and, regardless, some leverage over the party apparatus.

And it’s in the U.S. — with an extreme form of “first-past-the-post” electoral system — that the establishment parties are most vulnerable with the VotePact strategy since the Democratic and Republican parties mirror each other and collude with each other so deeply.

Did the Greeks Just Re-Invent Democracy?

January 26th, 2015 by Sam

It’s often noted that the Greeks invented Democracy — that it’s in fact a word of Greek origin, from dēmos “the people” and -kratia “power, rule.”

Too often, as anyone who has lived in a modern “democracy” for any length of time can attest, it becomes apparent that the people don’t rule.

They are ruled over and managed, appeased and manipulated by various interests, typically monied interests.

A primary way this is done is divide and conquer. Elites in effect end up sicking “the people” on each other on issues that are marginal to most elites. School prayer. Gay marriage, etc. What pundits sometimes call “wedge issues.”

Now, in Greece, the left wing anti-austerity Syriza party won 149 of 300 seats in the Greek parliament, just short of a majority needed to form a government. So, they teamed up with the anti-austerity right wing Independent Greeks party so together they have the majority needed.

Some may snark at this, but it’s a childish thing to do. There are certainly differences between Syriza and Independent Greeks — and they don’t seem to be pretending otherwise — but to team up with someone you disagree to achieve something you both want can be a very mature thing to do.

What they have done is a version of a voting strategy I’ve been advocating: Here’s the idea: Instead of disenchanted Democrats and disenchanted Republicans continuing to back the establishments of their parties — which then becoming ever more controlled in real terms by corporate interests — that the voters pair up and back candidates and policies they truly believe in.

That seems to be what’s happening in Greece. Principled progressives there could continue voting for the pro-austerity liberals and conscientious conservatives could continue voting for establishment right wingers doing the bidding of big European banks instead of watching out for the Greek public.

The Greeks, by joining together from the left and right, have befittingly cut the Gregorian Knot that ties up voters and turns them into prisoners of the political parties that are supposed to serve them.

Now, of course a parliamentary system is different than our system. There, the politicians who are willing to buck the establishment can more easily form alliances. But in the U.S. — if the people will it enough — you can make a VotePact with your political mirror image. Instead of you being compelled to vote for an establishment Democrat and them continuing to vote for an establishment Republican they don’t really believe in, you can both vote for independent and third party candidates nearer to your heart.

As in Greece, there will obviously be disagreements, but they will be more likely to be worked out by the people, not managed and manipulated by the monied interests.

And then the people may stand a chance at ruling — and fulfilling the meaning of “Democracy.”

Sam Husseini is founder of the website

A Path out of the Reversible Straitjacket of the Political Duopoly

November 5th, 2014 by Sam

In perhaps the best mainstream report during the election season, the typically firmly D.C.-based Steve Inskeep went knocking on doors in Colorado and came across a woman, Ili Bennett, who told him she’s felt some excitement from both Elizabeth Warren — and in the past, the Tea Party.

Said Inskeep: “I think you’ve hit on something insightful here. And I want you to help me with this a little bit because the Tea Party, those are some very conservative people — Elizabeth Warren, very liberal person. But they both represent deep unhappiness with the way things are. And it sounds like they both struck a chord with you. Am I right?”

He was and it’s not one woman in Colorado of course. Politico headline today states: “Exit polls 2014: Voters hate everyone.” It might seem that way to the insiders at Politico, but actually it’s that voters mostly just hate the establishment of both political parties, which to Politico might seem like “everyone”. And this isn’t new. From 2010: “CNN Poll: Majority angry at both political parties.”

The problem is that people feel they have virtually no where to go and can’t translate that anger to action. There is a de-facto anti-establishment, populist majority. But the entire structure of politics, media and elections is designed to keep them divided and prevent such populists from the left or right or wherever from coalescing politically. Third parties coming from either the left (Green, Socialist) or the right (Constitution, Libertarian) are automatically dismissed by the vast majority as potential spoilers. (I’ve set up to solve exactly this problem.)

Some sectors of the media have lauded the Republican establishment’s stepping into the primary process and preventing Tea Party candidates from getting nominations in so-called “swing states.” Those looking for salvation in presidential elections from the likes of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or their Republican mirror images will have to bear in mind the obstacle in the primaries is “electability” (as defined by the establishment) and it’s a virtual certainty that candidates who seems serious about delivering real change will be denied any nomination. Rather, such candidates will likely mostly function as a way of keeping voters on the establishment party reservation, endorsing the ultimate nominee.

As for midterm elections, part of the equation is lower and lower voter turnout — the “leadership” of the parties is in effect firing and further marginalizing the public and their alleged bases.

The establishment will attempt to produce their own version of “bipartisanship” — pro-establishment bipartisanship that is. The mantra of “change” is being used to peddle the never ending use of the Reversible Straitjacket of the Democratic and Republican establishments. This manifests itself as “seesaw politics” and what I’ve called the “guillotine pendulum“, helping ensure the continuity of what some call the Deep State.

The major corporate media frequently focus on marginal differences between the two major parties, but the areas of agreement between them are sizable in terms of economic, trade, civil liberties, foreign policy and other issues. On these and other critical issues, the establishments of the duopoly are frequently aligned together against their alleged bases, explaining why the public “hates everyone”. Crazy public. Politicians of both parties talk about helping the little guy and then do the bidding of corporate interests.

Now, the political narrative is that Washington is dysfunctional and “can’t agree on anything”. The the general public is clearly being prepared to embrace whatever pro-corporate monstrosity President Obama and presumptive Senate Majority Leader McConnell agree on.

So, predictably, the Wall Street Journal is now reporting: “American businesses are hoping the dust will settle from Tuesday’s GOP takeover of Congress with new attention on corporate taxes, immigration, trade and energy, top priorities that have eluded breakthroughs in recent years. A post-election landscape that includes a more sharply divided government is likely to lead to continued frustration over some items on businesses’ wish list. At the same time, a reshaped political landscape could lead Congress and the White House to seek legislative breakthroughs on some economic issues before the 2016 election season heats up.”

So, the big business agenda on taxes and corporate trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership could well be advanced by establishment Republicans in Congress working with the Obama administration. This could well extend to other issues such as civil liberties, more war, etc.

The anti-establishment forces either still in the Democratic Party or that have given up on the electoral process all together should join with those deluding themselves into looking for the Republican Party for some salvation. They should work to building new institutions that adopt their best beliefs.

And this must go beyond voters. There should be candidates running for Democratic and Republican nominations who — once the establishment ensures their defeat the the primaries — are willing, jointly perhaps, to bolt and not back the party’s establishment nominees.

The day after election day is the most important. Now is the time to reach out across the partisan divide and find populists on the other side to work with. You have nothing to lose but your perpetual chains.

Sam Husseini founded which encourages voters to pair up with their political “mirror image” and vote for their preferred candidates rather than the “lesser evil” offered by the establishment.

VotePact on Social Media

May 27th, 2014 by Sam

For the latest, please visit out twitter feed: @votepact or our facebook page, managed by Jennifer Wingard. Thanks.

The Perennially “Unusual” Yet Somehow Ubiquitous Left-Right Alliance: Towards Acknowledging an Anti-Establishment Center

July 25th, 2013 by Sam

The AP reports: “The House narrowly rejected a challenge to the National Security Agency’s secret collection of hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone records Wednesday night after a fierce debate … The vote was 217-205 on an issue that created unusual political coalitions in Washington, with libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats pressing for the change against the Obama administration [and] the Republican establishment…” The New York Times writes “disagreements over the program led to some unusual coalitions.” Similarly, NBC opined the “amendment earned fierce opposition from an unusual set of allies, ranging from the Obama administration to the conservative Heritage Foundation.” [Emphasis added throughout.]

And, when the NSA story broke, the Washington Post Express headline [June 11, 2013] read: “Recent revelations have given even the most ardent political foes a common target: government overreach.” AP wrote of the “odd-couple political alliance of the far left and right” [June 12, 2013] with the Edward Snowden revelations making “strange bedfellows.” [New York Daily News, June 11, 2013]
Every time you have this convergence of progressives and conservatives against the establishment, it’s regarded as “unusual” “odd” or “bizarre”  — even though it keeps coming up on issue after issue: war, military spending, trade, corporate power, Wall Street, fossil fuel subsidies, as well as — in the case of the NSA spying on the citizenry — the central issue of Constitutional rights and civil liberties. 
As documented below, the meme in the media and elsewhere is a permanent note of surprise, when it should be an established aspect of U.S. politics: There are in fact two “centers” — one that is pro-war and Wall Street (the establishment center) — and another that is pro-peace and populist (the anti-establishment center).

The establishment keeps the left and right populist factions at bay by demonizing them to each other — “let’s you and him fight” is the mindset — which is why MSNBC so often feeds hate of conservatives and Fox feeds hate of progressives. If they were to pay more attention to issues, they might break them down and it might become clear that there’s quite a bit the principled left and right agree on. Meanwhile, establishment Democrats and Republicans collude on war, Wall Street and much else, effectively reducing principled progressives and conscientious conservatives into pawns of the Democratic and Republican party establishments.

A left-right alliance is extremely threatening to the establishment. Rep. King recently bemoaned about the NSA scandal: “too many Republicans and conservatives have become Michael Moores.” Similarly, former Iraq war military spokesperson Dan Senor triumphantly declared: “I think this further strengthens the center on national security. I think there was a real risk over the last couple weeks that there would be this left/right coalition that would backlash against the United States government…” Sen. Lindsey Graham commented back in 2010: “You know what I worry most about: an unholy alliance between the right and the left.” Dan Quayle in 1990 as George H. W. Bush, who Obama recently honored, was driving the nation to war attacked the “McGovern-Buchanan axis.

A major way the establishment keeps principled progressives and conscientious conservatives hating instead of dialoguing is by not acknowledging all they have in common — and when it is acknowledged, treat is as a freak instance.

Certainly, there are disagreements, but the agreements should not be dismissed or minimized. And both should be talked out by the parties in a real fashion. Each shouldn’t be caricatured by an establishment hell-bent on preventing a meaningful dialogue from taking place.

The major media tends to stress the differences between the establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans, sometimes this results in inflating minor issues or marginalizing major issues, or taking serious schisms and tossing them down the memory hole.

During the last presidential election, both President Obama and Gov. Romney talk constantly about “jobs” — but both backed the secret TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] deal that threatens jobs, and is opposed by much of their electoral base. And, critically, the issue got minimal coverage. The convergence of progressives and conservatives that initially voted down the Wall Street bailout of 2008 has been largely forgotten.
A real dialogue between the the left and right may lead to a sort of political re-alignment. As I suggest at it could become the basis for a voting strategy, with disenchanted Democrats and disenchanted Republicans pairing up and voting for the anti-establishment candidates they most want in twos rather than being separated and eternally trapped voting for their “lesser evil”. At minimum, experimenting with such approaches would likely lead to a healthier political culture and grant the bases of each establishment political party a way to assert themselves against the elites.
Perhaps the formation of an organization is overdue: The Center for a New Center. That might cure the political culture and media from its insistence that there’s something perennially unusual that keeps happening:
War and Military Spending:
“House Republican leaders on Wednesday abruptly canceled a vote on a resolution forcing U.S. withdrawal from Libya amid signs an unusual alliance of liberals and conservatives could approve the measure, indicating Congress’s growing dissatisfaction with the extent of U.S. military operations overseas.

“The House had been scheduled to vote on a resolution by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) requiring President Barack Obama to withdraw from Libya within 15 days. The measure cites the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which says the president must get approval from Congress if a military operation lasts 60 days or more.

“But at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans Wednesday, GOP leaders were surprised by members’ strong concerns about the Libya operation. Some conservatives were prepared to support Mr. Kucinich’s resolution, Republican aides said.” [Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2011]

An Electoral Strategy Based on Love

November 5th, 2012 by Sam

The idea of is a simple one: principled progressives and conscientious conservatives — instead of cancelling out each other’s votes, one for Obama, the other for Romney — should make a pact in pairs and both vote for the third party(s) that better reflect their beliefs.

But the implications of it can be far reaching:

VotePact overcomes the demonization of “the other” — people voting for Obama/Romney because they have been induced to be so repelled by Romney/Obama.

VotePact ends the isolation of the individual in the voting booth, torn against themselves. They are forced to either sell their conscience short by voting for an establishment candidate they don’t believe in or vote for a third party candidate who seems to have no plan for winning and possibly for governing — and possibly helping the establishment candidate they most detest.

Some rationalize (myself included at times) that they are in a “safe” state, and that’s fine so far as it goes, but it’s hardly a satisfying solution — so if you lived in a “swing” state your conscience would have a different price? It’s also not really a strategy since it concedes actual electoral victory to the establishment party and punts the quandary to the next election.

Thus, VotePact is victory, or can be. It’s a route to a literal win for the third party challenge with the nerve and the insight to build a campaign around it — reaching out from the radical center rather than a margin.

This is because VotePact can be political realignment, finding a New Center that is pro-peace, pro-civil liberties, anti-Wall Street, anti-poverty, anti-Federal Reserve, anti-IMF, anti-WTO, anti-NAFTA and so on — and revolting against the current establishment center that is on the opposite side on those things. Doubtlessly, there are differences between principled progressives and conscientious conservatives, but those can be honest differences in search of real solutions, not endless political bickering seeking to perpetuate itself for decades.

VotePact can end the bickering within political circles, with pragmatists saying, “we have to get rid of Romney/Obama” and the idealists saying “vote your conscience”. Neither is actually pursuing a strategy because the pragmatists are actually capitulationalists, forever trapping themselves in a two party system they claim to be unhappy with — “why oh why won’t Obama listen to us after we’ve made clear we’ll support him no matter what?” — and the idealists are pursuing something that is either marginal, or actually embraces the role of “spoiler”.

VotePact can help save and even build movements. Clearly, with the current dynamics, elections are movement killers. Peace movements, justice movements cannot easily endure the fixation on elections dominated by the establishment parties as the mass of people are compelled to back their lesser evil or feel marginalized. VotePact actually gives movements an outreach mechanism during the election cycle when they need it most.

This is in large part because VotePact is jujitsu. It uses the two-party system’s dominance against itself. It answers the question to third party candidates — “aren’t you a spoiler?” — in a forthright manner, by asking the questioner to look at their own life and finding a friend, neighbor, relative or debate partner to form a VotePact with.

This is freedom and it’s love. VotePact is a way people can free themselves from the two party system two at a time. It’s done by working with — and finding love and compassion with — someone they honestly disagree with. It runs totally counter to a political and media system based on hate: “You must hate Romney/Obama and so you must vote for Obama/Romney.” Trust is the one thing they need to find together.

One of my favorite children’s stories is “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss in which the earnest elephant tries to convince people in “his world” that there are “Whos” in a speck of dust. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like Horton sometimes, except I’m trying to show more clearly that there are “Whos” on the other side of the two party divide — “a person is a person, no matter how …”. And there’s a “Who” in you who can come out better by recognizing that person in your life and taking their hand, finding common ground and overcoming the politics of caricature, fear and hate.

The Indefinite Detention of the Progressive Voter

November 1st, 2012 by Sam

Earlier this year President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. It allows for the indefinite detention without trial for any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism.

Some might have thought that there would be wide-spread revolt among people who voted for Obama against legalized indefinite detention. And there was some protest, mostly led by Chris Hedges (who did not vote for Obama), with some legal victories against the law.

But the political success seems to have come from the law itself — in favor of Obama. Instead of provoking a revolt, the result seems to be this:

Obama is in effect telling his supporters: “You better support me more, because I just signed this law saying the president of the U.S. can detain anyone he wants. Now, do you want me to have this power, or do you want Mitt Romney to have this power?”

And so, perversely, Obama by signing a law most of his supporters almost certainly didn’t want, has actually ensured a greater grip on them. He has in effect indefinitely detained them.

Solving a problem in a positive way strengthens the citizenry. Avoiding doing so fosters a continual servitude upon the benevolence of corrupt power.

Similar effects are produced by targeting specific “constituencies”. Consider:

By allegedly deferring final decision on the XL pipeline, environmentalists concerned with climate disruption are further compelled to back Obama — with no assurance on the issues they presumably care about. But Obama benefits in a sense since this threat of the pipeline is real — people who care about this issue feel desperate, needing to stop Romney and minimize long term activism that could propel the emergence of the Green Party or another challenge to the mainstream.
Read the rest of this entry »

Laying out the Case for VotePact on Al Jazeera English

October 24th, 2012 by Sam

From last night (Oct. 23) — Sam Husseeini talking about VotePact after the first third-party debate moderated by Larry King and organized by Free and Equal Elections.

What VotePact Can Do: Allow You to Fearlessly Vote Your Conscience

October 23rd, 2012 by Sam

The Problem:

Most voters don’t vote for—often don’t even consider voting for—third parties because they view voting for a third party as helping the establishment party they most dislike. Disenchanted Democrats continue to vote for Democrats because they don’t want Republicans; disenchanted Republicans continue to vote for Republicans because they don’t want Democrats.—The Solution:

Disenchanted Republicans should pair up with disenchanted Democrats and both vote for third party or independent candidates they more genuinely want. This way they siphon off votes by twos from each of the establishment parties. This liberates the voters to vote their actual preference from among those on the ballot, rather than to just pick the “least bad” of the two majors. They could each vote for different candidates, or they could vote for the same candidate. If the later, it could offer an enterprising candidate a path to actual electoral victory.

Republican Democrat Independent
BEFORE VOTE PACT 10 Voters 10 Voters 0 Voters
AFTER 1 VOTE PACT 9 Voters 9 Voters 2 Voters
AFTER 2 VOTE PACTS 8 Voters 8 Voters 4 Voters
AFTER 3 VOTE PACTS 7 Voters 7 Voters 6 Voters
AFTER 4 VOTE PACTS 6 Voters 6 Voters 8 Voters
Republican Democrat Independent 1 Independent 2
BEFORE VOTE PACT 10 Voters 10 Voters 0 Voters 0 Voters
AFTER 1 VOTE PACT 9 Voters 9 Voters 1 Voters 1 Voters
AFTER 2 VOTE PACTS 8 Voters 8 Voters 2 Voters 2 Voters
AFTER 3 VOTE PACTS 7 Voters 7 Voters 3 Voters 3 Voters
AFTER 4 VOTE PACTS 6 Voters 6 Voters 4 Voters 4 Voters

How does this work? Are you hooking people up?

Right now we’re not hooking people up, but we’ve set up a FaceBook page that might help people do that. We’re mostly asking people to find people in their life—friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, etc.—and talk to them about this—they can find a “vote buddy.” But we’re open to help from folks to try to figure out ways to use the Internet to connect people from different parties. This is a bare-bones effort. We definitely encourage people to write up their efforts, make YouTube videos about them, perhaps with their “vote buddy,” etc. We’d like to post these. We need help from more people to make this happen. This is a total volunteer effort.

Are you just trying to help a particular candidate?

No. We’re trying to free people from the dominant political establishment—the “Bush-Clinton” axis. Progressives, libertarians, and authentic conservatives, as well as others, have been unrelentingly manipulated by the establishments of the two major parties. They should wake up to the fact that they can join together, rather than be kept apart by the establishment party apparatchiks who exploit them to maintain the ruling duopoly. It could help any independent or third party candidate.

But isn’t there a robust debate between the Republicans and Democrats?

Both the establishments of the Republican and Democratic Parties are at odds with a large portion of the U.S. public on a host of issues: corporate power, curtailing civil liberties (FISA, renewing the “Patriot Act”); aggressive militarism (expanding the military, funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, backing Israeli expansionism); corporate trade (NAFTA-type trade deals, immigration policy), the “drug war”. Many people don’t support these policies are are trapped in the two-party system. We’re offering them a way to help free themselves.

Achieving Dialogue:

VotePact would facilitate and would be propelled by meaningful dialogue on the issues by citizens. This would likely emphasize issues in which the establishment parties have most colluded: constitutional powers, issues of war, corporate dominated trade, infringement on civil liberties and big money in politics to name a few. The creative powers of the citizens will likely produce “pair ups” that no political consultant could possibly have predicted. This could achieve a steady stream of novel news stories.

The Voting Precursors:

The VotePact idea is not dissimilar from how politicians actually act towards one another—one votes for the other’s project in return for a favor. The politicians manipulate the voting system all the time for their narrow interests; the people should be able to vote in a manner which maximizes the public interest. Note that VotePact would be largely irrelevant if instant runoff voting or a similar system were adopted. VotePact can be seen as “do it yourself” instant runoff voting. But VotePact has one peculiar advantage even over even that system: it can help force meaningful dialogue between unlikely protagonists, potentially leading to a healthier political culture.

The Campaign Strategy:

Get endorsements in pairs—a former union official who has always voted Democratic with a small business owner who has always voted Republican for example. They would each give their reasons for voting for the candidate at a news conference, which would end with the candidate bringing them together, both shaking hands with the candidate in the middle. Thus the candidate is seen as bringing people together, ending the partisan bickering and moving people forward together in positive direction. This will be an example for other people, giving them ideas for how they can “pair up” with someone else. The creative powers of the citizenry could then be set free in a novel manner. Groups like “Democrats for Candidate X” and “Republicans for Candidate Y” could be brought together and pair people up.

Turning the “Spoiler” Question Around:

VotePact is in a sense self-promoting; that is, it answers the perennial “aren’t you a spoiler” question in a direct manner. It does so in part by putting the onus on the questioner — by finding their “political mirror image”—to find a way out for themselves. The question is answered thus, for example: “I understand your concern: you really don’t want the Republican to win, so you’d rather vote for the Democrat even though you really want to vote for me. There’s a way out for you: Join with someone in your life, someone you know and trust, a relative, a friend, a coworker, who prefers the Republican — and both agree to vote for me (or your friend can vote for some other third party candidate). This solution requires work, but it gets you political freedom. There’s a way out of your dilemma, I hope you’ll take it.” People all over the world and throughout history have risked their lives and fortunes for political freedom. People in the U.S. today should be able to exert the emotional and mental strength to join with someone they disagree with to emancipate themselves from the two-party duopoly.

The Issue of Trust:

There is the issue of how the people can trust one another to actually vote for who they say they’ll vote for; this is similar to the classic “prisoner’s dilemma.” The major answer to this fear is dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue—for the people to really talk through what they want and to develop trust in the political realm that they have in other areas of life, as friends, co-workers or neighbors. This interweaves the personal and political. Another alternative is to each get absentee ballots, fill them out together and mail them together. (Some states allow you to vote on the day of the election and override your absentee ballot, so check your local regulations before you do this.)

Creating a Three-Way Race:

However, if VotePact has a substantial impact, it will affect the polling results and therefore its major consequence would be to let people see the viability of an independent run. That is, VotePact helps the scales to drop from the peoples’ eyes so they can judge candidates on their merits rather than being confined to the Democratic-Republican horse race. Once this happens, trust in effect becomes less of an issue as the illusion of inevitability of Republican-Democratic dominance is shattered. Think of the success of Jesse Ventura; or that the Greens in Germany were fond of saying that they are not from the left or right, but out in front.

What it’s not:

This is not “vote swapping”—in which voters in so-called “swing” states who want to vote for third parties “swap” votes with committed Democrats and Republicans in so-called “safe” states. This is outlined at and  Unlike “swapping,” VotePact is not an attempt to “minimize the damage” of a third party run—it is designed to actually shake up the political spectrum and open the door to actual victory for independents. Also, VotePact does not result in people voting for candidates they don’t want—it frees people to vote for candidates they do want, but are held back by fear. While the Electoral College is central to “vote swapping,” it is not at all central to VotePact, though VotePact does work best if the two voters are in the same state.

What’s the back story about this?

Sam Husseini has written about this a couple of times (for example, see his piece in 2000—and he asked Nader about this the day Nader launched his 2004 campaign—but there has been little sustained effort to get this to people who are not political junkies, who might be the most receptive to it. We’re hoping that using the Internet creatively to disseminate this idea might get it to a lot of people in the coming months.

Totally independently, Kent Van Cleave set up, with the same idea.

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