In honor of last night's presidential debate, I decided to have a look at the ballot on which I will cast my vote. I downloaded a shockingly long ballot. And the presidential race unmistakably contributes to its length. There are twelve parties contending! I had expected maybe five or six.
My eye immediately went to the PFP (Peace And Freedom) Party slate of Roseanne Barr and running mate, Cindy Sheehan. Roseanne Barr has a long list of accomplishments as an actress, comedian, TV producer, and more. And she is not afraid to speak her mind. The United States has a long history of electing former actors to high office, such as Ronald Reagan, Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and more. So perhaps this is a good fit. Cindy Sheehan showed the perseverance of a bulldog in 2005, when she Occupied a piece of land outside then-President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. She garnered significant media attention protesting the continued U.S. war in Iraq. Based on her tireless activism for peace, Sheehan is a woman motivated by her strong principles.
The Barr/Sheehan ticket is a rich combination of personalities. Where do they stand on the issues? From the website, legalize marijuana; get Israelis and Palestinians talking to each other; forgive student loan debt; reign in the bankers; end the wars; fight for equal rights for all; preserve natural water sources; grow natural, organic food. I noticed that legalizing marijuana was at the top of the list. Medical marijuana laws have not yet reached Florida, so I am probably out of touch, but this seemed like a flakey #1 priority. So, while a good chunk of the electorate watched the end of the Obama and Romney debate on TV, I did some googling. Barr recently spoke at a town hall meeting at Oaksterdam University last week. Oaksterdam is our country's first cannabis college. It is dawning on me that I am more out of touch than I realized. Yes, we do have a trade school with classes in growing marijuana, running a dispensary, business practices, and the like. According to Barr, marijuana is a billion dollar industry in California, and legalization brings a tax windfall. So, when she talks about making marijuana legal and war illegal, she is also advancing economic responsibility and deficit reduction. She is advancing a reduction in regulation on small business. And an increase in personal freedom. Sounds almost mainstream.
But can the People and Freedom Party win? Or, could they influence the final outcome of the 2012 election? No and maybe. As far as I can tell, they are only on the ballot in Colorado, Florida, and California, so they can't win. But, Florida and Colorado are two of the largest swing states this year. So, any third-party candidate in those two states might affect the outcome. Last night's debate only included the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, unless you watched the Democracy Now! version. Amy Goodman expanded the debate to include Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. Hats off to Amy Goodman for attempting to get us out of the self-perpetuating cycle of a paucity of candidates and limited debate options.
Since there are ten third-party presidential candidates on my Floridian ballot, I do have quite a choice. Florida's laws promote a strong and diverse ballot. Evidently this came about through a constitutional ballot initiative in 1998, which barred the State from passing any rule against a third-party candidate that didn’t also apply to the two major party candidates. As a voter, I find this invigorating. I don't have to choose between the lesser of two evils. There is a higher likelihood of finding a candidate on the ballot with whom I agree. This is only one step in relieving the two party stranglehold on our electoral system. C.G.P. Grey provides a brilliant explanation of first-past-the-post-voting and some of the other problems inherent in our current system. Although I see my state's laws as providing strong ballot access, my legislators deemed them weak and passed more stringent laws. Let's recap. The people of Florida voted for better ballot access and the Florida legislature passed new rules to thwart their wishes. Representative democracy is brought to its knees. These new rules would have gone into effect this year, but they were blocked until 2016. Until then, I revel in my ballot's horn of plenty.
My research into the Barr/Sheehan ticket brought to light a couple of choice items. First, concerning her decision to get into the race, Barr explains that it was much the same thing that motivated her to produce a sitcom. She was sitting around watching TV and thought, "Hell, I could do better than that!" Second, Sheehan has suspended campaigning due to irreconcilable political differences and health issues. @TheRealRoseanne tweeted, "I'm asking the american ppl to step in for Cindy Sheehan, who's on the ballot, but withdrawn. I'm authorizing all roseannearchists 2bVP." Can you translate that?
Going Forward: Four Candidates Confirmed For The 2012 Presidential Debate Hosted by Free And Equal on October 23.