Location: Wisconsin, United States

I am a convert to the Catholic Church after serving in ordained ministry for more than nine years in another denomination. I hold a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in historical theology, and another in systematic theology, and am currently working (very slowly) on my doctorate. I work in Christian Education and Formation and teach at the University level. I am blessed with a wonderful wife and eight great kids! When I'm not studying, reading, or blogging, I enjoy eating and drinking! Like Bilbo Baggins, I have been specializing in food for many years, and my table has a high reputation!

Friday, December 12, 2008


Some years ago, in fact, not long before the 2004 election, I wrote an article entitled "A Modest Proposal" dealing with what I perceived then (and still do) as a major flaw in our current political system. The flaw? The complete dominance of the two-party system! It seems to me that the one (and perhaps the only) thing that the Democrats and the Republicans agree upon -- is that no other party should be allowed to play the game! In the past, this has not always been the case. Indeed, throughout the history of the United States of America, members of six different political parties have been elected to the Presidency -- and many more have served in either the legislatures of the several states or on Capitol Hill. Take a look:

Federalist Party -- George Washington and John Adams
Democratic-Republican Party -- Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe
National Republican Party -- John Quincy Adams
Whig Party -- William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, and Millard Fillmore. (Technically John Tyler ascended the Presidency as a Whig -- but was kicked out of the party soon after!)

The "modern" Democratic party elected it's first president -- Andrew Jackson -- in 1828. The "modern" Republican party elected it's first president -- Abraham Lincoln -- in 1860. (And in 1864, Lincoln chose for his running mate a Southern Democrat as a sign of national unity! Can you imagine something like that happening today?)

What I'm trying to say is this: so-called "minor" parties have been a part of this great nation for more than 200 years. Frequently, these parties have been "single-issue" parties (like the Prohibition Party or the Greenback Party) but their very presence has brought to the fore issues of national importance which needed to be discussed.

Some have suggested that a proliferation of small parties would necessitate the forming of "minority" or "coalition" governments which would, in fact, find it very difficult to actually govern. They point to examples like Italy, the United Kingdom, or Canada. However, in the Electoral College, the United States is protected from many, if not most, of the difficulties of a more parliamentary system. One person still needs those 270 Electoral Votes to be President! But would it hurt to have other voices heard in our legislatures? Of what are the two big parties afraid?

In the 2008 election, three minor parties qualified for ballot access in enough states to have theoretically reached the magic 270 Electoral Vote threshold:

Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate, garnered more than 520,000 votes and appeared on the ballot in at least 45 states.

Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party candidate, garnered more than 180,000 votes and appeared on the ballot in at least 37 states.

Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate, garnered more than 150,000 votes and appeared on the ballot in at least 32 states (and the District of Columbia).

And, of course, Ralph Nader ran as an Independent, garnered more than 690,000 votes and appeared on the ballot in at least 45 states (and the District of Columbia).

These four candidates, each of whom could have THEORETICALLY won the White House due to their ballot access, together accounted for more than 1.5 MILLION votes. Yes, this represents only a bit more than 2% of the ballots cast -- but all four were LEGITIMATE NATIONAL CANDIDATES! Why were they not permitted to participate in the Presidential Debates.

(Please note: my mentioning these candidates and political parties should not be construed as an endorsement of any sort. I'm trying to make a point! Nor am I suggesting that parties or individuals who manage to make the ballot in only a couple of states should be taken particularly seriously. I'm talking about allowing the major players, who represent parties which are at least decades old, to be treated with the legitimacy they deserve.)

How would participation by these other candidates have hurt? The final results of the 2008 election would most likely have remained the same. The number of voters choosing a minor candidate might well have increased -- perhaps even dramatically -- but either the Republicans or the Democrats still would have won. The difference? Legitimate issues, on both the "Right" and the "Left" which were ignored during the campaign would at least have been heard. And perhaps, over time, such legitimate issues may well be addressed by the "Big Two". Such has happened in the United States before! Finally, such exposure might well have resulted in success by the minor National parties on the State and Local level.

Would that be such a bad thing?

Papa Z

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Blogger jzholloway said...

David, I agree with you, the two party system has.. well.. "bleeped" are political structure up.However, the true problem is our electoral system, which favors a two party system... versus, i.e. the British system, which allows a 2+ party system. Plurality voting makes more sense, at least to me.

11:23 PM  
Blogger MommaBlogger said...

"Why were they not permitted to participate in the Presidential Debates."

Because they were afraid that this would be the year that someone would upset the two party system that they've so carefully crafted. The person they snubbed the most was Ron Paul, who was really a danger to their system. Even after he said that he had dropped out of the race, there were still a number of people who voted for him.

I think it's quite sad that we've allowed our country to be herded into such a strict two party idea of politics, but at the very least there seems to be a large number of people realizing that it's not as good of a thing as they once thought...

9:49 AM  
Blogger David Zampino said...

Hey! People are reading my blog again!

Jared: While I agree that the two-party system as it is currently functioning is problematic, I don't think that plurality voting or a popular vote is the way to go either. I believe that our Founding Fathers were wise in establishing the Electoral College to protect the interests of the smaller states (and nowadays, the medium-sized states as well!) Hence the bicameral legislature. (Which will be the subject of another post!)

Shana: I tend to agree with you. I wish that Paul had actually run as an Independent; I suspect that he too would have achieved enough ballot access to have theoretically achieved the 270 mark. (And would have added another couple of hundred thousand votes to my example!)

1:49 PM  
Blogger MommaBlogger said...

I believe he chose to run Republican, in an attempt to garner a little more support. The Republicans are terrified of him though, because he's actually a REAL Republican, instead of a RINO.

Plus, he's cute ;)

1:04 PM  
Blogger David Zampino said...

Cute? Well I'm not sure I'd go that far . . . :-)

9:25 AM  
Blogger Dn. Chic Harmon said...

Mammablogger: what is a REAL Republican?

I would posit that perhaps he was more Libertarian than Republican.

Even McCain was a disappointment. We had NO conservative running except Sarah Palin. All Paul did was split the Republican ticket that may have prevented Obama from coming to ultimate power. But alas, all the "principled" voters, (those that voted outside the two parties) gave up the country's power seats to liberals who will make many decisions that will kill - both figuratively as well as literally - innocents and those that are providing jobs to the masses.

3:38 PM  

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