US: Growing Cracks in the Two-Party System

Cracks in the two-party system keep appearing every year.

Since the mid-1970s, the capitalist economic system has been in crisis, forcing corporations to maintain profit levels by pushing workers’ living standards down. As the rich have been getting richer and most Americans’ living standards have been falling, the Democrats and Republicans have been losing popular support for carrying out the ruling class’s assault on the working class.

Today, a record number of voters (25%) are registered as independents, and independent candidates are increasingly winning support across the country.

1992: Texan oil baron Ross Perot, a former Republican, runs for president, taking a whopping 19% of the vote. Alarmed, the Democrats and Republicans collude with the Commission on Presidential Debates to exclude independent candidates from future presidential debates. Rather than having to obtain the support of 5% of voters in one poll, the rules are changed to require candidates to obtain 15% in five consecutive polls to be included in the debates.

1993: Democratic President Clinton pushes NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) through Congress. Sweatshops and pollution proliferate south of the Rio Grand as corporations downsize U.S. workers and move south of the Mexican border. In response, 10% of the unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO labor federation found the Labor Party around the slogan, "The bosses have two parties – workers need one of our own!" After recruiting 10,000 members and holding two national conventions attended by over 1,400 union delegates, the Labor Party tragically loses all its momentum because party leaders refuse to run candidates. This strategy – based on avoiding alienating officials higher up in the AFL-CIO bureaucracy who are wedded to their abusive relationship with the Democratic Party – fails miserably.

After sending mixed signals about whether he will run for president again, Perot finally decides to run and wins 8.5% of the vote. Voter turnout for a presidential election falls to 50%, the lowest since 1924. Two-thirds of young voters do not vote.

1998: Former pro wrestler Jesse "the body" Ventura runs for Governor of Minnesota on the Reform Party ticket. Thousands who normally don’t vote, particularly young people, turn out to vote, resulting in an upset victory that makes a mockery of the political establishment. It is the first time since the 1930s that an independent is elected governor of a state.

1999: As Christian conservatives feel increasingly ignored by the corporate-dominated Republican Party, Pat Buchanan tries to lead a far-right split-off from the Republican Party and runs for president on the Reform Party ticket in 2000 but wins less than 1% of the vote.

2000: Ralph Nader runs for president – the first credible independent left-wing presidential candidate in 50 years – on the Green Party ticket, winning 2.8 million votes (3%) and polling twice as high among youth.

The Green Party grows into the largest and best-known opposition party in the country, electing 212 Greens to office in 27 states by September 2004.

Fearful of losing its grip over its traditional voting base, the Democratic Party and the capitalist media consistently blame Al Gore’s loss in the 2000 presidential election on Nader, ignoring a whole host of more important factors, such as:

  • the Electoral College, which awarded the election to Bush even though Gore won the popular vote,
  • the Supreme Court’s refusal to allow a full recount of the Florida vote,
  • the exclusion of votes by "ex-felons," overwhelmingly African Americans, many who turned out not to be ex-felons,
  • the 10 million votes for Bush from registered Democrats (7 million more votes than Nader received), and
  • the Democratic Party’s own failure to attract the 46% of eligible voters who didn’t vote.

2003: California voters rebel against the political establishment by recalling Democratic Governor Grey Davis from office. Davis was hated for balancing the budget on the backs of the working class and middle class, failing to address the loss of 250,000 manufacturing jobs, and having connections with the corrupt Enron Corporation that profited from electricity blackouts that they engineered.

Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez is almost elected Mayor of San Francisco. He mobilizes thousands of workers, people of color, and young people, winning 47% of the vote against the joint candidate of the Democrats and Republicans.

2004: Nader runs for president again in the face of the powerful "Anybody but Bush" mood. He exposes the corporate domination of society and campaigns against the war on Iraq, gaining the sympathy of millions of voters who consider voting for him, but winning only 500,000 votes (0.4%).

From Justice, journal of Socialist Alternative, cwi in the US

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