RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

We Need Better Choices

Maybe you typed it as: Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party … or maybe your book used “country” at the end, but whichever way you keystroked this old typing practice back in the eighth grade, NOW is the time. It doesn’t say, “2020 is the time ...” And yes, I’m talking to you, third-party advocates. If you can’t come to the aid NOW, please don’t come back in four years whining that the choices are slim.

Because back in the bad days of the election cycle 2016, we were all holding our noses and voting for some (but, I hope, not all) folks we didn’t trust. Either way we voted for Prez, it felt like handing our nation over to the multinational corporations, whether from New York or Arkansas. In years past, elections have been over and we’ve sighed in relief. We’ve even called the process “cleansing.” As if we now had the opportunity to make a new start.

America, we know, is a utopia founded on dreams. Democracy and equality are just theories and even experiments. We might even suspect that the experiment has failed and that the roving immigrants, who have lived on this continent for generations might need to rove someplace else. Our kids were saying, but in a jokey way, Canada. Our elders were saying, and in a serious way, Costa Rica. We are born of pioneers, wanderers, builders, so it’s no surprise that we talk about leaving.

In 2016, we would have loved more choices, but the third (fourth and fifth) party advocates had done such a poor job of preparation that we couldn’t take them seriously. What were they thinking? That they could just pop up outta nowhere and earn our thoughtful votes? On my Missouri ballot, there were five choices for president but most I couldn’t imagine checking. Then, down-ballot, there were also three so-called “minor” county offices that went unopposed … only the Rs had bothered to file! How I would have loved to lodge a protest with a big X next to Green, Libertarian, Constitutionalist or Independent. At the same time, my Green Party pals are outraged when their supporters say, “Not wasting my vote. Not this time. Not this race.” If we knew your candidates, if they had come to the fish fry last April or marched in the parade on July 4, we might think they’re worth our X.

If you alternative parties really want to give us choices, introduce us to your candidates in races down-ballot. Give us a chance to get to know you by running folks for county commissioners, mayors, state legislators. If the newspaper won’t talk to your candidates, start a Facebook page. Hold meetings. Go door to door. Call in to the radio programs. Wear your t-shirt when you go downtown. Let us see your support. And if your party has activist agenda — like the Greens — let us see your platform in action.

There’s no question that the current two-party system is broken. In the next election, the off-parties can win, and by off-parties I mean any who aren’t Ds or Rs. We need more of you!

As a role model, you might think about Bernie Sanders, who began his political career as mayor of Burlington, Vt., a city of 42,000. After a few years in city government, he went further as an Independent, began to call himself a democratic socialist (even when scholars called him a socialistic democrat). What he got from the experience is a good ability to speak to voters AND articulation of the causes that he cared about. Oh, and he also ended up building teams that carried him to the Democratic Convention, and you know the rest. Would he have done better by switching to the Green Party at the last minute? Would the Greens have benefited by adopting him? We’ll never know, and he was a one-man show to the end.

Here’s another example of an outsider who made it into the big time: Libertarian Gary Johnson. Unlike the Trumpeter, he really did start with nothing and built a multi-million-dollar construction business that employed hundreds. Then he ran for Governor and folks in New Mexico think he did a credible job. Give him a little training, get him to read the international section in the newspapers and maybe he’ll bring the Libertarian Party to a believable place in the national conversation.

There is no question that America needs new thinking, and that the new thinkers need to practice their moves. Let them start in small offices. Let them learn to handle our complaints and desires. Let them build teams of campaigners. Most of all, let them learn to work together and compromise.

So, NOW, off-party supporters, NOW! Come to the aid of your party. Your country needs you!

Margot Ford McMillen farms near Fulton, Mo., and co-hosts Farm and Fiddle on sustainable ag issues on KOPN 89.5 FM in Columbia, Mo. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2016

Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2016 The Progressive Populist

PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652