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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Republican Gone Green

Editorial: Greening democracy

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bangor Daily News

If American democracy were to submit to a checkup - blood pressure, cholesterol, weight - some troubling symptoms would be recorded on its chart. Topping the list is low voter participation. Barely 50 percent vote in national elections, and even fewer in local and off year elections. That's like someone who brushes his teeth every other day - not good for his health, and not good for those around him.

There are other alarming symptoms: Millions of Americans are not members of a political party (one-third here in Maine), yet federal and state governments are dominated by Republicans and Democrats. And even though the concept of political parties is not addressed in the U.S. Constitution, candidates who are neither Ds nor Rs must jump over some pretty high hurdles to get on the ballot (in Maine, those hurdles are lower).

Also worrisome: 21st century Americans may be the most poorly informed in the country's history about decisions affecting their tax dollars, military, privacy and other Constitutionally guaranteed rights, in part because many get their news through the colored lenses of talk radio, the bickering partisan feuds of pundit TV, or "fake news" shows like Comedy Central's The Daily Show.

Jesse Johnson, a stage, TV and film actor and director, is a candidate for the Green Party's presidential nomination, vying with three other candidates for the party's nod. He's visited Maine in recent weeks, courting the state's 44 delegates to the Green's national convention (the second largest number in the U.S.). While Mr. Johnson is no doctor - though he may have played one on TV - he is able to accurately diagnose what's ailing America.

A registered Republican for 26 years, Mr. Johnson, 49, returned to his native West Virginia a few years ago to care for his grandmother and was horrified to see the devastation that mountaintop removal coal mining had wrought on Appalachia. He helped move the state's Mountain Party under the Green Party umbrella, ran for governor in 2004 garnering 3 percent of the vote, and ran for U.S. Senate in 2006, winning 2 percent of the vote.

Greens are not the only ones on the outside looking in. Whether Libertarian, Constitution, Taxpayers, or other, lesser known parties, their concerns were remarkably consistent, Mr. Johnson said, wanting transparency, access, responsiveness, accountability to individuals over corporations and Constitutional purity returned to government.

The often-heard refrain from voters justifying their choice of a candidate as "the lesser of two evils" may be the most life-threatening symptom of all, Mr. Johnson says. America deserves a more healthy democracy.


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