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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 22, 2009 10:00pm-12:00am EST

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popular will. classical liberals would be spectacle of government efforts by fostering or protecting any party but the two major parties in the united states today we should also say that third parties in other countries are associated with systems of representation. those systems we can see the classical liberalism has a purer form. ..
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>> he is the director of the olin institute for employment practice and policy and received his ph.d. from case western reserve 1970 and specializing in research public policy issues, economics of government bureaucracy, labor unions and health charities. founder and editor of general research and has published more than 60 articles such as the american economic
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review, public choice and others. he has written many books. he is the author of destroying democracy. published by the cato institute in 1986. please welcome jim bennett, our author today. [applause] >> thank you john. thank you to our house that kato who was a little surprised that ralph nader had written a forward to this book. my credentials sudden they crumble. [laughter] but that is all right. at the after words was a written by a fed chairman of the libertarian committees alliance in which between the two extremes and i think it is a great thing. something has to be seriously wrong when you have ralph nader praising my work on the one hand and
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bill all the other. i am a professor of economics at george mason and we pride ourselves on our specialty in the field of public choice. this is the economics of politics. i came to this issue because of the fact that i began to notice other than democrats republicans despite the excitement soon faded in the political arena was not considered seriously. i began to wonder what was going on. as an academic one of the first things that you do is what else has been done in this field? i found very little has been done by the political science academics. apparently to political
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science, then -- what i call the demopublicans george wallace in 1968 pointed out there is not one dime's worth of democrats between the republicans and the democrats. that is why i call them the demopublicans. to the political science community apparently having the demopublicans dominate the field is how they should be and i take exception to that. it seems many voters have apparently come to the conclusion that voting for candidates outside demopublicans is suspect. we need new approaches to problems. we need or issues put before
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the american voters. we need to widen the range of political debate and that is what the third parties have done. third parties have traditionally challenged the status quo and we have led to change and new ideas. throughout our nation's history throughout the civil war, we had dozens of different parties. mug lomb, anti-me seven, the bull moose and more recently the conservative party, a libertarian, the green and reform party and so on and so forth. many of these had good ideas. libertarian was abolitionist with proslavery. some had ideas that was knocked so good you can imagine the prohibition party what their agenda was. early in the nation in history we had many parties, rough-and-tumble politics and a very high
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rate of turn out. what happened? to change all of this? elections and all political discourse is now dominated by the democrats and republicans. being a libertarian one of the first things i do is go to the document that a lot of people do not put a credence into today which is the institution of the united states and ask what does it say about political parties? nothing. in the debate about the constitution federalist papers and are patriots such as james madison and benjamin franklin, a great deal was said about the notion of a faction. it is special interest and political parties were considered to be special interest who wanted to use the power of the state to
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benefit themselves and their members. even today, surveys have shown throughout the world, deep public distrust of political parties everywhere. if polling political parties are racing to a public esteem will word day and lawyers. yes. that tells you something. nevertheless we have political parties the dams and republicans were intent tranche does the two major political parties, and a duopoly concerning politics how did this occur? i will talk about four reasons. also was the elimination of multi member districts. at large elections were sharply restrict should should -- restricted by the apportion mac that required congressmen to be elected in
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districts so can its winning the most votes is the sole representative. french sociologists showed a simple majority single bella system strongly favors two parties. it is a phenomenon known as -- voting for a long-shot candidate that might prevail as third or fourth choice is widely viewed today as throwing away the vote. in a winner-take-all system so it discourages single member districts and discourages voting for third parties and independent candidates and the like toro college winner-take-all practice also encourages a two-party system. politically however single member districts to take-- makes sense you can imagine the concern of people in upstate new york about being dominated by the
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people in the manhattan. the second and most important impediment 23rd parties is the so-called government reform one libertarians year government is being reformed by politicians we always protect our wallets. the idea of the australian ballot is the government will. prior to that 1890's ballots were privately printed by the parties themselves so that any party could print up a ballot within the slate of candidates if they wanted. but then in response to a lot of corruption that occurred in the 1880 elections, governments began to supply a single consolidated balance for all offices. this was the australian
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dollar. by 1910 only two states did not use the australian dollar. by one of those was south carolina it used private balance through 1950. control of the ballot by government allowed government to control who gets on the ballot and a major justification is that non the serious candidates can be excluded. as a patronizing condescending delete who knows what is best for the rest of us, is well aware, too many choices confuse the voters. we have to look after the voters to avoid confusion. the major parties never did and still don't have a problem getting their candidates on the ballot because access is based on the number of votes received
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in the previous election. but candidates outside the duopoly have serious pediments some states require tens of thousands of ballot signatures on petitions just to appear on the state ballot. in oklahoma, more than toothed -- 40,000 signatures were required just to be on the ballot. the emphasis is on the word about it. the slightest discrepancy had not only a name thrown out but a whole page of petitions per couple example john introduced me as jim bennett provide put down my name as teenine and my address, that would be considered an invalid petition signing.
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failing to adopt the i or across the t all of these can invalidate zero pages. the real issue is you probably need 10 or 20% more in order to be sure to get on the balance. union lawyers to challenge the petitions. and the third-party candidate needs to of course, to hire counsel to oppose the council that the duopoly brings to bear on the problem. spreading like wildfire to support the communist party candidates although the communist party was never a serious contender in any election. but the same restrictions to the communist party apply to the third parties but
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certainly not to the democrats and republicans. put simply, clearing the hurdles merely to get on the ballot often exhaust the energies and resources of independent candidates of third parties in the 2008 election, over 1.5 million valid signatures were needed if a third party was to appear on the ballot in every state in the union. a couple of these requirements with 30 filing deadlines and the democrats and republicans are on the ballot by definition so they don't worry about filing deadlines. of but when you submit petitions i have to be presented weeks or months in advance of the time prior to the printing of the balance. this also imposes serious expense and difficulties for
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people outside of the duopoly. third-party candidates are viewed as a spoiler out to deny the democrats and republicans their rightful office. witness the north -- ralph nader who was blamed by the so-called indenture of the internet, the presidency. even kooks who want to be on the ballot have some rights at least under the constitution. what has been sold to the american public as a good government measure is simply a way to eliminate political competition at the ballot box the other laws that the demopublicans have passed it is not but eliminate challenges after running as
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an independent and taking votes away from the party for which there and in the primary having a candidate from multiple parties but the democrats don't use but trying to stifle and oppress third parties and independent candidates it is little wonder the turnout is so low that because we typically have a only a realistic choice between to rebuild the and to rebuild the emirate at the ballot box. the third impediment is campaign reform. any time you hear
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politicians are reforming the news of the general public is bad. money is the lifeblood of politics taxpayer funding of campaigns also benefit the democrats and republicans the contributions by individuals squelching the possibility that the independent might make the effective run for office with a couple of backers with government money however comes strings and these inevitably benefit of the duopoly. and of course, they impede the challengers. the good government side of campaign reform is to privilege the late dacia in the. they have the polls
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polls -- loopholes. corporations always looking for welfare handouts from government have little interest in independent or third-party is. both the left and the right, ralph nader and build down here, of both sitting on opposite sides of the room may tell you something. [laughter] are opposed and they agree on one thing, certainly the ending of corporate welfare. the vast majority of taxpayer dollars have naturally in rich the demopublicans. the only candidate sick got a significant sum was a ross perot and 1996 you got roughly 1/8 of the $2,304,000,000 distributed. but third parties and independents even if they do get tax fund for their political campaigns, they get its after reelection.
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you need to get at least 5% of the boat to get any federal money and you have to have the election to determine if you get 5% of the votes of the simple fact is tv time bought in december when the election was in november is not helpful. by the way, of course, incumbents which are generally democrats and republicans have the enormous advantages like the congressional frank, constituent newsletters, access to the media and gerrymandering. in short of the demopublicans version of campaign finance reform is little more than the incumbent protection act to exclude outsiders. the fourth impediment in false the media. here we have a self-fulfilling prophecy. the media refuses to give
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serious a news coverage to independents because they're unlikely to win. of course, independents are unlikely to win because they have used the power of government to minimize the participation in the election process which excludes them from the media coverage. if you can get your views and positions into the public and make yourself known you will not get elected. yet another of the good government moves demopublicans established the commission on presidential debates in 1987 to decide who will appear and the rules for participating. guess who cochairs this group? headed by the former chairman of the democratic and former chairman of the republican national committee's. you can bet your last in the call that the commission has little interest in bringing
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new ideas and non duopoly candidates to the general public. to bridges of it yet to get 15 percent of the vote in the previous election which of course, guarantees the republican and democratic candidates but others were shut out. leaving getting 50% does not guarantee because ross perot got 19% in 1976 was denied access to the debates even though he was well over the limit from 1992. hypocrisy is not the strong point* it is not a serious consideration when it comes to political maneuvering. and we can talk about the denied states signing the copenhagen document of the helsinki accord which talks about political freedoms which require a clear separation between the state and political parties.
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right to. and the signatories agree to respect the right of citizens to seek political or public office individually or as a representitive political party without discrimination. right. as a mentioned before hypocrisy is not a serious problem when it comes to politics. by the way in iran in the last presidential election they had seven candidates in their pointing the finger at us for the way that we do things. in my book guide discuss in detail the role of third-party and independent candidates and more accurately baby are not in that election and i briefly served if our other developed countries conduct elections. it is sufficient to say virtually everywhere parties are increasingly becoming the apparatus of the state through subsidies. however ballot access laws are typically nowhere near as severe as those here in
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the land of the free. now let me wrap but because people here have a lot more experience with this in the hands on sense that i do and i think they should have time. i am an ivory tower academic. but i would like to suggest what should be done. ideally i would talk but what i would like to see done. ideally dramatically reduce the size and scope of government and sharply reduce the powers and privileges it hands out and slash government spending and transfer payments. to be honest, in my view a great deal of what the government doesn't all levels is simply unconstitutional. a limited government would mean that who actually servicing government does
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not matter very much and the incentives to restrict participation in elections would decline markedly. we would benefit by taking some lessons on government from the typical swift citizen cannot tell you who the president is because it does not matter that much. having advanced my submission i admitted is about the same likelihood of being adopted as a likelihood i am struck by a meteorite on the way home from this event. and if we tried to repeal the operation of the law by having molten member districts, that is appealing but it is unlikely to happen because of the differences between rural and urban districts. and unlikely that from their privately printed paper ballots. lot of this house to do from
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florida. realistically we need to deregulate the election process and get government out of politics. first, repeal all ballot access laws. modern technology can cope with many candidates in the unlikely event that suddenly everyone wants to run for the presidency, we could set a reasonable limits for ballot access. we need to get 500 signatures and have a modest filing fee of $2,500 and have it refundable if you get 1,000 votes. repeal sore loser laws. number three, repeal all restrictions on campaign finance for all donations are legal despite the source or the amount. but i would suggest we require prompt and public disclosure on the internet.
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politicians could still be bought by least we would know who is doing the buying. and all parties subsidies for the taxpayer. and i think bill in his afterword has a wonderful idea about initiating instead runoff of voting. instead of picking one candidate for office boaters would express their preference by ranking candidates won comment two, three come in a majority the bottom boats would be transferred to other candidates this would give a great deal of interest in the independent candidates because of the fact the public would be interested in these people and in addition another major blessing would be that it would probably reduce greatly negative campaigning for those of us who live in this area progress have heard more about a 21
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year-old master's thesis than i want to talk about. of those are basically my suggestions before i make used of the libertarian principles thank you. [applause] >> i went to a single of or recognize our distinguished guests today ralph nader ran as a third-party candidate at least twice. [applause] i have seen him this is the second time in a couple of months for either you will become a libertarian or followers of ralph nader. [laughter] probably both. and also bill read path the national the retiring party is also here.
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and finally christina towbin a free and equal election organization. if you live in california and boats the me one to keep the name christina towbin in time as time passes. that does not constitute an endorsement of the cato institute simply a rogue element exercising freedom of speech. i live in a deep fear of violating campaign finance laws some help. theresa amato is the author of grand illusion and the myth of voter choice in a two-party tyranny. she was a national presidential campaign manager and in-house counsel for ralph nader in 2000 and 2004 and graduated from harvard university. and new york university law school and in suburban chicago and works with many
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nonprofit organizations a. she has been a fellow at the harvard institute of politics and at the harvard law school a very fine speaker on this topic, theresa amato. [applause] >> but afternoon. thank due to the cato institute for hosting a forum on ballot access and on the important discussion we're hearing today. thank you for coming because this is quite a turn out to hear about systemic barriers to entry for third party processing does not make the front-page of the major newspapers every day and it is very nice to share in this and for this to be covered. that would like to encourage other thing tanks and the media to host these kinds of
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discussions because this is a topic you don't hear quite often enough. and let me say congratulations to jim bennett to producing an excellent book. i will hold it up again prepare i read his book and the first thing i noticed in the first paragraph he said he took a swipe at the lawyers as you heard and i thought oh no. then later he makes a crack about harvard trained people and i thought oh no. then he kind of talks about the people who work for good government and i thought i spent my whole life doing that. so when i read his book i thought i am and jim bennett spur victim nightmare. [laughter] except for two things.
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i agree with the major premise of his book that the system is rigged against the two parties or rigged in favor of the two parties to keep out challengers and competition from minor parties and candidates. and i have had the experience of being in the irena twice for minor party presidential candidate when ralph nader chose to run on the green party ticket in 2000 and as a presidential national campaign manager and when he decided to run again in this -- 2004 despite all of the outcry against his right to present his views to the american people. unlike most people on the planet because once you have run on a presidential campaign you will never do it again the few are saying
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the. [laughter] have had this experience twice so i do have the battle scars and i know how difficult it is first hand in order to present alternative choices and more voices to the american people every four years when the host a national presidential election. i would probably would have agreed with 90% of what the jim bennett said up until the last five minutes and that is where we may diverge with solutions. but he has laid out really part of the problem so i think instead i will tell you some of the firsthand experience is that we had and that will start of february 2000 ralph nader called me up and said would you like to run my presidential campaign? i said ralph, i was in the
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middle of the illinois working for a nonprofit i said the last campaign iran was first to bank council. he said that is all right because this will be a very different kind of campaign. this will be a citizens' campaign we will run with the people and put all the issues that are not talked about by the two major parties on the table so people have a chance to communicate and talk about the things that are routinely shut out from the national debate every time there is an election. i thought about it and i thought about what he was trying to do because he spent four decades in washington and he knew how difficult it was for citizens to make concrete changes in he had seen the government overrun by a lobbyist in being marinated in corporate campaign cash and also had a personal history of being able to open up the process.
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i thought if there was ever a time, this is the time to do it. i get to washington and i consider myself fairly well bed and i read the newspapers every day and majored in government, economics, law school. how hard can this be? and then reality set in. we all grew up under the math that anybody can run and the president of the united states. this is the national lore but if you try to be any one and not the party favorite of one of the two major parties, quote to you. it is nearly impossible to run an effective presidential campaign outside of the two-party system. that is because we have
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systemic barriers even if you have a supremely qualified candidate and have popular support, we have systemic barriers that made it difficult to compete and there is no level playing field. win jim bennett writes the system is rigged and nobody cares i know of what he speaks. ballot access. actually let's start with the regulatory system. you have not had the pleasure of reading the code of federal regulations i suggest that you do so as on person i interviewed at the federal election commission explained, it is like asking a lawyer and i said i can figure this out. he said no. it is like asking a general practitioner doctor to perform brain surgery and you have to learn all of this while you do your other
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job. it is extremely difficult to navigate their regulatory curlicues. even those who work at the federal election commission agree what is in the commission code and i am sure we will hear a up from that of our next speaker. also if you call-up for information you find out the standard answer that is supreme the competent and talented division. does not they're fault but the regulations are written for third parties and independent candidates and oftentimes they have no idea what the answers are so the code is silencing you have to ask for and advisory opinion and that could take months when you really needed the answer yesterday. that is one problem the other is people don't agree to what the code says and of course, the third problem is
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the code is not a 10 or a grass-roots campaign. somebody at the sec told me when i tried to paint a hypothetical that these laws are not written for a grass-roots campaign. there is a big problem right there. is extraordinarily difficult if you don't come with a cottage industry of lawyers, the people who savvy and how the laws have been applied and fundamental background of understanding of a major party to navigate the regulatory framework. but that needs to be improved. would not agree to get rid of it. but we will talk about that. every third-party and independent faces 51 different ballot access laws. jim painted the picture but the reality and nightmare is a believable because every
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single third-party candidate and independent will tell you the majority resources and blood sweat and tears goes to getting on the ballot because if you are not on the ballot you're not a choice. this is a system of ballot laws and they are written by who? the democrats and republicans who occupied the general assembly and state legislator and every one of the states. even though some of the states are reasonable, other states are off the charts and make intentionally difficult not only on the application but if you try to follow through and segment these signatures. first, i don't have per don't know why we continue to do this buy there rationally 13,000 jurisdictions overseeing our federal elections. we have a problem with all of these different jurisdictions and even if you call the secretary of state or attorney general's
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office whichever entity regulates the elections in a particular state, a frequently you get something like they will not tell you what that means. some of them do not know what the law says. they are embarrassed the laws on the books are packed in the unconstitutional and help us such by the courts but cannot get the general assembly to change well-off for what it comports so you have to have all of this. and oftentimes they are very afraid they may be sued. this is very helpful if you want to run for office. the second reality is the loss when you aggregate them against the 50 states and the district of columbia as an aggregate burden makes it virtually impossible for individuals who are able to come be because you spend two-thirds of the campaign
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just getting to the starting point*. you spend all of your resources doing this and there is all kinds of side effects whether you have committed fraud, because of a gem instead of james side and those barriers add up into the collective that it is very rare you get a candidate who is able to put his or her name on all 50 ballots and then you have a hostile media. in the case of ross campaign in 2000 there were "new york times" editorials of basically said he and pat buchanan should not even we in the picture they were quote lap cluttering the field. just think about that. since when is political competition cluttering the field? that is the disdain with which the mainstream media looks upon the independents and third-party candidates
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it is very difficult to get a story and when you do it is generally about the horse race how we affect the chances? not why is it are you taking on this incredible burden and want to talk to the american people and have a dialogue and what are you proposing? very rare to get a substantive story it is more how will you affect somebody's chances? and never asked the republican how we effective democrat chances? that is ridiculous allies oppose, as a starting opening question for third-party and independent candidates? partly because we grew up thinking we have been enshrined a two-party system when the word party is not even in the constitution and of course, the media is a big racket so a lot of campaign money actually goes because we don't provide free air time even though the airwaves belong to the
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commonwealth to candidates a lot of the money has to go to buy cbot. some of those with cost as much as a salary of the people i work with for a few minutes just because it is so expensive to break into the media market. if you want to produce your own media than we had the pleasure of being sued because we had a parity of mastercard four copyright infringement so in addition the ballot access and regulatory scheme there is also the commission on presidential debates. it is an official sounding name but it acts as a cartel for which candidate can reach tens of millions of people each year for each election to put their points to 107 millions of people
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watching in any logical fashion. they take an average of 15% when the average of five polls to be considered qualified because they made a bad mistake in 1982 and actually let ross perot in the debate and they don't want to repeat that. as a consequence you have not seen a third-party or independent candidate in the presidential debates. ralph nader could have led to every stadium like he did madison square garden with 20,000 people and never even reached a fraction of the proportion that you would reach on television of course, these are the serious candidates that should be allowed to have a voice in the election. finally i want to point* out that these are the practical problems but the answer and
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solution to the fundamentally are structural we have a lot of band-aid discussion with what is going on of the election perfection and there is a reason for that. in 2000 people perceived wrong way because ralph nader receive 97,000 votes in florida and the margin of difference between al gore and george bush was 537 votes that somehow it was mr. nader's fault that we ended up with george w. bush profile like to point* out there were other eight party candidates and all of them received more than 537 votes. that is not difficult. there were a number of other factors like how we purge broder elections and the florida supreme court and united states supreme court and at the end of the day it was a national means that third parties or
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independence are spoilers but it is hard to spoil an already spoils system. because of the structural problems but you can guess which parties the democratic in 2004 major ralph nader would i get on the ballot and brought 24 lawsuits in a period of 12 weeks to stifle competition as the democratic party or the allies on the ground in a number of states. i don't know how many people here who have been sued. anybody? imagine getting 24 in a period of 12 weeks before he will lead start drinking his coffee he would say this is what democracy looks like. that systemic oppression to exclude third-party candidates is something we should not tolerate.
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all the talk that was created from the 537 votes differences the a good thing is that people started to pay attention what was going on. they started to think about how to register people to vote? why do we have the awp in the system i don't those match? why is that there is chaos and everything is done at the last minute to register voters? why don't we have same-day registration? what is the system what we have uniform standards? is a ridiculous we have to hold up punch cards to the light to see that has to haying being chad's or dimpled or pregnant and it was almost a mockery of our system of governance people looked at all of the world saying what they doing in the united states?
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how come they cannot determine who is registered a bow or determine what grounds constitutes proper grounds for the audit or we can? talk of the machine still work? where we just asking these questions in the 21st century? but all of that election perfection still one not give you open and equal competition if you don't have some reform to the systemic barriers to independents and third-party candidates. we'll stop no suri can saved five for questions think you. [applause] >> grand illusion by theresa amato in your books star or online also "not invited to the party" by teenine our
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final commentator is forcing senior fellow where he manages the civil justice reform initiative. he also studies the legal aspects including campaign finance boater fraud and identification laws and issues arriving from registration and equipment. before joining heritage, he served for two years as a member of the federal election commission. previously working at the justice department and provided expertise and a buy sun and forcing the voting rights act and the help america about act of 2002. articles of appeared in "the wall street journal", weekly standard among others and has testified before state and congressional committees and has made presentations to organizations such as the national association of secretaries of state, the national council of state legislatures and the
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legislative exchange council and took a lot decreased and received his bachelor's of political science from m.i.t.. [applause] >> i am a lawyer but i did not go to harvard parker does that give me points too. [laughter] we used to refer to harvard as a little red schoolhouse down the road. [laughter] i agree with a lot of things that were said this morning projector the winter recess was talking about how horrible the federal election campaign act did owe typical the makes for an ordinary person to run for office. many of these problems also the restrictions and third-party skied-- caused
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by ballot implemented laws and he also complains about the federal public funding per gram which was put in place 30 years ago and points sell the problems with those states like wisconsin that would ban state versions of public funding for the legislative candidates. those public funding programs have not achieved any of this oppose the purposes of campaign reformers in fact, even under public funding law's challengers have a harder time knocking off incumbents in a private system. i want to skip to the end of professor bennett's book can say that i did agree with his conclusions break free restrictive ballot access laws should be relaxed as fundamental fairness and in the interest of democracy or in our case, republicans since we are a republic and not a democracy and the
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strictest sense of the word probably been competition and in competition in the political arena. i also think this same thing of anti-fusion laws and also campaign-finance laws that we have the federal level also needs to be radically changed however i have arguments with some of the things he says in the but. for example, b.a.t is doing all of this will lead to some sort of renaissance or provide day surge of ideas and policies better discussed debated broke the political world is an overly optimistic assumption and i also fundamentally disagree with the constant theme expressed there is no difference between the two major parties that they are simply too sides of the same point*. that would come as quite a surprise to many legislators
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in congress who right now and the last couple months have been waging quite a fight to stop the nationalization of our health care system and destruction our economy by the cap and tax system that is being pushed by the president and his political party. those two issues alone illustrate some very stark differences from the republican and democratic parties and i find it difficult to agree that the two parties are bereft of ideas and vehicles that individuals use to achieve political power. no doubt there people from both parties that are like that but i think that is true of all parties but also many individual members and candidates in those two parties and in the others who have fundamentally different outlooks on the constitution in government and social and economic policies and it is a denial of reality to claim otherwise.
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critics of my point* of view will point* to some members of the republican party like the two senators from maine who far too often but with the other party but there is no party anywhere including the independent parties talking about professor benetton book like the green party and libertarian party whose members agree all the time model issues are never agreed with the views on certain issues of the other two major political parties. as i said i also agree with professor bennett description of the federal election campaign act and the amendments from the bipartisan ink campaign reform act a.k.a. mccain fine goal which i had the misfortune to try to enforce. i expressed my opinion on this on more than one occasion. i got into big trouble at one of my first hearings when i was on the fec when i said to remember from
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democracy 21 when i compared the passage the kind tease mccain-feingold to the fact that i said that at a hearing was cited against a publicly in the nomination fight i had trying to get on to the fec. as dr. bennett has pointed out the supreme court made a fundamental error when it upheld the main parts of the of buckley vs. pele a decision. having been a commissioner two years i think that is a terrible idea to have a federal bureaucracy making decisions on what kind of political activity speech is a acceptable or not acceptable under the force of federal law i think the law has protected incumbents and made it very difficult for ordinary citizens to run
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for office because it is a bison team and confusing lot even the six commissioners to run it often disagree disagree, doing their best to figure out what the law prohibits and what it doesn't. bios of think became fine gold is directly responsible for the huge growth of 527 and other organizations like that because it imposed a lot of restrictions on the political parties, the money they can get and the activities they can gauge in. we ran up like political parties in particular, there's a lot more, if you don't like fabs and political party is running, there are is things you can do you cannot give money come a work against the candidate, it is hard to do that with a 527 organization.
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i do think dr. benetton makes a mistake in his book because he makes sweeping generalizations that do a disservice to a lot of principled individuals i have met with in washington. he refers to what commissioners who serve don the fec as a political act to only those away their political party wants them to. that is false. i know most commissioners who serve on the ftc including bradley smith who might replace did he is quoted in his book. feca is a bad law and they took the no-fly became commissioners to uphold the law. the claim that all votes that they made on the commission of our party line those are demonstrably false. of you look at the history
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of voting when the agency first came in, you will find that to enforcement cases where they are deciding whether someone has violated a law, the number of split votes of a six member commission where they can make a decision is less than 1% of all cases most are unanimous in terms of forcing the law on a non-partisan basis whether a democratic, republican or libertarian, they don't vote on a party-line basis and the history of the fec shows that. where the split votes have occurred and there was when i was there invariably in areas of policy new regulation were the law is ambiguous and unclear. i and other republican
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commissioners, whenever there was a place we could actually boat a less restrictive fell to that is what we took. what we saw was not so much a party breakdown on party lines of loyalty but the fact that most republican commissioners were less regulatory minded in the political area and most democratic commissioners were more regulatory minded in that area. one more fact demonstrates the republican commissioners to light the feca law and it is not a conspiracy to put the lot in place to try to keep the independent parties and other parties out. myself along with seven other former commissioners and represent almost every commissioner we recently filed a brief and the
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citizens united case which is a case trying to get parts of the mccain-feingold declared unconstitutional as part of the first amendment. we did not filed on this side of fec but citizens united convince the court with our 75 years' worth of experience we've said to the court, this is unenforceable confusing and unconstitutional. you should overturn it. also the idea again the republicans are perfectly happy with all lot and some type of democratic conspiracy, but i think is demonstrably not trooper guard is very true, senator mccain is the poster child for this law that he is almost alone on his side of the political aisle in supporting the law. when the boats came down in 2002 the majority of democrats voted for this lot in the house and
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senate, only a small minority of republicans voted. the majority voted against the law because they did not like it and almost all of the major lawsuits that have been brought, republicans have filed an including two pending lawsuits right now which are going up against the restrictions on the parties and frankly they win their case will help with the independent parties because the laws are arguing about the restrictions placed on the party's or engaging activity in state elections going on in virginia and new jersey. two other points briefly. i think we're running out of time? first of all, the idea of a local party is instead of two will result in our solving the many problems we face today is an optimistic
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assumption that does not have a basis. don't give me wrong. third parties and candidates should get on the ballot and i am hopeful that doing so well and live in the political debate and discussions that go on in this country. . .
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i think it's a good requirement. it means the candidates have to feel ideas and solutions to problems that a majority of voters think is a good idea. the majority vote requirement forces candidates to try to build coalitions and deal with multiple interest groups creates better overall representation. frankly it also prevents individuals who have radical ideas that only a small minority of folders agree with from getting elected to positions they may have considerable power to implement their particular views of the majority of americans do not agree with. this can potentially prevent changes in economic, social and government policy that go against the consent of the
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governed and the consent of the governor is the most basic philosophical and political belief that this country is based on. overall, i think this is a very informative book. it points out inequities in our lives that govern the process that i think should be fixed. i wouldn't agree with the characterization contained but i agree with many of the proposed solutions such as simplifying ballot access and moving to a much less restrictive campaign finance system. thanks. [applause] >> thank you very much, hans. i'm sure the speeches we heard today have given every one food for thought and also prompted some questions so we are going to have questions now. please raise your hand and wait for the microphone to come and then when you get it to identify yourself, what organization you are involved with or your
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affiliation and please, direct a question to one of the people appear so that they can respond to it. let's go with the gentleman down here. a microphone, please. >> robert steele. is this working? from virginia's 11th district. my question, and i regret that jackie is in here. it's an honor to be with ralph nader with all of you. why can't we get everybody to play well together and take the ideas in rauf meter's books? there are eight fundamental reform act principles. why can't we get the green libertarians and independence to basically demand of obama as the price of anything in 2010 that he past electoral reform act of 2009? >> i assume everyone heard -- >> well, i have no problem with that. i think it's a wonderful idea. we need to open up -- we need
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new choices and voices and actually third-party independent candidates do just what cato and heritage is trying to do. they are trying to increase the range of political debate. >> good to meet you in person, mr. steele. thank you for coming. i would like to say it's really -- minor parties and third parties and independent obviously don't have the same platform. so they can get together and should get together on removing the systemic barriers to entry but after that they will compete for the votes of the american people on their own and from their own ideological perspectives and various platforms. it's really not their job to fix the entire electoral process. it's all of our jobs as citizens and i want to make something clear so that we can percolate some questions here. i don't agree with most of what he said in the solutions
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proposed by either of these two gentlemen. i am for public financing of campaigns. i am for proportional representation and instant room of voting and choice maximizing systems on how we are able to select our candidates, and i am not for corporations being able to dive bombing to people's districts and be able to finance particular candidates. i don't believe they hold the same rights that we do as individuals and they certainly don't have the right to vote at least not yet. so, i hope that will help inspire some questions, and we will talk about it because we certainly don't all agree on what the solutions or even though some of us to agree on what the problems are. well, that's why people of all political stripes have to not just talk to people in their own cultural cul-de-sac and come out and come talk at cato or the other organizations that should host these kind of defense.
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there are members of organizations in this room not only cristina token with a free and equal elections but there's representatives from their votes as well as citizens in charge foundation. there's a lot of organizations starting to work on the systemic problems and i hope they will pop too. >> my only response to that proposal is good luck trying to convince the president to do anything that might diminish his reelection prospects. >> this gentleman right here, we will go to the right side of the room now. >> my name is still ancaster. he said to many parties might make it possible to govern and what i want to know is what is magic about two? why not go for one? [laughter] >> arguably we have that. >> at secure mischaracterizing what i said.
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i said as i think the ballot access law we should be relaxed so third and fourth and fifth parties can get on their but the idea that will somehow magically solve many of the problems we have i think is belied by the fact you can get plenty of other democracies that have multiple parties and they face many of the same problems we do and don't seem to be any better in finding solutions to them. >> let me use the privilege of the moderator to ask a question here. is it the experts here do you believe that offered parties and the larger role for third party is in place proportional representation either just changing the system were also some voting procedure that would give you that or can you give it in a single member district? >> first of all i want to go back to put this in context. in the last 30 years there has been a wave of democratization
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in the world where we have had a lot of countries who were not democracies were democratic republic is and what not and who have chosen to become more space, and in that way not one has chosen to adopt united states system and we should ask why because it doesn't provide the same kind of representation. i do believe we should have proportional representation and if we don't get there yet it is choice maximizing voting systems or in combination thereof because flexible how many people saw the front page new york times article on wednesday october 7th? they talked about new york city had a runoff election, right, and a city of 8 million people almost nobody showed up to go to. 3 million registered democrats and you had some districts where actually nobody came to votes. we can do better than this.
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so maybe -- i would start with the constitution because i believe we should start looking at things like the electoral college which are anachronistic now and i know this might be fighting words here but i'm happy to engage and think about how we want to improve our system. our system is great me before the 18th century, but we are now in the 21st century and there have been kinds of systems devised that can be applied that can do things that can make the electoral system more reflective of the will of the people. at the end of the day if you want consent to come from the government we have to look at how we vote and the systems in place that offer choices for who we can vote for in order to be able to maximize consent of the government. >> i will second that. >> anything on that? >> thanks very much. now, let's go down from here with christina and the gentleman
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behind. >> hello, my name is christina, the founder and chair of the free equal foundation. the former national ballett cord needed around meter 2008 and the libertarian candidate, sorry, seeking libertarian nomination for california secretary of state. my question is currently an initiative in support of the top two primary is on the ballot in california for june, 2010. the top two primary is in which the top two vote getters in the primary the only names to appear on the november ballot even if that means only one political party is represented. the top two primary is the biggest threat to the existence of minor parties in over 50 years according to richard winger mullen balad expert. my question is, and also wanted to mention a washington state of almost 200 races there were only eight candidates that did not
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advance the general election. i'm sorry, only eight candidates but did advance the general election because they ran an unopposed race in washington state the past the top primary in 2006. my question is what is your position on the top two primaries and how do you think this will impact third-party independent candidate races nationwide? thank you very much. >> i don't like that idea because i frankly think each of the political parties should have whoever they're nominee is on the ballot during the general election and like i said the ballot access laws ought to be relaxed so you can do that. that is kind of an extension of this open primary system that some states have tried to put in that can end up with, you know, to candidates from the same party being on the ballot nobody else excluded, and i don't think -- i don't think that's a good idea and i don't think that is the way we should be doing
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races. i have to say for all the criticisms given of parties and as factions and so forth, parties are simply an expression of a very fundamental right contained in the first amendment which is the right to associate with people who have the same beliefs and use that you do and i don't have a problem, in fact i think they are not that much different from other organizations of people like the sierra club or the national rifle association because they represent issues the people that are members agree with and political parties are like that. i do think we ought to have a system where people can form political parties easily come and get them on the ballot and won their nominees for election. if nobody votes for them, well you know then they don't have the ideas a majority of the voters like but let the voters make a decision. >> following up i think you put
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out a study in may of 2009 that said we are at the highest point in 70 years for people salt identifying as independent in this country. i'm not for the top two. i think we ought to get away from the number two all together here because what is happening is it is a funnelling process, and what it does it's very unlikely that an independent or third-party candidate would emerge in the top two. that kind of with a wing is exactly the opposite of what we should be trying to do which is expand choice in the general election, and people should learn more about the system. i don't want the media of reducing choice and i don't want debate commission's or the parties how they kicked out dennis kucinich and senator mike coralville in the two parties. i want to make it possible that more people and more choices are in front of the american people and able to participate. and that's why i think the federal election commission
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going back we need to view campaign finance laws which i am in favor of more like a tax policy and we have to say we don't want to just not as a corrective effect. we want to look at how can government facilitate the participation of people and how can good tax policy we reword behavior we want to see and discourage behavior we don't want to see and that we should use that mind set when we are looking at constructing the campaign finance law. >> we are going to run a little bit late because we got started a little bit late and because there's lots of interest out there and i want to get to as many people as possible. >> with all due respect to teresa the problem with having extensive tax policy we have is because you have government bureaucrats deciding what social policies should be encouraged and what shouldn't, and i have to agree completely with what
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james bennett said when he said the biggest problem in washington is that the government is too big, too powerful and that is why so many people spend so much time trying to influence to benefit that and what is true for tax policy is also very true federal campaign finance law. the commissioners i've served with were all very well meaning people but they were six people over a federal bureaucracy of almost 400 individuals, and you do not want government bureaucrats making decisions on what kind of political activity should be encouraged or discouraged in the political arena. people should be free to act as they want and to speak as they want to and i would say compare the federal system with two states, virginia, utah, that have no restrictions on contributions. they require disclosure and governing magazine rates utah
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and virginia as having two of the best from governments in the united states and you tell me whether you think virginia government or utah state government or the sum how much more corrupt than the federal government and federal system? most people in those states will tell you they have a cleaner government than the federal system. >> i promised the gentleman behind cristina. >> my name is aronberg rose. i live in seattle washington, and my question, one question was just asked. i want to go back to the question, and i voted for ralph nader and i still repenting for that same. [laughter] >> i hope that's tongue-in-cheek. [laughter] i want to go to the question about voter turnout. very elementary question is there a correlation between an increase of voter turnout and support for the third party and even some of the campaign
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finance reform versus if there are a lower turnout other than a special every four years high profile elections voter turnout in the united states is very, very low and i just want to add to dr. bennett's point iran which is a good example. i believe afghanistan had up to 28 candidates on the ballot including some women. so i think it's a very good point. thank you. >> any comments on that? >> you addressed this. >> would put it this way, if you honestly believe there isn't that much difference between the democrats and republicans, i mean, why eight vote? that's the point. and i think a lot of issues that should have been debated -- ralph is good at this. you may not agree with his positions but the idea is he wants to put this on the table and get out there and people
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want to talk about this. he wants to talk about labor issues and trade issues and things and you don't really get this very much. everything is clustered in the center and the idea is to spread the ideas about and hans has been talking about the fact that if you have multiple parties, government may not be as easy government may not be as easy and it may be different. that may be a very good thing, frankly. you look at the government, how effective are these people any way? talk about the sec and the bird may obstetrician. you talk about the federal emergency management thing and katrina and there's always this they call united states postal service, i don't know where they get the service from, but nevertheless. it may be a good thing to have less government and less
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effective government. we may be fortunate we don't get all the government we paid for. >> could i answer the gentleman's question? there have been studies on this and a good book to read would be thomas patterson's the vanishing voter, where he interviewed something like 90,000 voters but there is a correlation. first to see correlation of interest in the election itself when you will get the viewership that turned out for ross perot compared to the other debates that didn't have a third party and second coming guess that's one of the factors people cite what they don't vote. it's not the first factor. a lot of time its convenience, can't get to the polls, i have to work, but never but it is one of the factors that there isn't a range of choice and so there are a number of studies that have been done on this and there probably should be more. i'm going to defend the service here and say that i think would be fair, more fair to say that there are things that are
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ineffective and regulated. there are things that are overregulated and under regulated and we could probably be here another 2,000 years debating that here in this room. but what we need to do is the system is broken and even the commissioners at the fcc sent a letter to congress singing let's fix the presidential financing system so there is an admission that some parts of the system have to be fixed and so one answer is not just to do nothing or have no government. we actually have to work it is hard questions come and they are not fast answers. >> the woman on the aisle here on the right side. >> thank you. my name is anna bill fischer. i live in northern virginia, professor bennett when i see one more negative tv ad in this race and i have also lived in seattle washington so i know how things go. i would like to throw a couple of things out to you all.
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i do believe the american -- to the gentleman from seattle people don't vote because they don't have choices. alexandria just changed the way against the public opinion in alexandria va how we are going to elect the next mayor and council and school board to increase voter turnout so it would be in the election cycle with the president. seattle washington state has a million things on the ballot so what i would like to throw out to you all i am for proportional representation. i am against campaign finance reform because in virginia anybody and their mother can set up a pack and i think that would go against the campaign finance law reform. what do you think of having open primaries where you have now heads of the democratic republican party say yag you can vote in the open primary but you have to declare your party.
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so, rather in the general you can vote for whoever you want that would be the first thing so it would allow more people who choose to run for office to be on the ballot without perhaps gathering the signatures. and the second thing is i think if there's any movement -- like to believe today with the health care reform debate and other issues coming up today there are many more people now who are looking at voting for an independent person. but i believe it has to start at the local level. the local and state level and you can't have somebody running for president who has never held office before. so i am dropping those two issues out to anyone out there and made the best person win in virginia and me the election be over soon. thank you. >> jim, do you want to start?
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>> i'm not quite sure what the question was but beyond that i think it is on american to try to close things down and oppressed people and keep people off the belt and so on and so forth and i feel we need whatever we can do to encourage, you know, new voices and new choices. i think it's very important, and i don't know if moving elections for extended to a presidential year would guarantee better people in office or one not but it just seems to me we need more issues and ideas on the table and that's kind of where i come from on this. >> [inaudible] >> that would be fine. that helps open up the process. that is exactly what i was saying. i'm in favor of anything that opens the process up.
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>> theresa? >> the primary system is you want an open election system but you also want the parties to be able to have some control over what they do and i don't care what it is the democratic republican party or libertarian party and all of those parties do not want people coming in and voting in their primary fight who don't really believe in their ideas but are only there to spoil the choice, okay, and i recall one of the green party candidate cynthia mckinney said one of the reasons she got defeated was because in the democratic primary election in one of the prior elections republicans crossed over the line to vote for the opponent so that she would lose, and i think parties -- we've gone a long way as jim bennett describes in his book to having the government take over many things the parties did previously.
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and while i agree with some of those like i don't agree with his criticisms of the australian ballot which the main part of was to make sure we had a secret ballot which is vital to democracy, but i don't think that having switching to a primary system where the parties have absolutely no control over the process and absolutely no control about who comes in on vote i don't think that is necessarily a good thing unless you want to destroy having any parties at all. >> the gentleman in the second row from the back. we will get away from the front a little bit. and close to the end. >> brandon combs, grassroots of the citizens in charge foundation. i want to give theresa an opportunity to expand on some of her proposed solutions. one of my personal objections to personal finances and the funds would be presumably controlled by the existing parties and existing people in power, and i wonder if you can address how would help third parties out if you have to go and essentially
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malkoff the door of the existing power to get into that. >> one of the reasons i am in favor of public financing is to encourage, help encourage participation so you don't have to be born a billionaire were has access to a millionaire's rolodex to able to purchase a peak in elections in the united states. i don't think that is what the founding fathers had in mind of terms citizens being able to run for office. public financing allows a small start candidacies, people who are running independent, small parties to have at least a little bit of a contribution in order to be able to get to the point where they can compete and have their candidacy in front of the american voter. i will give an example. ralph nader is one of the only candidates the last three elections who is qualified as a minor party or third-party independent for public financing for matching funds in the primary.
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first of all, as jim pointed out the statute is written so that you're not going to get as a minor party or independent general election financing unless you've proved in the past election you can garner 5% of the vote so that is no use in the current election if he wore a minor party or independent but it does allow -- what it does allow what was critical in both thought 2000 and the 2004 and the 2008 campaign which i did not run is to be able to have funds to be able to overcome the ballot access problems and be able to actually get on the radar screen. if you're not on the ballot or not on their radar screen. right in votes rarely win in history and write in the votes, another fall are not even counted. one of the chapters in my book does talk about how the supreme court has enshrined the two-party system and has become the protector of the incumbents and the two parties instead of
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the defender of people who are trying to participate in the system. the last chapter of the book does deal with a number of solutions. everything from whether or not we touch the constitution and the electoral college to how to make it more fair for people to have a chance to be able to. i discussed the national voting plan act. i discuss redistricting them at the local level to get back to this woman's question here. oftentimes we don't have to parties. we just have one party. there's nobody else even running in these elections so torch places become one individual. sometimes they cancel the election. they did that in florida because it was a foregone conclusion. do we really want a government where the candidate -- the electorate or conclusions because nobody else has a chance to run? i don't think so. >> one last question, the
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gentleman here and then we will go to lunch. wait for the microphone, please. >> my name is arnold king and i live in a one-party state. i would like to thank you all for this discussion because it's a very interesting discussion. my question is what can we do to get politicians to understand the election process? and number words understand the rule procedure. also, how can we get the party in the 21st century because a lot of states have too many, the of a political party and in the south that another party and so forth. thank you. >> thank you. jim, comments? >> i think i outlined the fact that what we need to do is remove impediments to participation. and the main impediment is ballot access laws and make it
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easy for people to get on the out come have a free-for-all. the more the merrier kind of thing. and have it sorted out. by the american people. that's what i think we need to do is open up the process rather than have it closed as it is now to a great degree. >> closing remarks, theresa, or answers? >> the ec and shameless thing for me to say would be read my book, "grand illusion the myth of voter choice and to party tierney," because i do talk in the last chapter in detail about the kind of things we can do we in this country to make a more fair system and have maximize the latter choice and importantly fulfil the voters' rights by helping acknowledge the candidates rights to be able to run for office. thank you. >> in that light it also may be the contribution to the cato
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institute would advance. [laughter] >> don't forget heritage, too. i actually want to go back to an older question real quick to make a final point and that is public funding. there's a fundamental problem of public funding. and theresa mentioned the fact fec commissioners run to congress singing you have to fix it. there wasn't enough money in the fund to pay for. why isn't there enough money in the fund? because the american people don't want to fund it. it's purely voluntary. when the program first went into place, and jim talks about this in the book, about 25, at one point it went to 30% did the voluntary checkoff for the presidential funding program. in the last year they lumbered down to about 8%. the only way you can fund a public funding program for elections, and i don't care whether it is on the federal level, the state level, is through taxation. and that is a fundamental
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violation of my first amendment rights to associate with people that i want to associate with, to use my tax money to pay for the political campaigns of somebody i fundamentally disagree with? that is such a violation of the bill of rights that it's hard for me to believe people keep pushing the public funding idea. and frankly raising money when he wore a candidate going out and raising private money. my experience is people give money to people whose ideas they like. when you were out raising money if you can't raise any money nobody wants to give you money it's because people don't like your ideas and they don't like the solutions you're proposing to the problems we have and i don't have a problem with people going out having to raise money to run their campaigns. if you take off the limits on campaign contributions people will be able to raise the money to run campaigns and they are not going to have to be billionaires' to do it. >> those of you that didn't to
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ask the questions will be able to ask them of the panelists now that we are going to launch. i want to join you in thinking all free for coming today and speaking. [applause] please go upstairs and have lunch, no taxpayer money involved. [inaudible conversations] >> theresa amato, practicing lawyer, was the campaign manager and in-house counsel for gulf nader in both 2000 and in 2004. mr. bennett is economics professor george mason university. patrick o'donnell was a military historian and author of five previous books. his new book is they dared return the true story of jewish spice between the lines of nazi germany. my first question, who is frederick mer? >> he's right. probably the best living house
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by from world war ii and was part of operation greenup, a german refugee that dared return that went behind the lines of the nazi germany and was disguised as the german officer and changed the course of world war ii. but tens of thousands of soldiers to surrender, found the plans for hitler's bunker house was destroyed 26 trains with an air strike. >> patrick, what time period this took place? >> this took place in 1945. and it's one of the great untold stories of world war ii. fred neyer was put in for the medal of honor and that's still a metal that has not been -- nothing is ever happened to bit and it's like one of those on told questions we are trying to find out as far as his recommendation. >> how did you get involved with this story? use it is a under reported story. how did you find out about it? >> about six years ago i was researching a book called operative spies and saboteurs, which is an oral history of the
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o.s. test. i've interviewed about 300 veterans, and fred mayer was one of the first veterans i ever interviewed, and from there i became close friends with this man, and i just got involved in his story, which is one of the great untold stories of world war ii. >> mr. mayer, you've led operation greenup. can you tell a little about that? >> we've para michigan, glacier in austria, and did what we had to do from then on. >> what did that entail? >> well, first my original job was to find out how the germans got weapons back to italy through the pass, and it turns out our photograph showed the bridges were destroyed but the germans had been portable and pulled into the tunnels, so i pulled them out only when the train was to be going through.
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any photographs were all and void. >> the title of the book is they dared return. from the title of this, these gentlemen started in europe and came to the united states and went back. they were all german refugees that barely escaped nazi germany, and then became -- there were american citizens and did the unbelievable, which is parachute back into the nazi lines and fred was a german officer in person if a german officer behind nazi lines. and gathered actionable intelligence that literally changed the course of the war. >> mr. mayer, you must have had moments he feared for your life. is there a particular story? there must have been moments that he feared for your life impersonating a german officer. were their moments or is there a story you remember in particular? >> at the age of 21, you know no fear. >> that's sort of the understatement of the year.
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frederick mayer is very self-effacing but this man was captured by the gestapo it literally water board and tortured for three days and survived. didn't break. and then literally turned the tables on his captors and got tens of thousands of german soldiers to surrender. >> the author is patrick o'donnell, the book as they dared return the true story of german spies behind lines. joined by frederick mayer. thank you. >> thank you. here is a look at some of the upcoming book fairs and festivals over the next few months.
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longtime book critic at "the washington post" and author of the book classics for pleasure. how do you define a classic? >> classic is important for people to keep going back to generation after generation. it doesn't have to be one of these obvious chronicle classics we think of, shakespeare, dante. in fact the premise of this book is a lot of the popular fictions of the 19th century, plus the beat classic john reid is important as more obvious books.
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so this is a collection of essays that has pieces on people like saffo or john webster, who are obviously important, but also on george show here the creator of the romance and the great science fiction writer, and more james is the master of the english was story. i try to talk about books that have shaped our imaginations so that people keep going back to. you know, throughout their lives and as i say, generation after generation. >> let's get back to the jon rand fiction. what is jongh run fiction? >> that is a marketing device when you come down to. it is publishers to say this science-fiction, crime, fantasy. beckham nineteenth-century, late 19th century which was a great age of storytelling the same people would write all kind of books. arthur, the historical novels, he wrote mysteries, ghost stories. he wrote every sort of book and story that he thought he could
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sell and there was only later that we started assigning genre. so that one of the things i worked out in my years at the book world and as a critic is to encourage people to kind of ignore the genre barriers, to go beyond them because there are great books that will speak to them in areas they've tended to dismiss and say i don't read regency romance. but georgia o'hare's books are as witty as practically jane austen, similar to them. and it is a shame to dismiss such books without having tried them. the point of this book, classics for pleasure is to encourage people to kind of try different classics because i think there's a lot of pleasure to be had from them. >> you've been a writer and editor of "the washington post" book world for nearly 30 years and you have for the prior books about reading. when did you -- what was your
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reading habits desiccate? >> my mother taught me to read before start kindergarten. but i came from a very working-class steel town. my parents were not readers. my parents -- my father was a steelworker and as i grew older i read more and more. he would get occasionally annoyed by this and would order me down to the basement to build something work outside to play. he wasn't quite sure he liked his only son becoming such a bookish sort. so they have mixed feelings about it but the more he was sort of critical of my reading when you are a young teenager the more you want to do it if your parents don't like it must be coal so why did more and more of it and at one point i actually found a copy of a book called the lifetime reading plan by clifton fatimid, which is a partial the inspiration for classics for pleasure which is a kind beyond the lifetime reading. and i use that as a guide during my teenage years of books to
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read and how much i got out of them is another question. my eyes went across the pages of thomas wants the magic mountain when i was 15-years-old. what i got out of it i don't know. what i like to read. it was an east cape, it gave me dreams of another life. i wanted to move around the world to feel comfortable with all kind of people to travel, and books were a way of introducing that to me and i think rubbing off some of the rough edges of relatively prodded child then i went to college and had a lot of culture shock and that's a whole other story. >> when you were compiling this list, this compilation, where their books from your child that you include? >> let me think. well obviously the sherlock holmes, talk about baliles. those were important to me. and g. k. test and is in there, the father brown mysteries were among the first mysteries i read. i love mysteries as a kid. in fact, i started off with sherlock holmes and father brown and i read agatha christie, then
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i was in seventh grade. somebody told me crime and punishment was a kind of mystery, about a murder story. that sounded good so i read it in three days and that sort of launched me into reading a really serious grown-up books from that point on because it was really good. and then it really is a terrific mystery as well as a great novel. >> in 2009 the book industry is calling for some great changes. >> alas. >> and your entire career has been in books. >> yeah. >> what do you see in the future of books as it begins the digital age? >> i have mixed feelings about it. i've grown up in the print culture. for me, coming from a working-class background as for many generations before books, the educated through books was the way up and out. whereas now computers seem to have replaced that in a lot of ways for kids as the key to success in multiple careers.
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but i love books. i love the feel of them and the fact that there are different sizes. one of my objections to things like the kindle is a kind of homogenizes things. they look alike. >> the kindle is? >> the kindle is this an electronic reader that you can download text and use a screen and there is a way of reading a book. but it doesn't give you a sense of how long and how far you are in a book. when you read a book you know you have ten pages left. you don't have that on the screen. because i really value art and literature i know it's going to survive because people need them. the way we access them to use a computer term were made different but back to thousand years ago people probably said, you know, when the cutbacks book came out like that when they said what is wrong with schools? schools work -- why we have this new technology. we got along without scrolls and
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we can get along without printed books, but i do think they will be around for a while because we like them. we are drawn to them. i know everybody that has a blog and is committed to the internet seemingly, they all want to have a book. having a blog isn't enough, to have it published book that is when you have arrived. >> as a book reviewer, your entire career and being a post book world which is recently folded into the rest of the "washington post" that i believe only "the new york times" stands a lot now as the only stand-alone book review in the nation. >> that's true. >> where will people discuss books in the future? where will people review books? is on the blog, dennett? >> that is a good question and a problematic one because newspaper book sections and magazine exceptions, it gave a kind of common meeting place for people interested in the life of a mind and culture, art, books and general. where everybody read the same
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book sections. whereas with the internet everybody goes to different blogs, different sites. there is a lot less of a common ground. so that's worrisome. i imagine that gradually over time even the newspapers and magazines will establish such strong on-line presence the people will just go to them to read in the way that they now read the paper versions of the paper with a magazine or some of the web sites and books sites will emerge as key that more and more people will go to and so they will gradually replace the book section. but it is a loss i think. there is a great pleasure of reading the sunday paper reading the paper on the way to work on the subway and having all this culture together in a convenient disposable form, and i mean
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books -- books and newspapers are just cool things. it would be a shame for them not to be around. >> you talk about everybody at one time reading the same book review. what about everybody reading the same book? you have been here mary shelley's frankenstein and dracula, and i think most americans can identify to literary figures. aside from harry potter, do we have that common dialog any more? >> maybe to some degree. books will become popular and obviously there was a period i was the only person who had never read the given she code. so there are certain books that become best sellers. and even certain writers will become popular and they will -- there will be the kind of conversation described amongst a body of readers. david foster wallace, such a great outpouring when he committed suicide because he had so many devoted readers and people were fascinated by his work and his shorter pieces and
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were looking forward to his next novel. so there was someone who brought a lot of people together. i can remember when kurt bunning him died, i remember there was appreciation and in online chat. i was astonished at how immediate he fell to younger people. i thought he was someone of my generation but he seems to have lasted and touched a lot of lives so there are writers like that. john updike for for a lot of reflection and people. so there will be writers who are meaningful to us. one of my goals as a reviewer is whenever possible to offer you any book that is going to be on the best-seller list because i try to encourage people to look beyond the best-seller list because there are books that will speak to them more powerfully and the really good book by the more specialized leader who doesn't become a best
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seller phenomenon that i worry about, those are things people will need part of their lives when they were members of the book-of-the-month club and went to the library to check out books, and the domination of trade names as you might say on the best-seller list is i think a kind of restraint of trade for the readers. not that stephen king or james patterson or any number of people don't read good books of the sort. but i don't want people just reading their books. i want them to read all kind of books and that is where the book section and books like classics for pleasure encourage people to do. read a round, don't just follow the herd to the few books at the front of the store. look at the shelves. go to the library. talk to your friends, librarians. what do they like? and then explore the books of the past as well as the present. >> i'm going to put it to the
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test because you just mentioned. you are a bookseller and i walk into your bookstore and i want michael dirda to recommend three books to purchase. >> well classics for pleasure. [laughter] i probably would want to know a little about you but since i know that you like science-fiction i would recommend my favorite living science fiction writer named jack vance whose most famous book is the dalia dearth. a great influence on michael shea durham. we both made different trips to see vance and he lives in oakland. he might be someone i would recommend. or leguin. a lot of people say i don't like science fiction fantasy and i say read the left and of darkness. it is a book that examines every sort of aspect of our lives, sexual relations, the meaning of gender, the hero's black.
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there's all sorts of interesting elements plus it is beautifully written. that's the key of course things are beautifully written. and then it's always hard to do that, to recommend books. this is why i've had to write five of them filled with lists and titles and things i think people might want to check out. sali -- not to be self promoting but i do think these books are useful for the reason you describe, that they will tell people not books they might want to try. >> what do we learn from reading literature? a lot of the books and here are literary in nature, the fiction. >> they are literally, the high end of the fiction. what do we learn? we've learned we reach our lives, our lives become greater. we have the aesthetic pleasure of the work of art beautifully put together just as we get one from listening to music or looking at a painting.
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but our lives are narrow in some ways. we can only go down certain paths. the tragedy of life that we would like to be many things. i would like to be mississippi riverboat gambler, james bond, i would like to be an opera singer. i would like to be a monk. i cannot be all those things but i can get some sense of what it's like to be those things and experience those lives. consequently i can enrich my own and see what they are like. i can't live more lives than one and i know if it's fiction they tell good stories, it's adventuress. anyone who has read the hound here's sherlock holmes there were the footprints of a gigantic hound. he is a reader for life.
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>> michael dirda, what have you always wanted to read but haven't? >> what have i always wanted to read but haven't? i have a list of books i want to read and i often to rediscover essays from different periodicals because they allow me to read those sorts of books. there is one classical i was never able to read all the way through that was spenser's the faerie queen. c.s. lewis, the mardy of books. he would read it like a fantasy. i read it and just couldn't get into it. the book i would like to read right now is one of the great classics of japanese literature. it sounds sexy, it's not quite as sexy as that i know. i love the tail which is a sort of same period as the great japanese classic early novel. and exploring other literature than the western is something that interests me, the story of
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the stone, dreams of the red chamber, all sorts of these chinese japanese indian classics have become interesting as i've grown older. a lot of them tend to be spiritual books and things. i've read off and on but it's become more meaningful as i have grown older. i think the important thing is to keep exploring, keep trying new books. that said as you get older you come to a time when you want to go back and free read books. i was a kid and read 18 or 19 with july know about marriage? and, you know, desire or infidelity or any of these things? these are things you only experience from experiences as you grow older and when you are an adult and so when you have gone through a certain amount of living that you can go back and
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read these books and see much that you didn't the first time through. some people have said you can't really understand henry james on till you pass 40. his books are all about regret and paths not taken, things should have done and didn't do and the sort of feelings as we get older and older and start to know our time is running out. >> the book is "classics for pleasure," the author is michael dirda. >> thank you. every year the national press club hosts and author might. tonight i am with pamela newkirk letters from black america. can you tell about your book? >> it's a compilation of black letters spanning from the 1700's 2008, and what i try to do is present a multi dimensional portrait of black life through their own letters with includes the letters of extraordinary people who many have heard of like dr. martin luther king and
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benjamin banneker and ida b. wells, but also on some people, sleeves, just ordinary people throughout history. >> can you give me an example of one of these on some people? >> sure. there are several letters from slaves who are just writing to each other, to family members from whom they've been separated, you know, letting them know how they are and trying to find out how their loved ones a fair and more people we would have known of. >> how did you come upon this project and how do you select the letters? >> that was pretty insane. i went through thousands of letters over the course of five years and some of the themes naturally emerge so i wanted to look at black family life through letters and so after a while there was a sort of organized principal through these things and then i arranged them chronologically but i try to kind of create an narrative
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to show the historical art so the book begins with the letters of people in the 1700's, some were slaves and some like benjamin banneker writing this powerful letter to thomas jefferson was freed and one of the last letters in the book was written in 2008 by alice walker who wrote barack obama to say what his election meant so it has this amazing art showing the history of african-americans in slaved over three centuries. >> you are a journalism professor at nyu. what surprised you in your study of these letters? >> i guess one of the things that surprised me is the extent to which enslaved african americans continue to communicate with their loved ones or even that slaves wrote letters at all, but the extent to which they maintain bonds across plantations come across
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states, and of course this was an illegal act, but they somehow managed to stay in contact to the best they could with their loved ones. >> regular booktv viewers may recognize you because we shot a program of yours earlier in the year you can watch on book tv, go to the website and watch that program. what are you working on right now? >> right now i'm still here with this book. this is probably my 40 event since february. and we have also been doing a number of dramatic readings around the country. we did a reading recently but ruby dee, the incredible actor stand and the nature -- anthony qassam swa have been working on a production as well as the book. i have not gotten to my next writing project. >> between your teaching and promoting the book do you have time to read? >> i do have time to read and i usually read more than one book at a time. two books i recently read read
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gore vidal's lincoln, which was agreed to read because and new york there is an exhibit on when demand new torque at the new york historical society so that was an incredible way to look at that exhibit. and i also read ida, the book of i b. wells barnett and that was amazing and right now i just started the help which is totally different. it is fiction. i don't normally read fiction but it is a good read. >> the author is pamela newkirk, the editor of letters from black america. thank you. >> thank you. ..

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