The whole idea of a third party is something I’ve been trying to wrap my head around for a long time. I don’t think I’m sure how I even stand on the issue. What I have discovered in my travels and in speaking with other politically-minded people is that sometimes they say “We need a third party” as a knee-jerk reaction to their dissatisfaction with the two we already have. When I try to dig deeper and find out what kind of third party, or what their vision of a third party would be, they can’t seem to articulate it. Most people believe that those who would vote for a third-party candidate are centrists. You know, people who are right down the middle – neither liberal nor conservative. I think this is a myth. I believe people either move to the left of the political middle line or to the right.

We do, of course, have a couple of alternative parties. One is the Green Party. Few people know anything about its candidates or its positions. Because of its name, most people just assume it’s environmentally focused and it doesn’t touch on many other issues. In fact, the Green Party takes positions on many issues, including sexual orientation and gender identity, affordable housing and immigration. A look at its platform will show that the Green Party is about as progressive a party you can find anywhere in America. Another alternative party is the Libertarian Party. Libertarians believe in maximum freedom with minimal government. In fact, they would be happy with no government. It’s all free market thinking. No safety nets, like Medicare or Social Security. There’s always some confusion with people on this one. I’ve found that a hell of a lot of people believe that Ron Paul is running from the Libertarian Party. Not true. He’s running as a member of the GOP.

There is the notion in this country that there are no alternative candidates to those fielded by the Democrats and Republicans. That is far from true. During the 2010 midterms, Damon Eris compiled a list of 600+ third party and independent candidates running for governor, the U.S. Senate and the House. Yet, in spite of the fact that an August 2010 Gallup Poll showed that 58% of the American public thought a third party was needed. A January 2012 Washington Post poll showed that 48% of Americans believe a third party is necessary. It’s pretty clear that the American public is not certain about this, even though hovering between 48-58% is as close to a mandate as one can get. Yet, in spite of this statistic, third-party and independent candidates get remarkably few votes in comparison to the mainstream candidates.

A third party in America will never gain any traction within our present political landscape. Herein lies the problem: Our entire political system is corrupted and no longer works for the majority of the American people. It works for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. (Remember, 1% is not a majority; 99% is.) The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling made it even easier for corporate money to own our election process. Make no mistake about this: Corporations funnel millions of dollars to candidates on both sides of the aisle. It’s not just the GOP candidates who benefit. Candidates themselves can bankroll their own elections often to the tune of millions of dollars. Mitt Romney and John Kerry, both from different sides of the aisle, are two examples of candidates who can and have used their considerable wealth to attempt to buy an election.

A third-party candidate cannot participate in presidential debates unless they meet certain criteria established by the Commission on Presidential Debates. This is a private corporation created and controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties, which operates with no public oversight. It’s impossible to serve a democracy when you are beholden to the two major political parties that are in control. That’s why – in the 2012 presidential debates – you will not hear from Jill Stein, presidential candidate for the Green Party or Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party.

It is estimated that the 2012 elections will cost a record $6 billion. From a financial perspective, third party and independent candidates simply cannot compete with candidates fielded by the Democrats and Republicans. I have yet to see a television ad from a third party candidate. Because these candidates aren’t “owned” by corporations, superPAC money isn’t part of their support system. Third party and independent candidates are also at a disadvantage where the mainstream media is concerned. They get little to no coverage. Therefore, it follows that these candidates are not well-known to the majority of the American people. Again, because the media is no longer independent and is largely corporate owned, there is often a conspiracy of omission where these candidates are concerned.

If the political process were cleaned up, the American people would be the beneficiaries of a broader candidate base. It would require yeoman’s work to do this, and the present House and Senate would have to be willing to pass laws to get it done. (Fat chance.) Overturning the Citizens United ruling would have to be the first priority. Once that is done, corporations would not be able to participate in the political process either through lobbying or campaign donations. They are not people. Candidates would be able to receive campaign donations from individuals, but they would be limited to a certain amount. These donations could be matched by the government. Every candidate would get the same amount of radio and television time to bring his or her positions to the American people. The debates would be open to all candidates without prejudice, and the questions would be submitted by the American people.

If the American people are expecting the fat cats in Washington to “do the right thing,” it isn’t going to happen. Our current elections process has become a way of life for our elitist politicians. The American people have to demand the change that will ensure the elections are fair and clean, and that the two political parties who have so long dominated the process are finally challenged.