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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Protecting the Statist Party

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While we’re on the subject of a one-party political system in places like Iran and China, we would be remiss if we didn’t remind periodically remind ourselves that for all practical purposes, the political situation isn’t much different here in the United States.

Sure, we’re taught to believe that America is a two-party system — the Democrats and the Republicans — but that’s just a façade, given that both parties share the same statist philosophy and are simply competing against each other to determine who is going to control the system.

In other words, there is one political party — let’s call it the Statist Party — that is divided into two wings — the Democrats and the Republicans. The situation is akin to that which exists in the National Football League — one league, divided into two conferences — the NFC and the AFC.

What about third parties, such as the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party and independent candidates? Don’t people with anti-statist political views have a right to run for political office?

As a technical matter, yes. But as a practical matter, no, especially on a statewide basis. Why is this? Because the Statist Party has enacted an ingenious set of barriers that make it virtually impossible for people with anti-statist views to run effective campaigns.

Consider my state of Virginia, for example. This November we’ll have two gubernatorial candidates from which to choose — a Democrat and a Republican. The mainstream media will undoubtedly be reporting on how exciting this race is, as they usually do. What they’ll be referring to are issues like transportation, where Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates love to come up with their favorite plans and schemes for relieving congestion on the state’s (publicly owned) roads and highways.

Yawn!

While there is sometimes a third-party or independent gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, it’s rare. The reason for this is because of Virginia’s ballot-access laws, which make it extremely difficult and expensive for someone to get onto the ballot. For example, a person who runs for office must acquire 10,000 signatures of registered voters. That actually means he must acquire around 17,000 signatures, given that state officials will inevitably invalidate many of the signatures acquired.

And that’s not all. The signatures must include a minimum of 400 signatures — which means about 800 signatures — from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. That means that a candidate or his agents must travel around the state to acquire signatures.

Why should it be necessary to spread the signatures around? Good question! After all, in an election, do we require the winner to have a statewide spread of voters? No. Most of a winning candidate’s votes can come from one area of the state, and we don’t care.

So, why make prospective candidates get signatures from all over the state rather than, say, in their particular hometown, where most of their friends and acquaintances would be likely residing? One reason: to make it difficult, if not impossible, for people to run against the Statist Party’s candidates.

Consider, for example, an African American man living in a Richmond ghetto. He happens to believe that the drug war is a moral abomination whose adverse consequences have fallen disproportionately on African Americans. He decides to run for U.S. Senate from Virginia, with his main campaign issue being to end the drug war by legalizing drugs.

What chance does such a man have in getting onto the ballot for U.S. Senate as an independent and then winning the election? He has two chances: slim and none.

First of all, he and his friends would have to travel around the state to gather those 800 signatures in each district. That takes travel, hotel, and food expense for several days, not to mention time off from work. Wealthier people might be able to pull that off, but not a guy from the ghetto and his friends.

Moreover, let’s assume that our candidate from the ghetto and his friends are somehow able to travel around the state in the attempt to secure such signatures. Where are they supposed to stand to get such signatures? How likely is it that private establishments are going to let a bunch of scruffy, badly dressed, poor-looking African Americans stand in front of their stores, asking customers to sign a petition to permit an African American candidate calling for drug legalization to run for office? How likely is it that the people in conservative areas of the state will sign such petitions from such petition-gatherers?

Not likely at all.

Let’s assume, however, that our ghetto candidate is able to somehow acquire those 17,000 signatures. Then what? He’ll never be able to wage an effective campaign against his statist opponents because of the ingenious restrictions that the Statist Party has imposed on all candidates, especially the limits on the amount of money that people can donate to political candidates.

Suppose, for example, our ghetto candidate is able to find 50 very wealthy people in the United States who strongly oppose the drug war. Each of them is willing to donate $100,000 to help him in his campaign, for a total campaign war chest of $5 million.

It won’t make any difference. Under the campaign restrictions enacted by the Statist Party, the most that each of those 50 people can donate to our ghetto candidate is $2,300, for a total campaign war chest of $115,000, hardly enough to run a statewide U.S. Senate race.

Of course, the statists would respond that the ghetto candidate can still raise $2,300 from all his friends in the ghetto. That’s not a likely possibility, however, given that people who live in ghettos don’t usually have $2,300 to give away. That’s not the case, of course, with the well-heeled candidates from the Statist Party. With their large base of support from statist members, they are easily able to raise millions of dollars to run their campaigns.

Sometimes statists argue that too many candidates on a ballot would only confuse people. But several years ago, when California ran a special election for governor, there were dozens of people on the ballot and voters didn’t seem to be confused at all. It was an exciting race in which lots of different people with different views were free to run for office. Of course, that type of wide-open political system is a threat to the Statist Party, which is why the statists will continue to oppose it at all costs.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.