by Greg Allard

Originally published in the Independent Alligator on October 11, 2011

The protests of the “99 percent” occupying Wall Street and the rest of the country are inspiring because they showcase the frustrations of the American people – how they have been screwed over by the upward vortex of wealth-sucking via manufacturing and customer-service jobs going overseas, and the growing disparity between the income of your average CEO and your average worker (now 475-1 in America).

They will not, however, affect any real change that ordinary Americans really desire until legislation forces the hands of the greedy haves.

The Occupy Wall Street movement must get organized, form a political party and use the strength of its voting power. Otherwise, after the dust settles and the 99 percent go home or get arrested, it will just go back to being business as usual in the good ol’ USA.

This is a difficult prospect because Americans continue to seem strangely apathetic about straying away from the traditional two-party system, despite the recent gridlock in Washington and the economy nearing complete collapse at the end of the GW Bush administration.

Although certain honest and noble independent candidates would often be a voter’s first choice in an election, people are largely afraid to vote for such candidates because they feel doing so would likely take votes away from their second-choice on either side of the traditional political fence. Independent candidates are often only seen as spoilers as opposed to realistically viable options.

There seems to be something intrinsically wrong with this in the face of the American spirit. Couldn’t there be a system that opened up elections to more than just two parties, in which voters don’t feel encumbered if they simply wish to vote their conscience? Of course, as you may have already suspected, there is such a system – the only question that naturally arises is why it is not being implemented.

Actually, it is, but only on some local levels like in Minneapolis and Oakland. Ranked voting basically works by ranking candidates in descending order when you vote.

I, for example, voted for Barack Obama during the Democratic primaries of 2008, but I really wanted to vote for Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich had already dropped out of the race by then, possibly because people who liked him weren’t voting for him because they possessed the very same mentality that I had – they were afraid to cast a spoiler vote and thus get who they perceived to be the worst of the other evils elected.

Now, in the face of of greedy banks and corporations draining America dry, it looks like a honest and valorous stand-up guy like Dennis Kucinich, who actually knows the facts, would have been golden right about now.

A ranked voting system would really help to satisfy the hunger of the 99 percent because in such a system, wealthy business interests can’t so easily control the public’s voting habits through the stranglehold of the two-party system. Once that’s done, the public could vote its conscience without fear of casting spoiler votes and hopefully be able to elect honest politicians (a seeming oxymoron these days) who are not bought and sold by the lobbyists of this corporation-nation state that we call America.

Ranked voting gives each voter the ability to cast first, second and even third-place votes, in order to successfully avoid this quagmire. It can also be used to provide a percentage-based representation in Congress, as opposed to the winner-take-all system.

Conspiracy theorists have been claiming that the Republicans and Democrats merely represent different sides of the same coin for their wealthy shadow masters for years, and they have been labeled nuts by the mainstream.

Well, of course, many of them probably are nuts, but at least some of them have valid viewpoints that should be considered on their individual merits. The more each and every one of us becomes a critical thinker, however, the closer we’ll get to holding the real key to creating tangible positive economic and political change in America through the only thing we really have: our voting power.

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