Lauren Besanko: The Two Party System is the Problem


by Lauren Besanko

Published in the Bangor Daily News

I ran against Democratic state Rep. Diane Russell from Portland in Tuesday’s election. I’ve been asked by some voters, “Why run against Diane? She’s progressive and has done a great job!” To that I say, sure, the last thing I’d want to do is deny Russell her accomplishments.

Russell is more “Green” than many of her Democratic colleagues. However, as Chris Shorr of the Portland Daily Sun said recently, she needs to give more credit to the Maine Green Independent Party for its members’ “behind-the-scenes work on issues that she has piggybacked on, such as marijuana legalization and ranked choice voting.”

For example, Green Independents Anna Trevorrow and Ben Chipman, a former Green who serves as an independent state representative, worked on the Portland Charter Commission to lead on ranked choice voting for Portland mayor.


Now, as we know, Russell and state Sen. Richard Woodbury have introduced a push to introduce ranked choice voting statewide. With this new push for election reform, I’m excited to do whatever I can for the cause, regardless of where support comes from. I only hope these efforts from Russell and Woodbury are genuine. If they are not, you had better believe the Greens’ efforts will be.

Ranked choice voting allows people to vote for several candidates in order, from their favorite to their least favorite, by assigning candidates numerical values. Their favorite candidate would receive the “No. 1” vote, their second favorite the “No. 2” vote and so on. One of the points of election reform like this should be to eliminate the “spoiler” effect, so we don’t end up splitting the vote, for example, between center-left and farther-left candidates, resulting in electing a far-right tea party Republican.

Reform like this could very well be the start of a path toward the end of a political system dominated by the two parties.

People who say “Green is the party of my heart, Dems are the party of my pragmatism” will no longer have this excuse to use in three-way races. They would be officially free to vote for Greens and vote for Greens as their first choice without worrying their vote will inadvertently result in a Republican’s election.

Will people who want to see Maine start on a similar path as Vermont, with regard to universal health care, put Green candidates as their first choice in races with Democrats who avoid the issue? Will people who want to see schools like the University of Southern Maine saved from unnecessary austerity measures put Green candidates as their first choice over Democrats who have abandoned this crisis? I’m not so sure.

Election reform of this nature is made up of equal parts legislation and revolution of mind. People need to understand they can and should put Democrats as their second choice if they want to see dramatic change on these issues.

Even though Democrats are much better than the far-right Republicans, where are they on revolutionizing health care access? Where are they on saving higher education and making it truly affordable or entirely subsidized? They aren’t there.

The Greens are, and we have tangible plans to make health care and higher education accessibility nets a catch-all, not just a “catch-a-few-more.”

Lauren Besanko was the Green Independent candidate for the Maine House in District 39, which covers a part of Portland.

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  • followed this page 2014-11-11 04:54:22 -0500
  • commented 2014-11-10 02:18:30 -0500
    If anything, GOPers have taught all of us that if you keep hammering away at the same issue, you invariably gain traction in the political consciousness of the electorate.

    It’s a psychological insight that we Greens must also employ by hammering away, over and over again, so that Greens can frame the debate over subsidized public schools and public universities, over reforming the system of how our representatives are elected with ranked choice voting, and over pushing for the only economically sane solution to our healthcare crisis: single-payer healthcare.

    On that last issue alone, we need to zero in on the fact that with single-payer healthcare, no private sector employers (large or small) would ever need to deal with the private health insurance maze or look like selfish bad guys to their employees for not providing health insurance.

    It would simply be paid for with a tax, and medication and drug prices would plummet because there are huge economies of scale and volume discounts that can be implemented with single-payer, unlike the mindless and abusive balkanization we now have, where the sick are charged all sorts of different prices for their meds.

    How many more of us must suffer, go bankrupt and die before electeds do right by US? We want single-payer healthcare for all, everyone in, no one out — nothing less!!