Are two parties enough?
Mike Gravel is a former Democratic United States Senator from Alaska, who served two terms from 1969 to 1981, and a former candidate in the 2008 presidential election. He is chiefly known for his efforts in ending the draft following the Vietnam War and for putting the Pentagon Papers into the public record in 1971.
Born in 1930 to immigrant parents in Massachusetts, Gravel enlisted in the Army in 1951 and served in West Germany. A self-stated dyslexic, Gravel was educated at Columbia University%u2019s School of General Studies in New York, where he drove a taxi to support himself. Gravel's first steps into politics were in the Alaska House of Representatives, before he won his party's nomination to the U.S. Senate in 1968. During the 1980s, after Gravel lost his senate seat, he worked as a real estate developer, consultant and stockbroker.
Gravel is a strong supporter of direct democracy, and specifically, the National Initiative, which refers to proposals to allow for ballot initiatives at the federal level.
Question: Are two parties enough?
Mike Gravel: No two parties aren’t enough; and you have to understand the difference between a constitutional system, which is what we have, and a parliamentary system where at any point and time if you lose the majority they can trigger elections. And with a parliamentary system there is a timeframe that they have to have an election. So I think it could be six . . . Well it depends on the country involved. But under our system . . . I’ll just tell you a little vignette, a little anecdotal. Pierre Trudeau, the Prime Minister of France . . . of Canada and myself are good friends. And I recall sitting down with him over lunch and saying, “Boy Pierre, I admire your parliamentary system.” And he said, “Mike, you’re wrong. I admire your constitutional system.” So it’s whatever works. I think that the monopoly . . . that the Republicans and Democrats have on the party . . . on the structure of government . . . There’s not one of them mentioned in the Constitution; yet they use the government to maintain their monopoly. I think that’s wrong. I’m running as a Democrat. I’ve always been proud to be a Democrat. But a lot of times I’m ashamed of the Democratic Party because I mean . . . Like with my country. I’m a patriot. I love my country; but my country’s doing wrong, I’m prepared to try to correct it and criticize it. Same thing with the Democratic Party. I become the nominee of the Democratic Party, I promise you that I will establish a level playing field for all the parties . . . the legitimate parties to participate; whether it’s the green party, the libertarian party. You name it. If you’re a viable party, then you should be able to participate on an equal basis. And there are other legal devices that you can do. It’s the way we handle the election. You know you could break up a state and say okay, if the Democrats get 20 percent, then they should have 20 percent responsiveness. If you now have other parties that have a piece of it, they should be able to have part of the participation. It would take some pretty fundamental changes, and I don’t . . . I have my thoughts on it, but here, that’s the kind of a decision that as president I would put before the American people based upon people that would be putting forth proposals in a thoughtful fashion, and we’d let the American people vote on this. This is what’s beautiful about empowering the American people. Many things I would want to do that the Congress won’t want to do. I’ll put it before the people. Now I’ll only have one vote. I’ll only have one vote. And anybody who opposes the position I might hold at that point, they can cancel my vote. But here again, the leadership that I would provide would be to help Americans sort of develop their sea legs as legislators. Because once I go on to my demise, if I can leave the empowerment in the . . . with the American people to be able to make laws, and we start it in this country, it would go around the world like wildfires. Stop and think what I’m talking about. I’m talking about changing the paradigm of human governance.
Recorded on: 10/23/07
Two parties are not enough for a healthy democracy, Mike Gravel says.
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