On Friday, August 8th, the League of Women Voters hosted a Lunch with the League at the Chocolate Cafe in South Bend.  Pat Mcquade, a longtime nursing activist, presented materials from the AARP and Kaiser Permanente comparing the healthcare proposals put forth by the Republican and Democratic candidates for president.   The Democratic nominee’s position proposes “affordable and high-quality universal coverage through a mix of private and expanded public insurance”; the Republican stance is “to provide access to affordable health care for all by paying only for quality health care, having insurance choices that are diverse and responsive to indivisual needs, and encouraging personal responsibility.”   The common element in both of these proposals based on these stated goals is that most Americans will still need to buy into some sort of health care plan.  In other words, private insurance companies continue to set the agenda for the candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties.

Starkly absent from these materials were proposals advanced by any other presidential nominee, including the Green Party’s candidate, Cynthia McKinney.   The Green Party platform and thus Cynthia McKinney supports universal health care for all.  Is this socialized medicine? Call it what you will, but I would feel much better about my taxes going into a pool to make sure the person standing next to me in line at the grocery store has free and ready access to treatment for, say, tuberculosis.   Right now, a large portion of my health care premiums go towards screening out people who are sick.  What kind of sense is that?   If loving your neighbor as yourself means providing everyone access to decent healthcare, well-stocked libraries and competent schools, then I’m all for that. 

I asked Pat why the AARP materials did not include Cynthia McKinney’s proposal for universal health care, she forwarded my question to the Indiana AARP representative, Carla Hartman.  Here is Ms. Hartman’s initial response:

My recollection is that AARP’s general policy for including third party candidates is that the party must have received at least 5% of the vote in the last election if they ran a candidate; if they did NOT run a candidate, then the candidate must have polling numbers indicating that they will receive at least 5% of the votes in the current election (according to independent polling organizations, not political party or candidate polls). “

Here is my response to the above statement:

It’s a shame the AARP’s policy excludes a candidate’s/Party’s platform based on polling data.  Looking at the big picture, I’m sure you understand that this idea of only including candidates with a certain watermark for public awareness to be inculded in media coverage or ackowledgment by organizations is a vicious cycle.  This insistence on denying voters information about candidates (other than the usual two parties) pre-ordains that the voters will never hear the ideas (such as universal, socialized health care) of other worthy candidates.  Thus, if the media and organizations refuse to cover these candidates, the public is unaware of their choices and therefore, the hurdle to achieve some magical watermark polling number is next to impossible to overcome. 


This awareness “watermark” is particularly daunting for any Green Party candidate as it is the policy of the Green Party to not accept donations from corporations.  Without so-called “war chests” of campaign funds, the mission of the Green Party to get the message out falls to those individuals and organizations who believe in informing the public that there are political choices out there that closely reflect what the voters may like to see happen in domestic and foreign policy.

The AARP’s policy of a so-called polling threshold should, in my humble opinion, be re-examined. True democracy happens when all voices are heard and all votes are counted. Democracies like Sweden and the Netherlands have many political parties from which voters can choose.  It comes as no surprise, then, that citizens in countries with many political choices have a higher standard of living and quality of life (including universal health care) than countries that do not.

Currently, the Green Party is represented by over 200 office-holders across America and many more offices throughout the world.  Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, helped establish the Green Party in Kenya.  Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party’s nominee for President, served in the US Congress for a number of year’s under one of the other so-called major-two parties, before becoming disillusioned by the old-boy, politics-as-usual mentality that put politicians before voters.  It is my hope that organizations like the AARP will recognize that voters have the option of more than two choices on election day and even if their candidate only receives a small number of votes, at least the voter knows they voted for someone whose ideas they identified with and who they really hoped would win.