Sam Waterston plays a pragmatic, headstrong prosecutor on the long-running TV show, “Law and Order.” While his character was on summer hiatus, Sam toured the talk show circuit promoting Unity08, a national movement that supports a third-party people’s choice ticket in the 2008 presidential election.Waterston told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Fox TV’s Bill O’Reilly that Unity08 represents a vast number of Americans who are tired of the same ole, same ole politics.According to www.unity08.com, neither Republicans nor Democrats reflect the desires or will of most Americans. Eighty-two percent of Americans agree that the country has become so polarized between Democrats and Republicans that Washington can’t seem to make progress solving the nation’s problems. Both parties are “unduly influenced” by special interest groups. Both are “excessively dominated by money.”The founders’ council of Unity08 is comprised of an eclectic group of individuals, including the former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and the Wyoming GOP chairman, a former senator. Waterston, along with former governors and high-profile business people, is on the advisory board.Unity08 is not pushing a permanent third party – its efforts are concentrated on the 2008 election. As of Aug. 24, the membership was listed at 100,000 – and growing. Members hope to wake up the Democrats and Republicans by introducing a third presidential candidate – to be chosen via an Internet vote. Anyone can enter the race on the Unity08 ticket at this point.While Unity08 touts a centrist, middle-of-the-road, common-sense agenda to the nation, another like party, the Unity Party of America, is attracting Americans as well.However, the Unity Party, based in Boulder, Colo., is focused on the long-term, currently seeking designation as a national political party.The Unity Party of America was born out of a politically charged runners group, established in 2003 to support presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. When Clark ended his bid for the top race, the runners decided to continue supporting middle-of-the-road, common-sense candidates. They formed Unity Runners, which eventually led to their own platform and a formal party.The Unity Party of America held its first convention in Boulder in late August. Delegates from every state – 538 of them – attended the convention.The party platform is well defined (see insert). I interviewed the co-founder and chairman, Bill Hammons, and the first Unity Party candidate, William Bodenstab.Hammons described the difference between the Unity Party of America and other third parties like the Green Party and the Libertarian Party.”We actually have a chance to appeal to a base beyond a certain niche,” Hammons said. “While we support a simpler, more streamlined government … we acknowledge the reality that government has a place in today’s complicated world. Libertarians advocate a much more limited government.”Although Hammons said the Unity Party calls for a balanced budget with a “carbon revenue measure to reduce carbon emissions,” their approach to environmental issues is “common sense.” The Green Party, he said, will never move beyond many Americans muddled perception of the word “green.”OK, but how does any third party compete with the traditional two-party system, especially when it comes to fundraising?Hammons said although his party is “a ways” from raising the big bucks tossed at the mainstream parties, they’re making strides. The Unity Party’s Web site is about to surpass www.gop.com in a ranking by a Web traffic company owned by Amazon.com.Bodenstab said he believes the Unity Party can compete. “People are looking for change outside the two-party system,” he said.In my opinion, laced with those Midwest, level-headed ideals, I think people might rally around a third party, especially if it distances itself from special interest groups.
The Unity Party of America proposed platform* A balanced budget* The elimination of all income tax on annual income below $30,000* A flat tax of 30 percent on annual income over $30,000* A full tax deduction for the health care costs of all Americans who pay for coverage* Replacing the federal payroll taxes with a tithe pool of less than 10 percent of earned income* A full deduction in corporate income tax for dividend payments to shareholders* Affirmative action based on economic background only* An amendment to the Constitution giving 16-year-old U.S. citizens the right to vote* An amendment to the Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to run for the office of U.S. president.
“Special interest groups are not all bad,” Bodenstab said. But, he said some groups “make demands that slow down” the already “painfully lethargic” legislative process. There’s a popular saying in Washington, Hammons said. “If you look past the next election, you won’t get past the next election.” He said that attitude “fuels unprincipled catering to special interests for campaign contributions, which is at the heart of this country’s problems.”As a Unity Party of America candidate, Bodenstab ran for a seat on the Boulder City Council in a special election in July. The two-party loyalists have referred to third-party candidates like Bodenstab and Ralph Nader as “spoilers.” But Bodenstab said the people who voted for Nader “truly felt he gave them a voice – that is more important than the outcome.”To many Americans, the outcome is a priority, but the political process has become unreliable, insincere, deceitful and shameful. And the mainstream media – the format for the process – is one of the biggest special interest groups.”There’s a huge gaping hole in the middle of American politics, which can be filled by a party with the right mindset and effective organization,” Hammons said. “We might not make a big splash in ’08, but rest assured we’ll make bigger inroads in ’10 and beyond.”And Bodenstab’s final thought: “A Union without divisive parties is what George Washington wanted. Sometimes we have to create more to get back to this original purity and unity.”Check out Unity08 at www.unity08.com; the Unity Party of America at firstname.lastname@example.orgP.S. To those of you who responded to my column on my lost cockatiel Puka, I have not found him. I had hoped that my flyers and ads, phone calls and Internet searches would bring him back. I still have hope. Thanks for your kind thoughts.