Election 2008: Where do third parties stand?

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Under the current two-party system in U.S. federal politics, it's virtually impossible for a third-party candidate to win a national election.

Nevertheless, PokerListings wanted to look at the various major third-party presidential candidates and their positions with respect to the issue of Internet gambling in the final part of the Election 2008 three-part series.

Libertarian Party actively in favor of online gambling

Based on the party's philosophy and the specific position of one member on the national ticket, the Libertarian Party is by far the most supportive of online gambling. The national ticket is comprised of former Republican Congressman Bob Barr and former Republican Wayne Root, a Las Vegas resident and former sports handicapper.

Root, author of The Zen of Gambling, The Joy of Failure: How to Fail Your Way to the Top and The King of Vegas' Guide to Gambling, is on record as saying when George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress outlawed online gambling in the U.S, he had had enough of the Republican Party.

The Libertarian Party has since its inception been opposed to extensive government regulation and strongly supportive of civil liberties and free trade. A major plank in its party platform is the call to redirect the criminal justice system's focus on victimless crimes, such as gambling.

The party's communication director, Stephen Gordon, is on record as having objected to the various anti-online gambling bills proposed in Congress, which ultimately resulted in the UIGEA.

Unlike the major party candidates who have been relatively mum on the subject of online gambling, Root has been eager to go on record with his position on online gambling. In response to the question "What is the Libertarian position on the UIGEA?", Root replied decisively: "I'd say it's one of the most damaging bills in the history of politics." Root is obviously not one to beat around the bush - pardon the expression.

Root thinks the issue is bigger than just poker. "I say that it's about what it represents: internet freedom. When the government of the United States tells you, over something as silly as a game of online poker, about what choice you have with our own money on your own computer in your bedroom, well then, I'd say we have a government that's out of control."

Root sums up the Libertarian Party's appeal this election year to poker players this way: "There's never been anyone so pro-poker and pro-gambling industry on a presidential ticket."

By contrast the Constitution Party, though its name would indicate support of individual rights, is strongly anti-online gambling.

According to its national platform, the Constitution Party believes: "Gambling promotes an increase in crime, destruction of family values, and a decline in the moral fiber of our country. We are opposed to government sponsorship, involvement in, or promotion of gambling, such as lotteries, or subsidization of Native American casinos in the name of economic development. We call for the repeal of federal legislation that usurps state and local authority regarding authorization and regulation of tribal casinos in the states."

Constitution, Independent American parties want government out

The Constitution Party ticket is led by Chuck Baldwin, a pastor of the Crossroads Baptist Church of Pensacola, Fla., a talk show host and author, and the former state chairman of the Florida Moral Majority. The party's VP candidate is Darrell Castle, an attorney, a Marine and a deacon at his local church.

The Constitution Party advocates a platform which aims to reflect what its leaders view as the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. The party believes it is the government's responsibility to establish and maintain the highest level of decency in America's community standards.

To its credit, the Constitution Party does not say that government should outlaw gambling, although its rhetoric strongly suggests it would like to see it abolished. Instead, the Constitution Party calls for government to refrain from officially participating in gambling by eliminating lotteries and ceasing to subsidize "Indian casinos in the name of economic development."

Baldwin is also the nominee of the Independent American Party (not to be confused with the American Independent party, discussed below) and has received the endorsement of former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, who is pro-online gambling.

The Independent American Party's focus is on state sovereignty, that is, the right of the state to govern itself with limited interference from the federal government. When discussing what the proper role of the states is, it is clear the Independent American Party shares the Constitution Party's objection to gambling in all its forms.

Its mission statement specifically provides that "it is the role of the states, to discourage drug and alcohol use and gambling in their jurisdictions; and that the safety of law-abiding citizens must take precedence over the rights of criminals. We recognize that alcohol, drugs and gambling are among the chief causes of broken homes, poverty, juvenile crime, political corruption, and wasted lives."

The statement further incorporates anti-gambling language similar to that in the Constitution Party platform: "We consider gambling as a threat to the financial stability of the home. We oppose government sponsorship, involvement in, or promotion of gambling, e.g., lotteries, or subsidization of tribal casinos, etc."

Other third-party platforms silent on issue

While these parties' position relative to gambling is clear, there is no similar clarity from the Green Party Platform or its national candidates, former Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and hip hop activist Rosa Clemente.

The focus of the Green Party is environmentalism, nonviolence, social justice and grassroots organizing. It has no specific statement about gambling.

It should be noted, however, that the Green Party of the United States is affiliated with the international Green Party, the New Zealand branch of which is opposed to online gaming there. Recently it sought to have a new online gambling site shut down because it "threatens the viability of the racing industry."

New Zealand Green Party Member of Parliament Sue Bradford claimed that the online gambling site, Race-O New Zealand, "might" be illegal because the 2003 Gambling Act outlawed online gambling within New Zealand. "The Government should immediately close down the site, and pursue prosecutions vigorously if laws have been broken," said Bradford.

But there is no evidence that the U.S. Green Party shares this view or, for that matter, has any position about online gambling.

The American Independent Party ticket is headed by Alan Keyes and Wiley S. Drake, Sr. Its platform spends a good deal of its time on discussing God, and while those of us in the poker world know the position of at least one "Jesus" regarding poker, we're less clear on God's position. Unfortunately, the American Independent Party platform does not provide any guidance.

The party seeks "freedom from the lawless oppression of Liberal rule" which it claims will result in all people being able to "establish truly free and responsible enterprise and reassert the basic human right to property."

But what does that mean about online gambling? The platform is silent. The party does have quite a bit to say about strengthening the Second Amendment, banning abortion, opposing immigration and opposing gay marriage. Based on their platform, it would be safe to conclude that the American Independent Party does not have a clear pro-online gambling stance.

The last of the oxymoronically named major minor parties, Peace and Freedom, is headed this year by Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez. According to its Web site, the Peace and Freedom Party "is committed to socialism, democracy, ecology, feminism and racial equality. We represent the working class, those without capital in a capitalist society."

The "power to the people" message does not leave room for much discussion of the party's position on online gambling.

The only hint about the position of the Peace and Freedom Party on gambling is language in the platform that the oppressive ruling class uses laws against "victimless activities" to keep workers intimidated and dependent. For that reason, they recommend the decriminalization of victimless activities including drug use and consensual sex.

However, if the party considers gambling a victimless activity that should not be prohibited by the government, it does not spell that out in its platform.

The old adage is that voting for a third-party candidate is throwing your vote away. But this ignores the fact that many third-party candidates have won elections, notably former Minnesota governor Jessie Ventura and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.

So, judging by the results of this brief survey of the major third-party candidates' positions, if online gambling is your most important issue, only the Libertarian Party is actively seeking your vote.

As the John Quincy Adams quote has it, "Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."

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