We The People: White House Weekly
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM the October 5, 2000 edition of THE
MOUNTAIN EAR NEWSPAPER OF CONWAY, N.H. (603) 447-6336. All rights
reserved. Copyright Mountain Ear newspaper.
By Gabrielle Griswold
Gabrielle Griswold/Mountain Ear Photo
"THE FIRST BOSTON Tea Party was held to protest tyranny and taxes. The second will be held to protest tyranny and censorship."
The particular form of censorship that We the People presidential candidate Jeffrey B. Peters had in mind when making that statement at his Jackson home Friday, Sept. 29, is the exclusion of third party and independent candidates from televised presidential debates.
When we interviewed him, Peters was on the eve of departure for Boston where, on Monday, Oct. 2, he and fellow We The People party members would toss not tea but TV sets into Boston Harbor. Their interpretation of the earlier historic event would take place, he explained, from the Beaver II, an exact replica of the original ship used in December 1773 by American colonists to protest the imposition of British taxes on tea and other merchandise.
The substitution of TV sets for tea, Peters explained, was designed to focus attention on the fact that "The culprits in this problem are the Republican and Democratic parties, presidential candidates Bush and Gore, and the principal television channels: CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC. Their names will be on the sets we dump."
The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum had agreed to lend the Beaver II for the demonstration, Peters said, "because they believe our cause is consistent with the spirit of the first Boston Tea Party."
TV viewers glued to their sets Tuesday night, Oct. 3, to watch the first of three scheduled televised debates between presidential aspirants Al Gore (Democrat) and George W. Bush (Republican) might, on the preceding evening, have seen a news clip of this event, then later watched Larry King Live interviewing Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party and Ralph Nader of the Green Party, two other third party candidates.
Both shared Peters' complaint against what Nader called "the two-party monopoly" and both decried the Commission on Presidential Debates (which decrees what candidates may participate in televised debates) as a tool of the Republican and Democratic parties, chaired as it is by former chairmen of those parties.
Both also protested the power of big money and special interests to determine American politics and political choices.
In our interview, Peters had said, "I see this second Boston tea party' as a kick-off to a second American Revolution, this time a revolution of ballots, not bullets, to give the American people more choices and a positive reason to vote again."
He pointed out that "More than 60 percent of the American people didn't vote in 1998 and 51 percent didn't vote in the last presidential election of 1996. In 1992, when Ross Perot was a third party candidate, 104 million voted, but in the 1996 election, when there were fewer choices, only 96 million Americans voted. Which brings us full circle to We The People's second Boston tea party as an event for the non-voters of this country -- namely the majority."
Non-voters, Peters said, want more choices. The problem, he explained, is that "No one can win the presidency of the United States if they're excluded from television debates, yet we have the Democratic and Republican parties excluding all third party candidates."
During the past year, Peters has traveled through 37 states and by Nov. 7, Election Day, will have visited all 50.
In the process, he said, "We've had a very good response. People are hungry for something different which responds to the real needs of all the people. So we've been listening loudly. There are a lot of issues out there: education, health, crime; but the underlying issue for the average person in the street is that they're turned off politics because they believe most politics are corrupt and most politicians are corrupt."
As presidential candidate representing We The People, a grass-roots, non-profit citizens' movement registered in all 50 states, Peters sees campaign finance reform as his party's foremost issue, with fair media coverage an indispensable ingredient. Like both Nader and Buchanan, the New Hampshire-based entrepreneur regards campaign funding by big-money corporations and lobbyists as plutocratic and destructive of the democratic process.
With a background in business and politics and past associations with both the Democratic and Republican parties, Peters wrote the founding principles of the We The People party in 1995, then spent the next three years registering its name in all 50 states.
"We first went public in August 1998," he noted, "when we traveled from California to New Hampshire in the We The People country bus."
Since then, some of his activities have been covered nationally by 70 or more media outlets. At his 30th Harvard reunion, Oct. 5 through 8, his topic will be, "Are Bush and Gore the best we can do for presidential alternatives?" On Oct. 9, he flies to California to continue his cross-country travels in his campaign bus.
"It takes deeds, not just words, to win the trust of the American people, who are understandably cynical and apathetic about most politicians today," Peters said. "Our We The People motto is 'Truth in Action'' and we intend to replace cynicism with hope, alienation with inspiration and apathy with exemplary action. I'm encouraged by exemplary action of the sort taken by Granny D [89-year-old Doris Haddock of Dublin who, despite her infirmities, spent 14 months walking across America to raise awareness of the need for campaign finance reform]. I walked with her for a week in Texas this past June, and exemplary action is what our second Boston tea party is all about."
Meanwhile, he said, "I am outraged by the exclusion of third-party candidates from mainstream television, radio and print. In our daily lives, we get to choose between three or more detergents, three or more car companies -- there's competition everywhere except in our political system. Why should there be only two choices for president?"
PETERS SAID he had invited "All third party candidates to unite in opposition to the two-party tyranny of the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates.."
After his Boston TV Party, he planned to host a forum for "building a coalition of independents so that we can provide a united, independent third-party alternative to Gore and Bush. We'll be asking questions like 'What do we have in common? Who among us would make the best president? The best candidate for president? And would that person be willing to invite other third-party candidates into a multi-party cabinet?' "
He cited a precedent for such an outcome when, "On July 2, Vicente Fox was the first third-party candidate in 71 years to become elected President of Mexico -- who then formed a multi-party cabinet."
On their Oct. 2 Larry King Live interview, Buchanan and Nader (who saw eye-to-eye on a surprising number of issues!) said they hoped to persuade the Debates Commission to allow their participation in the upcoming second and third presidential debates, both agreeing that national media exposure is essential to any hope of getting elected.
When a caller watching the show phoned in to question whether, if they succeeded, a vote for either of them would be a wasted vote, Nader replied that people who vote for candidates of the two major parties are the ones who are "throwing away" their votes. Buchanan underlined the scant difference between the two major candidates, noting that the same big corporations are funding them both.
During our interview with him four days earlier, Peters had said essentially the same thing.
"Bush and Gore are both controlled by the same big-monied interests and are part of the same corrupt system, so you're wasting your vote if you vote for either one of them. There's one way to protest the tyranny of our two-party system's pre-electing your candidates for you and that's to use your power as a voter and write in Peters for President on Nov. 7. The system is spoiled, and it can only be changed by an outside force."