FROM THE WASHINGTON COLLEGE ELM, 3-11-99
Candidate Peters Tours East Coast Fighting For Another Viable Party In The Electoral Process
By Ray Cummings
A populist-minded New Hampshire entrepreneur and his educator wife are driving across the country in a huge white RV -- from Jackson to Jacksonville, Florida -- because they want to turn the reigns of political power back over to the people.
"'We The People' want to see the ccountry returned to government of, for, and by the people, as described by Jefferson and reiterated by Lincoln," WTP presidential candidate Jeffrey Peters remarked to a Mountain Ear reporter a few weeks ago. "We want a government Jefferson and Lincoln could be proud of. I believe the American people will see the corruption of our present political system...so we want to be the alternative that isn't there now."
Peters and his wife, Cici Peters, are kicking off a grass-roots campaign bid for the 2000 presidential election, visiting colleges and supporters around the country in an effort primarily intended to raise the profile of their new third party and build a network base. Peters -- who, in a protest of the too-lengthy nature of major political campaigns will not officially register as a candidate until next year -- is reaching out to what he calls a "silent majority" of indecisive or indifferent voters who didn't go to the polls during the 1996 elections.
"One reason that people don't vote is that they think that the result is already determined," Peters said in an interview with the Elm. "There are lots of other reasons that people don't vote: it's difficult to get registered to vote for some people; it's difficult if you're a working person to get to the polls on a Tuesday."
We The People hope to draw public attention to campaign-finance reform, which is the major issue in their platform. Peters notes that currently, special interests and big money dictate both political policy and election results.
"Time magazine showed that under the current system we have...[corporations] paid the $2 billion in 1996 for those elections, but they got $125 billion in return," Peters said. "[That's] a 51 rate of return within a one year period in terms of tax loopholes, tax subsidies, and gov't contracts. So, we'd be saviung over $100 billion if we had public financing of House, Senate and presidential elections."
A public financing initiative proposed by the party would subtract $10-$15 annually from the salaries of working Americans. The money would then go into an elections fund that the parties would draw from, effectively forcing spin-doctors to be simultaneously more creative and frugal; winning candidates are beholden to preform the will of the people, instead of those of corporate interest.
Cici Peters contend that campaign-reform lesiglation hasn't passed both houses of Congress because it isn't in their best interest.
"People in power want to stay in power," she said. "They're making a lot of money, they like the glamour of it...at least half of them, I'd like to think, really do want to make a difference; they're trying hard, but...they'll never vote to make changes in the campaign law. They play games about it: the House all voted to pay attention to campaign finance reform knowing that the Senate would turn it down. In other years they reverse it: the House turns it down, and the Senate okays it. But [if the whole Congress passes campaign-reform lesigation] they're essentially voting themselves out of a job if they do...which would be the honorable thing to do."
Jeffrey Peters feels that the recent impeachment debacle is overwhelming proof that the two major parties are working in their own interest and neglecting those of their constituents. "The Republican majority would not allow in the House or the Senate for a vote to come up on censure. You ask yourself: 'Well, why is that the case?' And I think the answe is that for both parties, the most important thing is power; not doing what's the right thing for our country, but winning the presidency. When you win the presidency, that gives you the ability to raise more money to get your people re-elected. In this case, I think that's why the Republican party did not allow a vote on censure, because the real goal was to ruin the Clintons by character assassination...but they knew that they didn't have the votes in the Senate to remove him...and it wasn't in their best interest to remove him. If they removed him, then Al Gore would be president for two years then run as an incumbent. So their objective was to put out the dirty linen of the Democratic party as long as possible in order to wound the democratic party as long as possible."
Support for WTP -- conceived by Peters in 1994 and officially registered in every state as of last year -- is blooming among businesspeople and private citizens, who donated not only the huge white RV with "We The People" emblazoned on its side, but website assistance.
"Some entreprenuers from the North Country website business called us up and said 'we'd like to donate our time and our marketing experience to We The People and we'd like to design and put up your website," said Peters.
Peters, who has said that he is willing to step aside if a higher-profile person becomes interested in the cause, has approached both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Bill Bradley about running on their platform. Both men, Peters said, have shown backbone in voting on key issues. Unfortunately, both men are running for the presidency anyway as Democrats, though they appeared interested in the WTP stance.
The road trip will culminate in a "peaceful, non-partisan demand for democracy" in Washington D.C. during the week of April 7-14. We The People plans to petition the governement for "redress of grievances by passing out this handbill to Congress, The White House, and the Supreme Court" according to the handbill that will be distributed.
The peaceful protest and this initial bid for the presidency are the first steps in establishing the party, Peters said. In coming years, WTP will run candidates for Senate and House seats.
"The feeling of the leadership of We The People thus far is that we want to concentrate our efforts on having a candidate for president in the year 2000 in order to raise the profile of WTP, and we want to have local chapters in each state."