Common Sense Party offers necessary alternative

Illustration of Republican donkey and Democratic elephant with figure labeled Common Sense
Olivia Staser/Staff

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Dear Democratic and Republican party officials,

It’s you, not me. In fact, it’s you, not us — not the 54% of Californians ready for a third party. We are all ready to break up with the two-party system. You’re too controlling. You don’t listen to us. You don’t focus on our needs. We should have told you sooner, and frustrated voters should take part of the blame for not demanding a shift to the system. But we can’t bear to go through another election with just the two of you. That’s why more than 10,000 of us have already moved on. We joined the Common Sense Party, a party that will give independent candidates a chance to compete with you. Still, after all we’ve been through, you deserve to know why it is time for us to split.

First, you’ve become way too controlling. For example, the California Democratic Party has continued to use internal processes that keep incumbents in power. Delegates to the party’s central committee are usually hand-picked by current officials rather than letting day-to-day party members have more of a say. The Republican Party has often been similarly too strict — expecting California Republicans to mirror the party’s unquestioning support for President Donald Trump. This isn’t healthy. Party officials should focus on meeting the needs of all Californians, not on keeping their power by pandering to narrow groups of the most loyal voters and appeasing party donors, such as corporate interests and union activists.

Second, you’ve stopped listening to us. Remember the great conversations we used to have? The two of you would ask us what we were thinking about, you’d ask us about our problems, and then we’d have the chance to hear both of you vigorously defend your responses and, eventually, compromise in a way that often satisfied the vast majority of Americans. Now, you just listen to a few folks shouting on Twitter. In pursuit of retweets and followers, you espouse policies on the extremes of the political spectrum. You haven’t done nearly enough on the issues we all care about: homelessness (many Californians think it is the most important issue), jobs and the economy, and housing costs and availability. These problems persist and are getting worse.

Finally, you don’t focus on our needs. Both parties talk about stewardship — Republicans talk about fiscal responsibility, and Democrats focus on environmental protection — but neither has successfully spent our tax dollars efficiently, nor reined in the undue influence of special interests, nor reformed a faction-focused, money-driven political process. Candidates of both parties go from fundraiser to fundraiser, raising millions of dollars to pour into campaigns that last too long, flood our inboxes and social media feeds, as well as exhaust us. That money, that time, those glossy love letters filling up our mailboxes, they are all examples of wasted resources. In the wake of this waste, it’s no surprise that so many of us have become numb to the political process. We have to break from our apathy and break out of this system.

The Common Sense Party is the party for the pragmatic and community-oriented. The platform is not determined by donors, but by community need. Whereas Democrats and Republicans often orient their platforms to the whims of partisans, the Common Sense Party will consult Californians across the political spectrum when shaping its policy priorities. Common Sense Party officials are not selected for who they know; their selection is based on their willingness to consider new ideas and engage with a diverse range of stakeholders. The goals are not centered on defending seats and controlling contribution flows but on creating practical, long-term public policy solutions to our most pernicious social and economic problems.

We really gave it a try with both you parties. In the past 50 years, Republicans and Democrats have both had their chance. Right now, one of you is in complete control of our government, but we still can’t seem to make it work. Is it too much to ask that we actually help California’s 150,000 homeless souls to address their mental health, substance abuse and lack of shelter?  Shouldn’t we robustly fund our public schools so that every child gets an equal shot? Why can’t we upgrade our transit system and at least partially save people from the misery and hardship of long commutes?

Soon the Common Sense Party will reach 67,000 registered voters and attract even more. When it does, this party will help bring an end to zero-sum electoral governing strategies and a tired two-party system.

Kevin Frazier is a first-year law student at the UC Berkeley School of Law and an Advisory Board member of the Common Sense Party.