IF I HAD A HAMMER...
* I agree with Katrina vanden Heuvel on the necessity of building a better infrastructure to combat the right-wing corporate giant ["Building to Win," July 9]. The right has the money and the media. The progressives have the brains and the moral highroad. Let's keep to the latter while concentrating on how best to position the former. Newt Gingrich used computer technology to fire his misguided agenda. Progressives need to capture the Internet as the means to train, inform, meet and proselytize (The website Common Dreams is a good start). Technology can go far beyond a simple reprinting of well-written articles. I suggest that the web be our printing press as well as our town meeting hall to take back our party, the Democratic Party, and to then move the rest of the country back from the fringe of fascism. DAVID WILSON
New York City
* Unquestionably, infrastructure is essential. But until we regain command over the buzzwords, conservatives hold the advantage. After a relentless barrage of invective by conservatives and sixties radicals, "liberal" became a term of opprobrium. "Marketplace" must be shown to be a myth; "privatize," a synonym for corrupt favoritism; "missile defense initiative," a form of corporate welfare; "interests" returned to its original meaning, corporate oligopoly; "tax reduction," a transfer of wealth from those who have little to those who have much; "globalization," a search for the most repressive dictatorships that deliver the lowest wages and costs. Government and labor must be what they were in the past, the only counterweights to supranational conglomerates. FRED GREENBAUM
* Katrina vanden Heuvel perpetuates a common misunderstanding when she states, "The 1997 Supreme Court decision against the New Party...has chained us constitutionally to the existing duopoly." Not so. Nothing in the Constitution "chains" us to the two-party system. Only federal law does. A statute passed by Congress forces states to gerrymander their territories into single-member districts. This law entrenches duopoly politics, because a one-winner election turns third parties into spoilers and encourages voters to hold their noses and vote for one of only two candidates. Thus, states are prevented from using proportional representation (PR), which the Constitution would allow. By using larger, multimember districts and preference or party-list voting, PR would give third and fourth parties a chance. A bill in Congress, HR 1189, the Voters' Choice Act, would eliminate the single-seat requirement, allowing states to experiment with PR. The duopoly can be broken without having to face the Supreme Court or amend the Constitution. It's a legislative issue, like other election reforms, and progressives should be leading the way.
KEVIN O'MALLEY Midwest Democracy Center www.midwestdemocracy.org
VANDEN HEUVEL REPLIES
New York City
* I'm sorry if my shorthand summary of our present predicament was confusing. It is quite true, of course, that the Constitution does not mandate a two-party system. Indeed, it says nothing at all about parties. Our duopoly is a creation of statutory law and administration rule, and in principle we could change it by the same means. The age-old problem, however, is that the very duopoly the law protects also runs our government and has never shown the slightest interest in increasing competition. So those who wish to reform the system are forced to use citizen initiative or the courts.
What the Supreme Court's decision in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party did was in effect to preclude the second line of attack. Steered by the same Gang of Five that later gave us Bush v. Gore, it held that the current major parties were free to construct electoral rules for the exclusive purpose of limiting competition to themselves. Just how profound a departure from past law this was is important to see. …