Eugene McCarthy voices a need for third parties

He believes the basis for wars began when the Department of War changed its name to the Department of Defense.

Libby George

While some claim the war in Iraq is about oil, and others say it is a moral campaign launched by President George W. Bush, former Minnesota senator and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy sees a different cause – the two-party system.

“I think the military-industrial institution controls the two parties at this time,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination on a peace platform in 1968 – the thick of the Vietnam conflict – said the two-party system was also responsible for Vietnam.

“Our opinion was that the Democratic Party … both parties were responsible for getting us more involved with Vietnam,” McCarthy said.

He added that he ran because Americans who were against the war were not represented in decisions that ultimately pushed President Lyndon Johnson out of office.

McCarthy said the groundwork for wars – such as the current Iraqi conflict – was laid in 1947 when the Department of War changed its name to the Department of Defense.

“The thing about defense is that you can never have enough defense, and the two parties started outbidding each other,” McCarthy said.

When he started in Congress, McCarthy said, the Defense Department had a $16 billion budget, which became $50 billion by the end of the Korean War and has only increased from there.

“When you get up that high, (the military) starts to look for places to

spend it,” he said.

Joined by University political science professor and third-party

specialist Lisa Disch, McCarthy expanded his critique of the two-party system to blame it for other historical catastrophes, including slavery, the Communist scare and House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, and the U.S. nuclear weapons buildup.

He also praised Disch’s work critiquing the system, including a recently published book on third parties.

“If you think we live in an open political system, you are wrong,” Disch said, noting that during McCarthy’s 1976 presidential bid, 12 states prohibited third-party candidates.

She also said the two parties are the “political equivalent of a trade embargo.”

McCarthy – who also had several presidential bids on independent party tickets, encouraged the crowd of nearly 25 students and faculty to change the system.

“Now is the time when something can be done about this,” McCarthy said.

He added that to get Bush out of office and continue to elect presidents who advocate peace, third parties must be developed.

“There’s nothing but revolution and marching in the streets,” McCarthy said. “We could develop a system and some standards, but the two-party system doesn’t do it.”

Libby George covers politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]