Third-party and independent candidates found no room to breathe in this presidential year. Locked out of debates and neglected by major media, independent
and their compatriots tallied roughly 1.5 million votes combined–barely half Nader’s total on the Green line in 2000. But down-ballot races showed some cracks in the duopoly.
Vermont Progressive Party
won its first State Senate seat and five State House seats. New York’s
Working Families Party
, capitalizing on laws permitting fusion of major- and minor-party vote totals for co-endorsed candidates, provided the victory margin for Democrat
‘s Congressional win and helped Democrats grab control of the State Senate. In Connecticut, a Hartford WFP candidate was the first third-party contender in history to be elected as a city registrar of voters.
The Greens won an Arkansas State House seat and took advantage of the Republican abandonment of Congressional races to win 200,000 votes (21 percent) for US Senate candidate
. New Mexico Green
, who sought one of five seats on the state’s Public Regulation Commission by running on a clean-energy, green-jobs platform, won 44 percent of the vote in a contest with a Democrat. San Francisco Green
was re-elected to the board of supervisors, setting the electorally savvy lefty up for a possible mayoral run. Also in San Francisco, independent progressive
easily beat the Republican to finish second behind House Speaker
. Vermont independent gubernatorial candidate
, with support from the Progressive Party, major unions and daily newspapers, placed ahead of the Democrat to finish second in the race for the Green Mountain State’s top job. JOHN NICHOLS
When the Labor Department released its latest jobs report on November 7, the news was even grimmer than expected. The unemployment rate jumped twice as fast as economists were projecting between September and October, reaching 6.5 percent, the highest level in fourteen years. A day earlier, the department announced that more than 3.8 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, the most since the recession of the early 1980s. Real weekly earnings fell again in October, on the heels of the first quarterly decline in consumer spending in seventeen years. Major retailers followed the bleak employment figures with reports of double-digit sales declines. Most are anticipating a decidedly unfestive holiday shopping season.
Most, but not all. While the economic crisis has its rivals reeling,
posted increased sales in October and is forecasting more of the same in the coming months. As jobs vanish and paychecks shrink, Wal-Mart’s rock-bottom prices–the end product of a business model reliant on cheap overseas production, super-low wages and aggressive unionbusting–are becoming the only recourse in what’s shaping up to be a recessionary Christmas. At a recent investors meeting, Wal-Mart CEO
H. Lee Scott Jr.
sounded positively Grinch-like when he linked the country’s economic desperation and the company’s good fortune. “In my mind, there is no doubt that this is Wal-Mart time,” Scott said. “This is the kind of environment that Sam Walton built this company for.” MAX FRASER