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Interview with David Jon Sponheim, Presidential Candidate, America’s Third Party

Dismissive of the Tea Party as an artificial creation of big corporations and Fox News, the ambitiously-named America’s Third Party is part of a coalition of centrists and moderate progressives that includes the National Centrist Party and the slightly more progressive Modern Whig Party (which we’ll interview very soon). ATP’s promises are ambitious:

The Tea Party members want to dismantle some of the functional government programs that need improvement. They want to cut programs like Medicare and Social Security. Like the libertarians, they seem to despise anything the government does. At ATP, our message will appeal to both the fiscal conservatives that hated Bush and the new Liberals that are hating Obama.

Especially interesting are ATP’s proposals for desalinization technology and renewable energy. This group is a pretty good example of the fresh ideas that are emerging from alternative political organizations in the United States. We spoke with ATP’s central figure, and Presidential candidate, David Jon Sponheim.

POLITICALCONTEXT.ORG: Is your party running candidates in the 2012 elections?

 DJS: Yes.

PC: What’s the extent and reach of your field of candidates? Will you advance national candidates–for President, Vice President, U.S. Senate, House of Representatives? Will you advance state and local candidates? Where, and for what? 

DJS: David Jon Sponheim is running for President of the United States. We are seeking to endorse candidates running for other offices. Sarah Hart is testing the waters for a local office or possibly US House.

PC: What’s the process for choosing and nominating your candidates? Do you have a general convention? Where and when will it be held?

DJS: America’s Third Party committee is actually the authorized committee (via FEC) for David Jon Sponheim. He and Sarah Hart co-founded the committee. We will have conventions in states that require it for us to hold them to get on the ballot. National/State convention will be held in Summer of 2012 in Washington State. Specific date and location yet to be determined.

PC: What are the demographics of your existing base?

DJS: Right now we are reaching out to people on the internet. Every weeknight, we have a blogTV show where David Jon Sponheim and Sarah Hart interact via video chat directly with the American people and anyone else who’s listening. Join us at www.tinyurl.com/ATPBlogTV . We also have a pretty active political facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/americasthirdparty . Plus, you can always visit www.americasthirdparty.com and sign up for our newsletter. David Jon Sponheim also has a votocracy page. Please Like it at www.tinyurl.com/votocracy Plus, follow us at www.twitter.com/ThirdParty

PC: What is your strategy for deepening your base within your existing demographic, and broadening your reach to other demographics?

DJS: We have a word of mouth campaign that is working very well. Our model for long term sustainability is to use the backbone of the free internet and ride the wave of social networking outreach. Also, we have state chair people and volunteers collecting signatures on the street in various states across the country. WE are seeking more volunteers. If you are interested. Please email americasthirdparty@gmail.com or sign up at www.americasthirdparty.com/Elector.

We have also reached out to Votocracy, ruck.us, Americans Elect, No Labels and GOOOH.

PC: In your opinion, what are the chief barriers to the viability and success of third parties in the United States?

DJS: The chief barriers to the viability and success of third parties in the United States are:

  • Ballot Access – Each state can create their own laws and they can have laws that apply differently to third party and independent candidates than the major parties. Often these laws are more prohibitive to third parties getting on the ballot. We believe in a Federal law that says the process to obtain ballot access should be the same for anyone running for the same office. Then, the states would still make the laws, but the two-parties would have to jump through the same hoops as everyone else. That would give an equal footing to all.
  • Campaign finance- Unless you are independently wealthy or a part of the two-party system it is difficult to raise the funds necessary to effectively manage a campaign. This is a major problem for third-parties. Now that corporations can influence elections as well, it will be very difficult for someone who is an “Unbuyable” candidate, like David Jon Sponheim to run. However, we believe the American people want someone who can relate to them, someone that knows what it’s like to struggle to make a living.
  • Media Access – It’s often difficult to get access to mainstream media, especially as a third-party. We are seen as the fringe and the media wants to portray someone who has already been established. We hope to break through this by continuing to build our forces online and on the streets. Eventually, we will be loud enough that not only will the media want to run a story on us, they will want to join us. We are the American people and we demand a voice in government.
  • Access to Debates- All of these ideas are formed together and influence one another. Some places that host debates will not invite third-party candidates unless they are “Ballot Qualified.” Then, the media seems to focus attention only on the candidates that participate in the debates. It will be difficult, but we will break through and the movement will sky-rocket.  

PC: Does your party make the opening of space to alternative candidates a major part of your public message? Do you have a strategy for the opening of political space which you have laid out for voters and activists?

DJS: Our primary message right now is to promote David Jon Sponheim for President. However, we have often stated that we will consider endorsing any third-party or independent candidate for any other public office. We encourage EVERYONE who is interested in political discourse to participate in our Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/americasthirdparty  and join our nightly video chat at www.tinyurl.com/ATPBlogTV .

PC: Do you work in solidarity with other political parties? If so, which ones? If not, why not?

DJS: We have helped create the centrist alliance (centristalliance.com) with is an affiliation between the Modern Whig Party, the National Centrist Party and us, America’s Third Party

We are in discussion with the Florida Whig Party.

Eventually, we would like America’s Third Party to be an umbrella for almost any third-party group that would like to join us.

PC: How do you raise funds for your operations? What methods of fundraising have proven to be most successful for your party in the past?

DJS: Currently, we have a Contribute button on our pages. People can contribute via paypal to americasthirdparty@gmail.com. In the past we have used a “Chip-In” bin which seems to be more successful than a simple contribute button. We are looking for more successful methods of fundraising.

 PC: A broad, philosophical question: Why does your party exist?

DJS: David Jon Sponheim and Sarah Hart were tired of the two-party system. We felt that the current system is broken and we need a new alternative. We started fresh with America’s Third Party, rather than join an existing third-party because the models have not been effective in breaking through the stranglehold of the two party system. We have brand new ideas and innovative to revive our economy and a solid commitment to accountability and honesty in our government.

PC: May we have a copy of your most recent national platform–either as a word document, or the link to where it can be found on the web?

DJS: www.americasthirdparty.com/PLATFORM

NOTE: The items in each section link to different pages which expound on our platform specifics.

PC: What else would you like our readers to know about your party?

DJS: Every week, we release a youtube video, our weekly address at www.youtube.com/americasthirdparty, in which we offer solutions to America’s problems. Our concept of Hybrid Capitalism is unique – the government would compete in the free market without taking over any industry. This would allow the government to earn a different source of revenue other than taxation. Eventually, by implementing this idea, we may be able to eliminate our tax system completely. In the meantime, we propose a flat tax of 25% with the first $25,000 of income being tax free. 

Some of our more interesting proposals include an ocean pipeline to passively desalinate seawater using renewable energy. We also want to see solar panels on rooftops and small vertical windmills on power poles across America. We’d like to build a mag-lev rail system and install a high-speed fiber optic network. These will be funded with Renewable Energy Savings bonds. All of this is in addition to providing the opportunity for housing through our Homestead Renewal Plan, where people invest their own sweat equity into building up homes they can live in. We believe in giving people a hand up, rather than a handout. This will stimulate the innovation in Americans and bring back the vitality our country so desperately needs.

PC: May we have a brief bio from the person answering these questions? May we also have bios for the current Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Treasurer, Secretary, and Executive Director of your party?

DJS: You can find a bio of David Jon Sponheim at www.americasthirdparty.com/About 

Sarah Hart graduated magna cum laude from Western Washington University in 2006. She scored in the top 15% on the Praxis II- a nationwide test for teachers. She works as a substitute school teacher to supplement her income as she works diligently to build America’s Third Party. She is the co-founder and Treasurer of America’s Third Party, which is a founding member of the Centrist Alliance. She is very interested in emerging technologies and hopes to revolutionize the way we elect our leaders.

PC: In what city and state is the national party headquarters located?

DJS: Oak Harbor, WA

PC: What year was the party founded?

DJS: 2008-We first went public with America’s Third Party at an event called MashUpCamp back in 2008.  

PC: Who were the leaders that founded the party?

DJS: David Jon Sponheim and Sarah Hart

PC: Any significant “firsts” for the party–Who was your first candidate on a ballot, who (if any) was your first candidate elected to office?

DJS: Sarah Hart was the first candidate on the ballot. She ran for Washington State Senate in 2008.

David Jon Sponheim ran as a write-in candidate for President in 2008.

To date, we have broadcast over 800 shows on BlogTV.

The Context2012 project is designed to build public awareness of all third parties in the United States, to raise consciousness of the alternatives to what Ralph Nader has called the “two party elected dictatorship.” Recently, we sent out questionnaires to over thirty of these parties, from the Freedom Socialist Party to the Constitution Party, from the Libertarians to the Whigs. Responses are coming in with impressive speed, and we will run new interviews every day for as long as we continue to receive them.

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About Matt J. Stannard

Policy Director for Commonomics USA, longtime writer, speaker, and legal & policy consultant on economic justice and public deliberation.