President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney weren’t the only political figures prepping their arguments the evening of the first presidential debate earlier this month.
Michael Potter, 28, an anthropology major at UNC Charlotte, was fine-tuning his points of discussion as well.
Potter is leading the charge for a new political party he hopes will someday give the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and other parties some stiff competition.
On Oct. 3, he stood on a raised platform inside campus hangout Norm’s and told a small gathering of students why they should support his New Jeffersonian Democrats over any other party.
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“They’ve gone so far away from democracy, in my opinion, of what it should be,” he said of other political parties.
Like many, Potter is disillusioned with today’s political environment. “Faith and trust in the government has gone down so much,” he said.
The self-described history buff has a massive collection of taped interviews with political figures going as far back as the invention of television. Potter has analyzed the errors of those who have held office previously and believes Americans should learn from their mistakes instead of continuing to make the same ones.
“It’s an exercise in history and looking back at what they did wrong,” he said. “Take that out, and stick with what works.”
The New Jeffersonian Democrats formed this past summer, shortly after Potter finished reading “The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln,” by Sean Wilentz, a book in which President Thomas Jefferson is prominently featured.
Potter believes Jefferson would look at politicians today with disdain.
“All parties, Democrats and Republicans, even the independents, are not based on the principles of democracy that this country was founded upon,” he said. “I want to go back to Jefferson but obviously leave out the negative aspects of it, like slavery.”
Potter’s platform includes the separation of church and state, a ban on the sale of automatic weapons, incentives and salary increases for teachers, free or reduced-cost access to college education, an increase in welfare spending coupled with removal of those who refuse to search for jobs, and an increase in taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Five people showed up to listen to Potter’s platform, and to him that’s a fine start for a grass-roots movement he hopes someday will be a well-known party affiliation.
He realizes it’s going to be an uphill climb.
“I think it’s going to be difficult. It’s always going to be difficult,” he said. “No one wants to start a new party, because they’re upset with the new ones that they’ve seen in the past. They just think they’ll go the same way, and that they all end up corrupt in the end.”
The New Jeffersonian Democrats has 31 members listed on its Facebook page. Potter said that’s a glimmer of hope for those who haven’t found their political niche yet.
“It’s not true that the government is out always out to get you. Government has a decent track record,” he said. “Moderation. That’s what we want.”