Monday, January 29, 2007

The Hankster: Independent voters make history, and the news.

By Nancy Hanks

Cudos to the 500 independents from 31 states who stood for a new movement at the winter meeting in New York City on January 28th. Let's get busy!

I get up every morning about 6:30. I love getting up at that hour because I have a great view of New York City from my desk. The sunrise is reflected brilliantly for a few minutes off the Citigroup building that stands on the Queens side where I am, between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building on the Manhattan side. Every morning is different. I make a cup of coffee and sit down to my laptop to see what the night’s news has to say about independents around the country. It’s a great way to start the day, and I savor the moment as I head off to my “day job”.

American independents have always been around—starting shortly before 1776, when the British colonies in America produced a cultural leap that led to a successful fight for independence from the King. Third party activists created the Republican Party and marshaled enough support among the voting population (excluding blacks and women) to take the White House in 1860. The sixties brought on another revolution of “constituencies” that are still volatile today.

Whether our post-modern times will produce the environment where independent voters—ordinary people—will finally prevail is still in question. That would propel us toward the completion of the American Revolution in a “What’s Next” world.

Somewhere in that continuum, between the 1992 election when Ross Perot got 20 percent of the vote as an independent for President and the recent 2006 midterm elections, independent voters have once again been recognized by the “powers that be” as a force in America. We were given credit for the changeover in Congress by the pundits.

Shortly before November 7, 2006, a Wall Street Journal poll showed that 42% of the American electorate considers themselves independent. And, as the Neo Independent magazine’s Jackie Salit (see the sidebar) pointed out, we were also the force that made the war in Iraq THE issue in the campaigns. And what we read in the papers began to reflect a little more of what was happening on the ground. And what was happening on the ground was beginning to be—well, more newsworthy.

The Hankster, started in May 2006, is a political blog for independent activists. It is created primarily from Google Alerts. In case you’d like to try this yourself, here are some of my standard search phrases:
* independents republicans democrats (without quotes) is where the Gallup, Quinnipiac and other polls and stats come up and how we find out that there are large independent voting blocs in a particular state or district that could swing a local election.
* “independence party” (in quotes) is mostly geared to New York and Minnesota. Alaska also has an Independence Party.
* “independent voters” (in quotes) is an up-and-coming phrase that gives us a look at the unaffiliated independent base throughout the country.

The Hankster also makes a point of searching for articles about the increase of independence from the Democratic Party among African American voters.

During the midterm elections, there were about ten statewide independent campaigns that The Hankster followed, including: Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman in Texas, the Minnesota Independence Party team, Helen Blocker-Adams in Georgia, Christy Mihos and Question 2—the fusion referendum in Massachusetts, Russ Diamond and Carl Romanelli in Pennsylvania, Ben Westlund in Oregon, Lamont/Lieberman in Connecticut (where Lieberman was NOT the independent…), and the hotly contested primary that constituted grassroots, locally controlled county committees in New York City by the “Fulani Forces” of the New York Independence Party.

For readers, The Hankster has served to focus scattered little news pieces into a framework so that we can get a glimpse of the independent movement nationally, as seen through the mainstream media, though filtered through an activist outlet. It has been a source of encouragement to isolated independent bloggers and readers, and a point of contact for the New York-based national strategy center that I work with, the Committee for a Unified Independent Party – www.independentvoting.org. The Hankster has been a source of contacts (media and activists) and of information and issues around the country that we might want to be involved in.

The interplay between what’s in the mainstream media and activists’ ability to use that news to reach other independents around the state and country, and to mobilize them, is really the raison d’etre of The Hankster. This is the kind of blog that The Hankster is becoming. A news feed to local activists, as independents make history—and increasingly make news. -NH

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