Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE HANKSTER!!

TODAY'S NEWS HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
How the Independent Movement Went Left By Going Right (Guest Voice) (By JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief, The Moderate Voice) Jackie Salit's post-election special report. This report was also posted on Independent Political Report and Tofu Daily... Thanks to Joe Gandelman for getting this important paper out!
 

POLITICAL REFORM
  • Schwarzenegger takes on unions once again (By DAN WALTERS, Sacramento Bee editorials and opinion) Publicly, the governor says the steps are needed to balance the budget and improve the economy, but there's no doubt that he wants to compel Democrats to defy the unions and thus crack, even slightly, their alliance. And having won voter approval of legislative redistricting reform, he plans to challenge unions again by championing "open primaries" that could reduce their power even more.
  • Russ Lemmon: Choice morsels from '08 (TC Palm - FL) Maybe someday the state will switch to an open primary...


POLITISOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS
  • Twelve Steps for the GOP - Advice from voters for a Republican recovery (By STEPHEN MOORE, Wall Street Journal) That's a big problem because even though 84% of voters say they are center or right on the ideological spectrum, the 48% in the middle, i.e., independents, are tilting heavily toward Democrats. The fairly narrow victory by Barack Obama in the popular vote disguises an "enthusiasm gap" among Democratic and Republican voters. Some 65% of Obama voters "strongly supported" him, whereas only 33% of John McCain voters "strongly supported" the Arizona Republican. This helps explain the river of money for Mr. Obama and the massive grassroots advantage for the Democrats.
  • Can Podesta Craft a Transition to a New Progressive Era? (Tom Hayden, Huffington Post) "Progressivism has been an independent, often nonpartisan, reform movement keeping "politicians on both sides of the aisle honest and committed to principled actions on behalf of regular Americans." While the progressive tradition included third party candidates, liberalism is more closely tied to the Democratic Party and Democratic presidencies."


LOCAL INDEPENDENT NEWS
Barkley's short Senate tenure cited as example for Blago pick Burris (By CHRIS STELLER, Minnesota Independent) Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed Barkley, a fellow Independence Party stalwart, to fill out the remaining weeks of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone’s term after his death just days before the 2002 election. Barkley was a third-party candidate for the office this year, drawing enough support (15 percent) to affect the result. But it’s still unclear whether Coleman or his Democratic rival Al Franken will be the ultimate electoral beneficiary of Barkley’s participation....



NEW YORK POLITICS/INDEPENDENCE PARTY
Now Advertising With Fulani's Group... (BY AZI PAYBARAH, NY Observer) This one is from Pedro Espada, the incoming state senator who is a Democrat but who, during a previous stint in the State Senate, had a close relationship with Republicans. Other politicians with ads in the journal include Democratic Assemblyman Michael Cusick, Republican State Senator Marty Golden and Democratic State Senator Diane Savino....



ONLINE ORGANIZING
Can Obama Sustain the Interest of His Online Constitutents? So Far, Yes, Says Pew Study (By Adriel Bettelheim, CQ) The question is whether efforts to webcast the president-elect's weekly addresses and solicit online supporters' advice by offering interactive features on the transition Web site Change.gov are actually giving voters a chance to drive the administration's agenda or merely providing a forum to feel more involved.

Monday, December 29, 2008

galieo

TODAY'S NEWS HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

POLITICAL REFORM
  • Voters without a party want say in primary [The Santa Fe New Mexican] (Business Week)
  • Where has good governance gone? (San Bernardino Sun) Redistricting reform is a good start. Open primaries would help produce leaders that work for people, not for special-interest groups.

LOCAL INDEPENDENT NEWS
We the People Party makes 1st recommendations for Meriden boards, commissions (By: George Moore, Record-Journal - CT) While there are about 20 people on We the People's town committee, members still keep their traditional party affiliations - as Democratic or Republican - or remain unaffiliated voters. The fact that a third party will recommend registered Democrats and Republicans for appointed positions raises tricky questions...


REPUBLICAN TERRITORY
  • Blackwell's Back (By W. James Antle, III, The American Spectator) One local conservative Republican activist told TAS that Blackwell "is a great spokesman for conservatism" but worried that he lost "independents" and "key parts of the state."
  • The GOP must reject Big Government - Republicans are making a huge mistake by turning away from the principle of small government. (By Richard A. Viguerie, LA Times)
  • Bush and Barack, Bedfellows - Why the current president is rooting for the next one. (By John Heilemann, New York Magazine/Power Grid) The idea that 44 might in the future continue to seek the counsel of 43 would until recently have struck partisans on both ends of the ideological spectrum as absurd. But that was before the transition commenced and Obama began to tip his hand in the area of foreign policy
  • The Conservative Challenge (Posted by HughS, Whizbang) As Friedman noted, the intellectual debate is settled but the Realpolitik debate (i.e. that which is "practical" or pragmatic) is being won by the liberals just as quickly as it is being surrendered by moderate Republicans.


INTERNET ORGANIZING
MoveOn.org Sets Agenda With Online Input (by Mark Walsh, MediaPost Publications) Obama's email database is so much larger than MoveOn's that using it to form a new advocacy group would be "seismic."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Do You Support Open Primaries for Independent Voters?

During the past several months, The Hankster has run a survey stating:

Independent voters are allowed to vote in primaries in 33 states, but are excluded from voting in primaries in 17 states. Do you think independents should be allowed to vote in primaries in all states?

I'm happy to report that 93.2% of the 77 votes  were positive.

I'm not surprised.

Open primaries in 33 states allowed independent and nonaligned voters to make our case for the top post of American political life.

IndependentVoting.org has initiated a petition drive to ask Barack Obama, on behalf of independent voters, to support a national effort to give independents access to national primary elections.

Here's part of the letter to P-E Obama:

During the presidential primary season, independents played a crucial role in bolstering the change-oriented movement that led to your nomination. By virtue of being able to vote in the primaries and caucuses in 33 states, independents cast the votes that gave your campaign its margin, and continued to support you in the general election.

Sign, email 10 friends, and fight for open primaries?

caroline

TODAY'S NEWS HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
  • The Middle Shifted Away From The GOP In 2008: An Outcome Of Neglect (By JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief, The Moderate Voice) A good part of Obama's win will be credited to Obama's skills and charisma, to John McCain's fumbles and to the economy's meltdown. But Obama also had another ally: the Republican Party's often-dismissive attitude towards the sentiments of moderates, independent and centrists.
  • Tax Millionaires, Not Sodas, Poll Concludes (By SEWELL CHAN, New York Times/City Room) New York State voters oppose the so-called "obesity tax" on nondiet soft drinks by a resounding margin of 60 percent to 37 percent, but support, by an even more overwhelming margin of 84 percent to 13 percent, raising the state income tax on people who make more than $1 million per year, according to results of a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday. Even those who prefer diet sodas — which would be exempt from the proposed 18 percent sales tax — said they opposed the measure (58 percent to 39 percent), while drinkers of regular sodas opposed the idea by an even stronger margin (64 percent to 31 percent). Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents surveyed all opposed the proposed tax, though by varying margins.
  • Christmas Present For Obama: Poll Shows Honeymoon Is Strong (By JOE GANDELMAN, The Moderate Voice) Obama is coming into office with what so many centrists, moderates and independent voters had hoped to see in a leader, of any party: with a broad-based initial coalition of well-wishers, versus a large number of people waiting for a chance to re-ignite the 1960s-baby-boomer-spiced polarization wars that have plagued American politics for so long.
  • Barack Obama: Yes, He Could (CBS News) While New Hampshire prolonged the Democratic race, it largely settled the Republican one. John McCain, a favorite of the state's large bloc of independent voters, won the state where he had focused much of his retooled campaign. Nearly broke and with staff gone, McCain scrapped his tour bus and relied on supporters to drive him to events, even when the drive from a Rotary meeting was in a vehicle with a flat rear tire. "In the words of Chairman Mao, it's always darkest before it's totally black," McCain liked to joke. 
  • Perdue's husband unsure of title - Eaves, who could share business savvy, rejects 'first dude' (Myrtle Beach Online) But he's flexible: As a wedding gift, the former registered Republican became a registered Independent voter. Yet he stopped short of becoming a Democrat like his wife.
  • Markey makes history in battle against Musgrave (BY ROBERT MOORE, TheCOLORADOAN.COM)
 

NEW YORK POLITICS/INDEPENDENCE PARTY
  • Not so sweet on Caroline (By Sasha Issenberg, Boston Globe) Kennedy is also seen as an ally of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent whose dominance of the city's center-left politics has vexed Democrats, but pleased some prominent political operatives who have also worked for Clinton and Kennedy. Cuomo, her most prominent rival for the Senate seat, is the son of a former governor and himself a potent political force.
  • Fidler Calls Bloomberg Inconsistent on 'Gutless' Comment (by Azi Paybarah, NY Observer mobile) When Michael Bloomberg called City Council members "gutless" for not supporting a 7 percent property tax hike, it marked a sharp departure from the spirit of cooperation he tried forging after the contentious vote on term limits.
  • Inside Mayor Bloomberg's Hiring of Hillary Clinton Aide Howard Wolfson (Posted by Wayne Barrett, Village Voice/Runnin' Scared)
OPEN PRIMARIES
Next: Bring back the open primary in California (Redland Daily Facts) Now there's the distinct possibility that by mid-2010 they will get a crack at another gift, a chance to resume holding open primaries that give moderates in both parties a significant chance at winning high offices. 

POLITISOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS
Rahm Emanuel: First post-election disappointment - In Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama has found his clone. (Stephanie Block, Energy Publisher)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

How the Independent Movement Went Left By Going Right

By Neo-Independent Executive Editor Jacqueline Salit

A SPECIAL POST-ELECTION REPORT
DECEMBER 2008

On election night I watched Barack Obama give his victory speech in Grant Park, cheered on by millions of Americans across the country. They were celebrating the fall of barriers – racial barriers, cultural barriers, partisan and political barriers. As I watched, I thought about the independents and the 20 years we’ve spent fighting to tear down those barriers in our movement, so that we could help the country to turn the political page.

Analysts will look back at the campaign and highlight what they deem to have been the turning points. They will tell you, for example, that the South Carolina primary in late January was a watershed moment, when a majority of black voters moved to Obama’s side and he defeated Hillary Clinton. But the official analysts are short on the details of what was occurring on the ground, the pivotal moments when the words and actions of independents produced change from the bottom up.

On election night I thought of Wayne Griffin, a long-time African American independent, the leader of the South Carolina Independence Party who has spent 20 years building political coalitions between the black community and white independents. Wayne played that role again in the South Carolina Democratic primary, when he stepped out to say that African Americans and white independents should be going for Obama in the state’s open primary. And they did. He knew that such an unusual coalition could come together around the need to change the nature of the political process itself because he’d seen it happen in the independent political movement. He brought his experience and vision to the table when it mattered most.

I thought about Mitch Campbell, the founder of the American Independent Movement in Idaho, who shaped our federal court case there to save open primaries and preserve the rights of independent voters. Mitch called me one day, as the Idaho Democratic caucuses (open to independents) were approaching, and said to me: Jackie, it’s time for independents to go for Obama. He reached out with that message to show America that in the reddest (and whitest) of red states, independents would support a black progressive for president.

I thought about Russ Ouellette in New Hampshire, who sat across the table from Obama just weeks before the New Hampshire primary. In a dialogue about nonpartisan government, with TV cameras recording the conversation, Obama said: “If there’s a Republican out there who is the best person for any particular Cabinet position or any administrative agency that’s going to make a difference, then I will make that appointment.” Russ replied, “That’s great. But I don’t think being independent means just reaching across to Republicans.” And Obama replied, “Well, that includes independents. I mean, independents even better.”

Twenty-nine percent of Americans who voted in the 2008 election are independents. In the election those voters said some things – not just about a new direction for our country, but about themselves. If you listen to what they said, you discover that independent voting is changing, taking on a more organized and progressive dimension. What follows is a narrative of that change, a story of how a contemporary political eruption that began on the center-right with little connection to communities and concerns beyond its borders developed into a culturally and racially diverse movement on the center-left and elected the first black President of the United States.

1. The Independent Vote in 2008
In the 2008 presidential election over 128 million Americans cast ballots, sending Barack Obama to the White House with a popular vote mandate of 53%. (John McCain received 46% of the popular vote.) Obama carried every region in the country (the Northeast by 57%, the Midwest by 54%, the West by 55%) but the South. The shift in the popular vote from Republican to Democrat since 2004 was a 10-point swing, as Obama wove together a new national coalition that swept a majority of women (56%), voters under 45 (he took 69% of first-time voters), blacks (95%), Latinos (67%), moderates (60%), most income and educational background
groups, and independents.

Obama polled 52% of the independent vote as compared with McCain’s 44%, strong evidence that independents have become more progressive than conservative. (In 2004 independent voters split nearly evenly, 49% going for John Kerry and 48% for George Bush.) The relative size of the independent voting bloc was higher. Twenty-nine percent of the electorate were independents, up three points from 26% in 2004. (The Democrats’ share went up by two points; the Republican share dropped by five points.) And in another notable change in the independent demographic, 6% of the overall electorate were independents of color – African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American. Seventy percent of those voters chose Barack Obama.

Gone are the days when independent voting was the sole province of the “angry conservative white male.” It is estimated that more than 20%, or one in five, of the independents who voted for Obama on November 4 are people of color. While national exit polls show that white independents split between Obama (47%) and McCain (49%) – with white voters overall breaking for McCain (55% to 43%) – in some of the most hotly contested battleground states that Obama carried, independents of all hues voted for him. In Ohio, they supported Obama over McCain 52% to 44%. In Pennsylvania, 58% of independents were Obama voters. In Florida, 52% backed him. In Indiana – where a Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won for 44 years – 54% of independents supported Obama, providing the margin of victory in his one-point win over McCain. In New Hampshire, 59% of independents backed Obama. Fifty-six percent of New Mexico independents and 54% of independents in Nevada supported him as well.

In several states that went for McCain, Obama still carried or split independents. Notably, McCain’s home state of Arizona was one of these. There, 51% of independents backed Obama, a pointed reminder of the extent to which McCain turned his back on his own history of maverick independence to be the Republican nominee.

Some 19.3 million independents cast ballots for Obama, nearly the size of the vote for Ross Perot in 1992. This number in and of itself should make the pundits (or at least Larry King!) sit up and take notice. But the story of the independent vote for Obama is about much more than the numbers. A closer look at the evolution of the independent voting bloc – from a center-right uprising fomented by the mercurial billionaire Perot to a diverse and decentralized center-left movement for political reform that carried Obama to his victory in the Democratic primaries and subsequently played a decisive role in his general election coalition – reveals just how important that shift was to the outcome of this historic election.

How did such a shift occur? It is, in part, a matter of changing times, changing demographics, changing technology and spectacularly high levels of distrust in political parties and Beltway politics. It has also been propelled by small but highly organized networks in the independent political movement, which helped to re-route the trajectory of non-aligned voters to the left while replacing the operative paradigm within the organized independent political movement itself.

The new paradigm reworks the premise that independents best (or only) express their interests by voting for independent or third-party candidates. The new paradigm, largely pioneered by IndependentVoting.org, the online counterpart of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party (CUIP), appeals to independent voters to leverage their power through shifting tactical alliances with candidates based on their support for the independent agenda and regardless of their partisan affiliation. The gradual movement to the center-left, together with a shift in tactics, ushered in a kind of realignment in the independent movement, which in turn found expression in broad-based support from independents for Obama.

2. The Shift in the Politics of the Independent Vote: Some Factors That Broadened the Vision of the 1990s Independent Movement, Including the Challenge to Centrism
During the Perot era, most progressives wrote off the emergent independent political movement as “too far to the right.” But CUIP’s founders – progressives who had built a base for independent politics in the black, Latino, gay and left communities in the 1980s – wanted to experiment with new kinds of left-center-right coalitions, which included African Americans and other communities of color. Without the constraints of partisan divisions, in a distinctly nonpartisan environment, new coalitions among independents might be possible. Put another way, the rightward leanings of the Perot-style independent movement might not be fixed in stone, especially if the political and cultural embargo by the left could be broken.

Accordingly, as the Perot movement began to regroup post-1992, a far-flung network of Perot activists, who were seeking to transform their electoral earthquake into an ongoing national political party, found willing partners on the progressive side of the independent aisle. A year of exploratory left-right dialogues and joint events were spearheaded by Nicholas Sabatine, the Pennsylvania attorney who had run the Perot effort in the Keystone State, with Lenora Fulani, America’s leading black independent, who in 1988 had become the first woman and the first African American presidential candidate ever to be on the ballot in all 50 states, her chief strategist and political mentor Fred Newman, and this writer. Not unexpectedly, the road to founding that national party was bumpy, even detoured at times.

A party-building meeting of the Federation of Independent Parties (FIP), convened by Perot’s pollster, Gordon Black, pointedly excluded Fulani and her supporters. The exclusion of the Fulani forces was, according to Black, a necessary condition for creating what he envisioned as a “centrist party.” Progressive and African American independents were not, in Black’s view, the target population for a voter revolt against the political status quo. Based on his analysis, articulated in The Politics of American Discontent – How a New Party Can Make Democracy Work Again, published in 1994 just as the FIP process was getting underway, a new political party that would restore pragmatism and democracy to the American political process would be formed by white moderates peeled away from both the Republican and Democratic parties. In his book, Black argued that under this arrangement, “The Democratic Party could become the true champion of minorities, the poor, and the public employees unions, with the liberal wing in power.”

In other words, blacks and progressives should stay behind in the Democratic Party, leaving the new reform movement to be led and actualized by moderate whites.

Fred Newman was particularly outspoken against the centrism thesis. In his view, not only was Black’s model racially discriminatory and politically sectarian, it relied on the premise that there was, in fact, a “political center” in American politics – a place of permanent moderation to which most Americans gravitated. For Newman, a Stanford-trained philosopher and postmodern change theorist, a prevailing characteristic of the times, manifest in the Perot rebellion itself, was that the “center” was failing to hold. Attempts to recreate one would only meet with failure, as there was no longer any social or economic basis for it. The Perot rebellion, and the overall disalignment from the major political parties, were not indicators that Americans were searching for a “center” – in between the ideologically left Democratic Party and the ideologically right Republican Party. Instead, according to Newman, the emergent independent impulse was away from ideology and partisanship altogether, creating the potential for new coalitions of the left and right in support of nonpartisan political reform.

The idea that the Perot movement might broaden its borders and that the base for a new political party should be politically and culturally heterogeneous met with resistance. But after Sabatine was selected by the FIP conference to oversee the founding of a new national party, he established objective criteria for qualifying delegates to a founding convention. One consequence was that Fulani and Newman, with whom Sabatine had become friendly, brought a sizable delegation to the founding convention of what became the Patriot Party in Arlington, Virginia. This gave an entirely different (multi-racial and progressive) twist to the affair.

At the Patriot Party convention, African American youth wearing Malcolm X tee-shirts (this was still the pre-Obama era!) sat at tables alongside Perotistas sporting tricorner hats and other American Revolutionary paraphernalia.

But the cultural strangeness of the event only seemed to deepen the sense of collective empowerment. As convention deliberations got underway, one delegate moved to strike the term “centrist” from the party’s draft mission statement on the grounds that it was exclusionary. The motion carried with broad support. Gordon Black, present at the convention as a delegate from New York, stormed out.

Aware that the strength of Fulani’s delegation meant that she could be elected to any officer position of her choice, and afraid of the controversy that would thereby surround the fledging party, Sabatine asked that she refrain from seeking any official position. Fulani and Newman agreed, while nominating key allies to national executive committee posts. Among them was California’s Jim Mangia, who would later help to influence Perot’s decision to form the national Reform Party.

After Sabatine was elected chair, Fulani was nominated for vice chair. In declining, she told the assembled delegates that she would always put the interests of the movement and the country ahead of her own. The convention erupted into thunderous cheers and applause. A black and independent alliance was making its first appearance on the political stage, with an African American progressive as its popular voice. Moreover, the “centrist” model of independent politics had been roundly repudiated by the delegates.

Five years later, there was much water under the bridge: the Patriot Party’s successful effort to persuade Perot to reorganize United We Stand, America into the national Reform Party with which Patriot would eventually fuse; the hotly contested Reform Party presidential primary
between Perot and the liberal former Colorado governor Dick Lamm; Perot’s second presidential run in 1996 with economist Pat Choate as his vice presidential running mate; the formal creation of the Reform Party following the election (Patriot dissolved itself into Reform in 1996); and Jesse Ventura’s election as governor of Minnesota in 1998. But by 1999, with Bill Clinton’s second term drawing to a close, the Reform Party had come to a crossroads.

Reform had become a national political entity with ballot status parties in over 30 states. It stood to receive $18 million in federal funding for its 2000 presidential candidate. While Perot was bowing out, the ranks of the party were chafing at the increasingly tight-fisted control exerted by Perot’s circle in Dallas. Fulani and the CUIP networks, meanwhile, were a significant rank-and-file force inside the party, with sizeable – though minority – representation on the National Committee. (Mangia was the party’s national secretary.) AReform had become a national political entity with ballot status parties in over 30 states. It stood to receive $18 million in federal funding for its 2000 presidential candidate. While Perot was bowing out, the ranks of the party were chafing at the increasingly tight-fisted control exerted by Perot’s circle in Dallas. Fulani and the CUIP networks, meanwhile, were a significant rank-and-file force inside the party, with sizeable – though minority – representation on the National Committee. (Mangia was the party’s national secretary.) At the party’s 1999 national convention in Dearborn, Michigan, the Dallas group intended to transfer power (the chairmanship and vice-chairmanship) to Perot loyalists,chairmanship) to Perot loyalists, believing they had the votes for an easy win.

Meanwhile, the pro-democracy forces were searching for ways to overcome Dallas control and expand the base of the movement. The Ventura camp, critical of Perot’s governance, was isolated inside the party but had an outsize megaphone thanks to Ventura’s high profile.

Ventura had chosen a candidate for chairman, Jack Gargan, to contest Perot’s control. But the Ventura forces did not have anywhere near the requisite support among convention delegates to prevail. Fulani’s base of support, meanwhile, had grown. The black leftist was held in high regard by a cross-section of delegates; they viewed her as an honest broker who had integrated the party, largely without acrimony, while rejecting identity politics in favor of an inclusive, populist,
pro-democracy vision. Uniquely, she had ties to all camps inside the party.

Ventura, prevented from flying into Dearborn by a sudden rainstorm, telephoned into the convention to nominate Gargan. Two Perot stalwarts were also nominated for top positions as the convention delegates debated the best way forward for the party. In a private meeting, Gargan asked Fulani for her support. She, in turn, asked that her chief lieutenant, Cathy Stewart, be appointed head of the Party Building Committee in a Gargan administration, charged with expanding the party’s base at the grassroots, a mission that had been long neglected by the Perot regime. Gargan agreed. Fulani and Stewart began quietly putting the word out that they were supporting Gargan.

The Dallas contingent did not grasp what was happening until it was too late to respond. Amidst an uproar on the convention floor, Gargan was elected party chairman and Dallas was toppled.

But the surprises weren’t over. Fulani’s name was placed in nomination for vice chair and Dallas struggled feverishly to recoup. Calling in chips across the floor, after several ballots they mustered 55% of the vote for the Perot loyalist. But Fulani had polled 45% of the vote of the majority white and center-right convention, suggesting that ideological and racial boundaries were not as rigid as they might appear. Obama would make historic use of that insight nine years later.

The left-center-right pro-democracy uprising in the Reform Party was put down in short order. The Dallas forces regrouped, drove Gargan out of the chairmanship in a matter of months, and brought in conservative Republican-turned-independent presidential hopeful Pat Buchanan to become the party’s standard-bearer. After a season of shifting alliances (including a brief attempt at a right-left partnership between Buchanan and Fulani), Buchanan was declared the Reform Party nominee in time to preside over the party’s implosion. He polled under half a million votes.

The Reform Party was not the only third-party casualty of 2000. The other independent force making a bid for mainstream influence was the Green Party, whose nominee, Ralph Nader, had set as a goal for his presidential bid garnering 5% of the national vote. This would have given the Greens national party status and made them eligible for federal funding in the 2004 presidential election. Nader fell short, polling 2.7%.

The public furor over Florida and the charge that Nader cost Al Gore the election sent many high-profile left-wing Nader supporters rushing back to the Democratic fold. But the intra-left acrimony served to obscure the deeper problems with the Green party-building strategy. The energy of the anti-partisan voter bloc was growing post-Perot. But it was not gravitating towards a third party, Reform, Green, Libertarian or otherwise. The largely sectarian efforts of the Greens and Nader to channel it in that direction had fallen distinctly flat.

With increasing numbers of Americans disaligning themselves from any political party, CUIP strategists sought to develop an approach to independent organizing that reflected on-the-ground realities. Most organized elements of the independent movement (Greens, Libertarians, the remnants of Reform, the Constitution Party) were stuck in the party paradigm, notwithstanding its obvious failures. Meanwhile, the mass of independent voters – 35% of the electorate – did not have a defined voice in the political process. The CUIP insight was, in many respects, simple. Couldn’t “swing voting” by independents be harnessed? Couldn’t independents begin to choose candidates based on the options and circumstances in a given election, and use these coalitions to elevate the power of independents? CUIP’s networks began to test that approach.

3. From 2004 to 2008: New Politics and New Tactics
As the war in Iraq began to alarm growing numbers of Americans, independents, too, started to question U.S. policy there. In the summer of 2003, 59% of independents believed going to war was the “right decision.” Two years later a majority, 53%, were “negative about the decision to go to war.” The short-lived but electrifying 2004 presidential primary campaign of Howard Dean – supported by younger and independent voters, including many in the CUIP networks – suggested that a sea change might be underway. But once Dean was forced out of the race by the “always searching for the center” Democratic Party establishment, the opportunity for a Dean/independent coalition was foreclosed. Meanwhile, Nader was floating the idea of another presidential run, but this time based on a different model.

Two years earlier Jim Mangia had presented Nader with a strategy memo in which he outlined an alternative approach to an independent presidential campaign. Mangia argued that if Nader ran again, he should not run as a Green Party candidate, or as the candidate of any other single party. Rather, he should mount a coalitional candidacy to unify diverse elements of the independent movement. Mangia and CUIP felt strongly that traditional ideology-based third-party strategies had run their course. And in late 2003, as the Dean candidacy was destructing, Nader reached out to Mangia. He was seeking CUIP’s support for a coalitional run.

Nader appeared at CUIP’s “Choosing An Independent President” conference in New Hampshire in January 2004, when 400 delegates from 35 states assembled to assess best options for the 2004 presidential election. George Bush was not an option. The second and third tier Democrats, including John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton, were already on the wane. With Dean out of the picture and the centrist Kerry on the ascent, a partnership with the pro-war Democrats was less and less appealing. Nader made his independent pitch and was well received. While in New Hampshire, Newman, Mangia and I held a private meeting with Nader during which Newman asked Nader for assurances that the Greens, who had been hostile to Nader’s decision to follow the CUIP blueprint, would not be allowed to play a disruptive role in the coalition. At first, Nader acted surprised at the notion, but later agreed to do what he could.

The CUIP networks energetically supported Nader, while CUIP’s election attorney Harry Kresky was deployed to aid him in what became an avalanche of ballot access challenges against his candidacy, led and coordinated by the Democratic National Committee. The Greens, not unexpectedly, balked at Nader’s coalition plan and nominated David Cobb, whose “safe states” strategy was designed to avoid any repetition of the spoiler scenario. The Greens’ national vote total plummeted to 119,859. CUIP leaders brought the New York Independence Party and the South Carolina Independence Party into the fold for Nader, while the remnants of the Reform Party backed him, too. He polled 465,650 votes. As noted earlier, independent voters overall split between Kerry and George Bush.

Meanwhile, big news in independent politics was happening locally, particularly with respect to the emergence of new political coalitions. In 2005, CUIP leaders in New York (Fulani, Newman, Stewart, Kresky and I) were the architects and organizers of a history-making change in voting patterns: our endorsement of then-reformer Mayor Mike Bloomberg on the Independence Party line resulted in an astonishing 47% of the African American vote and 60% of the independent vote for his re-election. A black and independent alliance had dealt a body blow to the city’s entrenched Democratic machine.

A year later 59% of independents voted for Democrats in the midterm elections, largely on the basis of opposition to the war, thereby giving the Democratic Party control of Congress for the first time since 1994. The stage was set for the 2008 presidential race and for CUIP to pursue the best partnership for independents.

4. Open Primaries Fuel the Black and Independent Alliance
Hillary Clinton had voted for the war but believed that dissatisfaction with Bush policies could fuel a Democratic victory. Clinton’s political instincts and strategies were those of a partisan. She had disastrously bad relationships with the independent movement, having gone so far as to try, unsuccessfully, to have Fulani and her allies excised from the Independence Party of New York in the hopes of returning it to the center-right where it had originated in Perot’s heyday.

Obama, on the other hand, opposed the war. A self-described post-partisan, he recognized that independents were emerging as a crucial swing force and that, unlike in the 1990s, this constituency was now in motion towards the center-left. The increasingly multi-racial character of the movement, its natural attraction to a vision of changing the culture of politics, and the decline in its political xenophobia meant that he could appeal to a broad cross-section of those voters. Independents in the CUIP networks found a hospitable response from the Obama campaign as numerous state organizations reached out to query his level of interest in connecting with the independent movement. That 33 states would hold Democratic (and Republican) primaries or caucuses in which independents were allowed to vote accelerated the intersecting of the CUIP strategy and the Obama strategy.

Obama carried independents in Iowa’s open caucuses and again in New Hampshire’s open Democratic Party primary. But in New Hampshire, more independents than expected chose to vote in the Republican primary and broke heavily for McCain. While this resuscitated McCain’s campaign and set him on the path to the Republican nomination, it also deflated Obama’s independent edge over Clinton, who won the Granite State primary. The next major proving ground was South Carolina, an important open primary state.

The Clintons were counting on South Carolina to be their firewall with black voters. Many black churches acted as a Clinton echo chamber, re-enforcing the idea that this was “Hillary’s Time.”

Wayne Griffin, an independent on the city council in Greer, heard the Clinton drumbeat and thought the odds might be in her favor. But Griffin deeply disliked the Clintonian style of politics. Under the banner of the newly formed Independents for Obama, he ran radio commercials across the state promoting this message:

I’m Wayne Griffin. I was born and raised here in South Carolina. I have a family, I run a small business and I’m part of a growing movement of African American independents who want to get beyond the same old political games.

There are a lot of people like me – who are independent in their political views; who think insider politics in Washington and Columbia have to change. Among younger African Americans, over 35% consider themselves independents, and don’t relate to the “win at all costs” style of elections.

Independents can vote on Saturday and we’ve got a lot of reasons to do so. The Democratic Party establishment – now run by Bill and Hillary Clinton – sees the country in terms of old labels, old coalitions and old tactics. They think change comes from the top.

But the change I am a part of is coming from the bottom. It’s coming from ordinary people, young people, and politically independent people. Barack Obama has spoken out for that kind of change and that’s why so many independents like me are supporting him.

If we want to change the direction of our country, we have to change the way we do politics. It’s that simple.

Obama won the South Carolina primary handily, with 78% of the black vote and a plurality (42%) of the independent vote. (John Edwards polled 32% and Clinton 26% of independents.) The Clinton firewall had collapsed. More importantly, the first state in the line-up with a significant black population had made visible the new black and independent coalition that would carry Obama to victory.

After South Carolina, exit polling picked up a new trend for the first time in a number of Super Tuesday states. In Massachusetts 33% of black voters who cast ballots in the Democratic primary self-identified as independents. In Missouri it was 18%, Connecticut 22%, California 14%, New Jersey 13%, in Tennessee 17%. Among black independents, Obama’s support was astronomical. In Georgia, where 12% of all African American voters in the Democratic primary were independents, 97% went for Obama. The Black Independent, which Fulani, Griffin and others had been organizing as a new constituency, became a recognized category of voter.

Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina carried things to the tipping point. Outreach to and from the Obama campaign brought many CUIP state organizations into line with the idea that the most fruitful coalition was with Obama and his supporters. Mangia, widely recognized as California’s leading independent, endorsed Obama with significant results. Although Clinton won the state, 58% of California independents backed Obama. In Missouri the split among independents for Obama over Clinton was crushing – 67% to 30%. In other open primary states Obama won self-identified independents handily: in Georgia, he won 63% to Clinton’s 33%; in Illinois, he won 72% of these voters to Clinton’s 22%; in Virginia, Obama won 69% to Clinton’s 30%; in Mississippi, he won 53% to 43%; in Indiana, he won 54% to 46%.

In the 33 states that held open primaries or caucuses, 65% of independents chose to vote in the Democratic contests. Of those, 60% – or 2.7 million independents – voted for Obama. Many in the CUIP networks were there, on the ground, calling independents’ attention to the rules that allowed them to vote and backing Obama in those crucial open primary and caucus states. Obama’s margin in the popular vote was 281,370 out of a total of almost 33 million cast. If all primaries and caucuses had excluded independents, Hillary Clinton would have won the popular vote (not counting Florida or Michigan) by 373,910.[1] Independents were his clear margin of victory, making Obama the first Democratic Party presidential nominee in history to clinch the nomination with the support of an outsider movement. Understanding how America has changed entails understanding how the independent movement has changed. Arguably, the core strength of the Obama primary win came from a black and independent alliance – the very coalition envisioned, test run and marketed by CUIP.

5. New Conversations on Race
Obama’s sensitivity to the challenges inherent in creating multi-racial electoral alliances that are not traditional liberal coalitions – where conflicts and tensions tend to be submerged – came to the forefront in the controversy around Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Obama responded deftly, breaking down the particularities of the black experience in America, the resentments on both sides of the color line and the opportunity to create a new and different kind of national conversation about race.[2]

On a smaller and less publicized scale, the independent movement has built on these kinds of cultural and political conflicts (and the efforts to opportunize off of them) since we first began to bring the Perot movement together with the black community. Conversations about the common interests of the “overtaxed and the underserved,” about not being overdetermined by past resentments, were part of bridging the cultural divide in the Patriot Party, the Reform Party and in creating the independent coalition that backed Mike Bloomberg’s mayoral runs in New York City in 2001 and 2005.

In keeping with the unorthodox paradigms of the independent movement, Obama did not invoke notions of centrism or “restoring a political center” during the campaign. To the contrary. In the Democratic primary, he ran directly against Clintonian centrism. And he exhorted the American people to go beyond existing political categories to a new kind of pragmatically oriented change.

While the Republican opposition attempted to brand him as a “socialist” in an effort to foment a backlash against him, he was well served by the prevailing notion that black America is fundamentally conservative. No one believed he was a socialist. Moreover, the “class warfare” gambit was going nowhere. Race, not class, is the defining feature of American politics. Thus Obama, as an African American, was uniquely qualified to present himself as the healer of America’s deepest fault line. Consequently, with the full support of black America and with the independent movement having made a small but significant turn to the left, he was able to draw on a new paradigm to create a new political majority.

6. Going Right to Go Left
On November 4 independents asserted their place as a prominent element of the Obama coalition. The independent vote for Obama was eight points ahead of the independent vote for McCain, giving Obama over 19 million of his 65 million votes.

Unlike the more traditional players in the independent movement, CUIP had not gone out in search of either an ideologue or a billionaire to run on a third-party ticket. We created an up-from-the-bottom process through which we could connect to a candidate who was, in turn, shaped by our movement and who materialized a new alliance for transforming the body politic.

Understanding how America has changed entails understanding how the independent movement has changed. To do that, you have to look at the new concepts of independent politics and how they were engineered and developed in and by the CUIP networks. The “centrist” model was discarded early on in favor of a left-right coming together for nonpartisan reform. The reliance on a “great man” (Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Jesse Ventura) or a rich man (Ross Perot, Mike Bloomberg, Tom Golisano) or an ideological man (or woman) (Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, Bob Barr) was also discarded. In 2008, that paradigm failed to impact. The four major minor presidential candidates – Nader, Barr, McKinney and Chuck Baldwin – together polled a little over 1.6 million votes, or 1.2% of the vote nationally. 

The paradigm that prevailed, which allowed independents to play a vital, even decisive role in the most significant “hinge” election since 1932, was the CUIP paradigm. 

How did the independent movement go left? It did so by going right. When a network of progressives joined the Perot movement to create new models of cooperation (like the left-right partnership and the black and independent alliance), new paradigms for organizing (without a party or a patron), and a new framework for political reform (open primaries), a new era of independent politics began.

Now analysts are busy determining whether the Obama win represents a full-blown political realignment, whether that realignment is “hard” or “soft” and whether the election results portend Democratic Party dominance for a generation.

This much is clear. The independent movement, realigned from center-right to center-left, gave Barack Obama the edge he needed to realign the Democratic Party, away from Clintonian centrism to a black-led nonpartisan movement for change. Thus realigned, the Democratic Party, with the continued support of independents, defeated conservatism and realigned the country.

How durable is that realignment? Impossible to know, but there are lessons to be learned. Now that Hillary Clinton, on her way into the Obama Cabinet, is enshrined as a partisan relic of the old style of politics, somewhere in this country are the next hopefuls who will want to become the first female, or Latino or gay president. A word to the wise: Keep your door open to the independents.

[1.] This impact analysis of independent voters is based on exit poll data furnished to the media by Edison Research Associates. The data are available on major political websites (e.g., CNNPolitics.com, MSNBC.com). Pollsters asked a statistically valid sample of presidential primary voters: “No matter how you voted today, do you consider yourself a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or something else?” Data were compiled on what percentage of the participants in the primaries self-identified as “independent or something else” and for which candidate they voted. The above analysis is an arithmetic extrapolation of this data, computed in the states whose Democratic presidential primaries were open to independents.

[2.] For a fuller discussion of this subject see the chapter by Dr. Omar Ali to appear in T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, ed., The Speech: Race and Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009)

Jacqueline Salit is the executive editor of The Neo-Independent and the president of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party / IndependentVoting.org

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

TODAY'S NEW HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
  • New Yorkers Expect Another Kennedy for the Senate (US News & World Report) Republicans prefer Cuomo, 33-20, while Democrats back Kennedy, 41-27, and independent voters back Cuomo, 33-30, the poll finds.
  • Quinnipiac University (poll results)

POLITICAL REFORM
Voters want an end to partisan gridlock for Christmas (By Tim L. McKinley, The Olympian) While Democrats may lay claim to a political mandate to rule, I believe the mandate voters sent all over this country was this: End our partisan rancor and gridlock now.

NEW YORK POLITICS/INDEPENDENCE PARTY
Amo recognized as Independence Party leader in Orange Legislature (By Chris Mckenna, Times Herald-Record)  Orange County lawmaker Michael Amo has won his second attempt to be recognized as a party leader as the only Independence Party member on the 21-member Legislature.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Howard Wolfson: Responsible Nonpartisan? I think NOT

There's a whole lot of ink about Mayor Michael Bloomberg running for a third term for mayor of New York City. Personally, I think Mayor B. needs to huddle with the Independence Party... And, I'm listening right now to Howard Woflson, a long-time Dem strategist, suddenly becoming an independent...

Hmmm...  Howard is against term limits. He'd like to get the Dem message out... Howard: Bring crime down, bring test scores up...

Ok, here's an example of the kind of partisanship that the electorate is very sensitive to. Howard Wolfson is not a spokesperson for the voters, but the Dems have to appeal to independent voters... 

Wolfson does not appeal to independent voters.

Hmmmm....




New York Political Corruption

When It Comes to Political Corruption, New York Can Hold Its Own

Published: December 15, 2008

New Yorkers have every reason to feel demoralized in this season supposedly of good cheer.

Related

Times Topics: Clyde Haberman

The economy is — well, you know what it is. The city budget is in a deep hole, and the state is staring at a deficit of $15 billion, a figure larger than the gross domestic product of about 50 countries.

TODAY'S NEWS HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

Barney Frank Has Post-partisan Depression (By Ryan Grim, CBS News) Having worked for decades with the GOP, Frank said, "I suffer from post-partisan depression."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Talk Talk: Out of Chaos Comes...

Sunday, December 21, 2008
 
Below are excerpts from this week's Talk Talk, Out of Chaos Comes...
.  Every Sunday CUIP's president Jacqueline Salit and strategist and philosopher Fred Newman watch the political talk shows and discuss them. Here are excerpts from their dialogue on Sunday, December 21, 2008 after watching "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer", several Charlie Rose Interviews" and "The Chris Matthews Show".
 
Newman: I'm the world's most outspoken advocate for that position. That's been true for nearly the entirety of my life. But it doesn't follow that opportunity will win out. You have to appreciate that chaos might win in different cases.
 
Salit: That chaos might win out over the creation of a new system which is stable and progressive?
 
Newman: Yes. It might prove that no such system is creatable. History might tell us that.
 
Salit: But, we don't know.
 
Newman: Right. Is this a situation that is ultimately unmanageable or is it one of those manageable dialectical situations Kissinger is so fond of? I don't know. I don't think he knows. I don't think anybody knows.
 
Salit: So, progress and development can emerge out of chaos but are not a necessary outcome of chaos.
 
Newman: Yes. But, I would go so far as to say that it's only possible out of chaos.
 
Read Talk Talk in its entirety here.

joy

TODAY'S NEWS HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

  • Can faith help heal our Divide (Oliver Thomas, USA Today) But I would go beyond cooperation. This is really about forgiveness — a cornerstone of our Western religious traditions. I would ask parishioners to be big enough to forgive one another for their differing political and religious views. And in so forgiving, people would heal themselves. Withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will feel sick.
  • Let's seriously consider how we can give the public some sense of ownership of our party. If that means primaries, if that means letting them settle the "what is liberalism" debate themselves (and as a result getting the Liberal Democrat Party they really want) then we should do it. (The Great Liberal Democrat Future National Referendum - Charlotte Gore blog)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

TODAY'S NEWS HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
  • Voices for change (BY JOHN GUERRIERO, Erie Times News) "I think that Obama is a smart and savvy guy who knew just the right notes to hit during the Democratic primary as an underdog to beat Hillary Clinton, and knew just the right way to attract Independent voters and some Republicans in the general election."
  • Warner earned reputation for independence (JEFF E. SCHAPIRO. Richmond Times Dispatch) "Senator Warner's personal penchant for independence and willingness to take issue with his fellow partisans made him especially appealing to this pivotal bloc of swing voters."
  • Most Voters Like Caroline, But Only 37% Say She Is Fit for Senate (Rasmussen Reports) Fifty-five percent (55%) of Democrats say she is qualified to serve. Kennedy is a Democrat likely to be appointed by a Democratic governor and it may not matter much that just 20% of Republicans and 30% of unaffiliated voters believe she is qualified.
  • Despite numbers, GOP floundered (BY ROBERT MOORE, Coloradoan) More than 61,000 Republicans voted in Larimer County in the Nov. 4 election, compared to 50,600 Democrats and 54,000 unaffiliated voters. Despite the huge partisan disadvantage, Democratic candidates for president, U.S. Senate and Congress all carried the county by healthy margins.

POLITICAL REFORM
Is good governance gone? (LA Daily News) we'd like to see open primaries adopted. Voters should be able to chose from among all the candidates running - not just their party - a chance that would help break up the 120 Club, which is our dysfunctional Legislature.

POLITISOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS
  • Blagogate (Jeffery T. Kuhner, Washington Times) Blagogate is about more than a brazen attempt by the Democratic governor to leverage a U.S. Senate seat in exchange for campaign contributions or a lucrative job for him and his wife. It is about a political culture in which bribery, influence-peddling, cronyism, abuse of power and misuse of public funds are widely practiced.
  • Obama Triangulates His 'Base' (By Brent Budowsky, Consortium News.com) Since his election on Nov. 4, Barack Obama has appeared more interested in cultivating and appeasing political opponents than thanking the tens of millions of Americans who backed him – and building on their grassroots support.
  • Catching up and thinking about tolerance (The Phoenix) While I commend their intellectual effort and attempt at compassion, I have to caution liberals and progressives about being too inclusive.
  • Conservatism v. Liberalism Part V: The history of…: 'Independence'-making the case for It and agains (by Hassan Giordano, Baltimore Independent Examiner)
  • How Historic a Victory? (By Michael Tomasky, New York Review of Books) Obama's win was strong enough that he didn't even need California (55 electoral votes) and New York (31). He could have spotted McCain those 86 navy-blue electoral votes, which he was never in danger of losing, and still finished with 279. It was, to use a nontechnical term on which political scientists and laypersons could surely agree, a wipeout. But was it, to use a technical term about which political scientists are more persnickety, a realignment?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

TODAY'S NEWS HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

OPEN PRIMARIES
  • Progressives and Independents (Liberal Arts Dude, Mirror On America) Here's an idea: how about Leftist Progressive activists join Independents in efforts for radical structural reform? One effort they can join very easily right now is the effort by Independents for Open Primaries.
  • Gumm wants open primaries (OkiePolitics.com) Oklahoma law currently mandates that parties have closed primaries. Gumms SB5 would allow party officials to open up the runoffs to independents (you know, swing voters like me) and members of rival parties.
  • It's Politics: Charles Calderon weary of political 'bickering' (By Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News) His solution? Bring back a version of the open primary that would in a sense turn all state offices as well as legislative races into non-partisan races, similar to how counties run.
 
POLITISOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS
  • Obama's Divisive Choice of Rick Warren (By Michelle Goldberg, Religion Dispatches) Warren is something of a magician. He has convinced much of the media and many influential Democrats that he represents a new, more centrist breed of evangelical with a broader agenda than the old religious right. 
  • Sturm and drang over Rick Warren (by kos, Daily Kos)
  • Taking Yes For An Answer (Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish)
  • Is Obama moving too far to the right? (The Daily Voice) Writing in Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford said Obama had earned a designation as a center-right politician after he had "endorsed the bankers' bailout, put the economy's future in the hands of the same people that set the stage for financial meltdown, and let Bush's War Secretary keep the keys to the imperial armory."

NEW YORK POLITICS/INDEPENDENCE PARTY
  • Judge upholds Independence Party status quo (BY TOM WROBLESKI, Staten Island Advance) In a ruling released yesterday, Justice Anthony Giacobbe said that Frank Morano's bid to wrest control of the county organization from chair Sarah Lyons was invalid.
  • Sharpton's Birthday Shout-Out To Council Candidate 'Johnny T' (Elixabeth Benjamin, Daily News/Daily Politics) Sharpton, who met recently with Tabacco at his National Action Network, called the candidate his "friend and brother" at last night's get-together and joked that he might be the only person who could bring Sharpton and Sliwa together.

Friday, December 19, 2008

fulani bloomberg

TODAY'S NEWS HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

POLITICAL REFORM
* Tucsonans should decide how city is run - Our view: Local elections should be nonpartisan, but change should be made by voters here, not at the Legislature (Arizona Star)

POLITISOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS
  • * Rich and Rick: A Post-Partisan Parable (By: Diana Butler Bass, Beliefnet) The challenge for progressive religious people is this:  Will we continue to stand in the story of the modernist-fundamentalist rift, or will we accept the invitation to pray with those whose views may offend us?
  • * Obama Team Takes Two Shapes (By GERALD F. SEIB, Wall Street Journal Online) The Obama transition is putting a new twist on that idea. The president-elect is giving the country two administrations for the price of one.

NEW YORK POLITICS/INDEPENDENCE PARTY
  • * Bloomberg Leaning Toward Independent In '09 (Elizabeth Benjamin, NY Daily News/Daily Politics) The mayor hasn't ruled out seeking the Independence Party line again, either, although he might face a challenge there from Lenora Fulani, who is mulling her own run for mayor.
  • * Fulani vs. Bloomberg? (Elizabeth Benjamin, NY Daily News/Daily Politics) Last summer, Fulani launched an exploratory committee for a 2009 potential mayoral run. As an enrolled member of the Independence Party, all she has to do is circulate petitions; she needs no permission to run from Indy leaders. Not so for Bloomberg. Since the state's highest court has sided with Fulani and her supporters in their legal fight with state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay, a Bloomberg ally, over who controls Wilson Pakulas in citywide races, they would have to grant him the right to run on the line.

BOOK REVIEW
* In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third Party Movements in the United States by Omar Ali (An Ordinary Person) I also found insightful the later accounts of African-American political participation in the post-segregation era. Martin Luther King Jr. warned of the perils of over-reliance and dependency on one major political party (in this case, the Democrats) and to pin all of one’s hopes and political efforts in that arena.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Progressives and Independents

I: Kicking the Left with Impunity

There was an interesting discussion at the Open Left blog today in the wake of Barack Obama picking conservative evangelical pastor Rick Warren to say the convocation at his Presidential inauguration:

[T]here are clear benefits for Democrats who are able to generate public, left-wing outrage against their actions…This is a widely held view, and is openly shared by Democrats as high ranking as Rahm Emanuel. As long as the generation of public, left-wing outrage toward their actions is understood to be politically beneficial to Democrats, then many Democrats will continue to undertake actions that have the direct or indirect goal of generating public, left-wing outrage at their actions. This is pretty straightforward. As long as the cost of annoying progressives is not only zero, but actually a net positive, then Democrats will continue to annoy progressives ad infinitum.


For a solution, the article argues:

Progressives must make the political cost of such actions unacceptable to the Democrats who are willing to undertake such actions for political benefit. At the congressional level, I accept kos's premise that the only means of holding Democrats accountable for angering progressives are primary challenges (sitting on your hands or supporting third-party candidates just doesn't work). Or, to be a bit more accurate, the only way for outsiders like us to engage in progressive accountability for Democrats in Congress is to spend actual resources attacking a member of Congress in his or her district.


The commenter “leftvet” observes:

The only accountability that works for politicians are political consequences. The left is currently unable to exact political consequences on any politician, so we are, of course, ignored or vilified. Chris has summed it up very well. Progressives have no real choice but to continue to support mainstream Democrats, no matter how many times they f**k us over, because there is no other electoral option available to us. The Dems know it, and continue to exploit that situation.


This conversation is fascinating to me on so many levels. As someone who self-identifies as a Progressive, it is truly maddening to witness case after case after case of Democrats kicking Progressive values and politics to the curb once they get elected even after they ran on the promise and symbolism of Progressive idealism. It is as if once elected, the best way to gain political credibility is to take gratuitous potshots at liberals and left-wingers who supported them in elections.

The discussion at Open Left, although it hits upon many of the right points, completely misses a very big point -- not everyone agrees the best strategy to enact a Progressive agenda is to elect Democrats into office. Many people who are potential supporters of any Progressive movement are NOT Democrats, have absolutely no intention of being Democrats, and do not have any particular loyalty to the Democratic Party given the party’s record on many issues Progressives care deeply about.

No one seems to be seriously talking about appealing to and bringing Independents into the fold -- and this comes at a time when satisfaction with government is at an all-time low and the number of people who are self-identifying politically as anything other than Democrats and Republicans is at an all-time high. I don’t claim to be an all-knowing political guru but I am tired of Progressives getting their asses kicked by Democrats in the process of playing by the rules of the game of American electoral politics.

Is the only viable goal for Progressive activism to elect Democrats into office (even if they are better Democrats)?

II: The Fight for Open Primaries

Here’s an idea: how about Leftist Progressive activists join Independents in efforts for radical structural reform? One effort they can join very easily right now is the effort by Independents for Open Primaries. A petition is circulating right now to ask President Barack Obama to:

• Initiate and support federal legislation to create open primaries for election to federal office in all 50 states that guarantees full access for independent voters;

• Establish a Presidential Task Force on Political and Electoral Reform that includes representatives of the broad movement of independent voters to consider sweeping nonpartisan reform of the electoral process and its administration;

• Use the bully pulpit to speak out on the importance of open primaries and the inclusion of independents in all aspects of the electoral and political process.

They are trying to reach 1,000 signatures by Inauguration. This is one way Progressives can get themselves introduced to the burgeoning movement among Independents who, increasingly, are becoming aware of their political potential. It is one way Progressives can form a bridge with Independents to join in an effort they care about (and which stands to benefit voters and political parties who seek a viable alternative to the Democrats).

san francisco

TODAY'S NEWS HEADLINES for INDEPENDENT VOTERS

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
* Obama's team (LETTER from Cliff Hodge, Westlake Village, The Agoura Hills Acorn - CA) Frankly, I would like to see some ordinary folks involved as advisers to Obama.
  

OPEN PRIMARIES/POLITICAL REFORM
  • * After Prop. 11, Gov ponders next move (By John Howard, Capitol Weekly) California has what is called a modified closed primary. In this system, the parties determine whether those registered as declined-to-state can vote in the party’s primary election. Generally, that means declined-to-state voters can cast ballots in most primaries except presidential and party leadership positions.
  • * Calderon unveils his own 'open primary' plan (Sac Bee/Capitol Alert) Calderon's office said the assemblyman's legislation will be modeled after the Washington law.
  • * Governor rejoices in redistrict measure's win (John Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle) When voters this summer saw partisan squabbling send the state's budget deliberations months over deadline before any agreement could be reached and Sacramento virtually paralyzed, they wanted changes, the governor said.
  • * Tucson's election system is unfair, but Phoenix should back down (By Jim Sinex, ARIZONA DAILY STAR) "...Senator-elect Jonathan Paton from Legislative District 30 wants the state to force Tucson into a nonpartisan election system. This is another call for strong centralized control from Phoenix."
  • * Governor Schwarzenegger Touts Redistricting Reform (Sacramento Scope/Imperial Valley News) Delivering on the Governor’s promise to take redistricting out of the hands of legislators, Proposition 11 creates an independent 14-person commission charged with drawing district boundaries for the Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization. It will be comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans and four others that will all be selected through a nomination process overseen by the state auditor.
  • * No Special Election For Obama's Seat (US News & World Report/Political Bulletin) Facing the potential prospect of a Republican winning President-elect Obama's Senate seat if a special election were held, media reports note that Illinois Democrats on Tuesday indicated they would not pursue that avenue to fill the vacancy.
  • * Ipsos/McClatchy Poll: Illinois voters say Blagojevich must go (By Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers) 44 percent said the state should have a special election

POLITISOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS
  • * The case of the vanishing GOP voter (By Eric Fehrnstrom, Boston Globe) The good news is that the worst for Republicans did not happen. There was no major political realignment. The most awful predictions of GOP losses in the Congress did not come to pass. A few states changed from red to blue, but only a few.
  • * House GOP Faces A Long March, Not A Sprint - A 1994-Style Reversal Would Require An Enormous Shift In The Political Climate And Retooling Of The Republican Brand (National Journal, by Charlie Cook and David Wasserman)