Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The term "open primary" has been defined in US Supreme Court decisions and in political science books for over 100 years, to mean that on primary day, a voter is free to choose which party's primary to vote in.
The Maldonado/Schwarzenegger proposal is not an "open primary". It is a "top-two" primary.
Washington state tried the "top-two" primary for the first time in 2008. The results: (1) lower voter turnout in the August 2008 primary than 4 years ago (4 years ago was a classic open primary), and that is according to the Washington Secretary of State's web page. (2) for the first time since Washington became a state in 1889, there were no minor party or independent candidates on the November ballot for any congressional race or any statewide state race. (3) Washington state in November 2008 had fewer legislative seats switching parties than the average state did that year, and no US House seats changed hands; and only one incumbent lost in the primary out of 123 state legislative races, and all US House incumbents were re-elected. Top-two in practice turned out to be very good for incumbents and very bad for people who want to express themselves in November by voting for a minor party or independent candidate.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
- California discusses inclusion of "decline to state" voters in primaries -- will pull the parties together against it...
- West Virginia Repubs discuss closing their primary
- Charlie Cook says independents support Obama's "bipartisan" approach in Congress -- now the parties need to follow suit...
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
...lend me you Ears!
Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
- * Open-primary proposal could shake up politics (By James P. Sweeney, U-T SACRAMENTO BUREAU) “It is a misnomer to call this an open primary,” said state Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring, who lives in Crest in San Diego County. “It is not an open primary, it is the abolition of primaries.”
- * Stop the budget madness with some common-sense reforms (Steve Lopez, LA Times) as a current New Yorker article points out. According to one poll, 28% of Republicans and 56% of independent voters supported President Obama's stimulus plan, but only three Senate Republicans signed on.
- * Schwarzenegger skips GOP convention ... to meet with Obama (San Francisco Gate) While the Republicans are railing against Schwarzenegger on taxes and considering censuring their own who voted for the state budget, Schwarzenegger sidesteps it all: He's in Washington, D.C., for the National Governor's Association get-together, meeting with Obama and other administration officials on climate change and key economic topics.
- * Leading Democrats sweet on 'sweetener' proposal (By Steven Harmon, MediaNews Sacramento Bureau, Mercury News) In an open primary, the two top vote getters would face off against each other in the general election, regardless of party. Conceivably, two Democrats could be vying for the vote of all voters in a safe Democratic district, and vice versa in Republican districts.
- * Guest Commentary: Don’t close open primaries (By: A.C. Kleinheider, Nashville City Paper) In a closed system, the two parties will elect candidates who reflect the activist core of the party. While that suits that activist core just fine it does not serve the people of Tennessee. Like it or not, in America, we have a two-party system. It is not in our founding documents but it is an inextricable part of our system.
- * Poll: Florida Voters Like Obama, Are Split On Stimulus Plan (By Catherine Dolinski, Tampa Bay Online)
- * President and Governor Remain Popular in Florida (Associated Press, Tallahassee, Fla) A Quinnipiac spokesman says the high approval ratings for both Obama and Crist are the result of strong support form crossover and independent voters.
- * TN politicos want to return to the dark ages (KnoxNews.com) Politicians talk a good game about getting the vote out, but their most recent actions speak loudly just the opposite. Closing the primaries will alienate the majority independent voters.
- * Poll says Democrats fare poorly with independents- The Democratic leadership is faring poorly with independent voters in the U.S. who had supported President Obama's election bid and his appeal to bi-partisanship. Obama's first month in office has disappointed them. (Spero Forum)
- * California Budget Deal Costs 3rd Parties (Green Party Watch) This deal provides the only way that Maldonado can achieve a statewide office where his being willing to compromise on the budget would appeal to independent voters.
- * Q-Poll: More gaudy numbers for Obama and Crist, less so for stimulus (by Aaron Deslatte, Orlando Sentinel) "The key to high voter approval ratings for Democrat Obama and Republican Crist is party crossover and the good will of independent voters: The President gets a 33 - 47 percent approval from Republicans and a 66 - 22 percent thumbs up from independents, while Crist gets a 66 - 22 percent score from Democrats and a 63 - 24 percent nod from independents.
- * The Maldonado Effect (By PETE ABEL, Managing Editor, The Moderate Voice)
- * Poll: New Yorkers want income tax hike for rich (BY KENNETH LOVETTDAILY NEWS ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF, NY Daily News) By a 56-38% margin, New Yorkers support the idea, including more than two-thirds of Democrats and nearly 60% of independent voters, according to the Quinnipiac University poll.
- * Oliver Honored By Independence Party (Politics on the Hudson) Laureen Oliver, who helped found the state’s Independence Party and was its first chair, was honored by the party last week and unanimously named its first chairman emeritus.
- * Cuomo brings initiative to consolidation (Schenecktady Daily Gazette) He has been getting a positive response from his audiences, including local officials in western New York, a meeting of the state Conservative Party and the annual convention of the New York State Association of Counties.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
- NYC Independence Party strategists Fred Newman and Jackie Salit spoke with Mayor Bloomberg's campaign manager recently...
- Mayor Boss Tweed Bloomberg?
- Queens County Independence Party Chair Molly Honigsfeld and Chair Emeritus Jerry Everett attended NY State Senator Frank Padavan's swearing in....
- Independent voters get a day in court in Idaho, with attorney Harry Kresky arguing for voters' rights over parties rights' for open primaries
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
- While waiting at JFK in New York on part of my relaxing 12-hour flight to Ft. Myers Florida last week (more about that later!), I had trouble logging in to the webcast of the American Citizens' Summit hosted by the Transpartisan Alliance, but here's a Green Party press release and a post by Ordinary Person and by Georgia Independents that gives you a sense of the participation.
- Tennessee state legislature entertains partisan registration bill -- would you want these people telling you what party you belong to???
- Dan Walters' on the rise of independent voters and the prospect of open primaries in California
- South Dakota legislature gives parties rights to closed primaries -- are they horse trading with voters' rights?
- Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor and Publisher, has a new book out "Why Obama Won", noting effect of independent voters
- Barry Rascover in Maryland nails the problem with the Repubs, doesn't get the trend: Independents voted for Obama, but that doesn't make us Dems...
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Newman: All that might be true. I don't know. It sounds somewhat metaphorical to me. But the process has remained exactly the same.
Salit: The process for hammering out what Congress does, yes.
Newman: It's like people who come in to reform education and one side has a liberal view and the other side has a conservative view. But, when you get to the schools, the chairs are screwed into the floor in exactly the same way, no matter what....
Monday, February 09, 2009
Taking On the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga contains a very big contradiction. He set out to write a “Rules for Radicals” for the Internet Age -- a practical guidebook on how ordinary people who are not political or media insiders can use the power of social media and the Internet, combined with their own passion, ingenuity, creativity and beliefs, to influence the political process and win battles to promote the Progressive cause. His book, therefore, first and foremost, was a paean to small “d” democracy -- the power and potential for ordinary, average people to participate in a meaningful way in American politics.
Yet, Zuniga frames democratic participation in the book exclusively along the lines of how to influence the political process as Democrats. His case studies of political success stories primarily illustrate insurgent political activity within the Democratic Party (Jim Webb’s Senate candidacy and victory in Virginia, Ned Lamont’s challenge to Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, the electoral defeat in Virginia and political downfall of George “Macaca” Allen, Carol Shea-Porter’s inspiring victory against all odds for a House seat in New Hampshire). I thought to myself this seems to be a very narrow view of democratic participation. The book, when it mentions it at all, does not have a high regard and is dismissive about activism among people who do not consider themselves Democrats.
Zuniga’s perspective comes from his admiration for the practical, common-sense principles of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.
“We will start with the system because there is no other place to start from except political lunacy… It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation. To assume that political revolution can survive without the supporting base of popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics.”
Zuniga’s focus on the Democratic Party, therefore, seems to be an acknowledgement of the reality of the dominance of the two-party system in American politics. Zuniga’s focus is to work within that framework to be able to advance Progressive principles and goals. To do otherwise -- try to change the System as an outsider (via a third party or as an independent) -- will only relegate one to the political wilderness where one’s efforts, no matter how well-meaning, will be marginalized and largely ineffective. Progressives in America -- if they want to be effective --, therefore, should join the ongoing battle within the Democratic Party (and there is a battle going on) between the corporate-friendly DLC wing of the party and the insurgent, Progressive Netroots.
The contradiction becomes obvious at this point. Originally written as a guidebook for political outsiders to take on and influence the System, the book urges one to become a political insider and be part of the System. Register as a Democrat, support Democratic candidates, elect Democratic politicians to office, for Zuniga, is the primary and most effective way to “take on the System.” To be fair, he urges Progressives to support Progressive and populist Democrats. But still, this contradiction is jarring to me.
I can’t refute the reality of the entrenched two-party system and the practicality of working within its parameters. I also can’t refute the very real fact that third parties and independents function largely in the margins of American politics and have not gained traction in recent years to become viable as the political opposition. Even outsider electoral reform efforts such as the programs by FairVote (Instant Runoff Voting, the National Popular Vote) require the cooperation and support of elected politicians and hence, cannot afford to be marginal and to function outside of the mainstream.
At this point, it would be very easy for me to dismiss Zuniga’s book as not being very radical after all and not really a guidebook for political outsiders. I can rail at his theses as being misleading and perhaps even imply that the book is nothing more than a clever marketing ploy designed to negate the burgeoning dissatisfaction most Americans have with BOTH major parties (by asserting that the answer to that dissatisfaction is more support for the Democratic Party). But that would do a great disservice to his reality-based argument.
“We live in a world where there is no reason anyone should whine or complain that they are being shut out of the system. The tools are available to mount credible challenges to even the most entrenched of powers. Such efforts will always lack resources, and will mostly face well-funded, deeply entrenched foes, but innovative tactics and smart use of money can carry the day. (p. 240)”
My questions for Zuniga -- and I am still speaking as a Progressive here -- what if I am not a Democrat and don’t want to be one? Nothing against Democrats but what if I disagree with the strategy of electing Democrats into office as the primary way to define victory in the fight for Progressive politics? What if I adhere to beliefs and political positions that just don’t jibe with mainstream Democratic policies? Is there room for someone like me to make an impact in small “d” democracy in America or should I just resign myself to being in the fringes, marginal and irrelevant?
After all, being a Progressive within the Democratic Party seems to be no great shakes either. We’ve all seen how politicians like Dennis Kucinich and Progressive perspectives on foreign policy, trade, domestic policy, healthcare, etc. pretty much are marginalized in the Democratic Party. Even in newly-elected President’s Barack Obama’s administration, Progressives are outnumbered and outgunned in his cabinet appointments which are populated primarily by the DLC, corporate-friendly Democrats.
To be clear, I will support Progressive Democrats and I am 100% supportive of their efforts to transform the Democratic Party into a more inclusive, populist and Progressive political party. The bottom line for me, however, is although I found a lot to agree with in Zuniga’s book, I didn’t find that it spoke to me as a political outsider -- an independent Progressive. It didn’t answer my burning questions on how people like me can play a role in American politics other than as marginalized spectators.
All in all the Liberal Arts Dude gives Taking On the System four out of five stars. It would have gotten the full five stars if it provided better answers to my burning questions. But I found the book thought–provoking and that it generated a lot of introspection in me which led me to examine my own motivations for political participation.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Dr. Omar Ali, author of In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third-Party Movements in the United States, will be giving a Master Class on President's Day, February 16, at 11:00 am, at the All Stars Project, 543 W. 42nd St., NYC.
Dr. Ali is a professor of history in the Program in African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. He will discuss the history of the U.S. presidency from George Washington to Barack Obama, what role African Americans have played in advancing democracy in the nation, what kinds of coalitions were created between black, white, and other Americans to bring about the abolition of slavery to the advancement of civil and political rights, and how America’s independents have pushed for political changes and helped to elect the nation’s first black president.
Here's a review of In the Balance of Power.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Not sure whether this qualifies for off the beaten path, or on, for The Hankster, but I just attended a lecture at the Society of Illustrators on East 63rd Street. Jerelle Kraus was the Art Director of the Op-Ed page ("What? The NYTimes Op-Ed page has an "art director"???) at the New York Times for 13 years (interestingly, fired at least once for what was termed "insolence") and has quite a story to tell. The stories from Jerelle and her colleagues JC Suares and Brad Holland were facinating. Jerelle has just published a new book called All the Art That's Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn't) chock full of political art. What could be better??