Tuesday, November 30, 2010

There May Be a Partisan Divide, But Independents Are Coming Together

Committee for a Unified Independent Party
DOES POWER SHARING IN WASHINGTON MEAN
THAT THE PEOPLE WILL HAVE MORE POWER?

Salit headshot            Join us on the next National Conference Call for Independents led by
          Independentvoting.org President
Jackie Salit

Date:  MONDAY, December 6th
Time: 8:30 pm ET
        7:30 pm CT, 6:30 pm MT, 5:30 pm PT

                     For more information contact Nancy Ross or Gwen Mandell at national@cuip.org or
phone:  800-288-3201 or 212-609-2800

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
  • Ask the Indys (By Azi Paybarah, WNYC/The Empire) Jackie Salit, a nationally recognized figure in the Independence Party movement is hosting a conference call next Monday
  • Poll: Americans want Obama and GOP to work together (By: CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser) The survey indicates a partisan divide on the issue, with 94 percent of Democrats saying the GOP should cooperate with Obama and congressional Democrats, with more seven in ten independent voters agreeing. But Republicans appear divided, with 49 percent saying the two sides should try to reach common ground and 47 percent saying that GOP leaders should stick to their beliefs even if it causes political gridlock.
OPEN PRIMARIES
BLOOMBERG 2010
CALIFORNIA
  • Capitol Alert: State's first-ever redistricting commission to kick off Tuesday (By Jim Sanders, Fresno Bee) Members include two voters who decline to state a party affiliation, Stanley Forbes of Yolo County and Connie Galambos Malloy of Alameda County
  • Reaching for a Legacy: A “Nonpartisan” Surrender? (By Peter Schrag, California Progress Report) Maybe the longest lasting reforms of Schwarzenegger’s years in Sacramento will be the changes in the elections process –the commission that will replace the legislature in drawing legislative and congressional districts and the creation of the “top two” election process, approved by the voters last June, in which Californians can choose any candidate regardless of party in the primary and in which the top two vote getters, again regardless of party, will face off in the general election.
EDUCATION REFORM
LAST WORD
  • American exceptionalism: an old idea and a new political battle (By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post) With a more intellectual sheen than the false assertions that Obama is secretly a Muslim or that he was born in Kenya, an argument over American exceptionalism "is a respectable way of raising the question of whether Obama is one of us," said William Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Hankster: A Declaration of Thankfulness -- Wishing You an Independent Holiday Season!

Thanksgiving greetings from The Hankster -- Hope you had a great holiday weekend!


In thinking about this holiday season, I was reminded of how the independent movement has advanced. From Lenora Fulani's campaign for fair elections in 1988, to Ross Perot's astounding 19% of the vote in 1992, to the election of Barack Obama in 2008, independents have been at the forefront of political reform and change in America for decades.

In fact, as my colleague Randy Miller, founder of Utah League of Independent Voters (ULIV), just said to me:  No change in America has taken place without independents, from the abolitionists and women's suffrage movements to the modern day civil rights movement.  As Randy pointed out, "We were established as an anti-establishment country."


I am reminded that the tagline for The Hankster is

WHERE THE INDEPENDENTS ARE.....A daily news feed of, by and for Independents across America.

The Hankster got started in 2006 from a ten-year research project to inform a growing independent movement of grassroots activists about what the mainstream media and pundits were saying about us independents. If you read The Hankster on a regular basis, you probably realize that we link to mainstream media pieces that comment on independent voters regardless of ideological perspective. Commentary comes from the left, center and right, and indeed independents fall across the political spectrum. News consists mostly of polls or other analysis that bears little resemblance to the opinions and activity of actual independent voters. We think you should be aware of the full spectrum.

As we head into the next year, we think it's worth taking a moment to consider that the independent movement has grown by leaps and bounds since 2006. Independents in New York elected the first independent mayor in 2009 and put nonpartisan elections on the public agenda. California independents won a referendum that will implement a Top Two Open Primary and include 3.4 million decline-to-state" independents in 2012.

Grassroots activists like Randy Miller, Joelle Riddle of Colorado, Michael Lewis of Kentucky, and hundreds more across the country, have created openings within the electoral process to have the voices of independents heard.

Over the past year, The Hankster has brought you notes and reports of, by and for independents such as:

Dr. Omar H. AliAssociate Professor, African American and Diaspora Studies, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, author of In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third Party Movements in the United States, and In the Lion's Mouth: Black Populism in the New South, 1886-1900. Watch for his upcoming column on The Hankster

Harry Kresky: NYC attorney representing CUIP (independentvoting.org), blogs at Legal Briefs, posts from time to time on The Hankster; represented independents at NYC Charter Revision Commission hearings summer 2010

Michael Lewis, chief organizer and chairman of Independent Kentucky, brought national attention to the demand from independents for open primary elections when CNN followed him into the “hornets’ nest” of the statehouse in Lexington during his campaign for election reform. 

Randy Miller
: Iraq vet, founder of Utah League of Independent Voters (ULIV), independent candidate for surveyor in his district 2010, contributor to The Hankster

Joelle Riddle, former independent commissioner in La Plata, Colorado, a founder of Independent Voters for Colorado. She brought a legal suit against the unfair laws that discriminate against independents in her state.

Jackie Salit, political strategist and a 30-year veteran of the independent political movement.  She managed all three of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaigns on the Independence Party line, which provided his core support and margin of victory for nonpartisan governance. As the president of IndependentVoting.org, Jackie conducts a regular national conference call with 140 activist independents from 40 states. She is also the executive editor of the Neo-Independent magazine.

You can also read profiles of independents in their own words -- grassroots activists like youth organizer Lyric, Vice Chair of the Queens Independence Party Bryan Puertas, independent activist Ramon Pena, and actress/ comedian Marian Rich...

We look forward to bringing you more reports, commentary and opinions by independents in the coming year!

And now for the news:


INDEPENDENT VOTERS
  • To Mobilize the Indies, We Need Stronger Unions (Michael Kazin, The New Republic/In-House Critics) Of all the social groups essential to a winning Democratic coalition, white working-class people are the only ones who, for the most part, currently lack sturdy institutions that promote progressive ideas and policies.
  • Larry Abrams: The Devil and Barack Obama (By Huffington Post, in Capitol Hill Blue) The weak link in the Obama candidacy was always that in his reasoned appeal to liberals and so-called independents, he was leaving behind the ethnic, white working class base of the old New Deal coalition.
  • Independents Are Up For Grabs In 2012 Election (Samantha Yerks, Neon Tommy - Annenberg Center, USC) The majority of Americans, however, now identify themselves as decline to state voters or Independents, falling into the middle of the ideological spectrum.
OPEN PRIMARIES
BLOOMBERG 2012
  • New Yorkers Doubt That Bloomberg Would Make a Good President (BRUCE DRAKE Contributing Editor, Politics Daily) While Bloomberg certainly has the money to launch a third-party bid that would make an impact, he would not have the support of the city's independent voters. Sixty-one percent of them say he would not make a good president.
INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING
NEW YORK
EDUCATION REFORM
  • Education Reform -- Crashing on the Bell Curve (Steve Nelson, Head of the Calhoun School in Manhattan, Huffington Post) But educational policy makers and social commentators, including the President and Education Secretary, blindly operate on the opposite cause and effect premise: that the increase in wealth disparity is somehow caused by the erosion of educational standards and if we only demand more of poor children, particularly children of color, social injustice will be cured…. All the hot rhetoric over educational achievement is nonsense. The problem in America is a dangerous class divide, not a crisis in teaching and learning. Until we address deepening poverty, demoralizing unemployment and insidious racism, too many American children will fulfill the sad prophesy they inherit.
  • The mismatch between Duncan's words, actions (By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post/The Answer Sheet)
  • Outgoing NYC Schools Chief Klein: School Reform Momentum Will Continue (PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer) Oh, I think the fact that our families have many more choices. We have opened up almost 500 schools, Jeffrey, over the last eight years. That's more than most cities have.
  • Can Mark Zuckerberg’s Money Save Newark’s Schools? - Newark hit the jackpot with a $100 million donation from the Facebook founder to aid its ailing schools. Now the country will be watching for results—and mistakes. (Newsweek Education)
  • News Corp., After Hiring Klein, Buys Technology Partner in a City Schools Project (By FERNANDA SANTOS, NY Times) On Monday, News Corporation announced that it had signed an agreement to buy 90 percent of Wireless Generation for $360 million in cash, its first foray into the for-profit world of education since its book publishing arm, Harper Collins, got out of the textbook business in the mid-1990s. The deal thrusts one of the world’s largest media conglomerates behind a concept championed by New York City’s schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein: a numbers-based system to evaluate and rank schools and to improve teaching.
OBAMA
NEW YORK

Monday, November 22, 2010

the dinner party


Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, 4th Floor, Brooklyn Museum

Michael Lewis: Kentucky's Chief Independent Organizer in the Hornet's Nest

Michael Lewis, chief organizer and chairman of Independent Kentucky, collected way more than enough signatures to run as an independent in the November general election for representative in KY House District 35.  Lewis brought national attention to the demand from independents for open primary elections (a bill for open primaries was introduced into the State House by Rep. Jimmy Higdon) when CNN followed him into the “hornets’ nest” of the statehouse in Lexington during his campaign for election reform. During this segment, former governor and Senator Juliann Carroll said "if you don't like the way America runs its political system, then you need to move to another country."

Below is Lewis’s account of one moment of his campaign for fair elections.



I was honored when I received a message from “The Hankster” asking if I wouldn’t mind telling everyone about my interesting election day. However to start at the Election Day would be unfair to anyone interested, so please allow me to fill in the dots to those outside of Kentucky.

Exactly 5 weeks before the election, I was out on the campaign trail walking neighborhoods when I got a very unsettling call from my wife.  As she started to explain what we just received in the mail, I couldn’t help myself to the feeling of being kicked in the stomach by a donkey! As it turns out I really was being kicked by a donkey…or a few, really. I was just served a legal summons, filed by attorney Jennifer Moore, former Kentucky Democrat Chairwoman. The plaintiff Greg Reddington is the former senior advisor to Louisville’s current Mayor Jerry Abramson (D) who has been in office for over 20 years.

Independent Kentucky in action. (Lewis is seated at the right)
My first thought… Wow, I’ve walked into the hornets’ nest! I was in disbelief, how could this be happening? After taking a moment to reflect on what I had done throughout the year and what I was there to accomplish. At that moment I decided I had already won a major victory!

As an Independent candidate, I shouldn’t have held the attention of my Democrat opponent for even a minute. However something made him or his party, take notice. Whether it was my message was clear “It doesn’t take a party to listen and respond to the needs of the people” or my active campaign of walking neighborhoods that haven’t been walked by a candidate in 8 years.

Nonetheless, as an independent, I was required by state law to submit 100 signatures of registered voters from my district. Just for the record my Democrat opponent only had to produce 2 signatures. I submitted 164, of which the lawsuit and courts ruled only 93 were valid. I did produce evidence that 100 were in fact registered but 7 registered after they signed my petition, but were still allowed to vote in the election.

So at the point of the final judgment where I was informed my votes wouldn’t count, there was 1 week until the election. So I did what any good candidate would do, I went campaigning! I wasn’t going to allow a bully tactic to take me away from taking a message to the people in my district. I think everyone appreciated the drive as well.

Now onto the original request Election Day!

While most candidates have a busy election day with “Get Out the Vote” efforts, this candidate quickly switched gears back to his Independent Kentucky Chairman role and began working to secure our progress from earlier in the year with our “Semi Open Primary Campaign”.


In 2010 Independent Kentucky had positioned our semi-open primary bill as a win/win for everyone in Kentucky and the state GOP was on board from the start. So I continued to build off our overwhelming win in the Senate and decided to work towards more success in the House where we have been stonewalled for the last 3 years. Independent Kentucky has faced overwhelming opposition in the House because of the controlling party’s unwillingness to consider the 185,000 independents in the state that they have chosen to isolate.

My wife and I were invited to several “Victory” parties on election night. We chose to attend the GOP event in downtown Louisville because the Republicans were looking to make history and pick up a large number of seats. It only took a few minutes to settle in and start working the crowd before we met up with Republican Wade Hurt who had won his race on the same technicality I lost my race. I was able to get a good amount of time with Wade and was able to get a commitment for support and an open door to Independent Kentucky and our movement. After listening to a great speech by a defeated Mayoral Candidate Hal Hiner, I was able to track down Republican new comer Mike Nemis who was able to celebrate a large victory by beating out a long time Democrat incumbent. His campaign was very impressive and a true grassroots achievement. Rep-elect Nemis has taken a big interest in Independent Kentucky and their activates and we are looking forward to working with him in the future!

As the night began to come to an end and the winners and loser thought about their campaigns, I thought about my election day and I was very proud of the outcome. I didn’t spend my election day campaigning for myself but for the 185,000 independents statewide who are looking for a voice in Kentucky!

You can reach Lewis at independentky@gmail.com

Independents sent Barack Obama to Washington to shake the sucker up and the parties ate him for breakfast

As Jackie Salit said last week on her conference call to kick off her organizing for the national conference "Can Independents Reform America?" coming up in NYC over the weekend of February 12, 2011, independents are among the most misunderstood constituencies around. Today's round-up of news about independents below is a glowing example of just that. Independents, Salit says, sent Barack Obama to Washington to "shake the sucker up" and "the parties ate him for breakfast."

While indies are increasingly calling for, voting for -- and winning -- reform of the process, reforms that would help America break out of partisan shackles (i.e. the Top Two Open Primary that won in California in June, Proposition 20-which expanded the California Redistricting Commission's mandate to include Congressional districts-passed by 20 points; Proposition 27, a bi-partisan ploy to dismantle the Commission, was defeated by a similar margin; and in Florida, the voters passed Amendment 5 by a 25 point margin, establishing clear, non-partisan guidelines for the drawing of legislative districts), the pundits search around for some equation they understand. Obama + Palin + Bloomberg = trouble for the Dems - or trouble for the Repubs, depending on your ideological slant...

By the way, Jackie Salit's next national conference call "DOES POWER SHARING IN WASHINGTON MEAN THAT THE PEOPLE WILL HAVE MORE POWER?" will be on Monday, December 6th, 8:30 EDT. For more information contact Nancy Ross or Gwen Mandell at national@cuip.org or phone:  800-288-3201 or 212-609-2800

I ran into City Hall News writer Chris Bragg at the paper's holiday mixer down at the Woolworth Tower Kitchen (a fave City Hall restaurant). He had just interviewed NY State Independence Party chair Frank MacKay (please see his wonderful portrait below) which lead to a conversation about the corruption of partisan politics. MacKay, a wheeler-dealer from way back, has completely isolated himself from the reform movement led by grassroots independents in favor of brokering deals with the Wilson Pakula in New York.

In the meantime, the NYC organizations of the IP keep organizing the grassroots. New York City's first independent Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was elected with 150,000 votes on the IP line in 2009. In 2010, they recruited 4,200 independents to join local County Committees, and supported the fight for a "top two" open primary system for New York City. Coming up Sunday, December 12th is the 11th Annual Anti-Corruption Awards, this year going to Dr. Omar H. Ali and Bradley Tusk.

Omar H. Ali is a professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, a respected author who has written extensively about shifting political alliances in the black community, and a frequent commentator on CNN, PBS and the History Channel. He is one of the country's foremost advocates for open primaries and non-partisan elections.

Bradley Tusk is the founder of Tusk Strategies, a political and strategic consulting firm based in New York City. He served as Campaign Manager for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 2009 re-election campaign, and is a staunch supporter of structural reforms that would curb the power of the parties and increase the power of voters.

The event will take place at the Tribeca Grill in lower Manhattan.

And now for the news:


LEDE
  • The Real MacKay - A glimpse into the Independence Party chairman’s mind, and into his castle (Chris Bragg, The Capitol) MacKay throws four-course meals with Oheka’s owner, Gary Melius. They facilitate meetings between donors, politicians, investors and developers. The lunches also serve as a chance to woo MacKay, who has near-total control over many of the party’s local, and all the party’s statewide, endorsement decisions. Pretty much every major statewide candidate attended this year.

INDEPENDENT VOTERS

BLOOMBERG 2012

CALIFORNIA
  • EDITORIAL: A return to the Golden State - OUR VIEW: REDISTRICTING COMMISSION COULD BE FIRST STEP IN LONG JOURNEY BACK (North County Times)
  • Contrast between old, new (By Jim Boren, Fresno Bee) That means the extreme factions of both parties won't be the ones deciding the people who will run in the general election. The candidates will be more moderate and that means the Legislature will be much more willing to compromise as it moves to the political center.
NEW YORK
  • Bloomberg picks media boss as NYC school chancellor (By Stephen Millies, Workers World) “I think Bloomberg’s decision to appoint Cathleen Black is arrogant, absurd and unacceptable,” declared City Councilperson Charles Barron, who was the Freedom Party’s candidate for governor.
EDUCATION REFORM
  • Teachers Unions Not Representative of Teachers’ Changing Views (Gary Beckner, Town Hall) Unfortunately, teachers largely have been pushed aside as education reformers determine how to help America’s students catch up with the rest of the world. Teachers can thank the teacher union leadership for being excluded from the education reform decisions.
LAST WORD

Independent voters say 54 - 40 percent the United States should not be in Afghanistan.

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
  • November 18, 2010 - American Voters Say Ban Cell Phones While Driving, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Support For War In Afghanistan Collapses --  Independent voters say 54 - 40 percent the United States should not be in Afghanistan.


OPEN PRIMARIES
  • Open primaries in case of democracy (By Rosa Scarcelli, Bangor Daily News) There’s a clear choice missing among those wishing to advocate change to Maine’s election system. Missing is discussion of a reform that would be easy and inexpensive to implement as well as effective in increasing voter participation and reducing the negative campaign tactics associated with the political fringes. The change I’m talking about is open primaries.
  • Guest opinion: First, look in the mirror (GREG CUSACK, Des Moines Register) Abolish the caucus system, moving either to open primaries or to a ranking primary election in which the two or three candidates garnering the most votes proceed to the general election. Only in this way will we eliminate the steady march to the ideological extremes that characterize our times.
  • Quinn lobbies for "open" primary legislation (by Sean Crawford, WBEZ 91.5)
ELECTION REFORM
  • Drawing will choose Calif. redistricting finalists (By JULIET WILLIAMS Associated Press, Mercury News) The General Assembly will likely shelve Quinn's changes as party leaders use primaries as a way to keep tabs on who is voting and  target them  for campaign donations.
BLOOMBERG 2012
COLORADO
NEW YORK
EDUCATION REFORM

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Education Reform, Open Primaries, Nonpartisan Redistricting -- What Independent Voters Want

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
  • Voices & Viewpoints Fridays at 1 p.m. & 6 p.m. (Denise Franklin, NPR WFDD 88.5) Dr. Omar Ali describes the internal and cultural struggles of Muslim Americans post 911 through observation and personal experiences. In addition, CNN, Telemundo, C-Span 2 and other news outlets frequently seek Dr. Omar Ali as a national expert about the growing movement of people choosing to be Independent voters.

  • host Denise Franklin

    Voices & Viewpoints
    Fridays at 1 p.m. & 6 p.m.









    Join 88.5 WFDD and host Denise Franklin for conversations with local residents who are making or have made an impact nationally - or internationally.

    The Health & Medicine Report keeps you up-to-date on cutting-edge research.

    And you'll hear the viewpoints of our commentators on movies, books, life, and more.

    Voices & Viewpoints is a half hour of radio
    you won't hear anywhere else!
OPEN PRIMARIES
ELECTION REFORM
  • Drawing the lines (Salt Lake City Tribune) The best way to avoid political gerrymandering would be for Utah to create an independent redistricting commission, but Utah legislators have rejected repeated attempts to do that. An initiative petition by a group called the Fair Boundaries Coalition failed this year to get enough signatures to put its proposal for an independent commission before the voters.
BLOOMBERG 2012
COLORADO
NEW YORK
EDUCATION REFORM
LAST WORD

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Idaho: Full Participation and Democratic Openness v. Narrow Partisan Interests

Yesterday attorney Harry Kresky reported on his recent trip to Idaho to help defend independents there facing attack from a faction of the Idaho Republican Party hoping to close the primaries in order to control the electorate. Idaho does not have partisan registration, so closing the current open primary system in Idaho would require voters to declare a party.

Today Kresky and Idaho attorney Gary Allen filed this post-trial brief commenting on this important case.

Here's the conclusion of the brief and you can read the whole thing below.

The State of Idaho has adopted a primary system that protects important interests, including full participation and democratic openness. The State has determined these considerations are more important than narrow partisan interests. Idaho has a political culture that allows people to function not as Democrats or Republicans, but as citizens seeking to elect the best possible candidates to public office. The evidence shows that this system is working, and virtually all voters are voting sincerely for the person they believe is the best candidate, or at least one who is acceptable. The IRP [Idaho Republican Party] in Government dominates the Idaho legislature, but it has not voted to change the current system. The State's post-trial brief will speak to the substantial administrative burdens and expense of implementing the relief sought by the IRP Organization.
As a final point, Defendant-Intervenors emphasize that, should the IRP Organization prevail, independent voters, now twenty-eight percent of the electorate, would be barred from participating in the election that very often is the only one that counts.


Post Trial Brief Kresky Allen Idaho Case 1-08-Cv-00165-BLW



Monday, November 15, 2010

gettysburg

Harry Kresky: Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people” still needed defending

UPDATED 11.16.10 -- This just in: Defendants for independent voters filed a post trial brief. Read here:

Post Trial Brief Kresky Allen Idaho Case 1-08-Cv-00165-BLW

The Idaho Partisan Problem

by Harry Kresky

As I flew back to New York from Boise last month, I thought about our history as independents and felt a deep appreciation of this moment. 147 years after the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people” still needed defending.
Gettysburg, November 19, 1863 

In July 2008 I joined with Idaho attorney Gary Allen to represent 11 Idaho independent voters,  the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, Inc. (a/k/a independentvoting.org), and the American Independent Movement of Idaho seeking to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit brought by the Idaho Republican Party (“IRP”) to dismantle the State’s open primary system. Intervention was granted, and in October, 2010 the case went to trial. We are now awaiting a decision by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.

If the IRP wins the lawsuit, the 28 percent of the Idaho electorate who are independents, will be barred from participation in Idaho’s primary elections unless they registered into a political party which they do not wish to do. As the lawsuit progressed, it became apparent that more than the narrow issue of their participation in the first round of voting is at stake. At a time when Americans are deeply concerned with how partisanship is making it increasingly difficult to achieve consensus (or even constructive compromise) on the issues facing our country, plaintiffs  assert that the U.S. Constitution (which makes no mention of political parties) not only protects the right of citizens to organize  parties, but guarantees party organizations a dominant role in determining  the electoral framework.

The issue before the Court is the people v. the parties. As independents, we believe that  in a democracy the people determine the form of government and how those who govern are chosen. Apparently, not everyone agrees with this proposition. The expert witness retained by the IRP in support of its effort to close the primaries, a Professor at Duke University, had the following back and forth with me at his deposition:

Q.   Right.  Okay.  But isn't this whole thing about the voter?  Isn't that what democracy is?
A.   No, sir.
Q.   What is democracy?
A.   Democracy is about having a strong,  responsible, party system that offers a clearly articulated set of alternatives that educates voters and gives them the information they need to make informed choices.  Voters on their own can't make choices.
I can only hope that Gary and I made the people’s case.

Harry Kresky is an attorney based in NYC who represents CUIP (independentvoting.org). He blogs at Legal Briefs.

We have checked the Constitution, and there is no Divine Right of Party

Dispatch From the Frontlines: Cold Civil War

by Bryan Puertas

You have seen it. Election night maps carving up the country into red or blue territory. Rival camps broadcasting from their War Rooms, demonizing the other and inciting the faithful to arms. A downtrodden, suffering citizenry that pays the price for endless partisan fighting. Congratulations America, we have our own War of the Roses, a cold civil war that has been going on for over a century.

It may sound like hyperbole, but it’s helpful as a way to wrap your head around current events and decide how to move forward. This country was founded as a haven for those looking to escape the dynastic warfare of the old world, yet we have regressed to the point where we are saddled with two rival houses, alike in indignity, who tell us if only the other was out of the picture then they could finally get around to solving our problems. In the meantime, we are falling further and further behind on our economy, infrastructure, and quality of health and education. In short, the refusal of the parties to address problems unless they hold all the cards has made us broke, broken, sick, and stupid.

And mad. Definitely mad. Mad enough to renounce fealty to the parties and look to solve our problems ourselves. In less than a generation, the number of voters declaring their independence has grown to over 40%. And among the young, that number is over half. We have checked the Constitution, and there is no Divine Right of Party. Yet these two private clubs have infiltrated every branch of government, and their only interest is in keeping their position at any cost, regardless of who suffers. It is that spirit of party uber alles that holds back any progress or innovation, and if we are to move forward as a country, that is the biggest battle to be fought.

What does that battle look like?

It looks like nonpartisan redistricting. Open primaries. Initiative and Referendum. Term limits. Structural reforms that take away the institutional advantages the parties have written in for themselves after a over a century in power.

It looks like regular people like you in phone rooms, on street corners and doorsteps, in letters to the editor and commenting on the internet, opening up peoples' minds to an alternative to straight-down-the-party-line serfdom.

It looks like you, yes you, getting out your credit card and giving an uncomfortable amount of money to independentvoting.org, and then giving more than that next year.

It took twenty years of guerrilla movement building to open the primaries in California last June, and that’s the kind of existential threat the parties have made a business of crushing for over a century. Already there are court cases in Idaho and South Carolina attempting to undo our progress. The bigger we get, the more nasty and cutthroat they will get in return. It makes sense, they are at war. The cold civil war. Welcome to the front lines. Whose side are you on, We the People, or They the Parties?

Bryan Puertas is a campus organizer and fundraiser, as well as vice chair of the Queens County Independence Party. If reached at bpuertas@independentvoting.org, he will ask you to help build the independent movement. He's looking forward to hearing from you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kresky: Ensnaring Criminals or Creating Crimes?

If you haven't already checked out my friend and colleague attorney Harry Kresky's blog Legal Briefs, now's the time.

Kresky never fails to deliver a fresh philosophical take on the day's political events. Below is a link to his latest post about a sting operation targeting a group of unlikely suspects:
ENSNARING CRIMINALS OR CREATING CRIMES? The recent conviction of four men for plotting to blow up a New York synagogue presents one of the most peculiar and most troubling aspects of our criminal justice system, one which takes on new significance in the context of efforts to defend ourselves against terrorist attacks. The four were convicted for participating in a plot paid for and, for the most part, organized by a government informer. No synagogue was blown up. Indeed no one was harmed by the defendants' actions.
You can read about the particular case here.


apartment therapy

2010: The voters voted against politics as usual.

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
  • Two Regional Parties - Democrats, Republicans both retreating to geographic corners. (National Journal) The number of voters who consider themselves members of either party is dropping significantly, according to surveys. Independent voters fed up with the ways of Washington and politics as usual are inventing a new landscape in which neither party is safe.
  • The Morning After: What Independents Want (POSTED BY NANCY HANKS, The Moderate Voice) Structural political reform like open primaries, nonpartisan elections, initiative and referendum, nonpartisan redistricting...
  • Neither political party seems to get it (LETTER Des Moines Register) The voters voted against politics as usual.
  • The Post-Midterms Game Plan for Progressives (Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert L. Borosage, The Nation) Independents are not a stable group of voters with fixed opinions equidistant between two parties. Rather, independents tend to be voters who are paying less attention to politics, and with less information, than partisans. Most tend to favor one party over another. A fired-up base brings out the independents that lean to that party and may also help persuade true independents.
  • What a 'write-in' avalanche tells us about election (By the Peninsula Clarion, Alaska Journal of Commerce) In short: No matter what the "rules" are, Alaskans are going to find ways to vote the person, not the political party.
REFORM
BLOOMBERG 2012
  • Bloomberg is a good pick for 2012 (by ROBBIE OTTLEY, The Red and Black - University of Georgia) Maybe it’s time for the nation to look outside the two-party system toward an independent candidate for president. And maybe that candidate is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
COLORADO
CONNECTICUT
NEW YORK
LAST WORD
  • Stewart to Maddow: ‘I like you’ (Politico) At one point, Maddow said she was not simply looking to lift up the left, and was looking for bad arguments wherever she found them. Stewart argued that the same could be said of Fox, which he said was “ideological but not partisan.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

reflection

Power Sharing in Washington = More Power to the People?

DOES POWER SHARING IN WASHINGTON MEAN 
THAT THE PEOPLE WILL HAVE MORE POWER? 
Join Independentvoting.org President Jackie Salit on the next
National Conference Call for Independents

Date:  MONDAY, December 6th
Time: 8:30 pm ET, 7:30 pm CT, 6:30 pm MT, 5:30 pm PT

For more information contact Nancy Ross or Gwen Mandell
at national@cuip.org or phone: 800-288-3201 or 212-609-2800

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
OPEN PRIMARIES
  • Sun peeks through dark Sacramento clouds (GEORGE SKELTON, LA Times) Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who strongly advocated both independent redistricting and the open primary, says they'll "fundamentally change the way Sacramento operates."
REFORM
  • Alaska May Offer a View to Future Elections (By MATT BAI, NY Times) it’s also possible that Alaska’s defiant electorate, like the California voters who just approved a radical change to their voting system, is actually telling us something important about where American politics is headed, at a time when our system for selecting candidates feels increasingly anachronistic.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Partisan Frenzy and Voter Anger

The parties must whip us into a frenzy, says Jacqueline Salit, president of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party and executive editor of the Neo-Independent magazine, because "we must put one, or the other, or both, political parties in power" even though they are responsible for the mess we are in... And Ted Rall continues the thought" "The American people are angry that their government doesn't even pretend to give a damn about them.

INDEPENDENT VOTERS
  • The Parties are Over (Jacqueline Salit, Huffington Post) No wonder the Republicans and Democrats and their auxiliaries -- the tea parties, the unions, the media -- must whip us into a frenzy. Whether we are Foxites, MSNBCists, bloggers or bored stiff, we're now implored daily to get out to vote. Why? Not because voting develops our capacity to move the country forward. But because we must put one, or the other, or both, political parties in power -- even though separately and together, they brought us to this anxious and crummy place.
  • The Obama Postmortem - An autopsy of a political suicide (by Ted Rall, Boise Weekly) The takeaway is anger, not ideology. People are pissed. They hate the bailouts, but bailouts aren't the point. The American people are angry that their government doesn't even pretend to give a damn about them.
  • Patriotic still with one less ballot (By Collin Llewellyn, Eagle News - The Student Newspaper at Florida Gulf Coast University) Let's all take a cue from these independent voters. If you can't find what you're looking for within the two parties, look beyond them. If you're still stuck, embrace your right to not vote.
  • The Marks (Baldassare and DiCamillo) break down the election (Sac Bee/Capitol Alert) Baldassare said the election had revealed 10 trends in the state election: a strong environmentalist bent among voters, the importance of Latino voters, low approval for the Legislature, low trust in state government, the poor economy, disapproval of the budget crisis, the continuing popularity of President Barack Obama, an unpopular GOP, a reform-minded electorate and the large number of independent voters.
  • Poll: Independents Powered the 2010 GOP Sweep (By PETER ROFF, US News & World Report/Peter Roff)
  • Analysis: Report on the Democracy Corps and Resurgent Republic bipartisan post election poll (Democracy Corps - Carville - Greenberg) So, voters had plenty to say.  As Whit Ayers notes in his memo, independent voters were the carriers of that message, cutting their vote for Democrats by 13 points, giving the Republicans an 18-point margin.
  • 2010's Surprise Developments (By Charlie Cook, National Journal/Charlie Cook's Off to the Races) Beyond the symbolism and images, big mistakes were made and Democrats seem happy to blame President Obama and the economy and not accept responsibility for pursuing an agenda that turned independent voters, who had voted by an 18-point margin in 2006 for Democrats, to vote for Republicans by an 18-point margin in 2010, according to exit polls.
  • Poll: Independents fueled GOP wave (By JONATHAN MARTIN, Politico) commentary
INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING
INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES
TEA PARTY
TEXAS
  • On the Agenda: Closing in on what the election told us (By: Harvey Kronberg, News Austin 8) While Tuesday’s election was devastating for Democrats, it would be a mistake to think it was an affirmation of Republicans. In fact, exit polls report that more than half of those who voted last week have an equally negative view of both parties.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Omar Ali: In the Lion's Mouth: Black Populism in the New South, 1886-1900

Following the collapse of Reconstruction in 1877, African Americans organized a movement--distinct from the white Populist movement--in the South and parts of the Midwest for economic and political reform: Black Populism. Between 1886 and 1898, tens of thousands of black farmers, sharecroppers, and agrarian workers created their own organizations and tactics primarily under black leadership.

Dr. Omar H. Ali  has written a new book, In the Lion's Mouth: Black Populism in the New South, 1886-1900 (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010) which chronicles the largest independent black movement prior to the modern civil rights movement. Dr. Ali traces its origins, growth, and demise. It's particularly relevant to what independents are struggling with today in the building of a black and independent alliance.  

Reviews:
In the Lion's Mouth breaks new ground ... Omar Ali paints a compelling portrait of an independent movement. But understand that by independent, he does not mean separatist. It is an important distinction, for if we follow Ali’s arguments and the evidence he marshals seriously, we can only conclude that the white Populist movement, more than any, exhibited separatist tendencies. Ali flips the script, if you will, and compels us to rethink the entire history of late 19th century Southern politics.
—Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression

In this insightful survey of a generation of African American political activism, Omar Ali lays to rest the common misconception that black politics in the South ended with the death of Reconstruction. He shows how, during the 1880s and 1890s, two Populist movements, black and white, mainly separate and unequal, challenged the political status quo. Any one interested in the innovative and often bold political action undertaken by black southerners in these trying times will benefit from reading In the Lion’s Mouth.
—Charles Postel, author of The Populist Vision

COMING SOON:
Watch for Dr. Ali's new column on The Hankster, historical notes on independents throughout American history ... from the Abolitionists, the Populists, to today's movement of non-aligned voters.

California and Florida Voters: We Will Have Nonpartisan Redistricting!

California continues to lead the way in political reform. Back in June, passage of Prop 14, the Top Two Open Primary referendum, enfranchised 3.4 million independent decline-to-state voters in the state in the first round of voting.

And now, as Committee for a Unified Independent Party (IndependentVoting.org) Chief of Staff John Opdycke reported last week, voters in Florida are speaking out on the need for political reform:
Proposition 20-which expanded the California Redistricting Commission's mandate to include Congressional districts-passed by 20 points.  In addition, Proposition 27, a bi-partisan ploy to dismantle the Commission, was defeated by a similar margin.

And in Florida, the voters passed Amendment 5 by a 25 point margin. Its passage establishes clear, non-partisan guidelines for the drawing of legislative districts.

Opdycke goes on to point out the significance of these votes:
While the big story yesterday was the new Republican Congressional majority, the victory for redistricting reform in California and Florida was an important subtext.  The Democratic and Republican Parties have mastered the non-developmental game of capturing and recapturing the approximately 60 competitive Congressional districts.  But this back and forth blood sport-while making for good copy-does not provide the American people the opportunity to fully express their desire for change.  When voters have the opportunity to speak directly, as they did in Florida and California, without being filtered by the political parties, reform passes overwhelmingly.

REFORM
  • Voters make right call on redistricting (LA Daily Breeze) itizen redistricting will be a huge improvement over Legislature-drawn districts, which were so gerrymandered in 2001 that it's almost impossible for any seat to change hands from one party to the other.
MIDTERMS
  • What really happened in the 2010 election (By E.J. Dionne, Washington Post) Incumbent Democrats suffered a genuine backlash of voter discontent due to a weak economy with considerable concerns about job creation, deep skepticism among independents, poor turnout among key base groups, and strong enthusiasm among energized conservatives.
  • Can the Tea Party endure? (CNN International) The midterm elections dealt a powerful blow to President Obama and the Democratic Party as the country appeared to shift decisively to the right, moved by mass anger, "due to a combination of two kinds of fear," historian Michael Kazin told CNN.
COLORADO
BLOOMBERG
NEW YORK

Monday, November 08, 2010

Weirdness, Independents and the Midterm Elections

MIDTERMS
  • Weird Findings From 2010's Exit Poll Data (By Kevin Drum, Mother Jones) And then there are the "independents." The scare quotes are deliberate, because it's hard to know what to make of them. It's a big group and it shifted strongly Republican, which makes them an important factor in the election. But there's more to this.
  • Youth Turnout About 20%, Comparable to Recent Midterm Years (Circle - Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, Tufts University)
  • Time for the Tin Man to Show Some Heart (John Zogby, Forbes/DATA PLACE) As this election showed again, this is not an ideological nation, and there is no such thing as a mandate election for left or right policies. The truly independent voters who decide elections care very little about whether policies or candidates are liberal or conservative.
  • Tea Party Election Results Diluted in Highly Populated States (By Tom Moroney and Terrence Dopp, Bloomberg Businessweek)
  • Avlon: Tea Party Lost the Senate (FRUMFORUM NEWS, John Avlon)
  • In Washington, an Awkward Triangle of Power (By GERALD F. SEIB, Wall Street Journal) Overnight, the most important relationship in town is no longer between the president and his party's congressional leaders, but the uneasy triangle of Mr. Obama, Republican John Boehner, the likely new House Speaker, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
  • Tuesday's results are open to (careful) interpretation (By Dan Balz, Washington Post) Independents didn't just defect from Democrats - they deserted them in droves. If there is one number from all the exit polls that leaps out, it is from Ohio, where independents went for Republican Rob Portman, who won the Senate race, by a staggering 39 percentage points. In the state's gubernatorial election, independents backed winner John Kasich by 16 points. Overall, independents voted Tuesday for Republicans by a margin of 18 points. Two years ago, Democrats won them by eight points.
  • The Nation We Have, Not the Nation We Wish For (Mark Lilla, New York Review of Books blog) But there is still one powerful symbol the Democrats could capture because today’s Republicans explicitly reject it: fairness. “Life isn’t fair” is a refrain you hear constantly from the right. Yet there is a strong sense in the nation today that things are rigged, especially at the top of the economic ladder, and this has only intensified since the bailouts of early 2009. The unwillingness of the Obama administration to engage in economic populism in this intensely populist age, when skepticism of “Wall Street” just keeps rising, is utterly baffling to me. This is the one area where they could get a toehold, if not with the Tea Party hardcore then with the vast numbers of independents who sympathize with it and have floated back to the Republican Party because of it

OPEN PRIMARIES
  • Stop coddling voters (Reno News & Review) There have been four changes in elections in the last few cycles that have undermined democracy in Nevada and created an unsustainable cycle of ignorant voters and legislators, and rich and connected candidates. The four changes were 1) term limits for some elected officials; 2) earlier primaries; 3) early voting, and 4) motor voter. There are other problems. For example, non-partisan, independent voters—the electorate that decides most elections in Nevada—are excluded from the primaries. Many states have open primaries that allow all registered voters to vote, which would allow every party to get better candidates, but that’s a topic for another editorial in about 18 months

NEW YORK


Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Parties Are Over!

The Parties Are Over (by Jacqueline Salit, NEW YORK NEWSDAY) Goodbye two-Party system? Discontent is building to open up the political process

Jacqueline Salit


“The Rise of Unaffiliated Voters” (Kathryn Mobley with Dr. Omar H. Ali, National Public Radio - 88.5 WFDD, North Carolina)
Dr. Omar H. Ali



EXCLUSIVE: Filmmaker Michael Moore on Midterm Elections, the Tea Party, and the Future of the Democratic Party (Democracy Now with Amy Goodman)
Michael Moore

Strong Showings by Independents and Third Parties on November 2

SELECTED INDEPENDENT ELECTION RESULTS

  • It’s Leahy in Vt.; Maine up for grabs (By Glenn Adams, Boston Globe) Independent Eliot Cutler was leading Republican Paul LePage as results were being tallied in Maine’s race for an open governor’s seat late last night.
  • GOP claims control of House, but Democrats still hopeful (By Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post) Democrats appeared to have picked up one seat after Rep. Kathleen Curry, an unaffiliated from Gunnison, lost her attempt to win through a write-in campaign, but she is likely to challenge the results in court.
NEW YORK

How Independents Used Their Votes on November 2

The Jim Crow of Bipartisan Rule (Dr. Omar Ali, The Public Professor blog) "Voting for candidates who offer a challenge to the rules of the game is a way of dealing a blow to the Jim Crow of bipartisan rule. It is also a way of building today’s independent movement and helping the nation move toward non-partisan governance. So, please, keep the movement and the long-term in mind when you cast your ballot this Tuesday."


Will Election Day be independents’ day? (By Susan Frick Carlman, Naperville IL Sun Times) "Four out of 10 voters would check “neither of the above” if asked to choose between Democratic and Republican loyalties, according to polls taken by CNN, ABC News, the Wall Street Journal and others. “It’s hovered around 40 percent since 2006, so it’s not spiked dramatically in the last year, but it hasn’t gone down,” said John Opdycke, an Evanston IL native and chief of staff at New York-based Independentvoting.org, the online presence of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party...“In general, independents are dissatisfied with partisan politics, and the way in which partisans have turned American civic and political life into a bloodsport,” he said. “And they express that dissatisfaction on Election Day, typically by voting against the party in power.”

Letter to the Editor/Staten Island Advance
By SARAH LYONS
ST. GEORGE

I applaud Borough President Jim Molinaro’s willingness to cross party lines and endorse Andrew Cuomo for governor.

Cuomo, of course, is not just running as a Democrat. He’s also on The Independence Party line. The more votes Cuomo receives on Column "C," the more pressure he’ll feel to govern in a non-partisan fashion.

That’s important because we’ve all seen the negative effects of party politics. Indeed, both major parties derive much of their power from the fact that voters have no other place to go. That’s why the independent movement, with its focus on structural political reform and opening up the process, remains so important and so relevant.

There’s another good choice in the governor’s race this year. It’s helping the fledgling Freedom Party win ballot status with 50,000 votes.

Launched by City Councilman Charles Barron as a challenge to the Democratic Party’s monopoly of the black and Latino vote, it’s an independent effort with the potential to bring much needed political options to a growing segment of New York City’s population.

Staten Island has vibrant minor parties in Independence, Conservative and Working Families. A minor party highlighting the interests of the African-American and Latino communities would be a welcome addition to the mix.

[The writer is chair of the Independence Party of Richmond County.]
Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010, 12:00 PM Updated: Thursday, October 28, 2010, 12:48 PM

Women, Independent Voters Show Biggest Swing From 2008 (FoxNews.com) Independent voters supported Democrats 51 percent of the time compared to 43 percent of the time for Republicans in 2008. But in 2010, the Democrats garnered only 39 percent of the independent vote compared to 55 percent for the GOP.