Tuned in early tonight for Jackie Salit's conference call, featuring Mickey Edwards --
One of my favorite parts of these every six-week calls is the roll call. So many activists, so many states!!!
Intro by Nancy Ross,
Mickey Edwards, author of The Parties vs The People, How to Turn Democrats and Republicans into Americans, guest.
JS -- magnetic title, represented Oklahoma in Congress, speaks out about partisanship. Met at 225 Broadway at the CUIP offices, kindred.
So welcome to Mickey Edwards!
ME -- thanks
JS -- Provocative question: you have said that Americans have tried to take back their government but have not succeeded in using elections to do that.
ME -- We elect some group over another, doesn't work... I believe in the market system, not about the candidates, not about the voters, however -- closed primary primaries, when the candidates run for office, they are not thinking of the larger picture; focused on the narrow subset of primary voters.
We need broader choices. Only in our elections do we see private clubs proscribing our choices. Open market. Completely anti-democratic. Parties: take it or leave it! I just couldn't stand it anymore!
JS -- tell us about your experience in Congress. Share why you decided to run for Cong and what happened when you got there?
ME -- I had a vision when I ran. Belonged to a political party, but when I got elected, I crossed a magic line, supposed to represent the people. However everything was straight part line in voting within the Congress. Not sitting as Americans deciding theses issues. Was involved in committee negotiations. Members commit to party line before the vote. Party leaders run the process. That bothered me. Another example, redistricting -- Jackie, I'm a Republican -- won in a Democratic district. They redistricted me. Oklahoma City district was cut way up to Kansas and over to Arkansas. Looked at the Constitution. Constituents need to know the representative.... I'm from the City, don't know much about farmers and ranchers, their representation was not there, however it somehow benefited the party in power.
And by the way, nobody said in our governmental structure that reps should be divided according to "aisles" according to party.
JS -- The rigidity of the political system that hurts us -- winner take all. What do you say to people who say that that kind of rigidity is necessary for our kind of political system?
ME -- Yes, that works for prior systems, however, our Founding Fathers decided we wanted a citizen-directed form of government. Parliamentary systems are very easy to measure. But we rejected that form. We wanted a system of representation that speaks for the actual people in the districts.
JS -- Mickey, was it hard (emotionally) to write this, to take this position?
ME -- (chuckles) Frankly I was angry. How could it happen that people have all these experiences and yet we are locked into a party that tells us we have to do this or that on behalf of the party.
JS -- Many people on the call probably believe that open primaries would make a difference, Open Primaries Top Two won in California...
ME -- The primary system was progressive, democratic in the beginning, but the people in California and Washington State proved that we can change this. However, the Speaker of the House doesn't have to be a party leader. Look at Canada. You could have Colin Powell be the Speaker of the House. Or you could have the Speaker get 60 percent of the House.
Why do you have Speaker staff Dems and Repubs issuing policy papers?
JS -- 40% of Americans consider themselves independent, what do you think about the influence of independents?
ME -- The revolution is already underway! When Scott Brown got elected, people said, how did that happen in a Dem state? Well, because of the independents.
It's a matter of confrontation! Get people together to demand whatever you need and. This is about private clubs. That's what the parties are.
When I was in office, I had a lot of town meetings where I was confronted with voters who refused to accept a partisan excuse.
JS -- What do you think about Barack Obama and his independent coalition that won the White House, gets there and is faced with the partisan trap? What does he say?
ME -- He wanted to govern as a non-partisan, but misunderstood the partisan system. He proposed things that you might be able to forge a compromise around. But Nancy Pelosi said no -- WE won the election, here's the agenda.... [talks about talking with students about separation of powers - executive, legislative, judicial...] His heart was in the right place, but he misread the partisan politics of the job.
JS -- Yes, that provides insight to what's happening, and to the American people, and to The President: I love that you used "Parties vs. The People" -- your message really speaks to the sentiment of independents and the independent movement.