Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: Independents Rising by Jacqueline Salit


From the first words of Jackie Salit's upcoming book Independents Rising: Outsider Movements, Third Parties and the Struggle for a Post-Partisan America (out in stores on August 7, pre-order from Amazon) "For Sema/ Fiercely Independent" to the last "...George Washington warned that political parties can 'become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.' The American people want that power back. That's why independents are rising," this intimate, open and powerful portrait of the past two decades of the American independent political movement struck a deep chord with me.

Maybe that's because I've been working with Jackie since 1984 when I came on board the independent political train. Literally!  And while many of the stories were familiar to me, Salit locates them in the historical immediacy of 2012 making them thrilling while, in the process, helping to demystify a movement that has suffered from much punditry, speculation and conjecture.  Finally! An independent, an insider in a movement of outsiders, has spoken!

In the summer of 1984 I traveled with  my two very young daughters, Lucy and Rena from our home in Fieldsboro New Jersey, to the Big Apple, they to camp out at the offices of the New Alliance Party, then located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, while I went out with a team of professional grassroots organizers to promote the independent movement and sell the National Alliance newspaper on the New York City subway.  I loved it and with my NAP outreach partner, Rich Sokolow, we raised a helluva lot of money that day! Maybe $35 in quarters, dimes and singles?

In Independents Rising, Salit, President of IndependentVoting.org, a long-time grassroots organizer, thought leader and troublemaker, details the shift in the American political landscape that independents have been creating over the last two decades. In doing so, she speaks to us and with us--the activists, the politicians, the big shots, the middle shots--and most importantly us ordinary people who are fed up with politics as usual, feel betrayed by our political process and its exclusion of regular people.

Salit begins her story not in 1984 but in 1992, “a year of awkward contradictions.” Against a backdrop of growing economic globalism, an increasingly irrelevant left, and a calcified and about to become thoroughly centrist Democratic Party, a voter rebellion was gathering force. A journalist by trade, Salit treats us to a “You Are There” blow-by-blow account of the confrontations, conversations and actions that produced the current independent movement.

...Presidential candidate Bill Clinton hunkers down in the back seat as his car crosses a picketline of 400 independents protesting the exclusion of two candidates from the primary debate in Manchester, New Hampshire on a frigid February night in 1992...  Michael Bloomberg faces a heated 90-member Executive Committee of the NYC Independence Party organizations to ask support for a controversial third term in 2009... The wildfire expansion of a new anti-party movement, a national network of activists organizing on the ground and working for structural political reforms such as open primaries and independent citizen-controlled redistricting, brings to the stage grassroots leaders like Utah League of Independent Voters founder Randy Miller and Independent Kentucky founder Michael Lewis, and many more.

I highly recommend this book -- which you can pre-order from your favorite online bookseller. Independents Rising will hit the shelves on August 7.

In the meantime, Randy Miller, Michael Lewis and I will share some chapter reviews in the next several weeks.

Stay tuned, and hang onto your seat -- you are in for a great ride!


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