Monday, August 13, 2012

Independents Rising Chapter 2 review

In 1992 I was not a seasoned independent grassroots organizer, but I knew a thing or two about knocking doors and building a movement. I was 20 years old and serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Yes, coincidentally that is the 'Mormon' church to which Mitt Romney belongs, and no, I won't be voting for him, but that is another story*.

My parents and their friends and community were basically conservative Republicans. I was young and naive. I believed what I had heard---I had little or no exposure to any contrasting political views and I was focused on theology. I would not say I was skeptical. I wouldn't say I believed all the rhetoric I was exposed to, but I did feel like there was a home team under constant anti-American attack. Perhaps I was a well-trained partisan. Even in my bitter-about-the-war years, I defended the Utah Legislature in conversation over their 2000 gerrymandered redistricting plan. Corruption in my mind was unique to liberals in far off places like Chicago and New York. I don't know entirely how my eyes were opened, but I'm glad they were and I'm certain Jackie Salit and Nancy Ross had something to do with it.

I recall just a few thoughts of my political thinking in 1992:
  1. I remember thinking (perhaps due to Perot raising it to the fore) that debt was an omnipresent issue that the two parties were powerless to overcome.
  2. Something, anything new (seeds of independence?), even Jesse Jackson might represent a "new face" approach that was needed. I wasn't an ardent supporter of that, just open to the idea. I was doing a lot of listening in the months and years running up to November 1992.
  3. I remember thinking how unconscionable it was that my missionary companion from Oregon was a supporter of that 'pot smoker' Bill Clinton. Boy have I done a lot of growing up since then!
Nancy's introduction to this chapter by chapter project says "This is your story, our story--the story of the rise of independents". I have read a number of fiction and non-fiction thrillers with great anticipation of 'how it ends'. But it is surreal as I read through this narrative of independent history. I remember that past, our past...our present. It wasn't that long ago and it is how I arrived here. I know how this book ends before I've read it! The compelling draw is what will fill the pages of the subsequent sequels.

Chapter 2--Populism versus Centrism

Centrism is a meaningless abstraction. Those are my words not Jackie's. My local political conditions will partially illustrate this.

Candidates in Utah are screened through a caucus / convention system and if they score high enough, a primary election is avoided. This arrangement has become a practice that can be manipulated and misused. There are voices within the parties and even more voices without calling for an end to the caucus / convention / closed primary system. Party leaders of at least the Democratic and Republican parties predictably support the current arrangement. If centrism is vaguely defined as somewhere between left and right, is it squeezed out when the parties are in unison as in this example? Is left / center / right even relevant to an electoral equity issue?

Chapter 2 chronicles not ideological positions as problematic, but ideology generally as problematic and this often includes 'centrism' as the obstructive ideology of 'centrists'. This is the stark contrast and the chapter's namesake of populism versus centrism.

Populism is power to the people through pro-democratic institutions without a bias or preference as to what the voice of the people might say. Centrism is an advocacy of ideological noise not (a) pro-left or (b) pro-right, but (c) for bipartisan centrist middle. It is ideologically oriented. Populism is institution oriented.

*A story that I'd be happy to tell those who are interested. Drop me a line--

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