Saturday, March 17, 2012

Historic Bond Ties African-Americans and Independents Together

The Historic Bond that Ties African-Americans and Independents Together
By Bob Friedman

Last week I joined Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network on the march from Selma to Montgomery. I am one of the 40% of Americans who are independent of both of the major parties. Back in the days of Ross Perot, the media called guys like me "angry white men."

Along the route, I spoke with many people and brought greetings from Dr. Lenora Fulani, the country’s leading African American independent with whom I’ve worked closely and from, the country’s largest organization of independent voters of which I’m a part.

I have been an independent activist concerned with voters’ rights for many years. In Birmingham, as chair of the Petitioners Alliance, I helped lead the first citywide Initiative & Referendum movement. With Senator Hank Sanders, one of the sponsors of this historic march, I wrote legislation to open access to the Alabama ballot. And with Rep. Demetrius Newton, I designed legislation for proportional democratic selection of presidential electors. As independents, we fight for reforms that not only protect the right to vote. They increase the power of the vote.

For this march, I was proud to have fellow independents Mark Bodenhausen and Lorna Lindsey join me for the historic bridge crossing in Selma. Lorna had never been to a major demonstration before. We added our voices to the call for an end to voter ID laws that suppress the full participation of all our citizens. Independents have experienced disenfranchisement ourselves. We know that when partisan interests wave a flag about so-called voter fraud in an election year, you can pretty much count on the fact that they’re doing it for partisan reasons, not to protect our democracy.

Partisanship is destroying our democracy and making our government incapable of moving our country forward. I far from alone in this concern. Right now, our Congress has a 97% disapproval rating. Most Americans look at Congress and see how partisan its behavior is and feel angry that our government is not working for them.

We need to broaden participation in our democracy, not narrow it. We need to make sure that no American is turned away from the polls because they don’t have the right ID. And that means photo ID, State ID and political ID. In 26 states, independents are prevented from voting in primaries, not because they don’t have an ID, but because they don’t belong to a party! That’s just wrong.

There is an historic bond that ties African Americans and independents together. That bond is based on our shared belief that our democracy must work for everyone, not just the powerful, not just the parties—but for the people!

Bob Friedman
Birmingham, AL 

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