Sunday, July 28, 2013

Brandi Martindale: A New Non-Partisan Politic for America

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By Brandi Martindale

Across America, voters are rejecting the political party system. For many, it’s a decision that stems from feelings of disconnect, as the parties spiral into warring factions. Fewer can relate to the political blame-game playing out in the mass media. While leaders point fingers, America grows impatient, and asks, “When is something going to get done?”

The independent movement is a sign that “When?” is “Now!” And rather than wait for the system to serve them, Americans are rejecting it completely, and demanding a new kind of non-partisan politic.

The deadlock between partisan factions - the failure of our national leaders to respond to our voice - may be precisely what America needs to rally us to action. While Washington drags its feet on issues  that are clear-cut to ninety percent of Americans independents mobilize. With the success of th
National Conference of Independents hosted by CUIP last February, the demand for non-partisan solutions is growing faster than ever.

Igniting conversations that remain focused on solutions, the independent movement isgrowing in all directions. The robust non-partisan scientific community offers us strongdata on the cost of cutting social welfare - that one dollar spent on head start programs earns twelve in future economic gains, highlighting where partisan policy falters. The words “Democrat” and “Republican” carry little value when solutions requires facts, and opinions require evidence.

The independent movement grows as constituents call and write to their Congresspeople, unhappy with officials’ behavior in office. Congresspeople are being reminded they are public servants first, and partisan loyalists second. After gun control legislation failed to pass, Harry Reid mentioned bringing it back for another vote, after a seething backlash from the public. The issues we face are neither Democrat, nor Republican - they are American. This unity is understood by the independent movement, and represents the nature of change so many want to see.

After compiling the registration data of nineteen states with closed primary elections, I have put a hard number to the independent movement. That number is thirteen million, fifteen-thousand, two hundred thirty-one. In these nineteen states with closed primaries, twenty-two percent of the voting population have no say in primary election outcomes - the first round of selection- because they do not wish to participate in the political party system. As an American, and as an agent of democracy, I find this fact appalling.

The spirit of the independent movement is strong and simple - disregard allegiance to partisan cronies, and pledge allegiance to our flag, our nation, and our people - all people. This sentiment resonates deeply with every American, regardless of which box they checked at voter registration - which more and more often is ‘other’, ‘unaffiliated’, No Preference”, or simply “I do not wish to join a political party”.

Brandi Martindale is an activist with the NYC Independence Party, and is currently working as a research intern for Columbia University, at Brandi is completing her MA in Organizational Social-Psychology this summer, and brings an understanding of organizational structure and group behavior to the conversation of non-partisan politics.


richardwinger said...

Every state has procedures for independent candidates to get on the November ballot for all partisan office. If independents are really 40% and rising, why are independents so wimpy that they can't just run for office themselves and win in the general election?

It is not accurate to say voting in a primary is "the" first selection step. Partisan primaries are not the only way to get candidates on the general election ballot.

Also, just because people are rejecting both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, it does not follow logically that they are rejecting the concept of a political party.

Nancy Hanks said...

Richard, really? "wimpy"? Maybe you have a more analytical analysis?? Wow!


Brandi L. Martindale said...

I think Richard raises a good question - are independents really just 'wimpy'? Lets unpack this idea. True, every state has procedures to get candidates on the November ballot. Lets take a closer look at the mechanisms involved. I will speak to New York State, as this is where I live and am familiar. Here are a few structural barriers I see which complicate such a general critique.

Every party needs signatures for ballot access. To issue a Wilson Pakula, parties need five percent of enrolled voters to sign. Mechanistically, it is much more difficult to gain five percent of signatures for 400,000 people than it is for two or three million people. Smaller pools of voters means a bigger effort to contact them. Here, the structure benefits well-established parties. Smaller parties have to go door to door, calling and setting appointments, democrats and republicans stand on a street corner and grab passerby's to sign petitions. The system works differently for these two entities.

Campaign funding reimbursement for any political party who gets at least 5% of the vote was created to help smaller parties, but as movements start off small, and may not reach that threshold, this reimbursement ends up consistently helping major parties. For major party run-offs, funding is available for the primaries. Smaller parties must wait much longer for their funds to come through. This is a major setback for small operations on a grass-roots budget.

Laws have been created with the intention to fight corporate donations, however, they come with loopholes that require teams of lawyers to navigate the laws - lawyers that minor parties and independent candidates cannot afford.

Also, as we have already experienced in the Carrion campaign, there is a palatable reluctance of news organizations to cover minor political party campaigns, as well as independent candidates.

We also face gerrymandering of election districts by those already in power, reducing or eliminating political competition.

Independent candidates must also overcome the public view that third parties and independent candidates have no chance of beating the ‘major players’ of the dominate parties, and fear being a 'wasted vote'.

The actual number of voters locked out of the primary process here in New York State is 2,276,912 - right around twenty percent. This is a group of people nearly the size of the Republican party, who have no say regarding who makes it to the November ballot. Regardless how you frame this discussion, this is not democracy. As tempting as it may be to write of independents as ‘wimpy’, I’m afraid the environment is a bit more complex.

While I agree that rejecting the democratic and republican parties does not necessarily presuppose a rejection of the party system, I will stand firm behind my assertion that this is a growing movement among my generation. Rejection of the party system is a relatively new concept, and it is gaining traction very quickly with young adults. Stay tuned, because it’s coming.

Brandi L. Martindale said...
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