Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's Time For Independents To Get Serious

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss".  As Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend so eloquently put it many years ago, we see that while we've had a recent election, and the nation has moved back toward the center on the political spectrum, not much has changed in terms of how Washington works. 

Let me say first that I'm pleased with the results of the election. As an Obama supporter from 2008, I voted for him again and breathed a sigh of relief that we won't have to see what fresh hell Mitt Romney would have brought forward as President.  I was pleased to see grass roots issues like gay marriage and legalization of pot pass as ballot measures in many of the states.  I was pleased to see what I consider to be the lunatic fringe of the right (Todd Aiken, Joe Walsh, Alan West, etc.) all go down to defeat.  Overall, I was very happy with the results of the 2012 election on November 6th.  Then, I woke up the morning of November 7th to a news article about the coming "fiscal cliff" disaster and how if Washington cannot get its act together that we would face financial disaster in 2013.  The article discussed how the two sides (dems and repubs) are lining up in their respective corners trotting out the same old positions as before.  Oh, there were a few cracks in the Republican line, some coming forward and saying "yes, we must raise taxes".  But all in all, it was the same old story.  Democrats are demagoguing nasty rich people and saying "They have to pay their fair share!".  Republicans are demagoguing and saying "It's not a taxing problem, it is a spending problem. Don't tax the job creators!".  And so it goes.  The problem friends, is that unlike the Mayan prophecy of the end of the world on December 21st 2012, the prophecy of financial disaster coming in 2013 is very real.  And of course, the folks in Washington are seemingly set in their intractable ways of not being willing to get this issue resolved. 

Why?  Well, it is a matter of money of course.  With the exception of President Obama, each and every elected official in Washington that will have to vote on this issue has another election coming up.  Elections are paid for by fund-raising.  Do something your fund-raisers like and you get money.  Do something your fund-raisers don't like and you don't get money, and perhaps you will get a primary challenge from the far-side of your party.  So, what do these guys and girls do?  They kick the can down the road.  They don't want to be hung out to dry for taking a position.  Politically, they are forced into taking unreasonable and uncompromising positions by the whack jobs in their parties because of "principle". 

We know from our high school civics or government classes that politics is the art of compromise.  It's easy to understand, as when Atticus Finch asked Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird":  "Do you know what a compromise is?" (When Scout was complaining about a school teacher saying that Atticus was teaching his daughter to read the wrong way and she wasn't going back to school)   Scout saysl "Bendin the law?"  Atticus says:  "No, it's an agreement reached by mutual consent. Now, here's the way it works. You concede the necessity of goin' to school, we'll keep right on readin' the same every night, just as we always have. Is that a bargain?"  It is easy to understand.  Everyone knows what it is and that compromise must be reached. Yet, here we are on the day after Christmas and we have no deal on the fiscal cliff yet.  Each side is still where they were, although the President has moved a bit.  No real progress has been accomplished.  We hurtle toward January 1st, 2013 and down markets and more blaming of the other side will be the likely results.  The middle class will take it in the wallet as their taxes will most assuredly go up to the point it hurts them and the overall economy.  That is the state of things right now in Washington.  And guess what? The two-party system is the reason for this melodramatic stasis.

The two party system has been effectively in charge of American Politics since Lincoln's time.  The Republican and Democratic parties have been the major players influencing who we vote for, when we vote for them and they will not tolerate upstart 3rd parties like the "Progressive Party, (Bull Moose party of Teddy Roosevelt), the Reform Party, the Green Party, or any of the other 30 or so fledgling political parties that work around the edges.  Why? Well, it's easy to understand.  Let other parties in and you lose power and influence and more importantly  money.  Do you honestly think that if the ultra-right wing Constitution Party had enough money to effectively challenge the Republican Party it would be really tolerated?  What about the Democrats?  If the Green Party launched a serious well funded challenge into national politics, then the Democrats would do what the Republicans would do to the Constitution Party and would look to bury them.  These two behemoth's of America's politics have essentially rigged the game by locking up the ability to get on ballots and by filing lawsuits against those looking for more openness in our political system.  They do not want to cede an iota of power in today's political environment to anyone.

Well, it is high time this changed.  It is time for people who do not like the idea that two "bullies" can run rough-shod over everi other political voice in this country to say "enough".  It's time that a serious level of momentum around independent voters was established. 

If you are tired of the same old story in politics, then do something new.  Get involved in strengthening the independent voting movement.  It's not going to be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.  The ability to break the stranglehold on American Politics by the Democratic and Republican parties is a challenge worth working for.  And if you are really fed up with the way things are going today, but don't know how to get involved, well, I have some good news for you.  There are many groups out there today working hard to get better access for independent candidates to get on the ballots.  They are working at the grass roots level and at the national level and they have been at it for some time.  One such group, Independentvoting.org is a national organization that is led by long time professionals in politics who not only have credibility, talent and innovative ideas on changing the political landscape, they have accesss.  Access is vitally important if you are going to make a difference. You have to be able to talk to the right people and be taken seriously.  This group is taken seriously.  They have been working with the likes of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others to drive a wedge into the works and make it easier for independent voters to be heard.  Jacqueline Salit, the President of Independentvoting.org is a long time political professional who has worked with independents like John Anderson, Ross Perot and the aforementioned Michael Bloomberg. 

Ms Salit's organization and the other like-minded groups working hard to open the political process are doing patriotic work in my opinion.  It is important that the people, who "consent to be governed", have an ability to pick those who would govern us in an open and fair process. The process today is not fair, and must be changed.  The most evident example of why this needs to change is exemplified by Congress. We all know their abysmal approval ratings (hovering around 11%), yet we seemingly put the same people back into Congress over and over again.  Incumbent retention is well over 85% in our elections and every two years, money is spent, promises are made and yet the minute the oath of office is taken, we are right back to where we started.  The reason for this is the Parties' (either D or R) ability to place choice committee assignments, decide what bills go to the floor for debate and vote, control the discussion on the floor and so forth.   Independents could disrupt this status quo by gaining seats in Congress, removing the foregone conclusion on how the majority will behave and act, and gain some better level of compromise not only on bills that are passed, but bills that are even discussed.

I did a book review on Ms. Salit's terrific work (click the link for the review) "Independents Rising" back in August of this year and I would encourage to get a copy of her book and read it if you are interested in politics and what goes on outside of the reporting bubble of Fox News and MSNBC. There is real, substantive work happening by organizations such as Independentvoting.org and they are making a difference. 

My wife and I will be attending the organization's national conference in New York this coming February.  If you are interested in the independent movement, and would like to learn more about it, go the website (click the link above on Independentvoting.org) and check it out.  If you want to get involved, join us at the conference in February.  It's a great idea whose time has come.

Tell me what you think.

regards,

Dennis