Independents for Independence

Following the CUIP's National Conference of Independents earlier this month, I provided a roundup of some of the immediate reaction in the third party and independent blogosphere, a good deal of which was highly positive in character.  But there has also been a fair amount of criticism as well, notably, from those who support independent opposition to the two-party state as opposed to a strategy of working within the apparatus that sustains the misrule of the reigning parties.  This has been a long-standing tension within the growing independent movement, and it was apparent at the conference itself (I, for one, argued for political independence from the Democratic and Republican parties during the conference's open forum). Reflecting on the conference, Mark Wachtler makes the independent case for political independence in a lengthy article at The Examiner.  Excerpt:
Consider this recent Gallup poll showing America’s political allegiances – independent 38%, Democrat 31%, Republican 29%.  With such an overwhelming majority, how many U.S. Presidents have been ‘independent’? How many Senators? Congressmen? According to the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, there are 2 independent Senators – Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). And in the House of Representatives, out of 435 members, there are ZERO independents. How can that be when independents represent 40% of the population?

One look at CUIP’s literature, as well as Jackie Salit’s itinerary for this year’s conference, makes it somewhat obvious. New York independents have been encouraging the rest of us to campaign and volunteer for Democrats and Republicans over their own independents for years. In fact, highlighting the conference is Salit’s documentary praising independents for organizing and delivering for the Democratic nominee for President, Barak Obama.

One could argue that it’s a blatant and organized act of sabotage against independents nationwide if the formula didn’t work so well in New York with their election rules. Independent mayor Bloomberg is evidence enough. Bloomberg is a past Democrat, then Republican, now independent.  However, that formula doesn’t work throughout the other 49 states where the rest of the nations’ independents are up against the very same two parties the NY independents love to support. It’s a matter of philosophy, not betrayal. . . . .  The other half of the American independent movement has a different strategy. They wish to start a legitimate national political party . . . . 
At WNYC, Solomon Kleinsmith levels a centrist critique of CUIP entitled, "NY's Independents Rally Not so Independent":
Two weekends ago I flew out to New York City, for a conference for independent activists. I was hoping for a learning experience that would be welcoming for independents of all (or at least most) stripes, but I got a rally for left-leaning to left-wing independents. It really would have taken some serious effort to collect a less representative sample of independents. . . .
He follows up with a call for independents to remain open to third party organizing and activism on the model of the Independent Party of Oregon:
Luckily, there is more going on around the country for independents looking for how they can build an opposition to the two party system. The Independent Party of Oregon is a trailblazer (basketball pun intended) that independent groups, whether they are parties or not, can look to for a model of success to emulate . . . 

Parties aren't the only avenue for independents, but we should not automatically be against forming a party for centrists and moderates, where most independents stand, just because the two major parties have given us such bad examples of how political parties can be run. We can do better.
Indeed.  It is time to recognize that if self-described "independents" remain dependent upon the Democratic and Republican parties, they are not "independent" at all. 

1 comment:

richardwinger said...

Thanks for this thoughtful commentary.

I watched part of the IndependentVoting conference, and I was disappointed that Jackie Salit constantly used the same term "open primaries" to talk about entirely different election systems.

Also I noted how Jackie's recap of the 2000 election and the Reform Party internal struggle gave her listeners the impression that Jackie and others in her group were always against Pat Buchanan being the Reform Party nominee, when the truth is that Lenora Fulani and Fred Newman gained national publicity over their surprising endorsement and support for Buchanan. The New Republic even put a cartoon of Fulani and Newman on their cover, it was considered such big news. But now they seem to believe no one will remember.