Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Misunderstood "independent"

I just had my second conference call Sunday with CUIP, which stands for the Committee for a Unified Independent Party. Jacqueline Salit is chair and co-founder, and she facilitated the conference call. She was also on the Midmorning show on MPR, so I have heard some of what she had to say again during the conference call.

What is interesting is that she and CUIP really are at the forefront of a monumental change in American politics that few in the media truly understand: independent voters. People who choose not to label themselves with a party brand, but say " no party for me." I really admire the independent who does not worry about what is "best for the party." For instance when Democrats nominate an "electable" candidate, independents smell this right away as an act that is "good for the party" and not necessarily good for our great nation.

Independents are frequently relegated to second class citizen when they are not allowed to vote in primaries, because they are for "partisans only." Independents want political power too - just outside of parties. Minnesota has open primaries and same day voter registration - which works in favor of independent swing elections( partisans would call them spoiling elections ). It would be wise for any party or organization to recognize this demographic.

Take Action

I recently volunteered with Take Action Minnesota. My primary motivation to do this because they initially told me they were supporting Sen. Marty's Single-Payer Universal Health-care Plan. Excellent! I made phone calls using their automated/computer calling system, which I found annoying as it called people and made them wait for a volunteer to say "hi." I was calling on behalf of DFL candidate Jerry Newton.

What I disliked most was the script they had written up for us. It didn't feel like me saying these things, although I liked Jerry. I did call many voters who were self-identified as independents. The first question on my script was asking the voter a partisan question, and independents hate these ( as did I - I am no Democrat! ). One person told me " I am a staunch Republican." And I was like "Well, have you heard of Jerry Newton?" And she was "Oh, Jerry? Yeah! I like him, can I get a lawn sign?" So much for consistent partisanship.

I spoke with some of those in Take Action after, and they agreed with me on Single Payer. But they believe in an "incremental" approach to health-care. Is this the same type of approach being supported by more pro-lifers? Chip away at choice, until there is none? Incremental works when you are tearing something down - like the icebergs slowly melting in Greenland. There comes a point when they just sink. But how do you build up Single-Payer from..small pieces? But Take Action buys what polls are saying - that only 30% of Americans support it. Maybe Take Action could educate the public instead of capitulating to polls?

What Take Action has become, is a partisan organization. They believe progressive change can only occur through the Democratic Party, and electing more of them. They want to show the DFL that they are a grassroots organization that can mobilize its members to help them win crucially close elections. But they do this by alienating non-partisan independents. They also believe that third-parties are not a vehicle for any type of change.

But Take Actions says they want to hold the Democrats accountable, by running candidates against anti-progressive Democrats. They were doing this in Minneapolis, in House District 58A with Peggy Flanagan. Rep. Joel Mullery did not get his party's endorsement, and could have lost in the primary had she been able to stay in the race. Of course, when I asked who they would run against my senator, Linda Berglin, they were quiet. "Perhaps she is going to run for higher office?" was one thought. ( Linda Berglin is opposed to Single-Payer ) Why aren't they recruiting for this and just allowing the DFL to dictate the agenda of my district? They conveniently "forgot" to endorse Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer for US Senate, waiting until after the DFL endorsed Al Franken. Sounds like they just want to stay on the good side of the DFL, and not radically challenge them.

But this is why it is difficult for independents to support partisan organizations, we do not care whether the party thrives or crashes and burns. Independents want to get things done on health-care, deficit spending, oil addiction, and peace. None of these are issues either Democrats or Republicans are strong on. But they sure like to pretend like they are!

No comments: