inform | empower | engage
There was a certain election. In it, the incumbent debated the challenger on national television. It wasn’t pretty. Ill-prepared and never at ease, the incumbent was unresponsive to many of the questions, and oblivious to counterpoint opportunities. The incumbent not being my preferred candidate, this was just fine with me.
During an interview following, however, my pleasure was greatly diminished. One of the President’s top advisors, “Pat” for our purposes, opened with enthusiastic praise for the incumbent’s performance, speaking the party line forcefully and with greater effect and accuracy than had the incumbent. In responding to specific questions, Pat spun and bent the incumbent’s words to confer what should have been said but had been fumbled. Twisting in my chair with every spin and bend, I finally rose in frustration, my arms thrust forward at the screen, “How can you possibly say that? What debate were you watching, for heaven’s sake?”
Continue reading Enlightenment…
How many Independents does it take to change a light bulb?
One. One turn, one bulb, one light at a time.
A political party is a superstructure. Independents are in substructures. Their political awareness is built within, based largely on what they see about them. Their impact on those they encounter is direct, one on one. Their role is to ask, challenge when necessary, and always to listen as they learn and formulate their views. And then speaking. That’s how they affect the views of others…and the course of an election.
Awareness and insight, to have meaning, must be shared.
Moving the needle. That’s newspeak for having an impact. I expect its origin dates to early daytime TV. Here Heartline host Warren Hull listened with his unique blend of compassion and enthusiasm as contestants told of their troubles and woes. At show’s end, he would raise his hand above each so the studio audience could express its sympathy and support by clapping their hands, the intensity of which would register on a sound meter whose needle measured the noise in decibels. Who ever moved the needle most got to take home a Motorola TV, and maybe a Maytag washer/dryer in the bargain.
In politics, for Independents, moving the needle is tougher than for political partisans. We traditionally come late to the show and end up standing in the back where we have to clap extra hard and loud if we expect to have any impact on the needle. That’s how it used to be anyway. Now it’s different. Now the Independent is no further from the nearest web port to sites and blogs whose design and purpose is to facilitate and expedite finding out anything we want to know. As for clapping, we are encouraged to say what we think, to participate. That’s how things work today. It’s how we get to play.
Political activism used to be a largely partisan process. No longer. The emergence of candidate-driven national political campaigns and the rise of interest groups on every conceivable issue as amplified by the explosive growth of the internet, have combined to open the door to all. To have impact, however, their voices and views need venue and structure.
IDn wants to facilitate this process for the Independent. The venue will be our blog, which can expand to meet the needs of all those wishing to speak. For structure will, we’ll start with a list of issues on which to comment. To provide focus, some limit is needed in this and we propose the following to start:
IDn will not take positions on any of these issues. Our role will be to facilitate our readers’ exploration and understanding of them from the Independent’s perspective. Next is the reader’s turning these views into action by participation in appropriate fora, supporting in voice and resources those candidates whose views are closest to their own. The last step, of course, is voting their views in November.
It comes down to this: If you don’t speak up now, don’t expect to have much of a voice later. Time is short. Your choices in November could well be determined within nine weeks from today, maybe sooner.
The Declaration of Independence was a political instrument whose purpose was to split off one part of an empire from the whole. Beyond this, it constituted a hinge point in history, a new and universal measure against which the legitimacy of government everywhere would be tested. A new era was upon the earth. We were about to discover whether the dreams of our dreamers had a place in practical government.
The single, driving concept behind the Declaration was and remains that all men are created equal. This is its soul, its ultimate claimed truth. Absent this, the document is meaningless. And this was radical, perhaps beyond what our every day experiences would incline us to understand and appreciate. Yet this is now the base assumption of our political lives. It is, in fact, the secular foundation of our value system.
Within the Declaration, there are three phrases that specify or imply the basis on which it was written. The first of these is the most obvious: Self-evident. The authors took to themselves, and by extension all humanity, the power and authority of reason and applied it to the world about them. In doing so, they declared that at birth each human being was, by right of birth, the equal of all others. They did not need a state or a religion to tell them this, nor would they let a state or a religion deny it to them, or to their children. Self-evident was self-evident, and the phrase was Franklin’s.
The next is pursuit of Happiness. This may be the most radical thought in the document. For some, it remains radical to this day. It challenged not the authority of the state but the place of religion in an every day life. And what was so radical? This: It is alright to live a life whose aim is fulfillment in the world about us. In effect, it allows that the purpose and measure of a life lived must not necessarily include getting to heaven, that a life lived well and good here on earth could be its own reward. In 1776, this was radical.
The last of the three phrases is the last three words of the document itself. On signing their Declaration, the Founders pledged to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. They saw in their individual lives something of worth, sacred, something good in and of itself. And, by extension, that this good was the basis of the inalienability of the Rights they claimed for all humanity. Make no mistake: humankind as born apart from sin was a radical thought in 1776. And this, too, remains radical for some today.
That we are each born equal remains the enduring force of our national spirit. And for the responsible Independent, it is no longer enough to show up on the first Tuesday of November to choose among the candidate offerings of others. Today, there are few practical barriers to our participation in the political process. With the internet and new media, we have 24/7 access to the political process.
This is not a radical thought. It is a radical fact. Engage now!
The surest way to cast a winning vote in a Presidential election is to cast it aside. An uncast vote, you see, benefits only the winner. Why? The winner did not need it to win, and if enough of those not cast had been cast the other way, the winner would have been the loser.
There may be no better example of this than the 1968 Presidential election, won by Richard Nixon over Hubert Humphrey. Nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that July, Humphrey was President Lyndon Johnson’s incumbent Vice President and champion of liberal Democrats everywhere. The convention, perhaps the most fractious and violent in the country’s history, had chosen Humphrey over Democratic senators McCarthy and McGovern, who had campaigned strongly against U. S. participation in the War in Vietnam.
To many in the party, the Convention was a sham. For them, the party bosses had handed the nomination to Humphrey on the instruction of LBJ, despite wide-spread opposition among the delegates to the war. Perhaps more importantly, the violence of the anti-war demonstrations had the party faithful – North and South, labor and liberal – questioning its direction and leadership.
Whatever the dynamics of the election, history records a 27% decline in votes cast for the Democratic candidate in the 1964 election won by LBJ as compared with Humphrey in 1968. The absolute numbers are perhaps more telling. The 43.1 million votes cast for the Democrats in 1964 shrank by 11.9 million to 31.3 million in 1968, an election won by Richard Nixon with 31.87 million votes, a margin of barely 500,000 votes.
While the candidacy of former Alabama Governor George Wallace in that year’s election no doubt played a heavy hand in the final numbers, the fact remains that a good many Democrats stayed home that November. Given Nixon’s winning margin of less than one percent of the votes cast, it is more than plausible to suggest that those Democrats who failed to vote that year put him in the White House. Leaving history to judge the ultimate impact of Nixon’s election, responsibility for it must certainly be shared by those who would have cast their vote against him but decided to cast it aside.
This said, there is a voting technique that allows the citizen a voice without having to vote for a particular candidate. Register to vote, go to the polls, and vote for every position except that of the presidency. If enough were to do this, commentators may be moved to note that while this many millions went to the polls that day, more than so many millions of these abstained from voting for either party’s candidate. While no more than a footnote to history, if that, it is a statement nonetheless. The important thing is that no matter what you do with your vote, you do it on purpose, and with purpose.
A vote is a terrible thing to waste.
In the December 10 issue of The Epoch Times, Gary Feuerberg reports on a survey by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University in which 35% of 18 to 24 year-olds identify themselves as “politically engaged or active,” notably higher than in surveys of previous years. Noting that election turnout from this group rose from 36% in 2000 to 47% in 2004, the IOP survey indicates it will be still higher in 2008 with 61% of those polled saying that they will definitely vote in the 2008 general election.
The IOP online sample consisted of 2,526 U. S. citizens 18-24 years old who were reached between October 28 and November 9. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed consider themselves Democrats, 25% Republican and 40% Independent. The article concludes with an interestsing discussion of the challenges to surveying this age group, access to which to largely outside of the traditional land-line telephone.
Also highlighted in the article is Opportunity 08, a project of the Brookings Institution whose aim is to replace today’s highly partisan tone in political discourse with “thoughtful discussion among political candidates and the public during this presidential campaign.”