by Randy Miller, Utah League of Independent Voters
Well, I was born that way. We all were. Partisanship, like its cousin Prejudice, is learned.
I was 20 years old serving as a Mormon missionary in North Dakota when Ross Perot ran for (and nearly won) President of the United States. I did not vote that year. Missionaries are discouraged from watching television and from discussing politics. I didn’t know you needed to register to vote, the constitution doesn’t stipulate this. I’m certain I would not have successfully navigated the bureaucracy of absentee voting.
I grew up in a seemingly conservative suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. Without knowing any better, I bought into GOP party loyalty and castigating all ‘non-conservative’ ideas and figures. I even exercised that most holy and reverent conservative duty — I joined the Army (National Guard). I served just short of 10 years in the National Guard culminating with a one year tour in Iraq.
I was sitting in the chow hall one afternoon while CNN droned in the background. I caught a comment from Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld that he had given commanders on the ground everything they had asked for. I about choked on my food. Without going into details, I knew right away there was an enormous disconnect between reality and the Pentagon.
In the adjustment months after the deployment, I learned that the Pentagon disconnect was more likely a criminal deception by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others. I learned that General Officers were resigning and speaking out but that the corporate media was not covering this actual news.
I started looking for ways to channel my frustration and anger and energies. I looked at Iraq Veterans Against War. I was angry with the Republican Party. I was not a Democrat and didn’t want to go down that road, it didn’t seem like it would produce results. I found a website cuip.org which now redirects to independentvoting.org I don’t remember what the hook was but I signed up for their newsletter ‘Talk/Talk’.
In September 2008 I invited all candidates on my ballot for Governor on down to state legislature into my home for a meet the candidates night. (By the way, never do this unless you want to run for office someday. Everyone I know who has done this has later run for public office.;)) I printed up a flyer to distribute in the neighborhood. That is my earliest recollection of the term Utah League of independent Voters. CUIP contacted me on a regular basis, usually for fundraising mixed in with invitations to come on their national conference call. I think I donated $25 or something on one of their fundraising calls. The economy steadily declined for my industry and I didn’t have the means to donate on subsequent requests, but I remember indicating on 2 occassions that I would be willing to donate some time to their local affiliate if they could put me in touch with them. I had time to give but not much money. Turns out I was the only local affiliate.
Eventually those staff callers forwarded my info to Nancy Ross and Gwen Mandel–national organizers for CUIP and regular contact ensued with Nancy. They twisted my arm into attending the national conference for independents held in New York City in 2009. The conference was remarkable and the keynote presentation can be viewed here.
Why did I become and independent? Hopefully I’ve answered that question. Why am I an indie organizer? Talking to myself is ineffective I’ve found. Independent authors and figures like Joe Hill, Marcia Ford, Omar Ali, MLK, Ross Perot, Jackie Salit, Nancy Ross,Damon Eris, Lenora Fulani and many others are very compelling, that’s why.