New York, NY — It’s a low key gathering of concerned citizens young and old, former members of the two political parties who were in office and quickly became disillusioned about the priority placed on partisanship over real reform and solid policy, longtime organizers who’ve been trying (fruitlessly) for years to establish a strong third party or strong independent party, some top academics and even an independent voter analyst from CNN. The event: a national conference of independents sponsored by the Committee for a Unified Independent Party aka IndependentVoting.org at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
(Be sure to go to Nancy Hank’s post which includes live streaming of the event).
Everybody knows the independent voter has proven to be and is potentially one of the most potent forces in America – a force both parties want to harness yet diss when they see (or think) they’re breaking the other way. And both parties work all of the quirks in the American political system to prevent true power from being exercised by individual independents, small groups of them or even a larger group trying to turn provide independent voters into an organized power.
CNN political analyst and writer John Avlon, who has written some definitive books on independent voters and also writes for The Daily Beast told the group: “The independent movement growing is one of the most exciting, dynamic things happening in American politics today.” And he noted a vital reality: it’s one of the fastest growing groups in American politics today. He notes that Americans are given a “false choice” all the time between left and right which does “not reflect the reality of America.”
But can this desire to get some reforms to give independents more power produce reform? Or will this prove to be one more conceptual conference? Can, as Avlon noted, the social media that has shown so potent in Egypt become a tool of independents so they can start to strip away some of the way the American political system is rigged against those not belonging to either of the two political parties or a group that seriously wants to try to get on the ballot and challenge them?
Most cable, radio, talk shows, even op ed pages have been traditionally divided to show left and right. Or D and R.
But what about C (for center)? What about I (for independent)?
Does the new century mean independents will start to breaking through the grip on American politics of the two major political parties — who right now need and rely on independents to supplement the partisans who rush to the polls due to red meat thrown to them by party bigwigs, activists and ideological talk show hosts?
Do independents always have to vote for the “lesser of two evils?” Or can the system being opened up so they can either vote for a third choice they do not consider an “evil” — or a political party that is less focused on its base than on truly bringing independents into their fold? Is what’s going on with Barack Obama indicative of such a shift or one more example of political window dressing, the kind that has gone on for years with politicians who try to get just enough independents who have no where else to go to vote for them?
Will this prove to me one more Don Quixote-esq conference? Or is will the 21st century prove different — just as it is proving differently on Tunisia and Egypt?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.