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Two Teams, No Winners: Can Americans Let Go Of Partisanship?

Tue, 2018-02-20 12:26

Two Teams, No Winners: Can Americans Let Go Of Partisanship?

There are 10 seconds to go, and it’s not looking good.

Seemingly untouchable in the first half, the Minnesota Vikings are now down by one point against the New Orleans Saints — and I’m getting nervous. Not because I’m particularly passionate about them winning, but because I know my boyfriend Matt will sink into temporary depression if they lose this playoff game.

…Of course, at the time, I didn’t know they would get stomped the following week, but I digress…

As you may know, miraculously, a Vikings player leaps into the air for the ball, and barely holding it together he sprints to the end zone, snagging a touchdown just as the clock runs out. Even I had to admit it was pretty awesome.

And then came the phone call from Matt:

“Oh my god I can’t believe it! We won! I was so sad, and then I was, like, losing my mind, and then we won! I think I’m having a heart attack or something! I can’t even explain this feeling right now and I’m freaking out and — I have to go.”


Ironically, while watching the end of the game and receiving this call, I was in the middle of reading an article titled, “The psychology of why sports fans see teams as extensions of themselves.”

I’m sure you know sports fans like this if you aren’t one yourself. And you had to notice Matt’s use of the word “we.” He didn’t say “the Vikings won!” he said, “we won.”  This view, where he sees himself as part of their team and them as part of his, to the point where his emotions are so intense they can actually mimic those of the players, can also be seen in politics today.

Whenever a particular party promotes legislation, it’s common to hear people talk about it in terms of “us” versus “them.”

We did it!” – or, if on the other side of the aisle, “They are going to run this country into the ground.”

You may even know people who, after the 2016 presidential election, seemed to sink into a slump if they were strong Hillary or Bernie supporters, or who were riding on a high for months if they were especially fond of Trump.

Psychologists can explain this tendency by explaining “in-groups,” which are groups of people who share the same interests or identity. Someone’s in-group may be a pro sports team, it may be kittens, it may be “The Walking Dead.” They can immediately connect with people over these things, feel safe, and determine them to be “on their team.” This same psychology applies to politics of course, which is part of the reason why polarization exists; People like to be around people who are like themselves.

This will always be true.

However, in our country, this preference for in-groups became more extreme in the past few decades. According to data from the Pew Research Center, political polarization changed considerably since the 1980s, with people increasingly moving from the middle to either the right or left.

political polarization changed considerably since the 1980s, with people increasingly moving from the middle to either the right or left.

Considering picking teams is our nature, it got me thinking: Is the idea of a nonpartisan society even in the cards for us? Do people want to reel back their passion for rivalry in favor of focusing on issues and solutions rather than the party? Is there even a difference, given that parties formed for the very reason of connecting and bringing together like-minded people?


People have not always been so separated. It’s really just in the past 40 years that parties have become clearly divided, causing gridlock in Washington which led to vitriol across the country. There is no cut and dry answer as to why, but there have been several events that can help explain it.

  1. America is pretty new at this whole “being a country” thing, and we are going to go through periods of being more connected and more divided as we figure it all out. China, which established sovereignty in 1800 BC, has had thousands of years to work out the kinks. That isn’t to say that time is the answer, but it’s definitely part of the equation of learning life’s lessons. And while America is one of the oldest established democracies, our size and cultural diversity complicate things compared to other European countries established hundreds of years earlier.
  2. The advent of Super PACs and changes to how Congress functions gradually forced representatives to follow the money, versus working across parties to create meaningful change. Politicians have always had to rely on the financial support of others. But as the country became more divided and billions of additional dollars flowed into campaigns once Super PACs were legalized in 2010, the ones with deep pocketbooks are making more extreme demands of their representatives. Seemingly small changes to Congress, such as fewer politicians living amongst each other in Washington and eliminating seniority rules for committee seats, may also contribute to a “party first” mindset versus negotiation and compromise.
  3. Television and technology advancements opened up a world of knowledge for the public to consume, but as ratings and viewers increasingly dictate dollars and power, tech pandered to the people and what they want to hear. A goal of this news site is to offer a nonpartisan take on political issues, not to stir up emotion and further validate someone’s beliefs or values – but there are many sites, shows, and channels that work to do just that. Because there are so many takes that claim to be the truth, people are more skeptical than ever of each other, which can lead to even more distrust, conspiracy and polarization.

As Americans increasingly align with one side or the other, the hopes of productive conversations that involve empathic listening and allow space for views to shift lessen.


Was it the chicken or the egg that came first?

When it comes to political belief there are various theories around whether sociology or psychology is the ultimate determiner – sociology being the outside factors including family and experience that impacts thought, and psychology being how the brain functions and is structured.

In the book “American Government and Politics in the Information Age,” family, school, peer group, media, group differences, and political generations are seen as the most influential outside, sociological factors that contribute to forming one’s political belief system.

If someone grows up in a family that is particularly passionate about politics, they are more likely to also be passionate and involved as they grow older. But even for those who grow up in households that are politically neutral or passive, peer groups, media, their political generation or school – especially college – can spark interest or beliefs.

Group differences can also be a substantial divider in political activity as wealthy people, who have more means, time and dollars to put towards anything of their choice are more likely to be politically involved than those who do not have these means.

Some studies hint there may even be structural differences in brain structure between those who describe themselves as liberal or conservative. To be sure, more research is needed around this, but additional findings could help us better understand why and how someone picks a side.

Depending on how you grow up and what sorts of experiences you have, there are also mental processes that help further validate these beliefs:

  • Anchoring is relying heavily on the first piece of evidence you find that validates your beliefs.
  • The halo effect is viewing things you believe in a favorable light and things you don’t like in an unfavorable light.
  • Confirmation bias is looking for information that confirms your views and unconsciously disregarding information that disproves what you believe.

Why are we “guilty” of these things? Because we’re human beings, and if we could we’d simply preach to the choir all day long surrounded by those who value what we do. Having our beliefs challenged can be an uncomfortable, even painful process to go through if we’re willing to hear the other side out and understand they may be right.

But, it’s hard for us to admit we might be wrong, isn’t it?


In today’s political climate, and just weeks after a short government shutdown (or days after a mini one), it might seem like no, people don’t — or at the very least our representatives aren’t doing their best to compromise.

The United States can’t continue to function as it’s meant to if we can’t find a way to come to an agreement on issues dividing our country, such as immigration or healthcare.

But, there might be some hope out there:

  1. It’s necessary. The United States can’t continue to function as it’s meant to if we can’t find a way to come to an agreement on issues dividing our country, such as immigration or healthcare.
  2. Moderates still make up the majority, as they have for many years. In fact, the most recent numbers from Gallup’s party affiliation poll which has been running since 2004 shows that 44 percent of Americans consider themselves to be Independent. Yes, this has not shown recently in terms of elected officials, but there are many hurdles that are holding Independents back from being elected, including not garnering enough votes from the public who are overwhelmed by major party stances and being expected to caucus for one side or the other, effectively wrapping them into the Democratic or Republic pool.
  3. People are beginning to demand change after seeing the problems that new media, including social media, and biased coverage of politics create. In January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the company would work harder to make interactions more meaningful so that “time spent on Facebook is time well spent.” We’ve also seen news agency reflect on their coverage this past election cycle as many of them so wrongly predicted the 2016 election results. The majority remain especially focused on the White House, and many are likely biased, but as public trust continues to erode in the press, agencies will need to sort out how they can better serve citizens.

Everyone thinks they’re the good guy.

If you can understand that, you’re going to be a lot better off. Even if you vehemently disagree with who you may deem as the “bad guy,” if you can use that team mentality to your advantage to empathize with their view, you can understand that they, just like you, think that their way is the answer, and they want to win.

1. We’re all wrong sometimes, and we need to own it

Robb Willer, a social psychologist puts it best in his Ted Talk, “How to have better political conversations” by emphasizing empathy and respect as the main tools to tap when speaking with someone you disagree with, as well as trying to understand the moral values that influence someone’s views.

Part of having productive conversations around politics is accepting that you might be wrong — that yes, you did assume X, Y, or Z was true simply because you wanted it to be, or because it came from a source you trust and respect. Beyond just accepting this, which can be embarrassing, you also need to admit it, out loud, and to the person you are speaking with.

There are proven methods that make an admittance of wrongdoing and apology more likely to be accepted, helping to strengthen a relationship rather than causing additional conflict:

  1. Admit you’re wrong
  2. Offer to make it better

Not necessarily easy, but simple.

2. Part of owning it is understanding your biases

Make it a point to increase your awareness around how you think about and respond to political statements or news, as well as how you go about searching for it. In those moments, remember what anchoring, the halo effect, and confirmation bias are and actively challenge them.

Seek to understand more, rather than to prove a point. When you feel the need to put someone in their place, step back for a moment and decide to ask why they view something the way that they do and be sincerely interested in their response. Choose to deescalate and connect, understanding that just because you think something is right doesn’t mean someone else should.

3. Look at the bigger picture, and take a chill pill

With an endless news cycle, we are bombarded with seemingly life-or-death stories that can create strong emotional responses along party lines, making it more difficult than ever to keep a straight head when it feels like the world is ending every single day.

For your own mental health, zoom out and avoid obsessing over the day’s biggest headline. Chances are there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it aside from worrying, anyway. Yesterday there was a headline just as crazy, and you’re still kicking it, aren’t you?

This isn’t to say that everything’s just going to sort itself out without taking action and standing up for what you think is right. It is to say, however, that we could all be a bit more strategic about how much energy we put into worrying about the fate of our country and how much time we spend staring at screens.

Don’t let political happenings, which are at most a short-term discomfort and at least an infinitesimal blip in the universe, steal too much of your joy and precious time.


Parties formed with the intent of uniting us, and it worked — too well, you could say.

Regardless of this, we all want to live in a country we can be proud of, that we love and believe is doing the best job it can to provide us all with a chance at doing something great in this world.

It makes sense for each of us to be fighting so hard for what we believe is important, but we have to remember that beyond our preferred team, all of us, collectively, are a team too. And if we refuse to acknowledge to each other, we can’t function and we’re never going to win.

And one thing we can all get behind? None of us want America to end up the loser.

This column was written by Kylie Gumpert

Kylie has a background in journalism and is currently working for a nonprofit in Omaha. For a long time she had a hard time understanding politics, and while she still does, she’s grown increasingly interested in how divided people have become and what values and ideas drive them to such strong beliefs. She’s also passionate about media literacy and ensuring people have the skills they need to discern “fake” news from what is hopefully the truth. Most importantly, in the case of an apocalyptic event she would be just fine eating nachos for the rest of her life. You can reach her at

Free Wheel - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

What Tocqueville Saw and Why It Matters

Tue, 2018-02-20 11:13

What Tocqueville Saw and Why It Matters

There is nothing more prodigal of wonders than the art of being free . . . but nothing is harder than the apprenticeship of liberty.
      —Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

 In 1831, the French aristocrat and historian Alexis de Tocqueville toured the United States for nine months. Ostensibly, he came to study our prison system for the new French King. But really, he wanted to answer the burning question of his life” “Why did democracy take root in America but fail in France?”

This question was so important to Tocqueville because most of his family had been executed during the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution. Throughout his life, Tocqueville watched France lurch from one extreme form of government to another—never quite able to give up the democratic ideals of the Revolution, but never able to use those ideals to create a stable democracy.

The Revolution had made it clear that democracy is not the default position for human societies. It does not spring up automatically wherever people are not being actively oppressed by emperors and kings. It takes something else. Tocqueville’s grand tour, and the resulting book Democracy in America, are perhaps the best attempts that anyone has ever made to figure out what that “something else” could be.

What Tocqueville saw in America were habits—he called them mores—that made democracy seem to its citizens to be the inevitable way to make important decisions. He saw these everywhere. School children took votes to determine the result of games, people used parliamentary procedure to run church meetings and reading groups. And people actually seemed to enjoy talking to each other about politics.

This was completely different from the world that Tocqueville knew, where someone who wanted to change anything had to follow a time-honored set of procedures: start a secret society, swear oaths of fidelity, throw up barricades, riot in the streets, and then hope that people came in from the countryside to join the cause.

These strategies produced major revolutions in 1789, 1830, and 1848, but they never produced democracy because revolutions alone cannot create the culture of persuasion necessary for democracy to thrive. Getting rid of a king is much easier than getting rid of a culture that treats political disagreement as a problem that can only be solved by force.

Tocqueville ultimately concluded that Americans succeeded where France failed because their mores supported a culture of persuasion, whereas the French had only developed a culture of opposition and force. “With consciousness of strength comes violence as the first idea to come to a party or individual,” he wrote. “The idea of persuasion comes only later; it is born of experience.”

Tocqueville gives us an extremely useful vocabulary for discussing our political culture at different points in our history. When our democracy has succeeded, we have had a culture of persuasion: people have seen political opponents as people to be persuaded and have engaged in the kinds of actions that make persuasion possible: discussion, debate, negotiation and fair elections whose results are accepted as legitimate by all parties.

When our democracy has failed, it has failed because we have had a culture of opposition—a political environment in which two sides each see each other as enemies to be vanquished. In such cultures, people do not argue to persuade each other to their point of view, but to recruit others to their faction and convince them to hate the other side. This happened in 1860, and the result was the Civil War.

We aren’t there yet. But we are getting much too close for comfort. The indicators from the 2016 election are not good. A Pew Research study, for example, found that nearly two-thirds of politically engaged voters who express a party preference say that they are afraid of the other party. Another survey in 2017 found that almost 60% of the people in our country dread having Thanksgiving dinner with their families because they did not want to face political discussions with their relatives.

Statistics like this mean something. They indicate that we are rapidly transitioning from a culture of persuasion to a culture of opposition–or a culture in which political rhetoric no longer has the goal of persuading people to adopt a position, but of persuading them to join a side and finish off the opposition for good. Tocqueville knew this kind of political culture well. It is the one that thrived behind the barricades.

Michael - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Why America is Simply Ill-Equipped To Solve Gun Violence

Tue, 2018-02-20 10:22

Why America is Simply Ill-Equipped To Solve Gun Violence

Mark Duncan has already had a near death experience with a mass shooter.

His daughter Faryn, a 20-year-old student at University of Nevada Las Vegas found herself in the crosshairs at a country music festival.

Sometime during the last set, amid the loud music and flashing lights, she noticed people around her dropping to the pavement and spewing blood. Faryn managed to survive by hiding under the stage until brave strangers ushered her to safety.


Mark’s way of coping with the violence his daughter faced in Las Vegas is by trudging forward in the face of adversity. He thinks of the challenges his forefathers faced, and draws strength from the fact that they survived worse.

Regardless, as Duncan watches the horror in Florida on cable news, his mind turns to his teenage son Jack (not his real name). Jack’s high school seems to be secure and easily defended. But Duncan, a dentist, tends to see the world through a scientific lens. What are the odds of Duncan’s son being a victim in the next school shooting?

What are the odds of Duncan's son being a victim in the next school shooting?

Given the media focus on school violence since Columbine, two decades ago, this should be an easy thing to figure out.

But it is not.

The difficulty in finding what should be a simple answer is due to a number of factors:

  • conflicting accounts of the number of school shootings
  • a lack of consistent deaths reported by the Centers for Disease Control and FBI
  • the politicization of the issue by both Democrats and Republicans

Additionally, the media and the FBI have begun to suppress racial and age information about the murder suspect and victim.


The easiest answer to Mark’s question comes from comparing FBI stats from 2015 (the last year the FBI tracked murders by age) and recent census data.

About 255 white children under 18 were murdered by firearms in 2015. In 2016, America was home to about 56,654,593 white children. So white children under 18 have a roughly 1 in 222,000 chance of being murdered by a firearm. Put another way, Duncan’s son is about three times as likely to be murdered with a firearm than to be struck by lightning.

At 275 firearm murders in 2015, black children under 18 have about a 1 in 36,000 chance of dying from a firearm homicide, six times more likely than white children.

At least these are what Duncan estimates the odds to be. But he doesn’t know, because he is using FBI murder victim data from 2015 and census information from 2016, and making some inferences.  He decides to approach it from another angle with hopefully better data: what are the odds of Jack’s school being targeted in the next school shooting?

No consistent definition of school shootings exists and no relatively impartial government entity tracks school shootings. Many groups that do track school shootings have an agenda which is injected into their statistics.

Topping that list: The Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, which is the source behind the oft-quoted “18 school shootings in 2018 so far” statistic. Everytown casts an incredibly broad net when looking at school shootings. For instance, one of Everytown’s purported eighteen school shootings in 2018 was a man who pulled in the parking lot of a Michigan elementary school that had been boarded up for seven months and killed himself.

The Washington Post on February 15 called out Everytown for that statistic, saying in a headline “That Number is Flat Wrong.”

In 2015, the Post Fact Checker awarded Everytown four Pinocchios for the organization’s claim that America has seen a school shooting every week since Sandy Hook.

On the other end of the spectrum is liberal magazine Mother Jones, hardly a tool of the National Rifle Association. Mother Jones’ tally shows four mass shootings at schools since Sandy Hook in 2012.

Yet another organization, Gun Violence Archive, shows 16 school mass shootings since January 2014, about a year after Sandy Hook. The Archive defines mass shootings as an incident where four or more people are shot.

America has 98,200 public and 34,600 private K-12 schools. Using the middle number of four school mass shootings a year from Gun Violence Archive finds Mark’s son’s school has a one in 33,200 chance of being the target of a mass school shooting.

Mark's son's school has a one in 33,200 chance of being the target of a mass school shooting.

What about government statistics?

The FBI uniform crime report had rich information for researchers about gun violence, but many of its key categories have been removed. In 2015, the FBI posted eight tables describing the attributes of murder victims. In 2016, the Bureau posted two tables. When contacted by IVN about the missing race and age demographic data of victims, the FBI replied in an email “A statement in this regard will be forthcoming. The data is available. Please send your data request to”

The FBI gave no reason as to why it has withheld the important data for victims from the public Uniform Crime Report.

The FBI also does not have any statistics on the number of murders committed using assault weapons. The broader category of murder by rifle, of which assault rifles would be a subset, shows 374 rifle murders in the US in 2016.

The Centers for Disease Control produces studies of causes of deaths for all Americans every year using medical examiner reports. While an excellent resource, it gives less context to firearm homicides than the FBI did up until 2016 – type of weapon, whether the death was part of a mass

Despite the close call with his daughter, Duncan is not convinced that banning a certain class of firearm will end mass shootings in America. But he would like to base his opinion on data.

After poring over these statistics – the same statistics available to policy makers who want to solve the problem – Mark is disgusted by the whole process. “Before we lose more kids or forfeit more rights, I’d like everyone to sit down a the table and have a rational debate on this. Google knows every place I went this week, but nobody can tell me how many school shootings we had last year.”

America is woefully ill-equipped to have a larger, data-driven public policy conversation about the complex sources of or solutions to gun violence in school.

Duncan relies on science for his profession, and the lack of data in this debate is perplexing him. “If I used the same quality of data in my dental office that is being used to figure out school shootings, I would have a lot of patients with really messed up teeth.” Mark pauses for a reflective moment. “How can you solve a problem you can’t even describe?”

America is woefully ill-equipped to have a larger, data-driven public policy conversation about the complex sources of or solutions to gun violence in school.

Steven - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Candidates Beware: Independent Registration May Overtake GOP in California

Mon, 2018-02-19 20:43

Candidates Beware: Independent Registration May Overtake GOP in California

If it wasn’t clear to Republicans and Democrats before the 2016 election, it should be now, the health of their national parties will likely hinge on their ability to successfully court the independent voter. California candidates, in particular, will have to contend with the influence of independent voters early because of the new nonpartisan primary which allows any voter to vote for any candidate.

The big question to be answered, however, is: will independent voters turn out in the primary?

The big question to be answered, however, is: will independent voters turn out in the primary? Conventional wisdom says independent voters will not be as big a force as they could be, despite their numbers. After all, so long as party-politics rules the day, political operatives have little incentive to try to get them to the polls … why would a candidate encourage a more unpredictable voter to cast a ballot?

The parties spend millions of dollars to encourage “their” voters to the polls. Will anyone court the growing independents?


In California, where registered Democrats (44.63%) hold a comfortable lead over registered Republicans (25.44%), it’s that independent voting bloc, growing steadily for years, that could soon overtake Republicans as the second largest group in the Golden State.

As reported in an LA Times story, independents or No Party Preference (NPP) voters check in at 24.95%, just half a percentage lower than Republicans.

According to the times article, Paul Mitchell, who runs the data firm Political Data Inc., said California could have more independent voters than Republicans by the November general election.

Democrats are celebrating Republicans losing registration. But they should be mourning, Paul Mitchell, Political Data Inc.

“Democrats are celebrating Republicans losing registration. But they should be mourning,” Mitchell said. “This new registrant population looks like Democrats but they are registering as independents.”

Here’s how they break down by party:

Democratic: 44.63%
Republican: 25.44%

Independent (NPP): 24.95%
American Independent: 2.66%

Libertarian: 0.74%

Green: 0.48%

Peace and Freedom: 0.40%


California Democrats, who will hold their upcoming statewide convention in San Diego, may not think they “need” to court independent voters, given their huge registration advantage over the GOP in California. As a result, they are likely to stick to their party-line national issues to rally their base and push “their” voters to the polls.

Will the Republicans take advantage of the opportunity and open up their tent to independents? Will independent candidates emerge? Will a Democrat go off-script?

Will the Republicans take advantage of the opportunity and open up their tent to independents? Will independent candidates emerge? Will a Democrat go off-script?

Only time will tell. But the growth of independent voters does not seem to be slowing at all.

At some point, political operatives will recognize the opportunity.

Jeff - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Fmr. Rep. Zach Wamp: Here Comes the “Bloodless, Political Revolution”

Mon, 2018-02-19 14:22

Fmr. Rep. Zach Wamp: Here Comes the “Bloodless, Political Revolution”

Former Republican Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee isn’t one to back down from a political fight and will tell you exactly how he feels about the state of our national politics.

From calling Baby Boomers “selfish and too ideological,” to stating that for the “first time in history, polling shows that neither party beats either party,” and the “American people are becoming restless and are ready for a bloodless, political revolution,” Wamp sounds more like a guy ready to get back into Congress and fight for voters rights, than sit on the sidelines, although Wamp did lead the Marco Rubio presidential campaign effort in the state of Tennessee.

Chatting with Wamp at the UNRIG the System Summit in New Orleans was one of the most insightful and revealing conversations we had while reporting from the weekend event.

Check out the interview below:


for the first time in polling neither party beats either party. 71% of millennials have no affiliation with either party. Fmr. Rep. Zach Wamp

“You can only talk about the problems for so long, at some point you need to talk about solutions. The American people are now ready for political reform, they’re ready for change. The ground shifted in 2016, the two party system is in decline, for the first time in polling neither party beats either party. 71% of millennials have no affiliation with either party.”


“Just like in 2016 where insurgents came from outside the party, Trump on the Republican side, Sanders on the Democrat side, I believe we could see the same thing in 2020. Especially because we have such a vacuum of leadership, the American people are really, really restless. I believe we have a bloodless, political revolution coming soon.”


my generation, the baby boomers, ended up being a selfish, ideological generation. And now we're stuck in our ditches, deep blue, deep red, no working together Fmr. Rep. Zach Wamp

“I have a lot of faith in my kids generation. They’re more pragmatic, they don’t want to retire at 65. they don’t want a three car garage, they don’t want all those things that got my generation in trouble, ” the 60-year-old Wamp continued, “my generation, the baby boomers, ended up being a selfish, ideological generation. And now we’re stuck in our ditches, deep blue, deep red, no working together, if you fail just blame the other party, the blame game is now institutionalized in the system, and the American people are sick of it.”

Jeff - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

There’s No Such Thing As A “Mass Shooting Generation”

Mon, 2018-02-19 14:20

There’s No Such Thing As A “Mass Shooting Generation”

I’m calling it folks: We’ve reached peak partisan insanity.

And it’s not funny.

The people like Jimmy Kimmel who are calling for Congress to pass legislation to ban a certain model of rifle are just feeding this tragedy to the corrupt political system and weaponizing the shock and disgust that people are feeling in response to this to use as a bludgeon against their political opponents on “the other side” of a phony and ridiculous partisan divide. And none of that is the right thing to do with this at all, and it’s not their place to anyways.

Then you’ve got the #NationalSchoolWalkout, which is being organized by professional feminists and women’s movement activists, not students, and they have no idea what they’re doing. Putting pressure on large, powerful things that are ruthlessly capable and dangerously complicated is probably a risky move. You want to be very sure you have any idea what you’re doing. And the U.S. federal government is a very LPTTIRC&DC.

What’s more pathetic than an obviously very uninformed, and staggeringly naive individual acting as if they are an expert social engineer? A whole country full of them acting this way while parents are burying their children.

“But we have to do something about this! So you’re saying we should just do nothing at all? Children are dying! What’s your solution?”

Stop screaming.

I can hear you loud and clear. And I’m very impressed with you for clarifying to everybody that you’re against school shootings this week. You’re a really great human being. Good job.

You want to know what my solutions is? What do you mean by solution? Find a way to make evil and malevolence completely disappear from the universe? Can’t. But of course that’s what we aim for anyway. And by striving for an ideal world, we can make the world a little more like heaven and a little less like hell.

And if that’s the best we can do, why not? I think the most we can do is try as individuals to sort our own problems out and give up our vices and strive to embody our highest potential. To practice more love and kindness and honesty within and for ourselves, then within and for our families, then within and for the people we see every day and every week.

And for some reason that’s the kind of thing you seldom hear politicians say. And it’s not nothing or trivial, or naively idealistic, or overly vague. It’s everything. Who knows the number of individual personal failures of love and honesty and kindness– maybe going back for generations of people– that added up to what this boy did?

That’s why I think “thoughts and prayers” is not laughably useless like so many Democrats and liberals have portrayed it. (They better think a little more carefully about what they’re doing. Some of the victims’ families are praying right now.) It is actually the most important response to a tragedy like this.

If we spend some time in our thoughts feeling the tragedy and senselessness of what happened, and resolve through “prayer” (orienting ourselves toward the ideal– the highest, most absolute, and most universal good) to do better with whatever each of us is individually responsible for– if everybody made a sustained and committed effort to do that, to beautify and ennoble their own lives, there’s just no telling how good we can make life on this planet.

Politicians are always promising you the whole world and breaking their promises. And when they make their promises, they never tell you what it’s going to cost you. It’s the way of charlatans and frauds, but it’s an easy way to win applause and take advantage of the desperate, and how many of us are suffering and living lives of quiet desperation after all?

But what if you don’t need politicians to make the world a better place? Would you take that kind of power into your own hands even if it meant taking responsibility into your hands too? Even if it meant exerting yourself, and doing the work every day, the emotional labor it takes to live more consciously, kindly, and beautifully?

Last of all, to those people who made the New York Times’ headline about a “#MassShootingGeneration” a trending topic on Twitter over the weekend: You all seriously need to calm down a little bit.

There is no such thing as the “Mass Shooting Generation” If there was it would be the generation that shot each other by the millions 75 years ago. MY generation mostly smokes weed, Netflix, and chills.

W. E. - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Unrigging The System: Reformers, Civic Groups Take Action Following Historic Summit

Sat, 2018-02-17 12:50

Unrigging The System: Reformers, Civic Groups Take Action Following Historic Summit

The Unrig The System Summit in New Orleans was a historic event that brought together people from across the political spectrum who could all agree on at least one thing: Our political process is corrupt, rigged, and need of broad systemic reform.

Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, progressives, independents, and more shared the spotlight together not to talk about the political issues that divide them, but the reform initiatives that can unite them.

“Good things, developmental things are happening. Political reform and the need for systemic change are grabbing center stage. This need is being legitimized by institutions from Harvard to the voting booth,” says Jackie Salit, President of Independent Voting.

Many attendees left the summit with a renewed sense of hope, as more and more Americans see the need for top-to-bottom systemic reform in our political system. But the lingering question on many minds now is, “what’s next?” Where do we go from here?

As Salit observes:

“Reformers across the spectrum — from the arenas of open primaries, nonpartisan redistricting, anti-corruption, ballot access, ranked choice voting, presidential debates, initiative and referenda, felon voting rights, independent candidacies, and more — are looking for ways to coalesce.”

Many of these reformers have come together under the umbrella of the Bridge Alliance, a movement of more than 80 civic action organizations that are “working individually and together to transform the political terrain,” according to the coalition’s website.

Members of the Bridge Alliance were asked to give their feedback on the Unrig The System Summit and answer the all important question of “what’s next?” Here is what some of them had to say:

Daniel Newman, President and Co-Founder of Maplight

MapLight plans to deepen our efforts at exposing deceptive manipulation of public opinion on social media, a growing threat to the deliberation needed for a functioning democracy.

We will also be creating new digital tools for transparency of political money, including free open-source tools for secretary of state websites. We will continue our work doing data analysis for democracy reform campaigns, showing the problems of money and influence in particular communities.

It was exciting and productive to have so many people come together who are working to reform our political system. We are all part of the same varied and complex movement.

John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries

The Unrig the System conference, sponsored by and held last week in New Orleans, was an important event for the reform movement.

I was so impressed by Katie Fahey and the Voters Not Politicians movement in Michigan. The process they went through to put an “end gerrymandering” referendum on the ballot is a case study in how to fuse electoral reform with voter empowerment.

It was exciting and productive to have so many people come together who are working to reform our political system. Daniel Newman, President and Founder of Maplight

They didn’t devise a fixed solution and then present a finished product to the voters; they presented the problem—politicians drawing their own legislative districts—and organized thousands of Michiganders via on-line and in-person public forums to participate in developing a solution – a fully transparent, nonpartisan redistricting commission.

“The how” is as important as “The what” when it comes to mobilizing the American people to fully participate in revitalizing our democracy.

Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter presented their new Harvard Business School report, Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America, to a packed auditorium and received an enthusiastic response.

I recently interviewed Katherine for my new IVN podcast The Pickle, and I have become a fan of Katherine and Michael’s blunt appraisal of how the partisan duopoly distorts and stymies the will of the American people.

My colleague and Open Primaries board member Dr. Jessie Fields participated in a panel discussion about alternative voting methods. She talked about the tremendous pressure being put on communities of color to condemn Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression while remaining silent about Democratic gerrymandering and voter suppression.

Her message was well received, and a shortened version of her talk was published in the Washington Examiner, and syndicated on Please read and share this important piece.

Grace Ramsey, Deputy Outreach Director of FairVote

Unrig the System was a fantastic experience for the FairVote team. In sessions we were able to hear colleagues in the electoral reform space discuss the urgent issues that plague our democracy.

Among them, ranked choice voting was frequently mentioned as one of the key solutions to our electoral woes.

'The how' is as important as 'The what' when it comes to mobilizing the American people to fully participate in revitalizing our democracy. John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries

At our table FairVote staff were able to have hundreds of conversations with activists and colleagues where we were able to get activists plugged into the movement and share ideas for collaboration with other members of the reform community.

And finally, in panel discussions, the democracy science fair, and the Spark Talk stage we were able to share our current campaigns and priorities with activists and colleagues that had come from across the country.

Unrig the System was a thrilling reminder of the passion that exists in the reform community and we are excited to dive back into our ongoing work and campaign, engage and develop the new connections we made at the conference, and continue to develop partnerships and coalitions with the reform community.

Brandyn Keating of United Citizen Power

As an organization that works to make sure our government serves all Americans and not just a select few, United Citizen Power was thrilled to be present at the Unrigged Summit with our colleagues from the Bridge Alliance to learn and plan together.

We participated in exciting discussions and planning about making the changes necessary to ensure that all voices are heard in our democratic process. We are out in communities across the country every day, meeting voters who feel alienated by the current system.

Unrig the System was a thrilling reminder of the passion that exists in the reform community and we are excited to dive back into our ongoing work... Deputy Director of Outreach for FairVote

As we do our grassroots organizing, we meet voters at their doors and in the community who feel left out and left behind — but they care deeply about their communities.

We came away from Unrigged energized to play a role in growing the movement of Americans calling for fair districting, getting money out out of politics, and so much more.

We are excited about the potential for growing and diversifying this movement so that we can see the concrete change that is needed to reach the promise of our democracy.

Moving forward, we’ll be bringing the grassroots power we are developing to bear as well as helping other organizations to increase their capacity to grow the movement by providing training on bringing relational organizing to scale.

Throughout we’ll be marrying the grassroots work with that of cultural and political influencers.

Bruce Bond, Committee Member of Common Ground Committee

The Unrig the System conference featured Passion with a capital “P.” These folks were mad as hell and determined not to take it anymore.

But among the vociferous demands for change were stories of people who were quietly getting involved to weaken the forces that maintain the parts of our political system that put too much power in the hands of a few.

If nothing else, the passion of the Unrig conference proved the political situation is ripe for change.

The Unrig the System conference featured Passion with a capital 'P.' These folks were mad as hell and determined not to take it anymore. Bruce Bond, Common Ground Committee

Recognizing this, in 2018 Common Ground Committee will be delivering more of its unique events than in the past three years combined. These are public forums where renowned panelists with differing views on important issues demonstrate to audiences “what good looks like” – passionate, but respectful and productive debate where panelists work with their counterpart to find points of common ground without compromising principles and identify opportunities for political leaders to make deals.

Our 2018 conferences will take place mostly on college campuses, a new focus for us.

In 2018, we are also ramping up our online activity and will be actively supporting Bridge Alliance initiatives.

Change is coming and we mean to be a part of it.

Pearce Godwin, Founder and CEO of the Listen First Project

In New Orleans, I was inspired by the breadth and depth of passion for revitalizing our democracy. Most of the activists who attended the Summit are focusing on important structural or electoral reforms–efforts that will be most successful on a foundation of cultural transformation.

In today’s hyper-polarized and tribalized world, we must turn the tide of rising rancor and deepening division by starting new conversations that bridge divides — move from ‘us vs. them’ to ‘me and you.’

Unless we as citizens and leaders are able to have listen-first conversations that prioritize understanding the other, our reform efforts will fail to widely resonate and thus be limited in impact.

As Walt Roberts said during our Conversations Across Divides panel:

“The quality of our conversations determines the quality of our relationships, which determines the quality of our results.”

The many new relationships formed and ideas generated in New Orleans are already propelling our collective Listen First cultural movement to new frontiers.

Ted Celeste, Director of State Programs at the National Institute for Civil Discourse

I was truly uplifted by the number of participants at the recent Unrig the System Summit in New Orleans. The enthusiasm and energy were in high gear.

As a member of the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) team, I was pleased to be among so many folks who are trying to address the political dysfunction in America today, whether the power that money has over every level of government, the way congressional districts are drawn to favor incumbents, the oppressive partisanship of the two parties, or just the basic breakdown of civility in our political discourse.

Unless we as citizens and leaders are able to have listen-first conversations that prioritize understanding the other, our reform efforts will fail to widely resonate and thus be limited in impact. Pearce Godwin, Founder and CEO of the Listen First Project

I lead a program that is aimed at bringing some civility to our state legislatures, and while it has been an uphill climb over the last 6 years, we have found through the Bridge Alliance a partnering opportunity with the State Legislative Leadership Foundation and the National Foundation of Women Legislators that has brought our work much notice from Legislative Leadership around the country.

In that spirit, the Summit in New Orleans brought new networking opportunities forward and many varied ways to address our dysfunctional political system.

NICD is working with a number of organizations that attended the Summit in the preparation of a National Week of Conversation – April 20-28. The Bridge Alliance and the Listen First Project held a briefing about the purpose of the Week of Conversation, and encouraged other groups to join in the effort, and NICD plans to have a major role with a focus on promoting civility in the 2018 elections.

I was pleased to learn of the goal of the new Director of Development of Bridge Alliance, Doug Nickle, to try to combine the reach of the various organizations within the alliance in order to provide a marketing edge for any development efforts. We look forward to working with Doug and the Bridge Alliance in this undertaking.

A big thank you to the organizers of the Unrig the System Summit. Hopefully the energy and effort will be sustained.

Jeff Clements, President of American Promise

Two things stand out to us at American Promise about the Unrig Summit. The first is the determination of so many Americans to go big on reform.

A 28th Amendment to the US Constitution that can end the domination of big money and secure real and fair representation of all Americans? We can do that. So many at the Summit reject the tired and false narrative that Americans aren’t capable of winning a Constitutional amendment in our time.

We also were so impressed with how much people are ready to work together for all the necessary reforms. Yes, we need a 28th Amendment as a foundation, but we need to build the rest of the reform “house”: anti-corruption acts, ranked choice voting, open up the political process and challenge the party duopoly and the political-industrial complex, end gerrymandering and empower citizens across the country who are willing to believe that the Amendment is winnable and necessary.

We returned from the Unrig the System Summit with a continuing commitment to cross-partisanship, and to working in coalition with all of our allies, old and new. We’re doubling down to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass sweeping reform, create lasting change, and live up to the American promise.

We hope that all plan to attend our upcoming National Citizen Leadership Conference, June 22-25 in Washington, D.C.

If you wish to learn more about the Bridge Alliance or its members, you can visit the coalition’s website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Photo Source: Crowdpac

Shawn M. - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Black Voting Rights Leader: BOTH Parties Guilty of Voter Suppression

Fri, 2018-02-16 15:48

Black Voting Rights Leader: BOTH Parties Guilty of Voter Suppression

I am a physician and a black woman who grew up poor and came of age in the 1970’s. I‘ve spent 25 years practicing medicine, mainly in Harlem, and I care deeply about the state of our country, about the state of black America, and about the state of our democracy.

I am also a political independent and reform activist who has worked for years to help generate conversations about our dysfunctional and divisive political system and the overwhelming social crisis that results from it.

These can be challenging narratives to reconcile, and that means that today’s still mostly white political reform movement has to build bridges with communities of color. No movement can achieve fundamental democratic restructuring without the substantial inclusion and leadership of communities of color.

This is not an easy task.

The black community is being told, in many different ways, that its interests are synonymous with protecting the two-party system in general, and the Democratic Party in particular. Is that consistent with empowering African-Americans in today’s world? With 42 percent of Americans now identifying as independent, many people, myself included, feel that blind loyalty to the Democratic Party is not an option.

No movement can achieve fundamental democratic restructuring without the substantial inclusion and leadership of communities of color. Dr. Jessie Fields, Harlem physician and National Spokesperson for Open Primaries

African-Americans played an active role in the formation of the American Republic and we have always been a leadership force in expanding democracy.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 14th Amendment, which was forged from the horrors of slavery and wrung from the battlefields of the Civil War. It says: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges of any citizen nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

It took 100 years of relentless struggle to translate that simple proposition into civil and voting rights for black people. In these times we must pay special attention to the next challenges for that movement, in order to remain true to its promise.

There is immense pressure on black voters to protect the Democratic Party. Yet the abuses of power we are seeing today with gerrymandering and closed primaries are a two-party affair.

To be clear, recent Republican redistricting plans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania are discriminatory. But let us not forget, they are a product of a system both parties created and defend.

While we are called upon to stand up for democracy in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, we are also told to stand down on opening up our elections.

In New York City, black elected officials and Democratic Party leaders fought an effort to open the primaries to its one million independent voters, half of whom are young and of color.

In Kinston, North Carolina, after the voters enacted open primaries, the Justice Department — under President Obama and Attorney General Holder — nullified the results. Their claim was rather self-serving — that black people’s interests were better served by a closed election system run through the Democratic Party.

The abuses of power we are seeing today with gerrymandering and closed primaries are a two-party affair. Dr. Jessie Fields, Harlem physician and National Spokesperson for Open Primaries

When closed primaries became an issue in the 2016 presidential elections, young people of all races demanded that the Democratic Party change its rules to allow independents to vote. The establishment opposed it. Even the Congressional Black Caucus went on record in opposition.

There is no question that the Democratic Party was our ally in achieving civil and voting rights. But no party owns the votes of any American and no American should be required to join a political party in order to exercise the franchise.

Two million African-American independents living in closed primary states and millions more Latino independents, along with 26 million Americans, were barred from voting in the 2016 presidential primaries. Taxpayers spent a quarter of a billion dollars on those primaries alone.

This is voter suppression. This is taxation without representation. This undermines the democratic process.

Our task is not to fix the system so that it works better for the parties. It’s time to make the system work better for the people, for all the people, to aim everlastingly forward on the long road of social transformation.

Editor’s Note: This op-ed originally published on Washington Examiner, and may have been modified slightly for publication on IVN. It was republished with permission from the author.

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Photo Credit: Vox Efx / Flickr

Dr. Jessie - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Republican Congressional Candidate Stumps For “Direct Democracy?”

Fri, 2018-02-16 13:25

Republican Congressional Candidate Stumps For “Direct Democracy?”

Michael Allman would not be the first politician to attempt a successful campaign based on the idea of “Direct Democracy,” but he is the latest. And perhaps most surprising, he is a Republican running on that message.

Also interesting is the fact that California is a top two state meaning the top two finishers in the primary will go on to the general election, regardless of party preference.

I asked Allman if he would be running if California didn’t have a Nonpartisan primary, “I would not, a lot of things had to come together for this to be the right time and the right place. And one of them is the nonpartisan primary. I can win the election without having to come up through the party process, but what I found is that the Republicans really like my message as well.”

Direct Democracy is Allman’s signature platform. On Allman’s website he notes:

“Direct Democracy is simple. I pledge to vote on issues the way you, the voters of the 52nd Congressional District, tell me to vote, on an issue-by-issue basis. It doesn’t matter what the political parties say, or the special interests, or the lobbyists, media, or anyone else.”

He continues, “I will determine your preference on specific issues with an on-line voting system. The website will list important issues of the day, ranging from tax reform, jobs, health care, the military, gun control, the environment, individual civil rights, and much more.”

Allman sat down with IVN recently to discuss his views, his candidacy and his chances of representing the 52nd district:


“The problem we have today is that we have a two party system and the people sitting in the house and senate almost always vote with the parties. I’m going to let the voters have a direct say in my policy decisions. It’s going to be an issue by issue basis on a website that I’ve created. I’m going to put up questions like budget, taxes, gun control, DACA, all of the issues of the day, with pros and cons and you as a voter can weigh in on those issues, and however you vote that’s the way I’m going to vote in Congress.”


“Part of the problem we have in Washington is we don’t have enough people who have run businesses so they don’t understand what businesses really need. Having the depth of business experience that I have, from championing the solar industry to being the president of a software company, I grew that business. So we need people with business experience in Washington.”


“I’m about to embark on a town hall style campaign, throughout the 52nd district I’m going to identify places where I can go and meet people, and we will do a good job of publicizing it, so we anticipate getting big crowds, and I’m going to listen to what people really want. The biggest frustration that I’ve heard from voters is their elected officials don’t listen to their needs. My goal is to change that.”


The 52nd congressional district consists of several communities in San Diego County including Del Mar, La Jolla, Tierrasanta, Linda Vista and Coronado.

The district is evenly split between democrats, republicans and  independents.

Democrat Scott Peters is the incumbent. No Democrat is challenging Peters.

The results of the 2016 election are below.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Six Republicans have pulled papers and are running to defeat Peters for the seat. California is a top two state meaning the top two finishers in the primary will go on to the general election, regardless of party preference. No Democrat is challenging Peters.

Jeff - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Washington Isn’t Broken…It’s Fixed!

Fri, 2018-02-16 13:13

Washington Isn’t Broken…It’s Fixed!

Welcome to The Pickle podcast. My ambitions are high. I want to interview political, reform, independent, business, creative, nonprofit, entrepreneurial, and cultural movers and shakers about the pickle we are in as a country and as a world.

For me, the pickle is found in our huge capacity to innovate running smack dab against systemic community underdevelopment and the obsolescence of the partisan model. But that’s me. I spend my days working to end closed partisan primaries and shake up our calcified and partisan electoral system. I want to talk with other people about how and what they see.

My first episode is a recording of a recent public interview I conducted with Katherine Gehl. Katherine is the co-author (with Harvard Professor Michael Porter) of a recent Harvard Business School report titled, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America.”

It’s a great report.  We were able to discuss in depth how the political duopoly stays afloat and what to do about it.

We had a fascinating conversation, myself, Katherine, and 164 open primaries activists from around the country. A highlight for me was Katherine describing her journey from supporting candidates, to supporting issues, to supporting bi-partisan cooperation, to now supporting wholesale structural reform.

Over the next many months, I plan on interviewing lots of interesting people. If you have guest ideas, show ideas, topic ideas, please shoot me a note at  I’d like to hear from the IVN community about this new podcast as I get going.

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John - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

We Won’t Solve Our Gun-Safety Crisis Until We Restore Power to the Powerless

Fri, 2018-02-16 12:01

We Won’t Solve Our Gun-Safety Crisis Until We Restore Power to the Powerless

This is a reflective piece more than a data-driven piece. I’m venturing, foolishly perhaps, into a topic that hasn’t traditionally been “one of my issues.”

Of course, it’s everybody’s issue to some degree, as we all see the news and experience a bit of the heart-wrench of the individuals, families, and communities who experience the unthinkable tragedy of a shooting, especially mass shootings.

We feel the fear of it hitting our own homes or communities; we feel the pain of how deeply difficult and gut-wrenching it must be for those personally hit; we feel the sense of hopelessness…wishing we could fix the problem, but not knowing how to do it.

Of course, there are many who know exactly what to do, and they’re quick to tell everyone, whether it be a range of gun control solutions, or a range of better parenting, fewer video games, and other social-moral solutions.

But what got me to write about this is an experience I had just yesterday that reminded me of the deep divisions, intense emotions, and “not-going-away” polarization our country feels about this issue.

I took a break from an overwhelmingly stressful and hopefully short-term endeavor I’m tackling, and scanned Facebook. My long-time friend had a post, wherein she re-shared a video her husband had made late last year, as a result of his own grappling with the many mass shootings, particularly the one at the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas last November, not too far from where they live.

What got me to write about this is an experience I had...that reminded me of the deep divisions, intense emotions, and 'not-going-away' polarization our country feels about this issue.  Tiani X Coleman, IVN Editorial Voice

In the video, he shows his modest collection of semi-automatic weapons and talks a little about their capability and what prompted him to purchase them when he was younger. He then shared his “shame” about previously believing they were “cool.”

He didn’t want to own them anymore, and his shame was so great that he didn’t want to sell them to anyone else, either. And so, in front of the camera, he “got rid” of his semi-automatic weapons – sawed them up – gone.

I know these friends, and they’re not anti-gun; they’re not ambivalent about the Second Amendment. In fact, they’ve traditionally been quite pro-Second Amendment.

His message was that he was going to put his money where his mouth was, and he doesn’t believe these semi-automatic weapons are needed for personal self-defense, for hunting or for any other non-military, non-law-enforcement purpose, and they do a lot more harm than good.  But it was primarily a personal decision for him.

I was impressed. But I’m not writing about the merits of his choice or its potential positive or negative implications if everyone were to make similar life decisions, and I’m certainly not writing to promote particular policy reforms.

What I’m writing about is the reaction. I didn’t think people would get upset about someone making a personal decision to get rid of their own semi-automatic weapons. I was wrong.

I probably have more conservative Facebook friends than liberal Facebook friends (though the balance has been evening out more and more), and I know that many of my friends have very strong uncompromising feelings about the Second Amendment, and though I’ve traditionally understood the basic philosophy behind their arguments and even agree with them on a non-fanatical level, it’s never been “my big issue.”

It’s about giving people a meaningful voice; it’s about breaking down the barriers between left and right and finding new ways to understand and communicate with one another. Tiani X Coleman, IVN Editorial Voice

And so, it’s been hard for me to understand why the left and the right can’t even talk about some common-sense steps we might be able to take to lessen this huge problem in our country.

As I was talking to my own husband about the super-intense polarized feelings I’ve been witnessing from both sides over the last couple of days, he expressed something that made me realize that this issue, like so many others, fits quite relevantly into the independent movement.

He said that for many people, their guns are their way to feel powerful in a powerless society.  They have an intense distrust of institutions, a real sense of powerlessness about the economy, about their ability to right wrongs, about so many other threatening aspects of life in our society.

For me, that thought took away some of the despair. It helped me not give-in to the all-too-common powerless shrug of “we are facing a horrible crisis, but we can’t really do anything to try to solve it” –  knowing that the independent movement is all about empowering people in positive ways.

It’s about giving people a meaningful voice; it’s about breaking down the barriers between left and right and finding new ways to understand and communicate with one another; it’s about taking away corrupt power from the powerful and giving it to the powerless – the people.

It’s about healing what’s broken.

As I recently saw first-hand, our gun-safety challenges run deep. We won’t solve this problem simply by forcing one side’s will against the other’s. We have to restore trust. We have to help people feel empowered enough to be willing to talk to “the other.”

I hope we can come together and start doing this in bigger, more meaningful ways. More and more people are stepping forward and forming coalitions, supporting one another in the understanding that the answers don’t lie in a particular ideology, but in a mindset that values both liberty and equality, and empowers people.

We can give control of our elections to people over corrupt parties; control of our government to people over corrupt special interests; and control of our society to people over corrupt power brokers and Elites.

Our work of empowering people is of great value and importance. And Time is of the essence.

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Tiani X. - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

Nick Brana: Full Steam Ahead With Bernie’s Platform

Thu, 2018-02-15 19:51

Nick Brana: Full Steam Ahead With Bernie’s Platform

Nick Brana is the founder of the Movement for a People’s Party, formally Draft Bernie for a People’s Party. Its goal is to build a strong coalition of voters, progressive groups and politicians to divert power away from the nation’s established political factions, which he says don’t adequately represent the people.

But let’s back up. Brana was the National Political Outreach Coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign.

ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Amid Explosive DNC Revelations, Progressives Revolt Against Party

You might ask yourself how a person can spend an entire election cycle reaching out to super-delegates, pressing them for support of a candidate running on the Democratic ticket who is aggressively calling out their party for not representing voters. Well, let’s just say he’s a person with sincere convictions while balancing idealism and pragmatism very well.

Nick says Movement for A People’s Party is ready to offer groups who are breaking away from the duopoly a place to reside.

How can he build such a coalition in time for the 2020 presidential election? Expanding on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 platform, the movement has set out 24 principles which will guide it through coalition-building efforts.

The first chapter meeting recently kicked off in Portland, Maine, and Brana has established alliances with state representatives there who quit their respective parties to run as independent candidates.

Relationships have also been developed with Maine People’s Alliance, Southern Maine DSA, and current State Treasurer and independent candidate for governor, Terry Hayes.

Nick sat down with IVN at the Unrig The System summit in New Orleans to talk about the Donor Class, the value of Millennials and his views on a new nationally viable third party. Check out the interview above.

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Lindsay - Independent Voter Network: Unfiltered News

3 Lessons Will Decide Fate of Historic Independent Movement

Thu, 2018-02-15 19:20

3 Lessons Will Decide Fate of Historic Independent Movement

Three lessons for independent and third-party candidates and activists will determine the future of our nation and our shared planet.

My position is simple: We are the answer. Our nation and our democracy are in trouble. We need more than enthusiasm from the independent movement. Candidates and activists must sit at the same physical or digital table, debate specific problems, agree on a framework for specific solution sets, then move on to the next problem.

Examples of such dialog began early in 2016. Here are three lessons from a coalition of independent and third party presidential candidates:

1. You Have to Show Up

Eight candidates sat at the table facing the moderator at the January 2016 Independent Presidential Forum in Lake Charles, Louisiana. About halfway through the three-hour debate, four of us went from competitors focused on our individual message to political candidates who recognized policy agreements with each other in real time.

Suggestions of a coalition among four candidates began that night at dinner, then continued over breakfast. Through emails and phone calls over the next 30 days, we wrote out and finally announced what we might work on together:

  • While still competing with each other as presidential candidates, we would create a new alliance to inform Americans about credible and experienced independent presidential candidates.
  • We agreed that Big Money and a broken 2-party system have pushed America far away from the ideals that led to the founding of our nation.
  • We agreed we could strengthen the independent political movement in America by respectfully debating each other on the issues, avoiding all personal attacks, and emphasizing independent alternatives to traditional “bought and sold” politicians.
  • We understood we represented at least some elements of multiple third parties including the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Reform Party and the Veterans Party of America.
  • We would look for other debates and forums where we could participate together.

These relationships have continued as we reach out and maintain our personal connections.

2. Each point of view is a piece of the whole.

Listening to a competitor for understanding and agreement takes effort since our debate instincts are to actually debate. Those moments of open minds allow us to represent the views of more Americans.

At the May 2016 Independent Presidential Debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, sponsored by Veterans in Politics, International, listeners heard repeatedly: “I agree with everything just said and I want to add this.”

We were building on each others ideas!

Listening to a competitor for understanding and agreement takes effort since our debate instincts are to actually debate. Dr. Lynn S. Kahn, IVN Editorial Voice

We could add examples to Libertarian Party presidential candidate Rhett R Smith’s railings about the overreach of government. We could marvel at Green Party presidential candidate Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry eloquent plea to save our planet for our children and their children. We could nod with respect when Chris Keniston, the presidential nominee of the Veterans Party of America, reminded us there are no easy answers to the complex realities of America and today’s world.

As the sometimes wonky Government Mechanic, I felt support each time I offered strategic plans and solutions sets to look under the hood of agencies and frame new and more effective forms of governance.

3. Let go of your ego.

In April 2016, Sedinam drove from Los Angeles to Oakland to support me at the presidential debate of the three woman competing on the June 7 California presidential primary to be the nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party. She gave me great advice about stage presence and engaging the audience.

The next night, I was the best I’d ever been on stage. I highlighted my experiences in justice reform, interacted directly with the audience and described the mess to be found when looking under the hood of government.

My biggest lesson from Sedinam came early in our 6-hour drive from Oakland South to Los Angeles. I had wanted to correct other candidates when their statements showed how little they understood about how the federal government actually operates.

For example, helping our veterans does not mean “[w]e must demand that the Department of Defense takes better care of our veterans.” Those demands are better made of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

In the context of mutual respect, we could struggle together to define clear solutions to veterans issues, violence in America, environmental damages, poverty, unemployment, healthcare... Dr. Lynn S. Kahn, IVN Editorial Voice

Sedinam listened and challenged me:

“No, don’t do that. You do not know what they know and you certainly do not know about lives confronted every day with racism, classism and every other “ism” in this our divided nation. Be yourself. Do not compete and be generous with what you know.”

We went on to talk about white privilege, racial tensions in America, the stunning physical beauty of America, and the adventures and misadventures of campaigning. Her ideas about political candidates both competing and together creating new solutions stayed with me.

This new reality of competing candidates building on each other’s ideas emerged again at the Presidential Forum in September 2016, in Flint, Michigan, hosted by Mott Community College and the Tom Sumner Radio Program.

In the context of mutual respect, we could struggle together to define clear solutions to veterans issues, violence in America, environmental damages, poverty, unemployment, healthcare and – given the Flint setting – the failures of government, the vulnerabilities of our water systems and institutional racism.

Even the moderators commented that the depth of the discussions and the absence of trash-talking surprised them.

Within days, the next decision point became obvious. Would competing independent and third party candidates endorse each other as a strategy to win enough states to change the mathematics of the upcoming Electoral College?

As an unaffiliated candidate, I could make those decisions on my own, and I ultimately endorsed presidential and congressional candidates in 23 different states. The difficulty for candidates representing specific parties was perfectly voiced by Chris Keniston:

“I’m committed to growing the Veterans Party of America. Our executive board has to weigh in on any endorsement of other candidates.”

In 2016, the independent and third party movement ran out of time to join together and change the dynamics of a democracy owned by a broken two-party system.

We have time to join forces for the 2018 and 2020 elections. We only need to show up together, recognize that the whole is the sum of all of us, and get past our individual egos.

Read More Articles by Dr. Lynn Kahn

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Democracy Initiative: Political System, Unions Under Attack by Same Force

Thu, 2018-02-15 16:05

Democracy Initiative: Political System, Unions Under Attack by Same Force

Democracy Initiative is a coalition that has 64 member groups representing nearly 40 million workers.

Launched in 2013, the Democracy Initiative’s website says its fundamental mission is to ensure that the voice of every citizen should be heard and counted, so all of us have an equal say in a democracy that’s reflective of the constitution.

Executive Director Wendy Fields joined our IVN LIVE broadcast at the Unrig the System Summit in New Orleans and shared her views on the ever changing political landscape in our country and how that impacts her groups.

Fields was critical of the current administration and said labor unions are “under deliberate attack” by corporations that flood the system with money.

She noted the organizations efforts during the civil rights movement, the campaigns to champion voter rights, and the everyday “kitchen table” issues that impact Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike.

Click below to watch the interview:

Democracy Initiative 

“We are a 64-member coalition, groups from labor, civil rights, environmental community, the democratic community, very committed to bringing issue groups to the field of democracy to bring reforms, like money in politics, expanding voting rights and defending them, so really it’s about a proactive vision for the country and we serve approximately 40 million members.”

Labor Unions Under Attack?

“We all know that unions built the middle class in this country and when it was at 35% in the country in ’63, we passed civil rights change. We’ve won major voting reforms and bringing significant checks and balances to corporations.

What we're seeing is a resurgence of advocacy and people are typically interested in building power and winning on the issues. Wendy Fields, Executive Director of Democracy Initiative

But really it’s about the right to organize and that is why you’re seeing a shrinking base of unions in this country, and it’s a deliberate attack by the same corporations that flood the system with money.”

Independent Voices Impacting Labor Unions?

“I think independent voices are being encouraged. There is the Working Family Party as part of the Democracy Initiative coalition. I think we’re seeing candidates when they come from labor running on third party lines. I think in this moment what we’re seeing is a resurgence of advocacy and people are typically interested in building power and winning on the issues. That’s why the Democracy Initiative is focused very strongly on ‘kitchen table’ issues. That’s where we start our narrative and that crosses all political lines, Republican, Democrat, Independent.”

Read More Articles by Jeff Powers

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What Happened In Florida Was Only One Person’s Fault

Thu, 2018-02-15 13:03

What Happened In Florida Was Only One Person’s Fault

What is very strangely missing from nearly every discussion in the aftermath of a mass shooting in America is a fundamental belief about ourselves that I thought we had all settled and agreed to as a civilization and codified from the highest philosophical abstractions to the most specific legal applications: The belief that people bear individual, personal responsibility for their actions.

What happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida was only one person’s fault. And that’s the person who made a choice yesterday to do something so extreme in its wanton cruelty and destructiveness that the next ten thousand people you walk past will never consider doing anything like it in their lifetimes.

Almost everybody in the world finds it just as unthinkable as you do.

Although it seems like mass shootings are incredibly common because of the intensity of the media coverage when they do happen, they are an extremely rare aberration from the norm.

It is the fact of their rarity, how shocking, unusual, and disruptive they are, that draws our sustained attention to them.

Although it seems like mass shootings are incredibly common because of the intensity of the media coverage when they do happen, they are an extremely rare aberration from the norm. W.E. Messamore, IVN Independent Author

So it’s very strange that when these extremely abnormal individuals commit a mass murder, everyone wants to talk about everything but the individual person who actually did it, as if there were no individual person responsible. As if the most puzzling and important question isn’t: Who is so wildly different from millions upon millions of us, that they could actually do this?

Murder is one of the worst things people are capable of. Thank God it’s really not very common.

Homicide is at an all-time low whether we zoom all the way out to a world-historical time scale or look at FBI statistics in America over the last century.

Anthropologists estimate before the advent of civilization, our hunter-gatherer ancestors had murder rates ranging from 2% to potentially as high as 30%(!) among some groups.

Even at the lower end of the range, a 2% homicide rate would be a completely alien universe to people living in America today where the homicide rate is 0.000049%.

On a more local time scale, homicide in America is at a 51-year low, according to FBI crime statistics.

So even though it’s easier to feel more unsafe than ever today with the ability to watch any tragedy happening anywhere in a vast universe of 7 billion people live on your phone – we are actually safer than we have ever been.

But don’t be tempted to think for one second that you could design any system that could prevent any murder or act of terrorism or anything bad at all from ever happening again.

So even though it's easier to feel more unsafe than ever today with the ability to watch any tragedy happening anywhere...we are actually safer than we have ever been. W.E. Messamore, IVN Independent Author

And don’t think you or the most experienced lawmaker could make a serious attempt to do so without causing more, worse problems that you and the lawmaker couldn’t have even imagined.

People pick some of the most inappropriate times to exercise massive amounts of seriously obscene hubris, and I think after a mass shooting like yesterday’s is one of those most inappropriate times to start spouting off about how you think our entire society should be completely reconstituted.

Yes my thoughts and prayers are for the victims and their families this week, and for all of us on this planet together.

I love everybody and want everybody to be good.

Read More Articles by W. E. Messamore

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Prominent Missouri Attorney Launches Independent Campaign for US Senate

Thu, 2018-02-15 11:22

Prominent Missouri Attorney Launches Independent Campaign for US Senate

Another major independent campaign officially announced its launch Thursday. Craig O’Dear, a prominent attorney in Missouri, has officially entered the race for US Senate.

“On this tough day for our nation, I am more resolved than ever to chart a new way forward,” O’Dear said on his Facebook Page.

O’Dear’s campaign is founded on a number of core principles, including:

  • The need to put country before party;
  • Finding common ground to solve problems;
  • Standing for opportunity, equality, and stewardship;
  • Championing competition, transparency, and accountability in politics; and
  • Encouraging increased citizen participation.

“Our country is at a historically difficult moment,” says O’Dear. “The hyper-partisan warfare of [the Republican and Democratic] parties is a major part of the problem.”

O’Dear joins a growing list of independent candidates running for state office, including Greg Orman, candidate for Kansas governor, Terry Hayes, the first independent state treasurer in Maine and a clean elections candidate for governor, Neal Simon, candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland, and incumbent Alaska Governor Bill Walker — the only sitting independent governor in the nation.

Stay tuned for more coverage of these candidates and more.

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Would More Sanctions Against North Korea Really Work?

Thu, 2018-02-15 10:03

Would More Sanctions Against North Korea Really Work?

Alexander Matsegora, Moscow’s envoy to North Korea says that any more sanctions on the country’s oil supply would be perceived as a declaration of war.

He went on to tell President Trump, “If the supplies of oil and oil product are stopped, it would mean a complete blockade of the DPRK (North Korea).”

According to“Before Christmas, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to cut exports of gasoline, diesel and other oil products by 89 per cent.”

And The Express UK reports that, “Right now, the current UN sanction that caps oil supplies to 540,000 tons from China and 60,000 tons of refined oil from other nations was labelled as ‘a drop in the ocean.’”

You know that the war of words between president Trump and Kim Jong-un has been intensifying for almost a year, and so have actions by the U.S. Before Christmas, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to cut exports of gasoline, diesel and other oil products by 89 per cent.

For instance, in November of last year, President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson argued that North Korea deserved to be back on the list of state sponsors of terror.

Why? Because the North Korean government is reported to have assassinated a North Korean citizen — Kim Jong-Un’s own half-brother.

Of course, that says nothing about Washington’s own program to assassinate U.S. citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son under Obama, and later Awlaki’s eight-year-old daughter under Trump.

And like Kim’s half brother, Awlaki and his two children were never tried or convicted of any single crime before being killed by their own government. They were living in Yemen but were still full U.S. born citizens.

The Ron Paul Institute points out:

So North Korea is officially a terrorism-sponsoring nation according to the Trump Administration because Kim Jong-Un killed a family member.” Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has killed 10,000 civilians and injured 40,000 more since 2105 and “no one says a word. In fact, the US government has just announced it will sell Saudi Arabia $7 billion more weapons.

The bottom line? In reality, a “state sponsor of terrorism” designation has little to do with actual support for global terrorism.

As bad as the North Korean government is — and no doubt the North Korean government is terrible — the government of North Korea does not invade other countries, nor do we have reports of North Korea funding terror attacks around the world.

The designation is a political one, allowing Washington to ramp up more aggression against North Korea.

And part of that aggression are sanction, which are in and of themselves an act of war. But truthfully, sanctions aren’t a war on military or government. They are war on the people.

During this year’s State of the Union address, President Trump said this:

“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from ever happening. Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this very dangerous position.”

And there was a moving moment with a North Korean defector.

So—aggressive sanctions against North Korea are the way to go?

According to Arie W. Kruglanski from the National Center for the Study of Terrorism:

  • Extensive sanctions imposed on India and Pakistan didn’t deter them from acquiring a nuclear capability.
  • Economic pressure by the U.S. in the 1970s did not convince Turkey to remove its troops from Cyprus.
  • U.S. sanctions against Russia under the Obama administration didn’t seem to phase the country.

In fact, according to the CATO Institute, “…the most compre-hensive study of sanctions found, they fail to achieve their goals in 66 percent of cases, and they fail 79 percent of the time when designed to discourage military misadventurism.”

And why that is, is what you need to know. Because in reality, sanctions don’t hurt the most powerful, most connected and wealthiest people in a nation who, by the way, are the ones who control militaries.

No. Cutting off oil, crashing economies, weakening finance, creating a lack of food import—all that those sanctions truly do is bruise and harm the people in that country who have no real control over whether there is a war or not.

Editor’s Note: This episode of Reality Check originally published on, and has been modified slightly for publication on IVN.

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Why Local Elections Are Now Just As Partisan As National Elections

Wed, 2018-02-14 18:26

Why Local Elections Are Now Just As Partisan As National Elections

In a democracy, the people have the power, but only if they choose to wield it. With the mercurial state of America’s representative system in recent elections, it’s becoming clear that more involvement from the people is needed.

However, systems like the Electoral College mean that individuals have only so much leverage at the highest levels of government. To be heard, people must take advantage of their opportunities on the local level.

This is how the system is designed, but we need to make some changes in how we use it to realize its potential.

Closer to Home, but Further from Mind

It can sometimes feel like our country’s politics take place in far-away buildings and fancy chambers in Washington. These places can seem inaccessible to the layperson, but in fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

To be heard, people must take advantage of their opportunities on the local level. Kate Harveston, IVN Independent Author

You can get involved, quite easily, with the politics of your local government and learn a lot about how things function at higher levels in doing it. The problem we face now is that a lack of interest has allowed city politics to become colored by partisanship, just like politics at the national level.

Take for example a case from the Andover Townsman of Massachusetts. In this example, vocal community members with political experience chose to speak out against changes to voting practice designed to inject partisan politics into local elections.

The motive for this is easy to understand. Politics should be about compromise — finding a solution that works best for all.

However, the small contingents of the country that are being heard at a national level right now make it seem like that is no longer the case.

High and Low Partisanship

Part of the reason partisanship has become such a detrimental force in modern politics is that we’ve forgotten its place in political conversation. We’re putting the party in partisanship first — foregoing even minimal compromise for the sake of earning “points” for our political “teams.”

Politics should be about compromise — finding a solution that works best for all. Kate Harveston, IVN Independent Author

Ultimately we’re all on the same team, and sometimes we forget that. Well-paid politicians with powerful lobbyists to appease often forget it particularly well.

And a lack of ethics at the highest level has turned Congress into an argumentative budgeting committee, rather than a body of representatives who care about American citizens.

We should be vigorously committed to political ideas. Commitment gives those ideas power.

However, we should also be willing to accept others’ ideas and participate in political conversation. This is known as “high partisanship.” If you guessed that our current state more closely resembles low partisanship, your guess is correct.

Change Starts at Home

Unless you’re planning to run for Congress tomorrow, and good luck if you are, the place to begin to make this change is in local politics.

Our country needs people who are willing to listen to ideas and move forward with an agenda that serves the greater good, instead of promoting divisive ideas that only advance the party cause.

Representative democracy is a young system, and sometimes we forget that. It’s not perfect. There are very few political systems that stand the test of time, and what we’re witnessing now is a symptom of our system’s maturation.

We have given it time to develop illnesses, problems we have to face — and fix — or suffer huge consequences.

In our system, the mechanism that is designed to remedy this type of illness is term limits. Those in power can’t remain in power indefinitely, but they can pass their ideas along to the next generation of leaders.

Raising new leaders means starting from the grassroots in cities and towns.

So find out when and where your local government meets. Get involved, get educated and invite your friends to join. Having an opinion and defending it is a good thing, but let it be your own, not something that your political affiliation defines for you.

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Military Parades Are Really Partisan Spectacles

Wed, 2018-02-14 14:04

Military Parades Are Really Partisan Spectacles

It’s that time of year again…The time of year where President Trump asks for a military parade and the partisans on both sides go nuts.

“It’s like they’re from communist Russia, wanting to show off our military strength in a parade!”

“It’s like they’re from communist Russia, not wanting to support our military with a parade!”

When the idea of a parade is floated, those on the left mainly cite money and seeming fascist as the biggest cons, while those on the right cite “supporting our military” as the biggest pro.

So, what’s the reality?

To Have a Parade or Not to Have a Parade?

When asked the question above, there are a few things to understand before answering.

  • The “military parades are fascist” argument is a weak one. A military parade is not inherently fascist. The U.S. has had plenty of military parades. The nation’s most recent parade was in 1991, after the victory in the Persian Gulf. But don’t let people tell you they’re only for victories…there are plenty of cities around the US that host military parades on military-themed holidays such as Veterans Day, Memorial Day, or Independence Day. In fact, one of our authors just witnessed a military parade for Veterans Day marching down Columbia, South Carolina’s main street. So, don’t let people tell you military parades are a sign of fascism.
  • The “let’s use the money for our vets” one is a fantasy. The cost is not large enough to do anything substantial for the entirety of the veteran population, and at an estimated $20 million it’s well worth the marketing reach. The military spends a great deal on marketing its career opportunities to the citizens of the United States. A military parade provides a wonderful opportunity for extremely large “reach” as all the media outlets will surely cover it. And with all the hoopla about it, it’s sure to get more reach than normal.
  • The “troops hate parades” argument isn’t very good either. We’ll definitely agree that the troops in the parade will hate the parade. Every person who’s served in the active military knows that. To have a parade, the troops work their asses off to host it, march in it, etc., and it blows. We’d rather have the four-day weekend.
  • But on the flip side, the “Troops deserve the honor” argument doesn’t hold much water. Although it’s meant to honor the Troops most of “the Troops” will be indifferent about the whole thing. Despite what all these partisan vets and partisan pundits want to say, most active military will probably glance at the screen, say, “Oh, that was today?” and go about their day.
  • One interesting and not often heard argument is that a parade may help connect the civilian population and the military population. We were intrigued by this and will give it the benefit of the doubt. There is a feeling of being “forgotten” by the civilian population. The war still rages in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria, but most wouldn’t know if you asked. Therefore, it is a good point.
  • Finally, it’s not needed to show off military might. The entire world knows our military strength. It’s obvious from our spending amounts, from our world presence, or from the fact that we toppled what many experts believed to be the most effective military force in the Gulf region in under 30 days (Iraq, 2003). The military prides itself on being “silent professionals” and we know we’re the strongest, so there’s no need to bolster our spirits or for us to flaunt.

So, is one needed? No.

Would it be a horrible idea? Not really.

Would it be a great idea? Not really.

Will it matter much in the long run? Not at all.

Military parade or not, it’s more a partisan battle. If you hate Trump, you’ll hate the parade. If you love Trump, you’ll love the parade. If you’re nonpartisan, you’ll most likely think it’s a waste of time and money, but not really care much about it.

© 2018 Free Wheel Media. This article originally published on FreeWheelUs, and has been republished in its entirety with permission and by request of Free Wheel Media.

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Turning Tides at the New Orleans Summit

Wed, 2018-02-14 12:27

Turning Tides at the New Orleans Summit

Sitting in the audience at the Unrig the System Summit in New Orleans two weeks ago, I couldn’t help but feel that a tide was turning. Speaker after speaker at this high energy and well-attended event made one central point: America cannot engage its massive social and economic problems under the present system. It is too corrupt.

Until we change it, reform it, re-engineer it, we will be powerless.

The conference’s main organizer, Josh Silver of Represent.Us, echoed this point throughout the weekend.

“They’re finally starting to make the connection that our rigged election system, the way we vote, is broken; the way that candidates run for office is broken, the way that politicians govern once they’re in office is broken. Until we fix that, we’re not going to fix any of these other issues that have been so stuck and moving backwards over the last few decades,” he explained.

I ran into Silver just before the event began in the corridor at Tulane University where the conference was held and wished him well on the event. I’d last seen him in Ohio in November at a gathering on the State of American Democracy at Oberlin College, where two hundred mainly left-wing academics made desperate claims that the Democratic Party had to be protected at all costs, no matter how corrupt it had become.

Trump was the reason they gave, of course. Nothing — no issue, no cause, no investment in any kind of alternative that engaged corruption and partisanship — could be entertained.

Until we fix (the rigged system), we’re not going to fix any of these other issues that have been so stuck and moving backwards over the last few decades. Josh Silver, Director of

I don’t know Silver well. But I do know that we share a deep dislike of left intolerance of anything that is not ideologically aligned with itself. I’m not sure whether we share a dislike of the particular kind of hypocrisy and manipulativeness practiced by the Democratic Party. No matter. We’ll get to that at some point down the road.

The New Orleans event helped to crystallize the centrality of structural reform of the system. But it left open the question of how different reformers view the guardians of the system: the political parties. Do we fix them? Or do we work to remove their corrosive control over America’s political process?

For many independents, the rule-by-party paradigm is the source of our powerlessness.  In my experience, challenging that paradigm is what brings left and right together.

The conference got a taste of that when Zach Wamp riled up the conference goers at a plenary on the second day.

Wamp is a former Tennessee congressman elected in 1994 as a Republican in the post-Perot populist wave which generated the Contract With America and the GOP takeover of Congress two years into the Clinton presidency. He heads up the Reformers Caucus, a bipartisan group of 200 former electeds who champion a set of ethics and process reforms for Congress.

For many independents, the rule-by-party paradigm is the source of our powerlessness. In my experience, challenging that paradigm is what brings left and right together. Jackie Salit, President of Independent Voting

A passionate crusader with deep roots in the faith movement, Wamp explained how his years in Congress showed him the dangers of partisanship. Passing legislation along party lines is a recipe for failure, he cautioned the conference.

Obamacare was well-intentioned, he said, but it passed without a single Republican vote. It was unsustainable. The tax reform package passed under similar circumstances, in reverse. No good will come of it.

Zach charged the audience with a simple refrain. “Party before country is un-American! Party before country is un-American!”

The crowd cheered. I’m sure that party stalwarts in the room winced.

Zach and I had a chance to talk at the airport later that day. I was flying home early for my annual Super Bowl party, and we crossed paths in the Delta lounge and compared notes. I told him my feeling that a fixation on Trump as the Devil and an exaltation of the Democrats will deflate this movement, sacrifice its independence, and hand everything over to the parties.

Obama was elected by independent voters (we were his margin over Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries) to govern as one. The Democratic Party wouldn’t allow it. The result? Trump.

If we build a reform movement, the purpose of which is to hand power back to the Democrats on their terms, the whole miserable partisan cycle starts all over again. It would be foolish to think that systemic change could occur without empowering new and nonaligned forces from outside the system.

Hours before the conference opened, a group of some 25 reformers met to talk about developing a coalition of outsiders, about whether and how an “all-sides,” multi-constituency coalition might be engineered. Convened by John Steiner, co-founder of the Bridge Alliance and the Citizen Summit, Steiner pressed for crossing ideological boundaries to demonstrate a mass appetite for a humanistic alternative politics in America.

It would be foolish to think that systemic change could occur without empowering new and nonaligned forces from outside the system. Jackie Salit, President of Independent Voting

The discussion touched on many aspects, including whether or not process reform could and should precede economic and social issues. Some suggested that the democracy issues could be everyone’s second issue (this came from the rank choice voting adherents).

Dr. Jessie Fields, an African American physician and reform activist, and a longtime independent and close friend, reminded everyone that the Black community’s moral and practical leadership on voting and civil rights did not come about by putting democracy on a tier second to the hardship of poverty and alienation.

Later in the conference, Fields delivered a powerful talk at a panel on electoral reform, where she represented Open Primaries, the national advocacy center for an inclusive primary system. She said:

“There is no question that the Democratic Party was our ally in achieving civil and voting rights in the latter part of the 20th century. But no party owns the votes of any American. No American should be required to join a political party in order to exercise the franchise.”

Nowadays, the pressure for party loyalty is inescapable. One Republican conservative at the “all-sides” meeting explained his view. As much as I might disagree with Trump, he said, there is a limit to how much I can speak out against him. The more I do, the more I am branded as aligned with the liberals and the Democrats, and I will be drummed out of the conservative movement.

I was grateful for his candor and told him so. I thought it captured a bind of the movement. We seek radical systemic change, yet the most outspoken radical in America today is Trump, swinging a wrecking ball at every hallowed institution of US political life. The Left and the Democratic Party are busy defending those institutions.

I do not align with Trump’s corrupt and visionless vision, but I get his appeal. A movement for systemic change, it seems to me, has to live in the political vacuum created by those two poles.

Peggy Noonan wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal that Trump’s supporters, a solid third of the nation, don’t understand that “he must grow or die.”


But of more concern to me, at least, is that the independent movement itself has to grow or die, which is to say it has to resist the undertow that pulls back to the parties, it has to be independent of them—even as it leverages them to open up the system they have on lockdown.

This is not an abstract point. Forty-three percent of American voters consider themselves independent. Seventy-five percent of millennials do not align with any political party.

These voters, by virtue of declaring themselves to be independent, are the rigging of a different political culture.

What is that culture? For starters, it is based in the consent and creativity of the governed, not the unchecked authority of the parties.

For more than three decades, an independent/reform movement has been struggling to be born. This movement, by turns center/right and center/left, by turns issue-oriented and candidate-oriented, by turns a party and not a party, has periodically broken through to threaten the rulemakers and then been kicked to the fringes.

But it has persisted. Good things, developmental things are happening. Political reform and the need for systemic change are grabbing center stage. This need is being legitimized by institutions from Harvard to the voting booth.

Reformers across the spectrum — from the arenas of open primaries, nonpartisan redistricting, anti-corruption, ballot access, ranked choice voting, presidential debates, initiative and referenda, felon voting rights, independent candidacies, and more — are looking for ways to coalesce.

The tide is turning. But now there are deeper, thornier questions coming to the surface.

Should the American people be satisfied with reforms that allow the parties to mediate our relationship to government and policy making? Do certain communities belong to one party or the other? Will our movement enable the American people to have a conversation about these questions or will it simply try to suppress it?

To be continued …

Jackie Salit hosts a national conference call for independents to give updates on latest developments in independent politics and answer your questions. To join the next conference call on Monday, March 12th at 8 pm / ET click here.

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