On Saturday March 14, 2015, in New York City, I joined nearly 500 other independent-minded activists at the Independent Voting organization’s national, bi-annual conference: Partnerships for Independent Power. About 10 months prior, I had decided that I would run as an independent candidate for President since clearly (to me) the Democrat and Republican parties were unduly influenced by the dictates of big money, special interests and a well-funded army of lobbyists. Gridlock had turned to destructive partisanship.
I knew 40% of Americans think of themselves as independent voters so I believed there would be an audience for my message: FixGovernment, Build Peace. Sadly, I had no idea there is a powerful, independent movement growing beneath the political surface. This movement has heroes and heroines, an army of activists demanding states and localities listen to independent voices, and a cadre of lawyers who are pressing the case for open ballots so Americans have greater choice regarding who they elect for office and how local and national decisions are made.
In late January 2015, I had googled “how to run as an independent candidate” and discovered Ballot Access News which lists and monthly updates what it takes to get on the ballot in every state in the union. Oh, my gosh! Someone had figured this out! Someone had done all that research!
I googled more and found Independent Voting and signed up for conference calls and their national conference. This is what I learned and what happened:
- Jackie Salit is the primary and well-deserved voice of the emerging movement. She understands the political, legal, structural, economic and social components of independent voting in America. Her point is that we need to change the culture of politics and that the genie is out of the bottle – even if politicians, journalists and even academics are blind to what is happening. Her essential question is: What kind of democracy do we want?
- The conference was to build the movement not to endorse candidates so I was there to learn.
- The barriers to independent voting are constructed by the Democrat and Republican parties: closed primaries which prevent independents from getting into the first round of voting; rules that prevent independent representation on the local and state election boards which decide who can run for office; and re-districting which carve up districts so Republicans or Democrats have safe seats.
- The conference felt like a family reunion – something was comforting and familiar about everyone I met.
- About an hour into the Friday night reception, I found Peter White of New Hampshire who listened to me for about 15 minutes and volunteered to be my New Hampshire campaign manager! Fate does work in mysterious ways!
- The energetic musical slideshow brilliantly captured the spirit and growing power of the independent movement: "This Land Is Our Land”
- We need to teach people to be political and encourage everyone to run for office at all levels - this means you!