Friday, December 28, 2007

Clinton Doesn't Get It

Bill Clinton that is. Not Hillary. She doesn't seem to get it either, but that's fodder for another post.

Proof that the former president doesn't get independent voters is apparent in this snippet from an interview with him that appeared in the Concord (N.H.) Monitor on Dec. 21:
"I think independents are absolutely pivotal to our political system," [Bill Clinton] said. "But they don't like politics; that's why they're independents. So to them, you become polarizing if someone else attacks you."
Let's break down his quote sentence by sentence.

"I think independents are absolutely pivotal to our political system." He gets it! He really gets it! This part, anyway.

"But they don't like politics; that's why they're independents." Um, no. Many independents are politically zealous. What they—we—don't like is rabid partisan politics and politics as usual. I'll give him a partial pass on this one, because it's possible that's what he meant.

"So to them, you become polarizing if someone else attacks you." No, no, no. If that was true, we'd consider nearly every politician—partisan or independent—to be polarizing, since most of them are targets for attacks. It's not being attacked but doing the attacking that is polarizing. Otherwise, we'd be guilty of blaming the victim.

In a subsequent issue of the Monitor, Donna Lee Richards, an independent voter from Nashua, N.H., provided this response to Clinton in a letter to the editor:
Independents do not label themselves as belonging to a political party. This does not mean that they are not interested, informed or involved in politics and government. This simply means that they do not limit their views, issues or votes to those favored by one political party...We are not snoozing between presidential elections only to be woken and wooed by candidates, returning to our slumber in between because we "don't like politics."
Actually, I do most of my political snoozing during our seemingly interminable presidential elections. Or at the very least, I want to.

Many independent voters are interested, informed, and involved. We do not limit our views, issues, and votes to those favored by one political party. Donna Lee Richards gets it. If our elected officials and candidates—and the population in general—understood what Richards understands, they'd realize what a formidable constituency independent voters are.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And the Winners Are...

...Democrat Dennis Kucinich, Reublican Ron Paul, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney (if you just wondered "Who??", you're not alone---she's not well-known outside the Greens). They were the high vote-getters in the online Independent Primary, in which 106,645 votes were cast. (See my previous post for details on the primary.)

What was most interesting to me was that in none of the races was there a close runner-up. Kucinich scooped up 76% of the 80,153 Democratic votes that were cast; John Edwards, the number 2 vote-getter, only received 9%. The results were even more striking in the GOP column. Of the 25,269 votes cast for Republican candidates, Ron Paul captured 93%; Mike Huckabee came in a very distant second with 1.8% of the vote. McKinney captured 80% of the 314 Green Party votes; Jared Ball** (again you ask, "Who??") was the runner-up, also with 1.8% of the vote. Just over 900 voters, by the way, selected "none of the above."

You can see the entire results here.

*Cynthia and **Jared, just so you know:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Is There Really an Evangelical Voting Bloc?

There was at one time, but there is no such entity anymore. We started to see a serious departure from the evangelical allegiance to the Republican Party in the '06 midterms, and I suspect we'll see more of the same in '08. Rick Warren, he of The Purpose Driven Life, offered Newsweek his take on evangelicals' past support of presidential candidates:
Evangelicals tend to vote for people who claim to be born again. Every president back to Carter—Bush One didn't make a big deal about it, but he would say that. What do all those guys have in common? Nothing, except that all six of them were, quote, "born again." It didn't matter whether they were Republican or Democrat.

He's right. I knew plenty of evangelicals who voted for Carter the Democrat simply on the strength of his claim to be born again; Ford the Republican never made any such claim, and he lost to Carter. Since then, every successful candidate has made that claim. The difference today, I think, is that many evangelicals feel that the born-again label has been so abused and so misused that it's become meaningless, especially among politicians trying to curry favor with this alleged voting bloc. It's gotten to the point where evangelicals may have to develop a rating system if they're going to vote solely on born-again status, a kind of spectrum from least born again to more born again to much more born again to really, really born again to absolutely, positively most born again.

Or we could all simply vote for the best person for the job. Just a thought.

Monday, December 3, 2007

More on

Yesterday I posted a piece about, an effort by political activists to enable independent voters---who are often shut out of the taxpayer-supported primary process---to have a say in the presidential primaries. I just learned that voting closes on December 18, so if you want to make sure your voice is heard, you'll have to vote soon.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think an effort of this type will be effective, and if so, how will it be effective?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Primary for Independents!

Can you tell I'm excited about this? I, a bona fide independent, can vote in a primary without registering with either major party, and I can do it from the warmth and comfort of my own home. So can you! Okay, so maybe it doesn't actually count or anything, but you've got to admire the independent minds* that thought this up.

Here's the deal: You go to and vote for one of 16 current presidential candidates (eight Democrats and eight Republicans). You can only vote for one, of course, or you can select "None of the Candidates." Only then do you register to vote (talk about rebellious!) by entering your name, email address, and zip code. Hit "Submit," and your vote is counted. You can only vote once. Well, once per email address, but you wouldn't vote multiples times under a slew of different email addresses, would you? Another option, by the way, is to click on "I've Already Voted; Skip This Page." That's what I did, even though I hadn't voted and even though I know and trust the creators of the site. Still, I wanted to know more before I voted.

So here's the point: Obviously, your vote doesn't count in any legal sense, but there's a lot to be said about giving independents a voice in the primary process. Imagine what would happen if independents—whom the major parties know are pivotal to their success—voted overwhelmingly for, say, Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Ron Paul. That would give the Hillary-Barack and Rudy-Mitt contingents pause, if nothing else.

But that's just me talking. The folks at Independent Primary say they created the site to:

...establish and measure the power and impact of independent-minded voters on the presidential election.

We are part of a movement bringing together ordinary Americans who think that the good of the country is more important than the good of the political parties.

Frustrated by the lack of genuine and inclusive dialogue about the issues that are critical to the future of our nation, Independent Primary is uniting independent-minded Americans into an organized force to challenge the partisanship and special interest control of policy-making which is endangering our democracy.

We are committed to find a new way of doing politics that is free from the domination of big money, political party bosses and the corporate-owned media.

Sounds good to me. I do think this is an effort worth participating in. And hey, you don't even have to leave home. No effort at all.

* That would be the fine people at IndependentVoice.Org, Independent Texans, Committee for an Independent Voice New Hampshire, and the Committee for a Unified Independent Party.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Power to the People vs Give Peace a Chance

The hippie in me can't help but love this video. If only Mike Gravel, and peace, had a chance.

Daily Show Writers on the Writers' Strike

So here I am, a viewer who relies on The Daily Show for political news*, and a writer who relies on corporations for a living wage**. What to do? I can't exactly protest the comedy writers' protest, but still. I do miss JonStephen.

Oh, I get it. That can be my excuse for not blogging lo these many weeks. I'm expressing my solidarity with the striking writers. That's it.

* Not really.
** I wish.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Time to Graduate

Mike Garibaldi Frick over at The Huffington Post thinks it's time we eliminate the Electoral College:
There is no use for the archaic Electoral system in our modern, mass communication driven, interconnected world. U.S. citizens think and vote on a more regional and national level now. It's time to elect the President and Vice President of the United States by direct, popular vote. Or, at least, alter the way electoral votes are delegated.

I couldn't agree more. In We the Purple, I let my fairly strong opinions on the matter be known to one and all. It's antiquated, it's ill-suited for today's society, and it's downright bizarre. Clear enough?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Read and Recoil

Back when I was in a controlling, legalistic, our-way-is-the-only-way church, guilt by association was a typical charge made against wayward members like me. We were branded as drunkards if we went out to lunch with co-workers who partook of the occasional adult beverage. Hanging out with "unbelievers" (quotes very intentional) threatened the future of our eternal souls. And befriending a homosexual? Heaven forfend! We would surely begin to look with lust upon every member of our own gender.

This is the kind of stuff that drove many of us from many a church, and it's also the kind of stuff that is driving many of us from many a political party. It's downright embarrassing to associate with people who cast aspersions on others just because of the people they associate with. (Those "aspersions" exist only in the eyes of those doing the casting, of course; their intention is to slander others even though those others haven't done anything worthy of slander.) Dave Schraub of The Debate Link is among those who gets it; he fully understands that aspect of politically independent thinking (or "independentism," my newly coined shorthand):

Elsewhere in Virginia, Republican leaders have been scrambling to handle two rogue lawmakers in their caucus who are accusing the state Democrats of ties to terrorism because of their relationship with some local Muslim community organizations. It's a low political slam, and one most observers think will backfire, but also the type of attack that resonates with the die-hards. The folks who come out to vote in Republican primaries eat that stuff up, but the independent voters who are becoming more and more important in Virginia read that sort of thing and just recoil.
Read and recoil for sure. I'd like to believe that some of the folks who vote in Republican primaries also recoil at that kind of behavior, which insults the intelligence of voters, embarrasses many of the party faithful, says God knows what about Democrats and Muslim community organizations, and smacks of McCarthyism to boot. Rogue lawmakers, indeed. The kind who need to get the boot themselves.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Get It Straight by 2008

Not much time to blog tonight, but I want to make sure you all know about the effort by Common Cause to unblock the Holt bill, which would require that a paper trail back up each and every electronic vote in the 2008 presidential election. As you may recall, thousands of votes were lost in 2006 due to voting-machine malfunction. The effort is called Get It Straight by 2008. This is a genuinely nonpartisan effort---one that we all can get behind. Common Cause is doing the heavy lifting on this; they're just asking for our support.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Why Independents Need to Vote*

Being as far behind on my blog-reading as I am, I managed to miss this gem from Art Clarke, a.k.a. The Man Behind Running Naked, which he posted last month.

*First, I must issue a disclaimer: I believe that everyone has the right not to vote. In my younger years I would sit out the occasional election because I could not bring myself to vote for a so-so candidate only to make a statement against a candidate I really, really didn't like at all. And I sat out elections because participating made me feel corrupt.

These days, though, I do vote, and Clarke makes a convincing argument for why independents should continue:
If you are a Purple Voter, always vote in every primary election! Especially the small ones...

You might not think it matters, but the people we vote for in primaries are very influential. They choose the rosters of candidates that we’re presented with for many higher offices. They form the staff of national campaigns. They are listened to by the national parties when drafting policies, candidates and platforms.

Somehow in America many purple voters (like me) believe that if the candidate they voted for didn’t win then their vote didn’t count. And often in primary elections today, the middle ground (purple) candidate loses. But our votes do matter; politics, like business, runs on a market economy. Only in politics, votes are the currency. The mere fact that someone got our vote will cause other politicians to veer in our direction to try to woo us the next time we spend our vote (see how John Kerry veered left in 2004 to try to recapture the voters that went for Nader in 2000).

Good advice, especially for independents who are less politically active and think that primaries or local elections don't count for much. If you think your vote counts only if your candidate wins, you probably don't have much incentive to cast a ballot for someone unlikely to win, like an independent or third-party candidate. But as Clarke points out, the major-party candidates are starting to pay attention to our voting habits. Maybe your vote is doing nothing more than sending a message, but Washington is starting to get that message.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dream On

Though sometimes I sound as if I can, I know I can't speak for all independent voters. Honest. So let's just say that I think I can speak for some of the independent voters I know personally, the ones that have let their opinions be known. And I can assure you that they got a major chuckle out of this snippet from an article yesterday in The New York Times about New Hampshire independents:

Advisers to Mrs. Clinton said they viewed the wave of independent voters as the single biggest obstacle to her winning a state where she routinely draws big crowds and where polls otherwise show her running strong...

Her state campaign manager, Nick Clemons, said that in the end a substantial number of independents would rally around Mrs. Clinton.

Maybe Mr. Clemons, as the Times would call him, is right. Maybe independents in New Hampshire will take leave of their senses and suddenly support the candidate who best represents politics as usual in D.C. Maybe they will forgive said candidate for virtually ignoring a question about independent voters' rights during at a campaign event---in New Hampshire, no less. Maybe they'll also overlook her ongoing disdain for independent and third-party candidates and voters.

Maybe I'm wrong this time. Maybe, as Mr. Clemons later implied, independents want change so much that they'll naturally vote for the Democratic nominee, which he has decided will be Hillary Clinton.

Let me know what you think: Will independents rally 'round an anti-independent candidate? I think you can tell what I think.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

More Secrecy, Please

Our friends over at Salon posted an intriguing story today about a secretive meeting at which conservative religious leaders explored the possibility of supporting a third-party candidate should Giuliani nail the GOP nomination. An unnamed person "familiar with the proceedings" at the Saturday meeting in Salt Lake City said that James Dobson---who has made it clear he will not support any nominee who, like Giuliani, supports abortion---and other evangelicals were joined by Constitution Party chairman James Clymer. Now that's an intriguing ingredient to add to the mix.

Dobson has nowhere near the influence today that he had in the last millennium, but still, this development could shake things up even more for '08.

Actually, I hope more clandestine meetings are held in the run-up to the election. I was nearly numb with boredom thanks to this excruciatingly long political season, when along came Dobson and his colleagues on the Council for National Policy (which Salon describes as a "powerful shadow group") to stir me from my drowsy state. Hibernating like the black bears who frequent my yard was looking to be a mighty appealing way to spend the winter; I'd just get someone to wake me when the primaries are over, you know? But now, well, the prospects of reading about other backroom deals may help keep me awake and alert through the long and dark months to come.

I can only hope.

Oh, and if you're a Salon skeptic, the conservative news site WorldNetDaily also posted a story on the meeting and its outcome. Good luck accessing it, though; the site has apparently been swamped with attempts to read the story, and I was among those shut out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is a Third Party the Answer?

The Constitution Party believes it is. Responding to the same Zogby poll I mentioned earlier in the week, the conservative political party issued a press release in which party chairman Jim Clymer made these statements:

Americans have lost faith in the two parties that have a stranglehold on this country...The massive defections from both parties ( coupled with the phenomenal growth of the Constitution Party (up 40% since 2004) should surprise no one. The winds of political change are blowing at gale force and by November, 2008 we’ll be in the midst of a Category 5 hurricane...

More Americans realize a third party candidate is going to be the ticket out of this mess.

I don't know. I'm not a party person at all. But what do you think? Do you believe a third-party candidate stands a chance in '08? What about the chances of an independent candidate rather than a third-party candidate? What would it take to break what Clymer calls the two-party "stranglehold"?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Beware the Cranky Electorate!

Peter Callaghan of The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington, says we American voters are in a "foul and ugly mood," or rather, he reports on pollster John Zogby's findings to that effect. Here are several tidbits from his article, which is worth reading in its entirety:
The next president...will be the person voters think will redefine the federal government’s role.

Is this good news for Democrats? Maybe. His most recent poll showed that only 29 percent gave President Bush positive ratings, but Congress – controlled by Democrats – got just 11 percent. To put that in perspective, Zogby said 16 percent of Americans gave O.J. Simpson positive ratings in 1994.

You have to wonder how O.J. is polling along about now. But back to Zogby:
So Americans are as disgusted with Democrats as they are with Republicans for viewing every issue through a partisan lens. They want the parties to solve problems together, which is the opposite of what’s happening.

This is exactly what the best and the brightest bloggers out there have been saying for years. Solving problems---that's our agenda. Not making sure our party of choice is in power. Cranky? In a foul and ugly mood? You bet!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rock the Debates

Rock the Debates, a nonpartisan effort to open the presidential debates to all viable candidates, including independents and third-party candidates, offers some telling videos of the frontrunners responding to a question about their opinion of open debates. A visit to the site, and watching the videos they've posted so far, is well worth your time of you're as frustrated as I am at the major parties' efforts to exclude the candidates they don't like.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Here's an Unexpected Question...

...for all you independents. Most of us are independent voters because of our disenchantment with the two major political parties. It's easy for us to rattle off all the ways that the parties have corrupted the political process. But here's a challenging question for you: What signs of positive change have you seen recently in either of the major parties? And another one: What are the parties or the presidential candidates doing to effectively appeal to independents?

Are there any signs of hope on the horizon? I'd love to get a discussion going on this topic.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It Is Finished. Thank You!

Thunderous drumroll, blaring trumpets, a choir of a thousand voices---I want it all! Yes, We the Purple: Faith, Politics, and the Independent Voter is finished. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who agreed to be interviewed and provided such terrific input. I am grateful to each and every one of you for making this a better book than I ever could have produced on my own.

When I say "finished," of course, I don't really mean finished. I mean that I've turned the manuscript in to the publisher (go Tyndale!), and the publisher has given it a thumbs-up. Actually, a hearty thumbs-up, but I'm not one to boast. So now it goes through several rounds of editing. It's scheduled for release in March.

I have at least a ton---okay, many, many gigabytes---of research that didn't make it into the book. Now that I have the time, I'll be posting a lot of that stuff here. I moved halfway across the country while I was working on the book, which seriously interfered with things like blogging and eating and sleeping and breathing normally. Now I'm blissfully kicking back and enjoying life once again. I can blog and eat and sleep and breathe normally, and even knit and read and cook up a Daisy Martinez meal once in a while.

Life is good, my friends.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Desperately Seeking Younger Independents

Yes, I know, it's been nearly two months since my last post, and here I am begging. You really don't want to hear about my cross-country move, full-time caregiving stint, technological problems, or the myriad other complications in my life, do you? Good. I'll forgo giving you the details.

Now to my request: I really need to hear from younger independent voters ("younger" meaning 35 and under). I know you're out there; every stat and poll indicates that more and more young people are registering as independents due to their disenchantment with partisan politics. Let me hear from you, okay? I've interviewed dozens of independents for my book We the Purple: Faith, Politics, and the Independent Voter, but so far I haven't connected with any younger voters. It's okay if you're registered with a major party in order to vote in the primaries, as long as you consider yourself to be independent. Also, I'm including third-party voters as well; as far as I'm concerned, we're kindred spirits in our efforts to bring about political reform.

If you'd like to be interviewed for the book, email me ASAP at

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

As I wrote on my other blog, it's been hard for me to write about anything over the past two days other than the Blacksburg massacre. And I have nothing, really, to say—no new insights, no great wisdom, no fresh perspective. Just a reminder to continue to keep everyone affected by this tragedy in your prayers; the reality is probably just now beginning to set in. It's incredibly sad.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Let's Find a Better Yardstick

Dan Panorama, aka Benjy Sarlin, posted this yesterday on The Purple State ("Political Commentary from the Youth Vote"):
I really hate the old “gallon of milk” test. Why should someone who’s been a major politician the last fifteen years know the cost of milk or bread offhand? Do we expect him to be taking care of his food shopping; is that a major qualification for office? I don’t care whether or not the guy is buying his own groceries or carefully reading the receipts for them, he definitely won’t be if we elect him president.
He's referring to Giuliani, but the same litmus test has been used for decades to gauge whether a politician is in touch with the everyday lives of the average American. The first time or two a reporter (I wonder who was the first?) asked the question, I thought it was pretty clever and felt rather smug each time a politician stumbled over the answer. That was then. The question has since become tiresome and irrelevant.

Frankly, I don't care whether national-level politicians know the cost of a gallon of milk. Many of them don't live in our reality, but then, we don't live in theirs, either. I don't know how to get us out of the mess we've made in Iraq; give me a leader who does. We need that leader in the White House and not in the grocery store.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Oh...I Don't Know

This is one of those political issues that I need to hear a variety of opinions on: same-day voter registration. The ability to register to vote on Election Day has become one of those political hot buttons, with one side claiming that it increases the likelihood of voter participation and the other claiming that it increases the likelihood of voter fraud.

Call me crazy, but I have this long-held, take-to-my-grave belief that there are more than two sides to every issue. And I like hearing lots of different perspectives. I'd love to hear what you think about same-day voter registration—especially if you're from Minnesota, whose residents have had the freedom to register on Election Day for decades.

Here's a thought-provoking editorial from Bob Fenske, editor of the Forest City Summit in Iowa, a state that just approved same-day registration. He offers one of what I'm sure are many reasonable perspectives on the issue. Let me hear yours!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Let's See If This Works

Being the chronic news junkie I am and always will be, I'm testing out Blogger's Newsreel feature above. The jury's out. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Grace and "Central Sanity"

A big thanks to Pete Abel at Central Sanity ("Supporting the rebellion of reasonable people in an unreasonable world") for pointing readers to an excellent post on the lack of grace in politics by Dennis Sanders at NeoMugwump ("The rants, musings and stray thoughts of an independent-minded Republican").

Sanders writes that
Grace is so missing in American politics. There is not much sense of forgiveness or even humanity among the diehard partisans...I don’t know what has happened in American politics that people have taken politics so seriously that they hate those who don’t agree with them or consorted with the "enemy."
Some of us came to political independence for this very reason. We couldn't reconcile the lack of grace on the part of political partisans, both Democrats and Republicans, with their claim to speak for people of faith. And I don't mean just the politicians; I also mean partisan Christians who have never run for office but have taken politics so seriously that they spew venom toward the "enemy" and claim to have a lock on absolute political truth.

Thanks, Dennis, for a great Easter-season reminder of the need for grace in political life.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

What's Your Story?

Whether you're an independent or third-party voter, candidate, or observer, I'd like to hear your story and possibly include it in my next book: We, the Purple: Faith, Politics, and the Independent Voter. The research and interviewing I've already done for the book, which releases next year with Tyndale House, leads me to believe that there are lots of people out there with fascinating, and often horrifying, experiences in a political world in which their independent status poses a real threat to the two major parties.

If you're not convinced that the Republican and Democratic leadership—from the local to the national level—feels threatened, spend a few minutes listening to an independent or third-party candidate describe the roadblocks they face simply trying to get their name on the ballot. In some cases, what the major parties do to prevent that is nothing less than chilling.

So if you have a story to tell and you won't mind sharing it for publication, leave a post or email me. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Just Seven Letters

That's all it took for the office of one member of Congress to sit up and pay attention to an issue of concern among constituents. Seven people took the time to write a letter—not an email—and an aide to the Congressman remembered them.

That's truly amazing. Annie Gill-Bloyer, who is the faith outreach organizer for the ONE Campaign, met with the aide to discuss the goals of ONE and the non-profit she works for, Bread for the World. The aide recalled having received a "number" of letters about the ONE effort ("the campaign to make poverty history"). When Annie asked how many exactly, the aide replied, "," in a manner that suggested this was a significant amount. Annie was stunned; that's all it took to get noticed? Seven letters?

Annie's experience reflects the ever-shifting realities of our 21st century existence. I'll bet good money that one handwritten letter is remembered long after those useless Internet petitions have evaporated into cyberspace. (Is there anyone left who actually believes that an Internet petition does any good—or is even opened? They're not worth, um, the paper they're printed on.) Letters—especially those that are handwritten and not printed out or photocopied—have got to be such a rarity these days that it makes sense that they'd get noticed.

This should be good news to independents who want to let their concerns be known. We're so all-fired ornery that we might just feel compelled to unearth the stationery, hunt down some—what are they called? Oh, that's right—stamps, and teach our dominant hand to hold a pen once again. I know, I know, it's so 20th century, but if getting noticed requires a return to the olden days, I'll go there. A few minutes practicing my very best Palmer penmanship, and a letter will be as good as written.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Live Free or Die!

Independents in New Hampshire are kicking some pretty powerful butt these days. Over the last few days I was away from all things electronic and print, meaning every last source of news and information, and during that time independent activists with New Hampshire's Committee for an Independent Voice lobbied successfully to defeat a bill that would have restricted the rights of independent voters to re-claim their independent status immediately after voting in a statewide primary.

In other words, voters can continue to register as Republicans or Democrats in order to vote in one of the primaries and then regain their status as independents immediately afterward. Until independent voters have complete freedom to vote in primaries, compromises like this are critical to those of us who zealously embrace our independent status.

Congratulations to the committee and especially the indefatigable Betty Ward for the hard work and long hours they put in to garnering support for independents. They even managed to get independents in 13 other states to help them make sure their voice was heard.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Blogging Withdrawal Syndrome...

...has already struck, and I haven't left town yet. I'm going away for five days, and I'm intentionally leaving my laptop behind. I'm already feeling the emptiness that comes with not being able to blog or surf or waste time on the web. We'll see how I do. I imagine I'll be on the streets, begging to use anyone's computer, by Saturday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Keeping It Positive

Despite the way they feel deep down—their utter chagrin at the political climate in the U.S., the sense of urgency they feel regarding the need for political reform, the lack of leadership displayed by so many incumbents and candidates alike—the independent activists I know nearly always express their opinions in positive ways. That's so un-hip, you know? I mean, come on—where's the rage? Where's the outrage? Where's the—um—vitriolic, hate-filled, point-the-finger, blame-all-the-other-guys rhetoric?

Thank God, it's absent. That's not to say that all independents are so inclined, but I have to say that I'm surprised and impressed at the intelligent, unemotional, well-thought-out discourse that so many independent leaders exhibit. It's downright inspiring.

We would all do well to try to follow their example. It's so easy to be critical. Really, now, think about it—we all know the problems, though we may not agree on them. What's much more difficult is finding solutions. Independents are far more focused on solving problems, because they aren't distracted by trying to get particular candidates elected. As Jackie Salit likes to say, independents don't just care about what happens on Election Day; they care what happens all the other days of the year. I couldn't agree more.

From day one, I've tried to keep my political comments here positive. Some days it's hard, really, really hard. But I'm determined to continue being positive—because negativity is way too easy and the cheap way out. I won't stoop to that. I hope not, anyway.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Political Website of the Day

I love quotations. I think I qualify as a quotation nerd. Quotation nerds understand people who say the two books they'd want to have if they were stranded on a deserted island are the Bible and Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (despite the significant overlap). I love quotations so much that it doesn't matter whether I agree with the sentiment or not. Good quotations make you think; great quotations make you think deeply; and the best quotations cause you to reflect on an even deeper level.

Ergo, I was delighted to stumble upon a remarkable collection of political quotations: Eigen's Political & Historical Quotations. I can't vouch for the site's self-description as "the world's largest collection of memorable quotes about and by historians, politicians and other public figures," but I will say this: I've been collecting quotations and quotation sites for years now, and I'm inclined to believe the claim.

Browsing the quotes on the site can be a bit cumbersome; quotes aren't searchable by broad categories but rather by very distinct keywords. That ordinarily wouldn't be a problem, but the site is so extensive that there are hundreds of keywords listed alphabetically on the "Concepts" page. Anyway, it's well worth the effort it takes to browse a topic.

Here are a few quotations I found earlier today:
America doesn't need a third party; it needs a second one.—Jim Hightower

In Arizona the two major political parties are relatively irrelevant....We just have a lot of individuals running for office.—Sam Steiger

There's almost nobody in our form of government that is totally independent, and if there were, he would probably be dangerous.—Fred Thompson

All third party nominees reflect a weakness in the major party candidates.—Mark Shields

I always get upset when people portray Republicans or Democrats as the majority. In Minnesota the two of them together don't make a majority.—Jesse Ventura
It should be apparent that I wouldn't agree with at least one of those.

So...what are some of your favorite political quotations?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Quote of the Day

From Noah Levine:
We may never have the opportunity to empower an enlightened or even wise being in the modern American political arena. We may always be stuck with choosing the less deluded of two deluded beings. It may be that all we can do is make wise choices as to who we think will bring about less suffering and confusion to the world.
At first glance, that's a depressing, though unquestionably accurate, observation. But there's something freeing in it as well. Choosing the person who is likely to cause less suffering and confusion seems to be as valid a reason as any for supporting a particular candidate. Or it seems that way to me, right now, tonight—utterly uninspired, as I am, by any candidate of any stripe.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The New Moderate

Thought I'd take this opportunity to direct your attention to a fun and interesting blog launched by Rick Bayan, who offers up his take on the liberal, conservative, and moderate perspectives on the issues. He's calling for a new political party that would appeal to moderates—and others. Here's what he says about that:
The New Moderate used to wonder if we'd be better off without political parties at all, since they've devolved into petty, disputatious factions without any underpinnings of real principle. Why not just vote for the best candidate and shun party politics altogether? But I've concluded that parties are a necessary evil: they offer rising political stars the financial and organizational support they need to conduct their campaigns, and they contribute to the ideological tug of war that keeps our political debates lively. Unity is nice when you can get it, but universal assent would be deadening. Even The New Moderate confesses that we need to hear extremist dogma from both sides, if only so we can sift through it, reject the rubbish and formulate our own beautifully reasoned centrist opinions. I just wish the debate were more intelligent and less informed by the expediencies of electoral politics. Oh, and one more thing...

This country is overdue for a new and powerful centrist alternative to dueling Democrats and Republicans. The United States desperately needs a moderate party to represent the vast and sensible middle, whose vote everyone covets but whose interests few have been willing to represent. The new party would operate without favoritism toward the rich or poor, without special-interest agendas, without connections to lobbying groups.
Parties probably are a necessary evil, though I doubt I'd ever be inclined to join one. Otherwise, Bayan's thinking resonates with mine—especially further on in the post, when he advocates "Purple Power!" Definitely near to my heart.

Check out his blog. It's worth reading.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Still Sifting...

...through all those "evangelical vote" links. One story that won't go away focuses on whether evangelicals are more likely to vote for black Christian Barack Obama or white Mormon Mitt Romney. Several months ago I read a comment on this very question that was posted (on another blog) by someone who was clearly not an evangelical. His comment went something like this: "Don't kid yourself. A white Mormon is much closer to the hearts of evangelicals than a black Christian is." I didn't comment on his comment; I figured in time he would see the light, and any comment I made at that moment would have been less than gracious. To me, and probably most evangelicals, his misunderstanding of evangelical thought is stunning. The issue of race is such a non-issue among evangelicals that we have to shake our heads in disbelief that people—nearly all of whom are outside the evangelical fold—are still bringing it up.

Seriously, if you're an evangelical—or semi-evangelical or evangelical-ish, which is highly likely since you're reading this blog—this should be as much of a puzzlement to you as it is to me. I realize people still get us confused with fundamentalists, but to think of us as racist is downright offensive.

I will get through this political season, this very long political season, with my peace of mind intact. I will not get angry. I will not. Somehow.

Monday, March 5, 2007

What the—?

Once a day, "Google Alerts" sends me links to new posts on the web that include certain phrases I've requested: "independent vote," "purple voter," "purple state," "swing vote," and the like. Google kindly searches not only websites but also news feeds and blogs. Sure, Google misses a lot of mentions, but I'd rather get an email with a dozen relevant links than one with a thousand. So I forgive Google for the omissions and move on.

One of the phrases I've requested is "evangelical vote." Normally, the daily email I get for that phrase—if I get one at all—includes a half-dozen or fewer links. Nearly always, about half of the links are irrelevant, referring to an internal church vote or an election in another country.

On Monday, though, Google alerted me to a whopping 236 mentions of "evangelical vote" that had posted in the previous 24 hours. Even after I sifted through the list and eliminated the irrelevant posts, I was left with 196 links to stories and blogs relating in some way to the impact of the evangelical vote on the 2008 election.

It's going to take a while to check out all 196 stories, but based on the one-line teasers that accompany each link I can already tell that there are still way too many journalists, commentators, and bloggers out there who are determined to place all evangelicals squarely in the Republican camp.

I aim to prove them wrong. If you're an evangelical and an independent, I'd love to hear from you. And then I want them to start hearing from us.

Now It's Getting Interesting

There's been a lot of speculation that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg might enter the presidential race. Now Newsweek's Eleanor Clift is reporting that Bloomberg and Kevin Sheekey, his political adviser, are "meeting with pollsters and consultants to assess the mayor's chances as a third-party, independent candidate." Bloomberg is surprisingly popular, especially considering he took office shortly after 9/11 when outgoing mayor Rudy Giuliani's popularity was at its peak. What's more, by all accounts Bloomberg is an effective mayor who has made difficult decisions that have helped the city despite the potential damage to him politically. (Makes you wonder: is this guy for real?)

Six months ago, pollster Frank Lutz identified Bloomberg as the only viable candidate for an independent (or third-party) run for the presidency. Given that 81 percent of the electorate has indicated a willingness to vote for an independent candidate, Bloomberg could make an impressive showing and mess things up for the major parties in '08.

Here's what Jackie Salit had to say about a Bloomberg candidacy in the winter issue of The Neo-Independent:
The Bloomberg Revolution, as his 2005 reelection victory has come to be known, forged a new coalition of independents, reform-minded Republicans, non-sectarian Democrats, and black and Latino voters looking for a way out of their blank-check contract with the Democratic Party. An unprecedented 47% of black voters broke with the Democrats to back Bloomberg and 30% of Latinos joined them, even with a Latino, Fernando Ferrer, heading the Democratic ticket against Bloomberg.

Far from unifying or “transcending” the major parties, as current conventional wisdom suggests is the recipe for a viable independent presidential campaign, in the New York scenario Bloomberg took over the Republican Party...allied with the Independence Party, and split the Democratic Party. Projecting Bloomberg’s trans-partisan popularity into a possible independent presidential run requires an accurate reading of his new coalition—with a black and independent alliance at its core—and what it produced on the ground in New York City.
One thing's for sure: if Bloomberg announces, his candidacy will have a significant effect on how the 2008 presidential race is run—and on the way independent candidates are perceived.

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Public's "Lack of Engagement"

Somehow, I missed this poll when it was released a week or so ago. So many polls, so little time—only 20 months or so until the presidential election. Whatever shall we do? Anyway, this particular poll, from the Pew Research Center, indicates a decided lack of interest in the burgeoning rosters of candidates from both major parties. Here's the lead summary:
The 2008 presidential campaign has kicked off earlier than usual with more candidates than usual, but many people appear not to have noticed. Americans are no more likely to say they have given the presidential campaign much thought than they did in December, and just small minorities can name a candidate they might support.

The public's lack of engagement in the campaign is reflected in how people are reacting to the large slates of potential candidates in both parties. Of the announced and highly probable candidates, only a few in each party are widely familiar. The results of in-depth questions suggest that the images of even the well-known candidates are fairly thin.

I suspect most U.S. voters realize that their opinion hardly counts at this point, or really, at any point up until Election Day. (Some, still smarting from the 2000 election debacle, would say their opinion hardly counts on Election Day. But that's another matter entirely.) Bear with me here, because I'm doing my best to keep from resorting to negativity in my discussion of all things political. It's mighty hard, though, so at the risk of sounding negative and even a bit predictable, I'll say this: no matter what we think, the leadership of both parties will do what they want, and they already know what that is. Help me put a positive spin on that, okay?

You can read about the results of the poll here. Items of interest to independents include these findings:

  • 64% of Democratic-leaning independents "who have heard of"* Barack Obama would vote for him, compared to 54% who have heard of Hillary Clinton and would vote for her. Al Gore and John Edwards were also in the running, but I didn't see a percentage for preference among independents.

  • 62% of Republican-leaning independents who have heard of Rudy Giuliani would vote for him, compared to 56% who have heard of John McCain and would vote for him. Mitt Romney came in a distant third at 35%.

  • 36% of independents (no mention of their partisan leanings in this section) would be less likely to support a philandering presidential candidate, compared to 25% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans.

  • 50% of independents (see parenthetical note above) are less likely to vote for candidate who never held elective office, compared to 59% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans.

  • 31% of independents (ditto) are more likely to vote for a Christian candidate, compared to 32% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans.

Actually, the entire poll is worth checking out, even this early in the game. It would have been more interesting, at least to me, if the poll had been more specific in each mention of "independents." Did the poll only define independents as Democratic-leaning or Republican-leaning? If not, how did independent-leaning independents like me respond? Ah, the questions, the many questions.

* To the "have-not-heard-ofs": we need to talk. Call me.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Take an Independent Voter Survey

The friendly people at CUIP would like you to respond to a survey posted on their website, You only have to provide your name, and the survey is in a simple one-page, 13-question format. Best of all, there's space for thoughtful answers rather than multiple choice or yes/no responses.

The questions cover such territory as why people choose to identify or register as independents, whether independent candidates should be included in presidential debates, and your opinion of certain issues and candidates that may appeal to independents. You can access the survey here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I Am an Independent Voter

Two reasons, anyway. One has to do with my background as a journalist. At some point, and I have no idea when this was, I began registering as an independent in part because as a journalist, I had tried mightily to be objective in my reporting. As a consequence, I felt—and still do feel—that I needed to be politically independent. People who are cynical about the media may consider that to be bogus reasoning. And I understand why, because I'm cynical about the media as well. But unless you've lived inside my head, with this powerful conscience that never lets me rest, you can't begin to understand how seriously I take journalistic ethics. (Don't even bother calling that an oxymoron. I do get the irony.)

But a far more important reason is the fact that I am a person of faith—the Christian faith, to be precise. And long ago I grew weary of being identified with right-wing fundamentalists who only care about abortion and gay marriage or left-wing liberals who only care about poverty and social justice. Thank the good Lord, I'm a whole lot more complex than that. All of us are more complex than that. But when people of faith reduce their political focus to one or two issues, we all lose. Because the problems we face as a nation are bigger than a few hot-button issues that politicians use to try to divide us neatly into Democratic and Republican camps and thereby keep us in line.

I stepped out of line a long time ago. And I'm not going back. My all-powerful conscience wouldn't let me even if I tried.

There are many other reasons why I'm an independent. But I suspect that when I get around to listing them all—which I warn you, I eventually will do—I'll be able to trace every single reason back to the one thing that drives my life, determines every decision I make, and informs my worldview—my faith and hope in God.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fed Up with Partisan Politics?

I am. And so are a lot of other people. In fact, 35% of us don't identify with either of the major U.S. political parties. We're independents, and while we're too independent to agree on everything, we do share this one conviction: The political system in this country is broken, and it needs to be fixed. We believe we can all help bring about political reform by stepping away from partisan politics, thinking for ourselves, and making sound decisions based on reality and not rhetoric.

That's a serious undertaking, but we don't have to be so serious in the process. If we lose our sense of humor, we're going to lose it altogether. Then who's going to pick up the cause of political reform? I don't know, but I can guarantee it won't be anyone as thoughtful and intelligent and gracious and insightful as me. Or you.

Speaking of people who are thoughtful and intelligent and gracious and insightful, here's a video of one such person being interviewed by yet another member of the media who just does not get it:

I love how she stays so focused when the interviewer tries to get her off track. Obviously, this broadcast took place before the '06 midterms, and there's no question that independents made the difference on election day. But Jackie's right: the independents that I know care far more about what happens the rest of the year than what happens on election day.

I'm not what you'd call a political animal and never have been. I'm simply one person who refuses to be owned—or taken for granted—by any political party. You won't find political rantings or diatribes here, just reasoned opinions and valuable information on who independent voters are and how we are impacting government at all levels.

Pretty cool, I have to say, all this making-a-difference stuff.