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.