Monday, November 17, 2008

78,000-plus write-ins for president


Those of you who have read We the Purple may recall that I became a political animal when I was denied the opportunity to write in the name of my choice for president in the 2000 election. I got so miffed that I voted against the current superintendent of elections that year.

This year 78,346 voters (and counting) cast write-in votes for president, making “write-ins” the seventh largest vote-winner—after Obama, McCain, and these runners-up:

  • #3, Ralph Nader (independent), 705, 875 votes
  • #4, Bob Barr (Libertarian), 511,362 votes
  • #5, Chuck Baldwin (Constitution), 186,335 votes
  • #6, Cynthia McKinney (Green), 153,698 votes

Actually, the write-ins could rack up many more votes, because they are among the last votes to be counted. It’s likely that we won’t know the exact number of ballots cast for write-ins until well into the new year.

You can check out the current tally of votes for the top 25 presidential candidates—including “None of these candidates,” who weighed in at #13—at the U.S. Election Atlas web site.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

“The West Wing” and the 2008 election

“The West Wing” remains one of my favorite TV series of all time. Even though I own the entire series on DVD, I’ll watch any and every episode that turns up on satellite.

According to one of the writers, he based the character of Matt Santos—the country's first minority president—on none other than Barack Obama:

Thanks to Justin Gardner at Donklephant for bringing attention to this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jackie Salit on the Election

No one knows independent politics better than Jackie Salit does, and no one is a better spokesperson for independents than she is. The ever-articulate political director for CUIP and editor of The Neo-Independent offers her analysis of the 2008 presidential election and how independents affected the outcome.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Post-election analysis


I’ll be talking about the election from an independent voter’s perspective later today on "The Blog Bunker," a radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Indie Talk 110 channel. My segment airs at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

I’ve been on the show before, and I was impressed with the intelligent dialogue we had. Too often, radio hosts are argumentative rather than substantive. Not so on The Blog Bunker, which bills itself as “A cutting-edge roundtable featuring a selection of the over 100 million bloggers around the globe.”

Indie Talk Likely topics today include the rejection of conservatism, Obama undoing Bush policies, top priorities for Obama, how long the honeymoon will last, the post-election political climate, the impact of the Internet on the election, my reaction as an independent to the Obama/Biden victory and my experience as a poll monitor.

Give a listen and let me know what you think, okay?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election reform racked up some wins

Like the politically active indies I know and love, I'm all about political reform, particularly electoral reform. The Huffington Post provided this roundup of electoral reform measures that voters approved on Tuesday. This is the kind of stuff that gets lost in post-election frenzy, especially after an election like this one was. Instant runoff voting, early voting, citizen-proposed initiatives and redistricting reform were among the winners. It's a short post and worth a read.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our long national nightmare is (almost) over


There's not much I can add to the eloquent and emotional words so many have spoken and written in an attempt to express what Barack Obama's victory means to them. What I can add is a personal perspective and a few memories of growing up during the civil rights movement and witnessing segregation first hand.

When I was a child, our family visited the South every few years. My mother was born in Georgia and had family in Florida; my produce-selling father had lived and worked in Florida seasonally and met my mother there. I don't have any race-related memories of the times we traveled by train from Philadelphia to Gainesville, but traveling by car was another story.

Car trips meant stopping in Southern states and being exposed to segregated restrooms, water fountains and restaurants. Those memories are hazy; I can mostly remember this vague sensation that Negroes, the term our family used, were lesser people, diseased and dirty and definitely to be feared. This impression didn't come from my parents. It came from simply walking the streets of Georgia or South Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s.

Even in the North, I can remember using coin-operated public restrooms (remember those?) in train stations and especially on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, and hearing women admonish their children not to use a toilet that a Negro had just used. A child couldn't help but absorb some of that trepidation.

Then came the race riots. I won't go into that history; all I will say is that if you didn't live through that time, you cannot imagine the terror people felt.

In April of 1968, I visited Paris on a high school trip. Race riots were the furthest thing from my mind---until the day before we were scheduled to return to New Jersey. The news was all around us: Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis. The fear returned. I recall looking out the window of the plane as it descended toward Philadelphia International Airport; I fully expected to see Philly and Camden, its neighbor across the river, engulfed in flames.

Today I heard someone mocking Jesse Jackson for crying as he listened to Barack Obama speak the night before. I don't care who your presidential preference was; I don't care what you think of Barack Obama---if you can’t understand why people were crying and taking to the streets in sheer jubilation last night, then you're far too cynical for me.

Our long national nightmare, the one that's (almost) over, isn't our history of racism. I'm hopeful about the future, but I'm also realistic about the deep racial divide among some segments of our society. Racism isn't the nightmare I'm referring to. The nightmare is the Bush administration. Free at last, free at last---thank God Almighty, we're (almost) free at last.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My day as a poll monitor

Looks like early voting in Colorado really paid off. I visited four five polling places and found no significant lines at any of them.

I wasn’t able to help a single voter at any polling place. But the day wasn’t a total loss. My bright yellow “nonpartisan volunteer” T-shirt attracted the attention of a young woman in a coffee shop where I was taking a break. She told me she had just found out that today was the last day to vote. She was registered in Pueblo (an hour away), but could she vote online? How about in Colorado Springs? Could she re-register today? What about her friend, who was registered to vote in Alamosa (more than two hours away)? Could her friend vote in Pueblo?

Oh my. I managed to maintain my composure as I answered her many questions.

Here’s how the rest of my day went, in Colorado Springs and its environs:

  • My first gig was at an exceedingly quiet precinct—and an exceedingly confusing one. It was on a college campus, and the signage was woefully inadequate. About the only action for several hours occurred when classes changed. One of the election judges told me that a neighboring precinct was swamped, so I went to help out at:

  • Site number 2, where there were even fewer voters. At noon I went inside to ask an election judge how things had gone so far. They told me that they expected to close up shop by 2 p.m., because nearly every registered voter in the precinct had already voted.

  • Off to polling place 3. No voters, no lines, no cars in the parking lot except those belonging to election judges.

  • Same for number 4.

  • Polling place 5, my wonderful hometown, where the wind chill was below freezing and I had to wear that bright yellow T-shirt over several layers of warmer clothing. This was the one place where I think I could have actually helped, because the lines were longer than at the other places I went to. But I had to stay beyond the 100-foot “electioneering” point, even though I wasn’t electioneering, and the lines weren’t nearly 100 feet long. The wait was only 15 minutes.

All in all, it was a frustrating day because I didn’t feel like I was much help. But it served one purpose: it exposed a few more problems that need to be fixed, liked signage and maybe better predictions about where to expect long lines and problems.

Bottom line, this seems to have been a fairly glitch-free election in Colorado. We'll see later on.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One scary election


This is the 10th presidential election in which I am eligible to vote. In the 36 years since that first vote, which I unashamedly cast for George McGovern, I have never witnessed a voting season so characterized by fear—not even the 2004, post-9/11 presidential election.

I tend to get into more political conversations than most people do because of the political book I wrote, the social networking site I maintain and my volunteer work with Just Vote Colorado. And thankfully, most of those conversations are thoughtful and intelligent. As an independent voter, I avoid partisan free-for-alls, and that makes genuine dialogue possible.

In so many conversations this year, the one descriptor I’ve heard used most often is this one: scary.

“This is the most scary election of my entire life,” a 60-something man told me. His yard sports a McCain-Palin sign, the first political sign he’s ever placed there.

“We can’t let McCain win. Sarah Palin is just too scary,” said a 20-something woman, an obvious Obama-Biden supporter.

Here’s why the candidates are all so scary, based on what I’ve been hearing:

  • John McCain: He’s a warmonger, a mere shadow of the true maverick he was in 2000, a much-too-close reminder of George W. Bush, and an elderly man who may die in office and turn the reins over to:
  • Sarah Palin: She’s a loose cannon, an inexperienced and inept candidate who needs a basic understanding of how the government works,* and a mean-spirited, sarcastic, tactless running-mate who has no place on a presidential ticket.
  • Barack Obama: He’s so liberal that he’ll turn the country into a socialist nation, so pacifist that he’ll leave us vulnerable to attack, and so subversive that he and his friends will overthrow the government. Oh, and he’s an Islamic Arab—and an African-American, making him the No. 1 target for white supremacist hate groups who will target him, leaving the White House in the hands of:
  • Joe Biden: He’s scary, it seems, only because you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. His gaffes are legendary.

Granted, there are thousands of other reasons why the public considers these candidates to be scary, such as their voting records or lack thereof, their stands on the issues and all that. But the points above encapsulate what people have said directly to me. They didn’t get into the issues as much as they did the overall perception they had of the candidate.

So should we be scared? Like a few other people I’ve heard say this, I’ve joked about moving to Canada depending on the results of the election. (For my husband and me, that’s not exactly radical; we’ve been talking about doing that since we met in 1978.) But if I do head north, it won’t be out of fear. It will be a result of pure cultural fatigue.

I understand why people think this election is scary. Though it sure has its scary elements, I refuse to be scared. I have too much hope for that. Between God and the fearless political activists I’ve met, I have reason to hope. We’re in a new political and cultural era, one in which grassroots activism is truly and tangibly making a difference. (For better or worse, this election is evidence of that; neither McCain nor Obama were their party’s anointed one.)

Let’s keep fear at bay and help others do the same. This is no time to be afraid. It’s time to be courageous.

*Okay, so they actually called her stupid. I'm being gracious.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Warning: your write-in vote won’t be counted

Dale Earnhardt

Not if you live in certain states, anyway. Ballot access expert Richard Winger* says write-in votes aren’t even counted until as late as January, if they’re counted at all:

Certain areas of the country illegally don’t count them at all. Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia all refuse to provide a tally for the declared write-in candidates. In the case of the District of Columbia, this is especially egregious, since a D.C. court explicitly ordered such tallies for declared write-in presidential candidates, in 1975…New York city habitually fails to count any write-in votes for the declared write-in presidential candidates. The Board says it is too much work to take down the heavy rolls of paper from the mechanical voting machines and look at them.

So all of you who are planning to write in Ron Paul for President, go ahead and exercise your right to vote for your candidate of choice but expect to be ignored, at least for several months and possibly forever.

If you want to find out your state’s law on write-ins, you’ll find it here.

* Thank you, Richard. I always learn something new from you.

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Early and Not-So-Private Vote

iStock_2-party ballotXSmall

I sure wish the Colorado ballot looked like the one above. This year we have so many candidates, amendments* and referenda on the ballot that Tuesday could be a nightmare at the polls. The voter information booklet sent out by the legislature totaled 140 pages, and that just covered amendments, referenda and retention of judges.

I’ll be working as a poll monitor on Tuesday, so for that and other reasons I voted early. I had to chuckle the other night when I heard a talking head on TV suggest that those of us who vote early miss out on the benefit of the full campaign. Please. He was kidding, right?

Nearly every day for the past God-knows-how-long, the two major party candidates and their running-mates have said or done something that made me not want to vote for any of them. I doubt that the next three days will matter, barring some calamitous event. Besides, who says I voted major party anyway?

Only I know who I voted for…I think. The voting procedure here in Teller County was the least private I’ve ever experienced.

We had the option of electronic machines or paper ballots, and being the intelligent creature I am, I chose paper. After all, I do want my vote to count. That meant I had to sit at a table with partitions separating me from three other voters. So far, so good.

However, even though the ballot was placed inside a privacy sleeve, it was also something like 18 inches long. Whatever column I was filling out had to be outside the sleeve, and it took some time to complete the entire column.

Anyone walking behind me could easily have looked over my shoulder to see my ballot. When you’re standing at an e-machine you can do a body block, but not so when you’re sitting. But even if it means that my privacy was compromised, I would choose paper again without hesitation.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no, the Colorado ballot didn’t offer the “None of the Above” option. Rats!

* I’m a huge advocate of citizen-initiated measures, so I’m not complaining. Honest.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who comes up with this stuff?

Never mind that this ballot is marked for Obama (it’s not mine; I don’t even tell my husband who I’ve voted for). The chosen candidate is not the point. The point is the ridiculous means of indicating which candidate the person voted for.

Voters understand checking a box or filling in a circle. Actually, anyone who made it to third grade understands those methods of making a selection. But filling in the missing section of an arrow? That’s just not instinctive or intuitive or natural.

Sure, the ballot includes instructions on how to complete it. But still, it’s simply not...normal. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s paper and not a Diebold voting screen.

This happens to be the Arizona ballot. But I don’t think we can blame that state entirely, since I understand this type of ballot is used in other states as well. I’d love to meet the person who designed this and find out what the rationale for it was.

By the way, all those other names in each party’s box are the names of the official electors. I’ve never seen that before, either.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Skewed Surveys

When I come face-to-face with God, I'm sure I'll be so astonished that I'll forget to thank the Almighty for the greatest technological invention of the past 50 years: caller ID. Computers, cell phones, the Internet, Stephen Colbert—yes, these are all great advancements in the history of humanity. But none compares with caller ID, because it's the one form of technology that enables me to choose to ignore every caller who is not Stephen Colbert.

So a few minutes ago when the phone readout identified a call from "Unknown" at the number "000-000-0000," I at first ignored it, as I normally would. That's not Stephen's number, and he's not unknown. But something told me to answer it. I did, and I hit the jackpot—a political survey. Woo-hoo! This is going to be fun!

Here's how the Q&A went, dramatically condensed for your reading pleasure:
Q: On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "very closely," how closely are you following the presidential campaign?
A: 1 (so far, so good)

Q: If the election were held today, would you vote for John McCain or Barack Obama?
A: Neither (total silence on other end: have I provoked shock and awe?)

[Interviewer recovers]
Q: If the election were held today, in the Colorado U.S. Senate race, would you vote for Republican Bob Schaffer or Democrat Mark Udall?
A: Neither. Hey, if you're going to ask more questions about individual candidates, my answer will be the same, because there are more than two candidates running, and I take third-party and independent candidates into consideration. (Interviewer says something like, "Uh, okay.")

Q: Would you be more inclined to vote for a pro-choice candidate who upholds a woman's right to choose or a pro-life candidate who wants to make abortion illegal?
A: Neither. There are ways of being pro-choice that are not based exclusively on a woman's right to choose, and there are ways of being pro-life that aren't exclusively based on making abortion illegal. The question is fundamentally flawed, because the definitions are flawed, narrow, and presume an either-or response.
I suspect the survey sponsor simply threw out my responses since they didn't fit the prescribed pattern. But for five brief minutes, I had a chance to expose an unsuspecting interviewer to the reality that there are more than two candidates for most positions and more than two sides to every issue.

I'll sleep well tonight.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Those pesky primaries

I'm well aware that the major-parties' faithful pretty much resent independents. We're necessary evils in that we're necessary to get their candidates elected and evil because we're just as likely to get the other party's candidates elected. Why they don't make it easier for us to vote in their primaries is truly bewildering. You'd think they'd pay a little more attention to the "necessary" part.

Some states have open primaries, which means you don't have to declare yourself to be a Republican to vote in the GOP primary, for instance. Others allow you to be, say, a Democrat for a day, or a month, or a quarter in order to vote in the Democratic primary. Others shut you out of the process entirely if you're an independent.

I'm an advocate of open primaries, but not because I want to vote in the major-parties' primaries. Neither is it because some states force us to be dishonest by declaring ourselves to be something we're not just to vote in the primary. Nor is it because I think it's unfair that we're shut out.

No. My reasons are none of the above. I have one, and only one, reason: We all help pay for the primaries. For that reason alone, every registered voter should be allowed unrestricted access to the primary process. As Michael Bloomberg recently pointed out, not only are we excluded, but also we're forced to pay for primaries while the parties do all they can to keep independent and third-party candidates out of both the primaries and the general election.

The Colorado primaries were held yesterday, and my interest level in the results is directly in proportion to my participation level. Which was zilch, because I'm an independent.

Oh, there was one point of interest: Doug Bruce lost. He got promoted to the state legislature last year when the El Paso county commission could no longer abide his antics. And his antics have been legion. He often disrupted the proceedings and was called everything from a slumlord (property he owns really was disgusting) to a sociopath. He raised a stink even before he was sworn in to the legislature because he didn't like the way he was to be sworn in, and later that day he kicked, or in some way assaulted, a news photographer. He was once ordered to leave the state house podium for calling Colorado's Mexican labor force "illiterate peasants" and was booted off the military affairs committee for refusing to vote in favor of a resolution veterans.

I guess it was a good day after all. Even if I did have to stay home.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Watch out for "nonpartisans"

One of the Web sites I regularly visit, Vote Out Incumbents Democracy (VOID), made a great point the other day about the misuse and abuse of the term "nonpartisan" by partisan interests. It's a timely reminder that "independent" and "nonpartisan" are not always interchangeable words. Here's an excerpt:

Strictly speaking, the term [nonpartisan] means not controlled or influenced by, or supporting, any single political party. But it is a loaded word, because it carries with it the following synonyms' meanings as well: unprejudiced, just, nonaligned, unbiased, independent, uninfluenced, unaffected, uninvolved, unimplicated, unbigoted, objective.

And very partisan interests and high priced lawyers and political advisers exploit the meanings of those synonyms in their usage of the word "non-partisan." It is a term that must be considered by a time reference. ...But non-partisan only has meaning in a time-framed context. One can be partisan in the 2006 elections and approach the 2008 elections in a non-partisan fashion, having learned something of the value of making choices by criteria other than political party name or affiliation.
The post goes on to describe how VOID is at times accused of being partisan because it advocates voting out "irresponsible, corrupt, or ineffective politicians," as they did in the 2006 midterms. I can relate; while I was glad that the GOP lost control of Congress that year, that in no way meant that I was a Democrat—although some people saw it that way. I'm an independent who leans neither Republican nor Democrat. And my pleasure at seeing the GOP get punished for Iraq and so much else is no reflection of my vote that year. For all anyone knows, since I keep my vote to myself, I may have voted for third-party candidates rather than Democrats. Or maybe I didn't vote at all. Only I know.

Like VOID, I cannot fathom why voters continue to re-elect incumbents who have done little or nothing to improve the lives of their constituents, have paid scant attention to voters' concerns, and are just as embroiled in scandalous, fraudulent behavior as those who got caught and made headlines. I'm not talking about all incumbents; I'm talking about those who have abused the power the voters gave them. You know who they are, in your own district, state and beyond.

Why do voters do this? Is it just easier? Are they so tied to their party that they want it to maintain power no matter what? What do you think?

Monday, August 11, 2008

New presidential survey from Barna

Fascinating results today from a survey conducted by highly respected pollster George Barna. As he points out elsewhere, most polls simply ask if a person is evangelical; The Barna Group asks specific questions about religious beliefs and determines from that if the respondent is evangelical.

Here's an indication of the staggering difference in results using the two methods:

Using the common approach of allowing people to self-identify as evangelicals, 40% of adults classify themselves as such. Among them, 83% are likely to vote in November. Among the self-reported evangelicals who are likely to vote, John McCain holds a narrow 39% to 37% lead over Sen. Obama. Nearly one-quarter of this segment (23%) is still undecided about who they will vote for.

Using the Barna approach of studying people’s core religious beliefs produces a very different outcome. Just 8% of the adult population qualifies as evangelical based on their answers to the nine belief questions. Among that segment, a significantly higher proportion (90%) is likely to vote in November, and Sen. McCain holds a huge lead (61%-17%) over the Democratic nominee. Overall, just 14% of this group remains undecided regarding their candidate of choice.
Wow. Those are some crazy wild disparities. You can find the full survey results here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Misunderstood Undecided Voter

As anyone who has read We the Purple the book or We the Purple the blog* knows by now, I truly resent the fact that the MSM so often links the word "undecided" with the word "independent." The independents I know—that is, the politically active ones—are, um, highly opinionated and very much decided. As I wrote in We the Purple the book:
Really now, what image comes to your mind when you think of an undecided voter? A nervous, fidgety Edith Bunker who's afraid of making the wrong decision? A neurotic individual who weighs every factor in excruciating detail to such an extent that making a rational decision has become an impossibility?
But today I'm here to defend the undecided voter in this year's election, and here's why: I respect the fact that they still want to vote even though many of them say they don't like either candidate. You gotta love someone who's intent in doing their civic duty despite the nausea it produces.

Back when it became clear that Obama and McCain would be the major parties' candidates, I recall reading a blog response from someone who had this to say about undecided voters: "Are you kidding me?? How can anyone be undecided between these two guys??" But the commenter completely misunderstood many undecideds. They know the obvious ideological differences between Obama and McCain. That's not their problem. Their problem is that they're wondering how they can be good citizens and not lose their dinner before they even leave the polling booth.

Sure, there are lots of Edith Bunkers and neurotic undecideds out there. But critics of those undecideds who are civic-minded, thoughtful and conscientious fail to hear the question these voters keep asking this year: "Is this really the best our country has to offer?"

Like them or not, many undecideds take the responsibility of voting seriously. They just wish they had better options. Many decideds wish the same.

* That's the one you're reading now. Just so you know.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Americans for Redistricting Reform

Here's a heads-up about a new initiative and Web site. A number of organizations have come together to work toward changing the highly partisan nature of redistricting. From the Americans for Redistricting Reform site:
Americans for Redistricting Reform (ARR) is a national nonpartisan umbrella organization comprised of groups from across the political spectrum that recognize the critical need to reform our nation’s redistricting process. Americans for Redistricting Reform is committed to raising public awareness of redistricting abuses and promoting solutions that benefit voters and strengthen our democracy. The organizing principle of ARR is that voters should choose elected representatives, not the other way around.

Advisory Committee member organizations in ARR include: Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center, Committee for Economic Development, Common Cause, Council for Excellence in Government, Fair Vote, League of Women Voters, Reform Institute, Republican Main Street Partnership, and U.S. PIRG. A number of civil rights groups are also involved in this project and have offered helpful advice and information on redistricting reform.
One of the problems with redistricting, aside from the obvious, is getting people behind the need for reform. Until I became politically aware, the very word redistricting sent me straight to a deep and dreamless sleep. It's a tough sell to an audience already overloaded on political news.

That's why I'm grateful to ARR for working so diligently to get this much-needed reform. The site doesn't have an RSS feed yet, but it does have a link to The Redistricting Game, which I thought was a hoot when I wrote about it in We the Purple. And no, I haven't played it yet. You're on your own with that one.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

'We have to impeach George Bush!'

Every time Jon Stewart mentions "still-President Bush" on The Daily Show, I have to chuckle. I get it. So many Americans, including lots of diehard Republicans, are so tired of this administration that it's hard to believe Bush is still in office. Is he still President? Really?

But when the conversation turns to impeachment, I generally adopt a "let's just get all this over with" attitude. I want to move on to whatever is next and not get mired in impeachment proceedings. I like the high road, and I especially like to think I'm on it when it comes to my lofty opinions.

That said, you can only imagine how I felt when I was startled out of a dead sleep with the words "We have to impeach George Bush! We have to! We don't have a choice!" These were audible, sleep-defying words. It was as if someone was shouting them in my ear.

I don't know what to make of this. It's not as if I was thinking about impeachment or Bush or anything else political before I fell asleep. In fact, I had been reading The Shack, not exactly political fare. And I don't think I was dreaming politically either.

Someone, somewhere, help me. What should I make of this? I can't shake the sensation that those words came from somewhere outside of me; they didn't originate in my own mind. And no, my husband didn't utter them. He was snoring contentedly, his sleep undisturbed by political maneuverings. What would you think if this happened to you?

Monday, July 28, 2008

'We the Purple' Poll: Obama Ahead

Each month on the We the Purple Web site, we conduct a poll of some kind. Well, that's not quite accurate. We conduct a poll whenever I think to change the content, and so far, "some kind" has meant presidential preference.

Just so you know, our highly scientific results from the recently ended poll, which still had Hillary Clinton in the running (yes, I'm embarrassed but overworked), shows Barack Obama way ahead, with more than twice the votes cast for John McCain. Clinton, by the way, nosed out Nader by a mere 5 votes.

We don't request and therefore don't keep demographic data on those who vote in the poll or those who sign up on the site for my irregular but brilliant newsletter. It's safe to assume, though, that visitors and poll participants are either readers or potential readers of We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter.

Nowhere in the book, or even on this blog, do I mention my own choice for president; no one cast a vote simply because the agree with me, since they have no idea whether or not they do. Those votes merely confirm what I've sensed for the last four months or so: that if the independent vote is the deciding factor in this race—as everyone says it is and as we independents know it is—this election truly is Obama's to lose.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Calling All Colorado Independents!

In late August I'll be hosting a caucus where Colorado independents can get together and talk about the presidential election and the political reform issues we want the next White House to address.

Because we're so spread out here, we'll likely do this via conference call. If we get enough responses from one area—say, Denver—some of us may be able to get together in person and do a conference call with those unable to physically attend.

I think this will be a great opportunity for Colorado independents to finally talk to each other about the things that are important to us.

Stay tuned for the date, time and possible location. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear from everyone who wants to participate!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Green Party: An Alternative for Progressive Christians?

One of the most frequent comments I hear when I'm out talking independent politics goes something like this: "Okay, so I know I'm not a Republican anymore, but I'm not happy with the Democrats either. Where can I go?" If the political seeker rejects my incredibly persuasive argument to just be independent, the conversation turns to third parties --- and these days, that often means the Green Party, which just wrapped up its 2008 presidential nominating convention.

So what about the Greens? For progressives, are they a viable alternative to the major parties? There's certainly a lot to be said in their favor; for one, they don't accept corporate donations, and that alone is enough to make me swoon. And their four abiding principles are grassroots democracy, social justice, ecology, and nonviolence. Not a lot to argue with there.

On social issues, Greens favor abortion rights, same-sex marriage rights, amnesty for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare, reduction in deficit spending, gun control, legalization of drugs and fair trade. They oppose the war in Iraq, capital punishment and school prayer. They are strong advocates of political and electoral reform --- not surprising, since their candidates are frequent victims of policies, rules and regulations devised by the two major parties that are designed to exclude them from the political process entirely. Their 2008 platform, which you can find at, also addresses numerous human rights issues.

If that platform resonates with you, then maybe Green is the way to go. But you can't join a party like the Greens and expect to make changes from within on issues you disagree with. They're not likely to change their strong stance on reproductive rights, for example. Ironically, you won't find as much diversity of opinion in third parties as you find in major parties; their positions on issues are often tightly worded, carefully crafted, well-honed statements that represent hills to die on. That's not a bad thing --- the major parties should be so clear on their positions! --- but it's something you should be aware of.

And before you make the leap from a major party to any third party, it helps to understand some fundamentals about minor-party politics. You need to be prepared to face defeat and disappointment with optimism, because you won't survive otherwise. Greens are in this for the long haul; they're concerned less about election losses, especially on the national level, and more about building a party and a movement so that one day those national victories will come more easily. You can expect to be asked to get involved, because Greens, like any other third party, cannot make it without the assistance of an army of volunteers. Finally, it helps to be ready to handle the attacks that are sure to come your way from people who call you a spoiler, question your sanity and berate you for supporting Cynthia McKinney for president, even if you don't.

McKinney, a former member of Congress from Georgia, is the Green Party presidential nominee this year. You may remember her as the representative who thwacked a U.S, Capitol Police officer with her cell phone after she was stopped at a security checkpoint in 2006. Not every Green is thrilled with her nomination --- this is a political party, after all, with plenty of infighting and dissension and charges of backroom deals --- but since she has no chance of winning, they're generally glad to have a nominee with name recognition and a congressional track record who might garner some media attention and thus help other Green candidates running for state offices.

Carl Romanelli, one of my favorite political candidates in the entire U.S. of A., ran for U.S. Senate on the Green Party ticket in Pennsylvania in 2006, or at least tried to until the Democrats derailed his campaign and sued him for what at last count was $100,000-plus. His campaign attracted so much attention that it resulted in a documentary titled "It Ain't Easy Being Green." Be forewarned: Lots of Greens agree with that title, but they knew it would be hard. Minor-party politics always are.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Breaking News! Voters to Decide Election!

Honestly, sometimes I'm ashamed to call myself a journalist.

Over the weekend NBC aired a segment on a presidential poll that narrowed down the results to those voters most likely to vote in the fall.

The utterly brilliant on-air reporter offered this astute observation:

"So it looks as if this year's presidential election will be decided by those who actually show up at the polls in November."

Who writes this stuff? Who edits this stuff?

The world needs me, I tell you, the news-reporting, book-editing, all-manner-of-communicating world needs me. And fortunately, I'm available.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Ladies of Liberty" by Cokie Roberts

Like most book reviewers, I get more free books than I know what to do with and seldom have time to read books that I'm not reviewing or judging or using for research. But once a year, my wonderful brother remembers my birthday* and always sends just the right book, one that I will read just for myself. Last year it was "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali; this year it was "Ladies of Liberty" by Cokie Roberts.

I love biographies, especially those that incorporate little-known primary documents — in this case, private correspondence. What made this book even better was that it contains so much that resonates with my own political views. In the very first chapter on Abigail Adams, I found the following snippet. President John Adams, Abigail's husband, had just declared a day of fasting to avoid war with France:
He was following in the footsteps of Washington, whose Thanksgiving proclamations had caused one clergyman to voice a complaint echoed so many times in the centuries since, "I feel ministers have stepped out of line and preached politics instead of the Gospel." It was Thomas Jefferson's turn to sulk in his tent, telling his daughter, Martha, "Politics and party hatred destroy the happiness of every being here."
It's important to note that political parties were brand-new to the United States, and yet they were already making people miserable. Imagine what Jefferson would have to say about the current state of affairs; he probably wouldn't be at all surprised at the recent surge in the numbr of independent voters.

* June 6. You still have time to send me a fully loaded iPod Touch or a Coldwater Creek gift certificate or two tickets for an adventure cruise through Alaska's Inland Passage.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Obama-Caroline Kennedy Ticket?

So as bloggers and their resident commenters are abuzz with criticism of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's place on Obama's v-p search team, some of their counterparts are atwitter with the prospect that Sweet Caroline, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, could actually end up as Obama's running mate.

Granted, she has little political experience and has never held elected office. But given much of the electorate's distrust of career politicians, one may rightly ask: "And that's a problem...why?" Hey, she's a Kennedy, she's a woman and she's scandal-free. What more do you want?

It's an intriguing, if not fanciful, prospect. You can hear from some of her supporters here, here and here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

John Hodgman and "We the Purple"

Becky from somewhere or other is one of my new, very best friends, and all because of John Hodgman, the resident expert on "The Daily Show" and PC Guy on the "Get a Mac" commercials.

Maybe not all because of him, but close enough. Becky and I stayed at the same hotel in L.A. during BookExpo America and met at breakfast one morning. We got to talking about the reason I was there, the release of We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter. As it turns out, Becky is a committed independent, so she stood in my autograph line later that day to pick up a copy of the book.

Beloved Becky, God bless her, then went to John Hodgman's autograph line, got a copy of his book* — and handed him her own copy of We the Purple, talking it up and encouraging him to read it. He received it graciously and seemed genuinely interested, Becky tells me.

How cool is that?

"The Daily Show" staff already has a copy of the book; my publicist made sure they got it along with a media kit. Even if nothing comes of it — even if Jon & Company don't come calling — I'm so grateful to Becky. John Hodgman has my book! That's good enough for me.

Things you probably don't know about PC Guy:
* I couldn't make it to Hodgman's signing. Ergo, I did not get a copy of his book, More Information Than You Require, or what I assume was an excerpt from it since it doesn't release until October. Whatever he was signing at BEA was titled Taxonomies of Complete World Knowledge; I'm guessing it's a chapter title. Anyway, if the good people at Dutton would like me to get my facts straight, maybe they wouldn't mind sending me a copy of Taxonomies and put me on the hot list for a review copy of More Information.

Cross-posted on my other blog.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bloomberg Is Back!

In the news, that is.

I've made no secret of the fact that I'd love to see New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg enter the presidential race, if only to liven things up a bit. Why Bloomberg? Not necessarily because I'm a huge fan but because he's got the money and the name recognition to mount a serious campaign as an independent, something we haven't seen since Ross Perot ran in 1992.

After insisting that he would not run for president, Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential news for a while. But now he's back, offering to host the first of what I hope, and many others hope, will be a series of town hall meetings between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Bloomberg's offer was made in conjunction with ABC News, which both candidates wisely rejected given the awfulness of the final Democratic debate. But the mayor, minus ABC, could still pull it off.

There's lots of speculation about what Bloomberg plans to do once his second term as mayor expires next year. By law, he can't run for a third term. What I love about all the speculation is this: The pundits readily acknowledge that Bloomberg could serve as a running-mate or potential cabinet member for either Obama or McCain. Really, how many politicians could you say that about? (After the fight-to-the-finish between Obama and Hillary Clinton, just imagine McCain and Obama duking it out over who's going to get Bloomberg...)

Like him or not, Bloomberg is one of the few high-profile officeholders who has managed to transcend partisan politics, get re-elected and retain the respect of both Democrats and Republicans in the process. Now that's saying something.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Better Voter ID Proposal

Georgia has historically been one of the most restrictive states when it comes to issues like ballot access and voter registration. Now the Democratic Party there is using — of all things — the recent Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana's photo ID requirement to challenge Georgia's photo ID law. You can read about their reasoning and the GOP's response here.

What struck me most was a suggestion made by the Dems' lawyer, Emmett J. Bondurant. It was one of those exceedingly rare proposals — an actual, reasonable solution. Though Bondurant suggested giving voters what seems to me an excessive amount of time — 10 years — to get the free photo IDs, he did recommend that the IDs be made available in places like grocery stores, housing projects and nursing homes rather than forcing voters to go to DMV offices.

It's not the photo ID that's the problem; it's the difficulty of getting one if you don't drive, or live in a rural area, or are disabled. Bondurant's idea seems like a great solution to what has become yet another partisan problem.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spoiler Alert!

Now that we know who's in the running, as if we didn't know two months ago, it's time to turn really negative and talk about all those spoilers out there who are dead set on ruining the 2008 election.

Okay, so maybe there aren't that many, and maybe it's highly unlikely that Bob Barr (Libertarian), Cynthia McKinney (presumed Green candidate), Chuck Baldwin (Constitution), Ralph Nader (Independent), Ron Paul (Republican) or any of the other 250-plus candidates for president will get enough votes to earn the right to be named this election's spoiler. But let's say someone does.

In that case, I would like to remind voters across the land 1) who the real spoilers are (hint: they're in office right now!); 2) that anyone who meets the legal requirements has the right to run for office; and 3) that if these people are denied the right to run, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of voters will be left without a candidate to vote for.

I just don't buy the spoiler argument. Like them or not, in recent elections Ross Perot and Ralph Nader gave voters a choice, as will Barr, McKinney, Paul and — can it be? — Nader again this fall. Instead of blaming a lost election on the little guys, the major parties might consider offering better candidates of their own.

If you're an independent or third-party member, what do you think about the whole spoiler argument?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Evangelicals and Political Independence

Recently I read a number of books on the intersection of faith and politics, most of them written by progressive evangelicals — Christians who adhere to an orthodox view of Scripture but who are disenchanted with the way our faith has been co-opted by the Religious Right and the Republican Party. The authors discourage all Christians, evangelical or otherwise, from pledging allegiance to either major party and encourage them to instead become politically independent.

All well and good, but each author interprets "independent" from a partisan perspective. Not one mentions registering as an independent or adopting a genuine independent perspective on politics.

I've tried not to become dogmatic about my own political independence; I've been careful not to suggest that my way is the only way. While I believe that each person needs to follow her conscience, I'm baffled when I hear someone urging people to become independent but never once suggesting that they sever ties with the major parties.

Here are a few reasons why I believe all politically minded, thoughtful Christians should at the very least consider becoming true independents:
  • Registering as an independent makes a clear statement that you have distanced yourself from the two major parties.

  • The mere act of declaring yourself to be an independent works on you in subtle but significant ways. You begin to think more critically about the issues and the candidates because you've begun to shed your long-held partisan biases.

  • By remaining a party member, people who know that you are a Democrat or a Republican immediately assume — whether you like it or not — that you agree with your party's entire platform. You are automatically pegged as pro gay marriage or anti abortion, pro war or anti family values, and so on. It's not fair, but it's reality.

  • The major parties covet the independent vote. We have an opportunity to be heard like never before. You may end up having more influence as an independent than you would if you were a party member.

  • Jesus said no one can serve two masters. We've seen what happens when Christians try to serve both God and party, and it isn't pretty. When the party wins that contest, everyone loses.

What do you think? Are there valid reasons for remaining a party member (other than being allowed to vote in primaries)? Are there other reasons why Christians in particular should register as independents and adopt a genuine independent perspective?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

David Gushee on Faith and Politics

If you've ever wondered how the Religious Right became so politically powerful and how evangelicals can repair the damage done by the movement, a terrific source of information is David Gushee's most recent book, The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center. Gushee is one of the organizer's of the Compassion Forum (transcript here) and a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Georgia, and one of the rare Christian leaders shining the spotlight on the moral and political issue of torture and human rights.

His book covers a lot of territory — my brand-new copy is already so dog-eared and highlighted that it's aging prematurely — but Gushee does a great job of keeping the focus on what he calls the "emerging evangelical center," a descriptive term but one that he admits is not quite precise:

...It is not quite good enough to say we should move to the center from the right and the left. Any right-center-left language is political...We need a biblically grounded rethinking of Christianity's entire engagement with American culture.

Yes! Gushee's "center" is less a compromise between right and left and more a fresh vision of the way Christians can bring their distinct perspective to the public square. Here he underscores one of the main reasons I am an independent and why I'm encouraging other Christians to become independents as well:

It is impossible both to represent "the church" and to function as a bloc within a national political party. Because no one can serve two masters, and because where your treasure is there shall your heart be also, one can predict that ultimately those Christians (and Christian organizations) that give themselves over to allegiance to a political party will lose the ability to retain their fundamental loyalty to Jesus Christ. They will meet various forks in the road in which it is either Jesus or the party; having chosen the party once and then again and again, after awhile the choice of ultimate loyalty has already been determined, and it will set the course for all future decisions.

Gushee encourages Christians to become politically independent but views that independence through the grid of the two major parties. Lately I've read a lot of political books discouraging people of faith from becoming closely associated with the two major parties, but only one author — me — actually proposes becoming a true political independent.

More tomorrow about the reasons why Christians would do well to consider registering as independents. In the meantime, and keeping in mind that Gushee writes from a bipartisan perspective, I highly recommend his book, both for Christians who are fed up with the recent history of evangelical involvement in politics, and for secular readers who want a better understanding of how the intersection of faith and politics went sideways and what's being done to set it right again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why I Heart Jesse Ventura

If you missed last night's Larry King Live, you missed some of the most reasonable comments made so far in this most unreasonable of political seasons. King's featured guest was former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura, who was allegedly promoting his barely mentioned new book, "Don't Start the Revolution without Me." I haven't read that one, but I did read "Do I Stand Alone?" and consider it to be a rare commonsense treatise on American politics.

Anyway, last night I was reminded of why I like Ventura the politician. Here are a few of the things he said:

  • On the federal deficit: "We're $9 trillion in debt; that means a baby born tomorrow will be saddled with $30,000 worth of debt before they've even taken their first breath of life."
  • On Hillary Clinton: "We're a free country, and Hillary Clinton should be able to run until she deems that she can't compete anymore."
  • On Barack Obama: "He's making people aware...that's the best thing you can have for a democracy, is to have citizens that pay attention and hold their feet to the fire."
  • On Ralph Nader:  "He should [run]; this is the United States. We're free. You have every right not to vote for him."
  • On the Democratic Party: "If there's anyone that can blow the election, it's the Democrats."
  • On election spending: "I won't spend more money [on campaigning] than I'll make [in office]."
  • ON McCain's age: "How is it that a federal employee [is] required by law to retire at age 65, and yet you can run for president ... at any age. John McCain could not get hired by the federal government, but he can become the head of the federal government ... It's the hypocrisy of the system."
  • On ballots: "I want to see on all ballots now 'None of the Above.'"
  • On long campaigns: "You shouldn't be campaigning before you can file for the job."

Ventura announced on the program that he's considering running for Senate as an independent against incumbent Norm Coleman and contender Al Franken. I'm well aware that in his political life, Ventura has said and done some boneheaded and ill-advised things. But I'd love to cover his campaign --- or even work on it, even though it would mean a temporary move to Minnesota.

So, Mr. Ventura, if you choose to run, I hereby apply for a position as your media point person or chief official blogger or whatever. I may disagree with you from time to time, but I fully agree with your brand of independent politics. Please run. The Senate needs you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where's "We the Purple"?

Good question. If you go to a Barnes & Noble store looking for We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, good luck. You won't find it in Politics, or Political Science, or even Current Affairs.

Nope. You'll find it Inspiration.

Never mind that the faith content is, oh, less than 20 percent. Or that the distinctly Christian content is even less than that. And the inspirational content? I'm flattered that B&N finds my writing so inspiring, but really. Inspirational, in the religious sense? I don't think so.

And apparently, never mind that the political content is 100 percent. Or that my publisher, Tyndale, correctly categorized the book as political. Or that the B&N's own web site categorizes it under "United States Politics & Government."

The official explanation?
  • Tyndale is a Christian publisher.

  • The book contains a faith element.

  • All the other books I've written are shelved in their religion section.

I particularly like that last one. What if I wrote a novel, published by a Christian publisher, that contained a faith element? Would that be shelved in the nonfiction religion section, rather than Christian fiction, because that's where all my other books are shelved?

I've been in the publishing industry for 30-some years and the Christian bookselling industry for 10-plus years, and I have to tell you, it gets more bewildering with each passing year. The more inside information I learn, the more confused I am.

Unless I'm totally off my rocker here, I do believe the purpose of both publishing and bookselling is to sell books. I mean, to make money selling books. A B&N employee tried to comfort me—yes, I needed some serious comforting—by reassuring me that the staff would be able to find my book for any customer requesting it. Uncomforted, I asked him 1) Would anyone browsing the shelves for the latest and greatest book on independent politics think to check out the Christian Inspiration section? and 2) Would anyone looking for an inspirational Christian book have a clue what We the Purple is about?

Tyndale, God bless 'em, tried again to get it shelved properly, as did a B&N rep. But no. The corporate powers-that-be overruled reason. And I doubt that B&N is alone in making decisions like this; I just haven't looked for the book in any other stores yet.

Moral of the story: If you're looking for a political book during this highly charged political season and you happen to wander into a bookstore to find one, go straight to Christian Inspiration. You never know what you'll find there. (Hint: I'm shelved just to the left of Richard Foster.)

(Cross-posted on Postmodern Misfit.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mark Daniels on the Debates

It's been a week since the infamous ABC debate that seemed to wake the nation out of its network-debate-induced slumber. Frankly, I gave up on the debates months ago*, around the time that Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich and everyone whose name was not Clinton, Edwards, Huckabee, McCain, Obama, or Romney were disinvited to participate. I do wish the League of Women Voters would take back control of the debates from the networks, but that's not likely to happen.

Maybe, in light of last week's debacle, the parties will pay attention to Mark Daniels' Modest Proposal for Presidential Debates, which he posted on the always insightful Moderate Voice:

First, get rid of anchors, moderators, or interlocutors of any kind.

Second, allow Candidate A to begin with a five-minute opening, followed by an opening of equal length by Candidate B.

Then, allow the candidates to alternate for five minutes apiece for the balance of an hour-and-a-half.

This format would afford the candidates the chance, for better or worse, to address the public directly. Longer form statements would reduce or mitigate the effect of those absurd sound bite moments...

I guarantee that we would learn a lot more about the candidates’ priorities and their ability to deal with the unexpected if debates were conducted in this way.

One other suggestion: No debates until at least January 1 of the presidential election year.

Of course, this would only work with two or three candidates. But I'm sure we can change things around a bit to accommodate all those lesser candidates who don't have any chance of winning but who bring up vital issues that the major candidates (read that "major-party candidates") ignore.

* I TiVo the debates and watch them only when I have to, and only for you.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mountain of Authors

That's the name of an event I'll be participating in on Saturday (April 12) in Colorado Springs. It's a regional event that gives book lovers and aspiring writers an opportunity to hear local authors speak. (I'm now a local author...) I'll be serving on the nonfiction panel and signing my most recent release, We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, which is getting lots of media attention in this election year. Here's the official information:

Pikes Peak Library District will host its 2nd annual regional authors’ event, “Mountain of Authors” to showcase authors of the Pikes Peak region, and offer presentations about writing and publishing.

The free program will be held from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, April 12 at East Library, 5550 N. Union Blvd. No registration is required.

This event will inspire new and established writers, and offer book fans a chance to meet and discuss their favorite titles with local authors. Panel discussions will be offered by nonfiction, fiction, children’s and teen authors. A free lunch and booksigning will also be held at the event.

Program Schedule
10 - 11 a.m. Nonfiction Author Panel (moderated by Tim Blevins)

Beth Barrett
Marcia Ford
Karen Scalf Linamen
John Stansfield

11:15 a.m. -12:15 p.m. Fiction Author Panel (moderated by Kirk Farber)

Kevin Anderson
Kacy Barnett-Gramckow
Beth Groundwater
Rebecca Moesta
Robert Spiller

12:15 -1:30 p.m. Lunch (food will be provided)

1:30 - 2:30 p.m. Children’s/Teen Author Panel (moderated by Karin Huxman)

Mary Peace Finley
Donita Paul
Katherine Pebley O’Neal

2:30 - 3:30 p.m. Author Showcase: meet authors from the Pikes Peak region, and purchase your favorite author’s books

Pikes Peak Poet Laureate reception following program.

If you come to the event and found out about it here, introduce yourself to me, okay?

(Cross-posted on Postmodern Misfit.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Compassion Forum: Democrats and Faith

Sunday night's "Compassion Forum" on CNN has the potential to rise above the dreadful televised debates of late, but only if Clinton and Obama speak from their hearts and leave the religious rhetoric behind. People of genuine faith know how easy it is to learn the lingo without living the life, and they know that speaking from the heart reveals the content of the heart, whether for good or for bad.

In a commentary posted earlier today, CNN contributor Roland S. Martin had this to say about the Democrats Getting Religion on Religion:

Sweet Jesus! What has gotten into the Democratic Party when it comes to issues of faith?...These forums [along with the Sojourners forum last June] should not be casually overlooked and blown off, because they represent a significant shift in attitude from previous Democratic presidential campaigns. Democrats, in the words of Sen. Joseph Biden after the Sojourners forum, acted more like agnostics ---­ other would say atheists ---­ when it came to issues of faith.

As Martin points out, Democrats have historically avoided faith-related issues to their peril.

But what is, and what isn't, a faith-related issue? Martin writes that the forum topics will include poverty, AIDS, climate change and human rights. Many would say that immigration, the economy, healthcare, and the like are also faith-related issues. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to name an issue that someone, somewhere doesn't consider to be faith-related.

All well and good, but there are two glaring omissions on the forum list. As Martin points out, it's past the time for Democrats to face the issues of abortion and gay marriage head-on. In We the Purple, I contend that the focus on these two hot-button issues is used to distract the electorate from political inaction. On the Democratic side, though, the focus is too often on attacking Republicans for opposing a woman's right to choose and being homophobic than on taking into consideration the very real concerns about those two issues that people in their own camp have expressed. Martin further writes:

If the Democratic Party is serious about fostering a relationship with the faith community, they are going to have to come to grips with the fact that there are Democrats of faith who are pro-life and against gay marriage, but who are in agreement on other social issues such as the response to the rapid rise of HIV/AIDS and eradicating poverty...What is clear is that in the political realm, there must be an understanding of the secular and theological worlds. And there are clear examples when folks who operate in the secular world want to apply their standards to those in the theological world, and vice versa.

The Democratic candidates' understanding of the theological world should be clear to everyone on Sunday night. Listen carefully for all those Christian buzzwords --- and judge for yourself whether they sound "learned" --- or "lived."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Latinos and the Independent Vote

One segment of the electorate that I've been keeping an eye on is the independent Latino voter, partly because Latino voters are often caught between a rock (the Democratic Party) and a hard place (the GOP) and partly because I've been expecting to see something of a surge in the number of Latinos registering and/or voting as independents. Though a sizable majority of Latinos are Democrats --- nearly 60 percent, according to some polls --- highly religious Latinos often find it difficult to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, which at least in part accounts for the 20 percent who identify as Republicans.

This year, Latinos find themselves in a real bind. Neither party has delivered on its promises to the Hispanic community. And then there's that thorny illegal alien/undocumented immigrant issue that has unfairly tarnished the image of all Latinos --- whether or not they're Mexican or U.S.-born, legal or illegal --- and neither party seems to know what to do about it. What's a Latino voter to do?

Jose Armas of Hispanic Link thinks it may be time for Latinos to jump ship, and he writes about the dilemma facing the Latino voter this year in a must-read article, Should Latinos vote for the independent candidate? Anyone interested in independent voting, the issues of concern to Hispanics, and the impact of the Latino vote would do well to give Armas a hearing. Or rather, a reading. My favorite quote from the column: "Are we throwing away our vote if we vote for Nader? No more than we have on previous presidents." Amen to that.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Are U.S. Voters Schizophrenic?

Gabor Steingart of the German publication Der Spiegel seems to think so. You can read his analysis of the American electorate here; it's worth the time if for no other reason than the reference to a rat's head in a Coke.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

New Independent Voter Poll recently posted a new poll for independents---the 2008 Presidential Strategies Survey---that's designed to provide input to CUIP* for an upcoming report on independents and presidential primaries. I took the survey last week, so of course I cannot remember what questions were asked; I'd have to take the survey again to refresh my ever-failing memory. But far be it from me to skew the results in such an unscrupulous manner, even if my motive---educating you, my beloved reader(s)---is pure.

What I do recall is that the questions were detailed and allowed participants to give thoughtful responses. If you'd like to make your independent voice heard, click here to take the survey, or go to  and click on the "2008: Take Our Presidential Poll" box in the upper right corner of the home page. While you're there, roam around the site for a bit; there's great information, articles and other resources for independents.

*CUIP stands for Committee for a Unified Independent Party, though said committee has wisely given up hope for creating a unified independent party. It's the group behind

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Yes! I Too Shall Vote!

Ending minutes—nay, hours—of speculation, I am hereby stating that I will certainly vote in the presidential election in November. This startling and much-anticipated announcement comes on the heels of James Dobson's equally startling and much-anticipated announcement to the same effect. Only he gets the benefit of announcing it on Hannity's America. Showoff. Here's a snippet from a "Special Alert" issued by Focus on the Family's CitizenLink:
Dr. James Dobson told Sean Hannity on Sunday night he is going to vote in the November election-ending weeks of speculation that he would sit on the sidelines over his policy disagreements with the two major parties’ candidates for the White House...

“Let me just say that I will certainly vote, Sean,” he said. “I think we have a God-given responsibility to vote, and there are all of the candidates and the issues down the ballot that we have an obligation to weigh in on and let our voices be heard.”
I blogged more extensively about this the other day over on God's Politics, where I'm always much more articulate and insightful. Here, it gets personal. So yes, I will vote. And no, I will not sit on the sidelines.

You may now stop speculating.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Problem with Political Sermons

Last week I did a half-dozen or so radio talk shows, a couple of them back to back. Under those circumstances, the specifics of any one conversation tend to get lost; it all becomes one big blur. But a comment by one caller---three of the shows were call-ins---stuck in my mind. The show was "Across the Nation with Bob Dunning" on Sirius Satellite's The Catholic Channel, and we had been talking about about partisanship in the church.

The caller brought up an excellent point. A homily (or a sermon), he said, involves one-way communication. There's no chance for dialogue, no time for discussion, no opportunity for disagreement. The pastor says what the pastor says, and that's it. The caller suggested that if churches encouraged conversation on political matters in a give-and-take, hear-all-sides format separate from worship services, politics in the church wouldn't be nearly so offensive.

I'd love to hear your opinion on this. Agree? Disagree? Could you see this working in your own church, synagogue, or other house of worship?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Live on the Michael Medved Show

I'll have the opportunity to talk about independent voters, and the independent voter movement, on the Michael Medved radio show tomorrow, Thursday, March 27, at 4 p.m. Eastern. The show, which airs on the Salem Radio Network, is heard on 200 or so stations nationwide and reaches a potential audience of 3.5 million listeners. To find out if it airs in your area, and on which station you can listen to it, go to the web site's station finder and click on your state.

For those of you unfamiliar with Michael, he was a well-known movie critic (co-hosting "Sneak Previews" with Jeffrey Lyons) and author before he became a well-known conservative talk-show host and commentator. (He pretty much stunned everyone when he converted from being a liberal to---some would say---an ultra conservative in the late '70s or early '80s, as I recall.) For those of you with long memories, he's also the guy who gave us the book What Really Happened to the Class of '65? and the subsequent TV show.

Regardless of what you think of his politics, Michael is a terrific and insightful interviewer. He's fair, and he always has interesting guests. (Pray that I'll keep that streak going for him!) This interview will provide me with a great opportunity to get the word out about independent activists and how we can impact the political system. I'm psyched!

(Cross-posted on Postmodern Misfit.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Independent Voters: Largest Voting Bloc

So we've known this for a long time, but here's even more proof that there are more self-identified independent voters in the U.S. than either Democrats or Republicans:
In 5,566 interviews with registered voters conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press during the first two months of 2008, 36% identify themselves as Democrats, and just 27% as Republicans.

The share of voters who call themselves Republicans has declined by six points since 2004, and represents, on an annualized basis, the lowest percentage of self-identified Republican voters in 16 years of polling by the Center.

The Democratic Party has also built a substantial edge among independent voters. Of the 37% who claim no party identification, 15% lean Democratic, 10% lean Republican, and 12% have no leaning either way.
These poll results from the Pew Research Center should also help put to rest the common misconception that independent voters are liberal Democratic leaners.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Barack Obama and His Pastor

Aside from the obvious, something about this whole Barack Obama-Jeremiah Wright situation has been troubling me. Before I could get my act and my thoughts together to blog about it, I came across a related post by Diana Butler Bass on the God's Politics blog on Beliefnet. As always, Diana said it much better than I ever could. "Putting Rev. Wright's Preaching in Perspective" is worth reading in its entirety.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

We the Purple Web Site Goes Live

Tyndale House has created an ├╝ber-cool web site for We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, and it's now up and running. The site features bonus content, an excerpt from the book, a poll on the presidential election, and an opportunity to sign up for my monthly newsletter on issues of concern to independent voters.

The site's URL is I hope you'll bookmark it and visit from time to time. I'll be adding new content in the coming weeks.

Cross-posted on Postmodern Misfit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"We the Purple" Has Released!

Having a book published has often been compared with giving birth to a baby. I've done both, and I can assure you that the analogy holds up. The last few months for me have been like the final trimester of my second pregnancy: I felt like I've been waddling through my days, wondering why on earth I got myself in this condition once again. Sure, the conception was fun and all that, and the first two trimesters were characterized by a flurry of activity, much like the nesting instinct that kicks in right about that time.

And then reality sets in. You start to feel like the elephant that you look like, and there are days when you totally believe that this is, in fact, a permanent situation. And during the worst part of labor, the pain is so intense that you're in denial that you really will get a baby out of the deal.

Today I officially gave birth to We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter, even though it officially released last week, because today is the day that I actually held a copy in my hands. And I have to tell you that after writing 20-plus books, this one felt incredibly good. It's clothbound, and the designers at Tyndale House pulled out all the stops to make this a classy book. Yes, I'm one proud, writing mama. 

Here's a link to the Amazon page for We the Purple:

Ignore Amazon's note about the book being out of stock. They should have it by now. If you buy We the Purple and like it, please post a review on Amazon and tell your friends about the book. I'm on a mission to clear up many of the misconceptions out there about independents, and I'd appreciate your help. And let me know what you think of it, okay?

Cross-posted on Postmodern Misfit.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Quote of the Day

If pro is the opposite of con, then isn't progress the opposite of congress?

~~ Keith Avery

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On Nader's Candidacy

I try so hard to be gracious and all that when it comes to politics or anything else in life. But some people make it so doggoned hard at times.

I speak today of the anti-Nader brigade. That would be the bloggers and commentators who have over the past few days have resorted to name-calling and all manner of evil-speaking directed at Ralph Nader, who on Sunday announced his candidacy for president.

"Spoiler," of course, is the most common charge hurled by those who blame Nader for George W. Bush's win in 2000. Conventional wisdom says Nader took votes away from Gore; my unconventional wisdom says Gore took votes away from Gore. But more importantly, the nearly 3 million Americans who voted for Nader that year were able to vote for the candidate of their choosing rather than the candidates of the major parties' choosing. That is what counts. I want to vote for the candidate of my choosing, and I will continue to defend the right of every other American to do the same. Here's Nader's response:
Nader said Democrats should "concentrate on the thieves who steal elections" instead of "scapegoating the Greens," a reference to the Green Party, the ticket he ran on in 2000.

"The Democrats ought to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why they have not been able to landslide the worst Republican Party and the White House and Congress over the last 20 years," he said.

Other critics have called Nader a narcissist or an egotist. I don't know Nader personally, and I'm sure many of his critics don't know him either. But I do know this: it takes a whole lot more than shallow egotism to go the distance as a third-party or independent candidate. I may never vote for Nader, but I admire his tenacity and sense of purpose.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

2008: An Historic Election?

As a chronic multitasker, I seldom pay close attention to partisan political coverage on television, except for the real deal on Comedy Central. One thing I have managed to hear, as I'm reading or knitting or researching or writing, is the phrase "historic election year," over and over again, for months on end now. Each time I heard it, I'd mentally nod in agreement. Yes, this truly is an historic election year, and it feels good to be a part of it.

Before I make an astonishing confession, please bear in mind that I was only half-listening to said pronouncements. I consider myself to be politically aware and reasonably intelligent. What's more, I'm not blind.

Now to my confession: For the longest time, I was not consciously aware that the talking heads were referring to the whole race and gender thing when they were using the word "historic." Honest. I'm not kidding.

And here's why I was unaware: I consider this to be an historic election on so many other levels that race and gender didn't even factor in to my assessment. That's not to say that turning the reins over to a different race or gender isn't a significant milestone; what that is to say is that I've gotten so accustomed to the possibility of having a female or black president that I don't give it much thought any more. And I know I'm not alone.

Here are all those other factors that make this an historic election year:

  • Independent voters' concerns are finally being taken seriously, with some major candidates, like Barack Obama, listening carefully to us even as others, like Hillary Clinton, dismiss us as annoying pests at a picnic.

  • We have a more engaged electorate than we've had in recent memory, meaning my memory.

  • Not only is the electorate more engaged, the electorate is actually doing stuff, like voting in primaries and participating in caucuses. Except for independents in closed primary states, that is. We just find other stuff to do, like hammer away at the need for political reform, starting with open primaries.

  • After seven-plus years of President Bush, even Republicans are ready for a major change. I can't ever remember a time when the party in the White House was so relieved to see the resident of the White House get ready to move out.

  • Evangelicals are no longer walking in lockstep with the GOP. Of course, many evangelicals never did, but you can't convince the media and non-evangelicals of that.

Help me finish this list. What are some of the other factors that make this an historical election year?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Independent" Board at Diebold?

Thanks to Brad Friedman at BradBlog for keeping us informed about the latest goings-on at Diebold, the company that continues to supply us with faulty voting machines. The company's latest move is to create an "independent" board of directors to oversee Diebold operations. Of the five directors, three are Diebold execs. You can read Brad's full post on this debacle here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Calling Colorado Independents!

I made this announcement several weeks ago and want to repeat it for anyone who missed it:

Colorado Independent Voters now has a social networking site on I've met many independents throughout the state, but we're so scattered that once you get outside the Denver area, it's difficult for us to get together to talk about the issues at hand and provide support for each other. The cyber group is a warm and welcoming alternative to face-to-face meetings. We invite open and spirited conversation, though we do try to keep the focus on political reform rather than any one ideological stance. Our only agenda is to help reform the political and electoral systems so we can eventually have some hope of seeing real progress in other areas.

Come on over to Colorado Independent Voters and join in the cyber discussion!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Taking a Break...

...and a breather after all of this week's political news. Be back Moday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

And Now, a Word from The Hankster

We interrupt this series on political reform to bring you a post-Potomac-primary word from the esteemed Nancy Hanks, who keeps independents well-informed through her daily blog, appropriately titled The Hankster. Nancy obviously has more energy than I do. The primaries wiped me out, but they energized her. Listen to her cheer us on:

Kudos to all the independent voters, the unaligned, the blanks, the unaffiliated, the declined to state, the misfits, the couldn't care less, the disenchanted, the fed-up, the disgusted, the can't make up my mind till the last minute, the disenchanted, the disenfranchised, the disempowered, the poor, the marginalized, the fringe,the radicals, the conservatives, the middle-of-the-roads, the leftists, the fundamentalists, the constitutionalists, the people that insist that democracy means something, the .....

We are being heard. Let's be louder! Speak up now!

You go, girl! I promise, I'll be louder! I'll speak up now! I mean, in the morning or whenever I wake up!

Thanks, Nancy. I needed that boost. I feel empowered once again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Political Reform, Lesson 16: Exercising Our Power

Here’s another Problem That I Never Knew Existed, because I live in a state that allows its citizens to create laws that can be passed on a statewide ballot, rescind laws passed by the legislature, and recall an elected official from office. Alas, not all citizens are so fortunate; said citizens live in 26 states that do not allow political processes known as Initiative, Referendum, and Recall (IRR), the Big Three that give voters a direct voice in writing, passing, and rescinding laws, as well as removing elected officials from office.

In the remaining 24 states, voters can write laws and collect a certain number of signatures on petitions to have their proposed initiatives and referenda placed on the ballot. They can also “fire” elected officials (most often on the local level). This is an example of direct democracy, and it’s the best means we have to bring about all the other reforms we’ve talked about. That's because our other means involves representative democracy, and those representatives tend not to support political reforms that could cost them their power.

When it comes to power, though, not enough people seem to understand the power of IRR. It represents the difference between having someone else (such as a legislator) write a bill and vote on it, and you writing a bill and voting on it. IRR truly puts the power back in the hands of the people. Statutes, constitutional amendments, and other propositions fall under the sway of IRR; some of the 26 states that don't allow IRR may allow, say, a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment but no other initiatives.

To find out if your state is one of the lucky 24, check out the web site of the Initiative & Referendum Institute at USC, an excellent source of information about IRR laws across the country.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Political Reform, Lesson 15: Signing Petitions

In We the Purple, I go into considerable detail about the problems all voters as well as independent candidates face when it comes to regulations that apply to those petitions we're sometimes asked to sign. One of the most egregious problems arises when states go to extraordinary lengths to complicate the petitioning process.

Let's say you're at a state fair. It's clear that you're you and not me, because I don't go to state fairs. They're always held on the hottest and most humid days and nights of the entire year. I don't do hot and humid for anything less than an enormous amount of love or money. But I digress.

At this fair there's a booth for a hapless independent candidate for, oh, I don't know, governor or something. Let's call her Candidate X. Well, X is pretty busy talking to potential supporters, and though you'd like to talk to her, you realize it's nearly time for the pie-eating contest. You simply must run. But first, you grab one of the many clipboards containing petition forms and scribble your name and address and whatever other information the state says you have to provide.

Little did you know that the state would later rule your signature invalid. You signed the petition for Crawford County voters, but you live in Craymore County. What's worse, your mistake invalidated every other signature on that petition. I ask you: huh???

But that's the way it goes. Try fighting that one.

Here's another one: you take leave of your senses and vote in a partisan primary. Your independent cronies forgive you, because they've done that and worse. Ah, but the state is not so forgiving. Let's say you come to your senses a month later, find an independent candidate you can support (let's call him Y), and sign a petition backing his candidacy. In some states—I kid you not—your signature will be invalidated.

Some people—that is, partisans—will tell you it's your own fault that your signature was invalidated; you should have known the regulations. Right. I challenge you to research the petitioning requirements in your state. I can just about guarantee that whatever you manage to find out 1) didn't come easily and 2) isn't the whole story. Let me know how you fare, okay?