Reader’s Forum–Michelle McCleary

 

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Observations On:

A Declaration of Independents

How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream by Greg Orman

The willingness to take a stand for what you believe in can be incredibly humbling and scary.  It can also be a very lonely experience because sometimes you must be willing to stand alone. History is filled with men and women who would eventually play an impactful role in changing the world. I have no doubt that these same men and women spent many days questioning their own sanity as they were discredited, attacked and deserted by their friends.  I felt a kinship with author Greg Orman as I read his book ‘A Declaration of Independents’.  I applaud Mr. Orman for having the courage to run for office in a race that he was unlikely to win.  In a grossly competitive country like America, ‘losing is for suckers’ and should be avoided regardless of who gets hurt or what gets destroyed.  In my more than thirty-five-year history of activism in student, political and professional organizations, I have stood next to, supported and worked with ordinary people who knew that it was unlikely they would be giving the victory speech at the end of election day, but who gave everything they had because it was the right thing to do.

In his chapter ‘It’s Not Rocket Science’ I loved what Mr. Orman had to say about the commonality of the concerns and beliefs of the American people.  I agree with the author that there is a tremendous need for us to figure out how to move past the ways in which we have been pitted against each other.  America’s partisan political system creates and thrives on this divisiveness.  I was deeply moved by Mr. Orman’s thoughtfulness in reminding the people he met on the campaign trail that they had much in common and agreed on some very important issues.  The chapter “It’s Not Rocket Science” helped me to remember my faith in the American people.  It’s easy to lose sight of this faith while reading daily about the ways in which we hurt each other.

I feel very lucky to have had one of the biggest reminders of the commonality and decency of the American people when I had the privilege to work on the 1988 Lenora B. Fulani presidential campaign for Fair Elections and Democracy. The issue of opening the elections process isn’t seen as the sexiest of endeavors, but I believe that it is a critical step in the growth and development of America.  I was 21 years old when I traveled to North Carolina – the first of many states I would help to get Lenora Branch Fulani on the ballot for President.  Looking back, I marvel at my courage: I left my job and apartment and got into a car with a man who I had never met to travel south.  I remember being so afraid to go ‘down south’ because I had heard and read about so many horror stories of racist terror and violence.  Sadly, some of my fears were realized when the multi-racial team I was on in North Carolina encountered hateful stares and comments.  We even woke up one day to find an announcement of a Ku Klux Klan meeting nailed to a tree in front of the house we were renting!

Although we had many scary experiences, the beauty and decency of the American people far out-shined the ugliness.  I met a man named Carl on a sunny day in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Carl was a white man, wearing a big cowboy hat.  Carl was at least 6”5 in height and twice my size!  I remember asking Carl to sign the petition to get Lenora B. Fulani on the ballot for President, but NOT showing Carl the campaign flyer because I was afraid of his reaction.  I still remember Carl’s deep southern accent when he asked, “well who is the candidate?” I swallowed hard and showed him the flyer that featured a smiling Lenora B. Fulani rocking her short, natural hairstyle.  Carl took a moment to look at the flyer and then said, “well why didn’t you show me this flyer first? This is an honorable cause.” Carl quickly signed the petition and even gave a financial contribution!  As I traveled the country from 1987 to 1988, I met countless people from all walks of life – doctors who were arriving at hospitals for their early morning shifts, men and women of every hue in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, wealthy women, store owners and the list goes on and on -who showed us their decency and caring about America.  It was not uncommon for our team of campaign workers, exhausted and broke, to arrive in a city to get our candidate, Lenora B. Fulani on the ballot but not have a place to sleep that night.  I am not kidding when I say that countless people of every hue and financial background who had NEVER met us would open their homes to us.  We were routinely given discounts at restaurants for our meals.  I still remember people who had signed the petition on a previous night driving by us after their work day to make sure that we were okay.  Although my body still bears some of the scars of that work — standing for 18 hours a day and sleeping on floors at night is truly grueling –  I have no regrets.

More than 40% of Americans identify as independents.  I am thrilled and proud of this fact, but I wonder when we will really step up and take the reigns in leading change in America.  I have days when I feel so anxious about the pain in our world.  I know far too many people who work eighty hours per week but who live in homeless shelters because they cannot afford to pay rent.  I dream of a day when we will recognize that America belongs to the people who built it and it is ours to change for the better.

Michelle McCleary is a life-long independent activist and the President of the Metro NY Chapter of the National Black MBA Association.

POLITICS for the PEOPLE BOOK CLUB

CONFERENCE CALL with GREG ORMAN, Author of

A Declaration of Independents

How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream

SUNDAY, APRIL 15th @ 7 PM EST

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

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Reader’s Forum–Steve Richardson

boston 0614

Shares his observations on:

A Declaration of Independents

How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream

By: Greg Orman

There is a lot to like in this book, which makes a valuable contribution to the Independent movement in America.  It demonstrates that Greg Orman is the real deal – an authentic Independent who can win a high stakes campaign; we also learn that he understands how we have lost control of our country and is committed to helping us recover it.  Despite broad awareness that the system is broken and recognition by a plurality of voters that political parties are to blame, few candidates possess any of these qualities.  We all know why.  True Independents are highly unlikely to be successful, and those with successful experience are highly unlikely to be truly independent.  While we welcome “recovering” Democrats and Republicans, we also need leaders who have never been comfortable with party politics – especially since that’s where most young voters are coming from.

I have several things in common with Greg.  I’m a bit older but also first got involved in politics in the early ‘90s, voted for Ross Perot, and was a founding member of United We Stand America.  (Also, I’m an economist.)  I, too, found that my fiscally conservative and socially tolerant beliefs did not fit with either major party.  For about five years, I was active in the Libertarian Party; but I learned that another party is not the solution to our problem.  At first, I thought it was just that particular party, but after joining IndependentVoting – ironically called the Committee for a Unified Independent Party at the time (2005) – I came to realize that what we really need is a system that encourages dialogue between voters.

I think each of us can relate to Greg’s journey to political independence, whether our trip has lasted just a few years or over fifty.  Some of us are familiar with the statistics and I doubt many of us are surprised by the stories he shares in Part I (“A Dysfunctional Duopoly”) and Part II (“Reinforcing the Duopoly”).  What I appreciate about this core section of the book is that the attacks on both parties are coming not from an activist, scholar, or columnist, but from a candidate for Governor who will undoubtedly face fierce counterattacks.  This is David vs. Goliath, folks!

The best part of this book is the last two chapters (“The Independents’ Difference” and “Declare Your Independence”).  Greg proposes a set of principles that can unite Independents, such as improving our legacy; placing our country’s welfare before special interests or ideology; promoting equality, freedom, and self-government; and conducting politics with transparency, accountability, and honesty.  He offers a few specific policy proposals, but remains focused on a framework for constructive discourse.  Greg does not pretend to be our savior; instead, he asks us to follow through on our own declarations by accepting responsibility for independent thinking and actions that are worthy of the freedoms and opportunities we enjoy as Americans.

Steve Richardson is a founding member of the Virginia Independent Voters Association and serves on IndependentVoting.org’s national Election Reform Committee.

 

POLITICS for the PEOPLE BOOK CLUB

CONFERENCE CALL with GREG ORMAN, Author of

A Declaration of Independents

How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream

SUNDAY, APRIL 15th @ 7 PM EST

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

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P4P launches monthly IVN column

Last week I launched a monthly column on IVN, a nonpartisan on line news outlet that provides thoughtful political news and policy analysis. It is my go to read every day for national news on the independent and reform movements.  I am very pleased to bring Politics for the People to IVN readers.  Hope you enjoy my opening column.

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Politics for the People:

A Book Club for the Curious Independent

 

by Cathy Stewart in Campaigns Mar 8, 2018

 Book clubs have been a part of American life since 1634 when Anne Hutchinson started a “literary circle” for women as they crossed the Atlantic en route to the colonies. In 1840, Margaret Fuller founded the first book club sponsored by a book store, and by the mid 1800’s book clubs began to spread across the Midwest.

Today, estimates are that 5 million Americans participate in book clubs.

In 2011, I established the Politics for the People (P4P) Book Club for independents. The book club was an extension of a popular education series that I ran for the New York City Independence Clubs. I wanted to provide a national forum for independents to build a community of curiosity that was exploring politics and history together from a nonpartisan, independent point of view.

A book club seemed the perfect fit.

The Politics for the People Book Club has a unique approach. We’ve created a forum for club members to engage with world-class authors about critical issues and moments in the American experiment at a time when civic discourse is corroded by both partisanship and superficiality.

We read each of our selections over six to eight weeks. Our reading is echoed in an interactive blog that includes videos, literary reviews, background materials and, most importantly, the thoughts, reflections, and commentary from our members.

The P4P blog becomes a crossroads that adds depth to our reading experience and creates a sense of community among our members. And just as we read our authors’ words, they read the words of independent Americans responding to their work.

I wanted to provide a national forum for independents to build a community of curiosity that was exploring politics and history together from a nonpartisan, independent point of view.

Cathy Stewart, Vice President for National Development at Independent Voting

Each selection culminates in a conference call with our author where we explore the book and create a conversation through questions from our members. Authors and book club members alike find the conference calls stimulating and thought-provoking.

Alex Myers, the author of Revolutionary (a historical novel about Deborah Sampson who pretended to be a man to serve in the Revolutionary army) had this to say about our conference call and P4P members, “These were people who had read and thought about my novel on levels far beyond plot and character. It felt like the kind of conversation we need to have as a country.”

Politics for the People authors find the discussions unusual both in the depth of the dialogue and in the diversity of the participants. They often tell me that we ask questions that they have never been asked before and they thank me for the P4P experience.

These were people who had read and thought about my novel on levels far beyond plot and character. It felt like the kind of conversation we need to have as a country.

Alex Myers, author of Revolutionary

Our members (now over 335) are as diverse as the independent movement, from all walks of life, and from all racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. P4P members range from avid readers to people who never picked up a book before joining the club. For many of our readers, P4P has introduced them to new genres and insights into history, and current events.

We have created a P4P community that is welcoming of a wide range of views, that is fun, and that supports everyone to read, grow and learn together. Tiani Coleman, the President of New Hampshire Independent Voters has said the book club “motivates me to read, contemplate and write about thought-provoking books that I likely wouldn’t find time for otherwise, helping me grow as a person and as a leader in the independent movement.”

Our selections include fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. We have had several Pulitzer Prize winning authors join us for intimate conversations about their work, including Isabel Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns); Eric Foner (Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad); Matthew Desmond (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City)Hedrick Smith (Who Stole the American Dream? Can We Get It Back?) and Megan Marshall (Margaret Fuller: A New American Life).

Historical fiction selections like Jerome Charyn’s I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War and Alex Meyers’ Revolutionary give us a portal to experience and imagine the lives, the challenges and the circumstances of the people–both ordinary and extraordinary–who are the movers of history. P4P is an opportunity to question the notion that there is one truth or a single view of history.

How do I pick selections for Politics for the People? A mixture of recommendations, serendipity, and scouting. I look for selections that challenge conventional ways of thinking, and are written by authors we would enjoy talking with. Perhaps, most importantly, I am always reading…

I will be sharing P4P selections and reviews of other books of interest to independent-minded Americans in the months to come. If you have a book you would like to recommend for P4P, please send me a note.  And please join me in the Politics for the People book club!  Visit the blog and sign up to join our book reading, conversation creating independent community.

Happy Reading.

Cathy Stewart
Cathy L. Stewart has been a political activist in the independent movement since the mid-1980’s. She is the Vice President for National Development at Independent Voting and the founder and host of Politics for the People.

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POLITICS for the PEOPLE BOOK CLUB

CURRENT SELECTION:

A Declaration of Independents

How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream

CONFERENCE CALL with Author GREG ORMAN

SUNDAY, APRIL 15th @ 7 PM EST

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