P4P Recordings–A Conversation with Greg Orman

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On Sunday, April 15th, we had the pleasure of spending an hour with independent candidate for Governor in Kansas, Greg Orman.

Greg is a successful businessman and entrepeurner who ran as an independent for the US Senate in 2014 and made national headlines with almost unseating the incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.  In 2016 Greg wrote A Declaration of Independents: How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream.  The book offers a powerful look at independents and our potential role in moving our country beyond, what Greg so aptly calls, weaponized partisanship and is a scathing indictment of the two party system, the duopoly.

You can listen to our full conversation at the end of this post.

In our opening segment you will hear my introduction of Greg and our initial conversation where we talked about what Greg hopes people take away from his book, the unique role he sees independents and independent candidates playing in bringing people together and they dynamics in the current gubernatorial race.  Give a listen:

 

Evelyn Dougherty from the Massachusetts Coalition of Independent Voters asked our first question.  Book club members in MA wondered what were the most important lessons Greg learned as an independent candidate in 2014 that he is taking into his independent run for Governor this year? Here is what Greg shared with us:

 

Steve Richardson, the founding member of Virginia Independent Voters Association and asked our next question about the struggle independent voters face and the need for structural political reform at a state level.  You can listen to Greg and Steve’s conversation here.

 

Dr. Jessie Fields and Greg had a rich conversation about the divisions in the country and how to bring differing communities together. Dr. Fields shared, “My view is that the parties divide the American people and the Black community is being told in many ways that its interests are synonymous with…the Democratic Party in particular.”  Greg agreed and said, “…the two parties tend to want to divide us because it serves their electoral purposes, and yet we all understand how fundamentally damaging that is to our country. And so I think, if you are genuinely an independent and you genuinely put your country and your state ahead of any political party or frankly ahead of any other interest, then ultimately you have to be working in the service of bringing people together. ” You can listen to their full interaction about the African American community and how Greg is reaching out to bring people together outside the parties here.

 

Steve Hough, the Director of Florida Fair and Open Primaries asked Greg his view of the Top Two Nonpartisan Primary System. Greg shared his past support for the system and some of the challenges he believes the Top Two system presents for independent candidates.  You can listen to their exchange.

 

Harry Kresky, Independent Voting’s general counsel asked Greg how he saw the issue of independents having the right to vote in primaries—was it a bottom line issue that the movement could agree upon.  In his response, Greg shared his view, “…One person, one vote is something the Supreme Court has codified in law yet one person one vote doesn’t seem to apply if you’re an independent….There is a basic inconsistency in the law and again courts have consistently confirmed that partisan primaries are private political behavior and yet they seem to not have a problem with the government paying for that private political behavior….I think the way we’re going to start making progress on opening up primaries, particularly in states where there isn’t a citizen driven initiative, is largely going to be through forcing the courts to make a more consistent decision.” You can listen to the full exchange:

 

Sue Davies, the coordinator of New Jersey Independent Voters shared with Greg that she works with independents who are pursuing a strategy of taking over one or the other of the major parties.  Greg shared with us that this is not a strategy that he has given a lot of thought to and pointed out, “…We need to start recognizing that as independents we have the numbers and we have to start coalescing around candidates and ultimately winning some elections is a way to change the perception about the viability of independent candidacies.” Give a listen:

 

George Trapp, a member of Independent Voice of Ohio told us that he was glad to read in Greg’s book his view of the importance of addressing economic mobility and poverty. George asked Greg if there what were examples of the government doing too much and examples of the government doing too little to help poor people. You can hear Greg’s response.

 

You can listen to the full recording of our P4P conversation below.

 

If you would like to stay up to date on Greg’s campaign, please visit OrmanforKansas.org.

 

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Please join us for our next selection:

The Secrets of Mary Bowser.

Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Cover

Hope you will pick up your copy of the book today. 

We will be talking with author Lois Leveen 

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

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Greg Orman Tonight on Politics for the People

Imagine if we had a country where Independent voters and Independent elected officials held just as much sway in Washington as Republicans or Democrats. The way Washington is governed and the way candidates approached elections could change forever.”  —Greg Orman

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Greg Orman and Cathy Stewart @ Unite America NYC launch 2/18 

Tonight at 7 pm EST, Politics for the People will be talking with Greg Orman, the independent candidate for Governor of Kansas and the author of A Declaration of Independents: How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream.  

Join the conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

 

Below is my Politics for the People column from IVN this month about Greg’s book.  Give it a read and call in this evening for an interesting, in-depth conversation.

“Declaration of Independents”: A Candidate’s Scathing Indictment of Two-Party Duopoly

Independents and the political establishment are keeping a close eye on what is happening in Kansas this year. Greg Orman, a successful business leader and entrepreneur, is running as an independent for governor of Kansas in one of the highest profile independent gubernatorial races in the country.

In 2014, Greg made national political headlines in his first independent run. He challenged incumbent Senator Pat Roberts in a race that was neck and neck. The Democratic challenger, Chad Taylor, dropped out, recognizing that Greg had a better opportunity to win. Greg earned 42% of the vote, not enough to win.

He went on to write, A Declaration of Independents: How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream, the current selection of the Politics for the People (P4P) Book Club.  Orman will be my guest on our Book Club Conference Call on April 15.

Although they create the illusion of competition, duopolies compete against one another while working together to suppress outside competition.

Greg Orman, independent candidate for Kansas governor

This important book is part memoir, reflections on his 2014 run for the Senate, a scathing indictment of the two-party duopoly, and an assertion of the need for a “vibrant independent movement –- one that includes officeholders elected as independents.”

As we head toward our conversation with Greg, independents are reading, discussing and writing about his book on the Politics for the People Reader’s Forum. As P4P member Maureen Albanese writes, “Mr. Orman’s book is a conversation starter…We need to talk to each other without the prison of political parties.”

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Greg and meeting his wife, Sybil. They are a dynamic and dedicated team as the book makes clear.

In one of my favorite chapters, “My Path To Political Independence,” Greg shares his history. He talks about the impact of his parents’ divorce when he was 5 and writes how he “learned to consider my folks’ respective point of view with an open mind and an empathetic heart,” which he takes to be central to his independence.

Many P4P members were touched by Greg’s story and have been sharing their own.

Steve Richardsona founding member of the Virginia Independent Voters Association who serves on IndependentVoting.org’s national Election Reform Committee writes, “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.”

The book makes the case that the two parties function as a duopoly, and:

“In some ways, duopolies can be worse than monopolies. Although they create the illusion of competition, duopolies compete against one another while working together to suppress outside competition. They define the parameters of the game – and then rig the rules of that game to keep others out.”

A major focus of the duopoly is, as Greg puts it, “squeezing out Independents.” Greg outlines the ways the system is constructed by the duopoly to marginalize independent candidates and independent voters.

Orman is at his best giving us a detailed indictment of how the two-party system by design is incapable of solving problems, and how partisanship has become “weaponized” to win elections and lead the American people to believe all politics and policy are binary.

Greg writes: “[B]oth parties lead us to believe that there are only two answers to any problem. Generally, these answers have been hyper-distilled to such an extent that they’re troublingly simplistic.”

Many political professionals said if Greg had run as a Democrat or a Republican in 2014 he would have won the Senate seat. Greg has this to say:

“Most people say that in modern politics, winning is everything. But my view is that how you win is important too. If you get elected by talking about issues and opportunities, you have a mandate to go get something done. If you get elected by tearing down your opponent, you have a mandate for further hatefulness and partisanship.” 

Michelle McCleary, a veteran independent activist and the President of the Metro NY Chapter of the National Black MBA Association shared her take away:

“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.”

I am very glad that Greg is in this race this year and who knows, Kansans might just be ready to have an independent Governor.

I hope you will join me on the Politics for the People Book Club talk with Greg Orman on April 15 at 7 pm EST. As you can see, the P4P readers are thoughtfully engaging with Greg’s book. I can guarantee our conversation will be thoughtful and give us an inside look at the Kansas gubernatorial race and explore the critical issues and controversies raised in Greg’s book.Visit the blog for call in details and pick up a copy of A Declaration of Independents today.

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POLITICS for the PEOPLE BOOK CLUB

CONFERENCE CALL

With Author GREG ORMAN

A Declaration of Independents

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

TONIGHT

SUNDAY, APRIL 15th @ 7 PM EST

Reader’s Forum: Five Readers Weigh In. Call with Author Tomorrow

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Greg Orman’s book is absolutely right on and just a great book. This is the best book I have read on Independents. He really is able to put into words how a lot of us Independents feel and why we became Independents.

Page 10 makes an excellent point and it is so true that both parties make us feel more different and divided than we really are.

Page 27: What Government should and shouldn’t do for the poor.IMG_2134

Page 41: We are polarized.

Page 78: Constitution is a quilt of political….

Page 103: Parties certainly have gate keepers, me and Cynthia Carpathios were kinda talking about that the other day. It is tough to get to elected officials as an Independent.

George Trapp describes himself as active voter who has been on both sides of the aisle and chooses to be an independent.  George volunteers with Independent Voice of Ohio.

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I really enjoyed Mr. Orman’s book “A Declaration of Independents.” It reminded me of how our political identities can be formed by our parents. My father was a proud union member who truly believed in the legislative process. The Democrats were the “party of the people.” Slowly I began to realize that both parties were the parties of big business and special interests, and we needed to build an alternative. I remember the first time I Martavoted for an independent candidate. I tried to convince myself that a third party vote was not a wasted vote. Up until election day I was still conflicted about pulling the lever for Walter Mondale or for an unknown independent candidate. The irony is that I did waste my vote. It was my first time voting in New York City. On these pre-World War I machines you are you pull the lever, vote, and then pull the lever back. I pulled the lever twice and lost my vote. I guess that’s how I dealt with my conflict.

I liked the point Orman makes about duopolies . We have many in this country not only in politics: in the media, in business. They give us the illusion of competition. But they really serve individuals to keep their jobs, sell their products and get re-elected. Looking forward to the call.

Jessica Marta is an independent activist with Independent Voting and the New York City Independence Clubs.  She lives in Manhattan is an Adult Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.

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ramonI want to express my appreciation to Greg Orman for letting us ride in his journey for independence. In particular, page 96 Summer Soldiers and Sunshine Patriots the first 2 lines defines it all.  “THE ONLY WAY FOR OUR COUNTRY TO ADDRESS THE POLITICAL STALEMATE GRIPPING OUR NATION IS FOR A REAL MOVEMENT OF INDEPENDENTS TO TAKE HOLD.” When I read that I understood that Greg Orman knows what its like for the struggles of the independent movement.
This book became very personal to me. Cannot wait for the conference call.
Ramon Pena lives in New Jersey and is a long time independent activist.

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As a long time builder of the independent movement, 30 years, I applaud Greg Orman for having the guts to challenge the bi-partisan gridlock in Washington that permeates across the states in the Blue-Red paradigm. In working on various campaigns over the years have learned that candidates will give lip service to certain political reforms important to independents but ultimately cave to the pressures of the two parties.

It appears that Greg is running to challenge the system to be more inclusive to open the 14947948_10209598211565790_78427255916291282_ndialogue in order to solve tough issues. In the past many opponents of the independent movement have said, “ What do you mean challenge the system and have it be more inclusive?” They will go on to say that independents do not stand for anything. The two-party paradigm is designed to pit groupings of people against each other that disagree on critical issues rather than bring them together to create new solutions.

Greg does a good job in describing measures that can open up the process and break the gridlock. In his book he speaks about the corruption of Gerrymandering, refers to the two-party game as a “duopoly”, the rigged primary process, partisan media and failing campaign finance rules.

Greg’s campaign is timely. Besides giving praise to Greg I am delighted that 43% of the voting population now consider themselves independent and proud to support the youth leading the – March For Our Lives – movement. According to recent research by the Pew Research Center: Millennial voters continue to have the highest proportion of independents of any generation.

Just as Greg is reaching out to all voters Democrats, Republicans, third parties, and Independents the young people leading the powerful March For Our Lives movement are reaching out to everyone. The White leaders from Parkland, after the tragic shooting, stated they need to support inner-city youth where gun violence has had them staring down the barrel of a gun for many years.

Naomi Wadler, an 11 year old leader, who spoke at the DC rally on March 24th said she was onstage to represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. In my opinion, the powerful youth leaders such as Naomi along with independents such as Greg are all working to include everyone in new and different ways that are not tied to the Democratic or Republican parties.

Howard Edelbaum is active with the New York City Independence Clubs and is an Accounting Consultant.

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This is an outstanding and very timely selection. Greg’s book is sitting on my shelf of 20 DSC_7664indispensable books related to independent voting and the movement’s intersection with the degraded political environment that we seek to rescue from itself. Greg Orman is one of the brightest lights on the scene and I am delighted that: 1) he is running for an important public office,

2) his book is now on our P4P agenda, and

3) I now have a reason to reread it after over a year’s lapse, rather than simply referring to it in bits and pieces when some new incident triggers a quick return to the book to see what Greg had to say on the subject. I look forward to a refresher course on the great American mind of Greg Orman.

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.

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POLITICS for the PEOPLE BOOK CLUB

CONFERENCE CALL

With Author GREG ORMAN

A Declaration of Independents

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

TOMORROW

SUNDAY, APRIL 15th @ 7 PM EST

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

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Reader’s Forum–Tiani Coleman

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Greg Orman, who almost unseated a deeply entrenched incumbent as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in 2014, and who is now a promising independent candidate for Governor in Kansas, shares some vital insights in his book, A Declaration of Independents:  How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream.  Not only does Orman informatively expose details about the crushing control the two-party Duopoly holds on American politics, but he does so with unique credentials, and with a vision for how we can return power to “we the people.”

As a previous Republican-party insider in Utah, a state where Republicans dominate, I can relate to Orman’s description of politics in Kansas, also a heavily Republican state.  Orman mentions how partisan-controlled politics has forced candidates to take the most extreme views and duke out their chief battles in party primaries (since the general election outcome is usually a forgone conclusion).  I found the following observation by Orman to be particularly revealing and important:

“[I]n our current crisis, moderates are partly the authors of their own misfortune.  I’ve long held the view that moderates in both parties are the victims of the rule rigging and negative campaigning that they themselves have historically supported.  They made the assumption that if it was good for the party, it was good for them as incumbent officeholders. . . .  [They] helped to create an environment that was ironically hostile to them.”  (p. 106)

By definition, “moderates” are supposed to be more reasonable, more rational, less ideologically partisan, more mainstream – thus, less extreme.  They’re supposed to be the types of people who are able to find common ground with the other side.  However, the “moderates” failed America.  They lacked the political courage to “do the right thing.”  They became the entrenched establishment that was ever too happy to rig the rules in their favor, ever too comfortable engaging in cronyism, ever too eager to use their position for permanent career advancement, ever too entitled to not create a permanent class of elites that shut out most of America.

But, “the party people,” rather than blaming lack of ethics (abuse of power), have blamed moderates’ willingness to compromise on complicated issues; they’ve cynically denounced independent rationality itself.  Things have now become so highly polarized and partisan that “moderate” is a bad word for parties, and “moderates” are facing extinction in our party-controlled government.  The saddest part in all of this is that Book Imagedespite moderates’ concerns about the current state of things, very few have stepped forward and admitted their folly; they’re not actively working to right the ship they’re responsible for damaging.  As they lose re-election, they blame the extremists – and then they settle into a lucrative lobbying job.  They certainly can’t fathom working to reform a broken system – that would be too radical.  And nearly none of them will risk reputation and loss of money prospects to run as independents and/or publicly support independent candidates.

So major kudos to Greg Orman, someone who has been willing to put everything on the line and be a real leader.  He understands why our government isn’t working, and he’s willing to do what it takes – despite the naysayers who might call him “a spoiler, dishonest, or just plain crazy.”  Orman understands that the only way to fix things is for competent people of conviction who don’t see everything through a partisan lens, to step up – outside the current partisan system – and offer their independent minds and spirits at the solution table; after all, regardless of which side in our duopoly wins, “[w]e haven’t seen any fundamental changes in the [negative] long-term direction of our country.”  (p. 274).

I was struck by Orman’s example coming from research by the Bipartisan Policy Center, wherein on education reform proposals, “Democrats preferred ‘their party’s’ plan 75 percent to 17 percent.  Yet when the exact same details were called the ‘Republican Plan,’ only 12 percent of Democrats liked it.  The same dichotomy was present among Republicans.  Only independents answered the question irrespective of which party label was put on it.”  (p. 144)  Orman gets it:  “policy positions [are] not driving partisanship, but rather partisanship [is] driving policy positions.”

With attitudes such as George Will’s indicating that it’s less important to upgrade the “intellectual voltage” in the Senate than it is to get one more Republican elected (or Democrat, depending on who is speaking), we know we’ve lost any semblance of putting country first, but are simply trying to help our team win at any cost.  I’m heartened by Orman’s common sense approach of working to understand all points of view around an issue, and looking objectively and creatively to find solutions, embracing diversity of thought and intellectual conflict “as a way to get to the right answer,” calling upon all of us to be willing to change our minds as new information informs us that our prior position was incorrect.  This is what it means to be independent of partisan boxes and think for ourselves.

Orman points out that we would never allow our sports teams to shamelessly rig the rules of competition such that the same two teams always make it to the World Series, and yet we have allowed Republicans and Democrats to do this in U.S. politics.  It’s time for Americans of good faith everywhere to “cast off the heavy collar of partisanship,” (p. 255) be willing to take bold risks for our country – not only when we have nothing to lose, but especially when we have “everything” to lose – and create a better America for future generations.

Tiani Xochitl Coleman is a mother of five, a graduate of Cornell Law School, and president of NH Independent Voters.

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POLITICS for the PEOPLE 

CONFERENCE CALL with Author GREG ORMAN

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–Lou Hinman

 

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I like A Declaration of Independents very much.  Here are a few thoughts about it.

On the liberal establishment’s apoplexy over Trump:

“Don’t blame the voters.  Blame the two political parties.  This is not a moment of time that appeared out of nowhere.  It’s a byproduct of decades of neglect, the social result of a pampered political class that ignores festering national problems while putting its own interests ahead of the nation’s. Americans are desperate for something different.”

I would add: In electing Trump, the voters have laid their hands on the only tool available to them for fighting back against the political establishment.  Since this voter Book Imagerebellion is not going away, those who think Trump is not up to the job of building a new American consensus should get busy and help break the tyranny of the duopoly that keeps us from having more and better choices.

On the question of “competition” between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party:

“Although they create the illusion of competition, duopolies compete against one another while working together to suppress outside competition.  The define the parameters of the game – and then rig the rules of that game to keep others out.”

This is what Katherine Ghel and Keith Porter have called “oligopolistic competition” in their Harvard Business School paper “Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America”.

On winning:

“Most people say that in modern politics, winning is everything. But my view is that how you win is important, too.”

Yes, how is at least important as what.  The winning-is-everything view (like the view that independent candidates are “spoilers”) puts the interests of the political parties and the duopoly ahead of the interests of America.

There are also a few points on which, respectfully, I tend to disagree with Greg.

He seems to suggest that polarization of voters is a one of the causes of gridlock.  I’m more inclined to think that polarization is partly an illusion fostered by the duopoly and its supporters in the media, and partly a result (rather than a cause) of the duopoly’s corruption of our political process.

It’s an illusion in that it disregards the 42% or more of voters who don’t identify with either party.  It thus implicitly upholds the have-you-quit-beating-your-wife logic of pro-duopoly political “scientists” who assert, with a straight face, that there are no independents!

It’s result (rather than a cause) of gridlock, because when voters have been disempowered by the duopoly, they are vulnerable to being manipulated by it.  When people are powerless, they can be ruled easily by fear.  As Greg notes (quoting Ezra Klein):  “What parties need to do to keep you loyal isn’t make you inspired.  Rather, they need to make you scared.”

I also think that Greg tends to conflate independents with moderates.  This is perhaps natural, because formation of consensus (as Greg otherwise makes very clear) is the very essence of a healthy democratic process, and this is precisely what the duopoly is unable to do.  However, the idea of “moderate” appeals to a notion of a political center, and a left/right paradigm which is itself defined by bipartisan collusion.

So, for example, I think there is a good chance that single-payer health insurance would be supported by a majority of Americans.  In the left/right paradigm that is defined by the duopoly, that would be left-of-center.  But that distorts the situation, because the possibility of single-payer, like many other possible solutions to important problems, has been ruled out of the conversation by the duopoly.

In the last chapter, Greg says:

“While millions of Independents find the Republican Party too far to the right and the Democratic Party too far to the left, being an Independent doesn’t necessarily mean being a centrist. Yes, millions of political moderates yearn for a third option. What truly sets us Independents apart, however, is not ideological. What sets us apart is that we don’t let the duopoly do our thinking for us.”

Yes!

Greg’s proposals for reforming congress are great (“An Independent Agenda” Chapter 12).  But congress can’t be reformed without first empowering America’s independents!  In his independent run for Governor I urge him to make this empowerment itself the cornerstone of his campaign.

Lou Hinman lives in New York City and is an activist with IndependentVoting.org and the New York City Independence Clubs.

 

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POLITICS for the PEOPLE 

CONFERENCE CALL with Author GREG ORMAN

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–Dr. Jessie Fields

Jessie Fields

The book, A Declaration of Independents, How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream by Greg Orman is a thoughtful analysis of the political crisis that faces our country and the role that independent candidates such as Greg Orman can play in breaking the two-party stranglehold. The author is a Kansas businessman and political independent who ran for U.S. Senate in 2014 and is now running for Governor of Kansas. I enjoyed reading the book and learned a lot from it, however I discuss in the second half of this article areas in which I differ with the author.

In the chapter An Independent Run, Orman recounts one of many important conversations with voters: early in his 2014 campaign for U.S. Senator during a meeting with a group of local leaders that included a retired schoolteacher, a Democrat who initially “was skeptical why any Democrat should consider supporting an Independent. When the conversation turned to education policy…,” Orman spoke about “the New American Paradox” his belief “that it’s harder than ever for the average American to get ahead and, yet, paradoxically easier to do nothing with your life.” He went on to discuss the summer slide for low income kids, “High income kids simply have access to more enriching opportunities during the summer, while lower income kids tend to regress, leading educators to conduct remedial lessons during the first weeks of each new school year…”  The opportunity to participate in the American Dream has never been fully available to all Americans.

The conversations between people of different parties and different points of view are examples of the vital role that independent campaigns can play in bringing people together. One of the barriers in the way our politics is set up is that people from different parties seldom have the opportunity to dialogue in a nonpartisan environment in which it is possible for people to listen to each other.

This example was of great interest to me because of my involvement in supporting new approaches to education and youth development for poor youth and communities through the All Stars Project (www.allstars.org) and also because I believe that dialogue between ordinary people from different backgrounds and across the political spectrum is vital for a truly representative democracy. Public policies can only be helpful and effective for people if they are not mediated by political parties. Matters from education and housing to health care and public safety become political footballs in the hands of the parties.

I think the following statement by Greg Orman is very important.

I believe that in framing possible policy solutions as “either/or” choices, both parties leads us to believe that there are only two answers to any problem. Generally, these answers have been hyper-distilled to such an extent that they’re troublingly simplistic. At that point, they become litmus tests. Even worse, they are made into labels that harden a false choice into a single word: “pro-choice” or “pro-life”, for example. Even on that ideologically and morally charged subject, the great majority of Americans have nuanced views that wouldn’t pass muster with party gate-keepers.

I very much appreciate the author’s careful analysis of how both of the parties distort matters of consequence to our country including fiscal policy, Medicare, social security, and immigration reform.

A major theme of the book and of Greg Orman’s independent political advocacy is “Problem Solving, Not Partisanship”, a mantra on his bus tour through Kansas. “There’s no requirement for an Independent to engage in empty games to support a particular political party. Independents can focus exclusively on solving problems.”

He speaks about how he and his wife though both have lived in Kansas many years, (his wife having spent her entire life there and he having lived there for over two decades) “were constantly acquiring new information about the people I wanted to represent in Washington and gaining new and deeper understanding of their needs.”

Though I agree with much of the book I cannot subscribe to the author’s equation of the Constitutional Convention compromise that allowed slavery as similar to or the other side of the position of advocating for states’ rights in the following passage from the book:

Some might agree with DeMint and insist that sometimes it is better not to compromise – and point to the Constitutional Convention to make this point. Papering over the differences on slavery only forestalled resolution of this great moral dilemma, ensuring that untold millions lived in bondage and forcing the question to be resolved on the battlefields of the Civil War at great loss of life. It’s a fair point, and not a new one. Nineteenth century abolitionist firebrand William Lloyd Garrison celebrated Independence Day in 1854 by burning a copy of the Constitution, which he labeled “a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell!” “Similarly, certain conservatives would claim that when the Constitution failed to recognize an explicit right to state nullification of federal laws a great wrong was committed.”

Slavery was a violation of the first sentence of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

 Abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and others argued that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were anti-slavery documents. I agree with them. The Southern Democratic Party states’ rights position against civil rights and voting rights for African Americans was not an ideological counter point to liberal views it was a violation of the principles of human equality that are fundamental to our nation.

One of those principles that independents are advocating is that every voter should have an equal right to participate in all stages of elections and that no American should be required to join a political organization as a condition for voting. The function of the independent movement is not to help the parties work better together but to lead in the movement to revitalize our democracy so it works for all of the American people.

Dr. Jessie Fields is a physician practising in Harlem, a leader in the New York City Independence Clubs, and a board member of the All Stars Project and Open Primaries.

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POLITICS for the PEOPLE 

CONFERENCE CALL

With Author GREG ORMAN

Book Image

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 Guarin

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When I first got my copy of Declaration of Independents: How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream, I had in the back of my mind that it would be a dry political report.  It is not.

This book, of easy reading, is divided into four main parts. The first part recounts the author’s path to political Independence. His early life provided the perfect training to mediate with the polarization that has arisen in the government. His father was a Republican and his mother was a Democrat. He learned how to balance and accommodate conservative and liberal beliefs. Looking back at his youth he learned that “true independence comes not from adherence to rigid ideology but through putting our country ahead of a political party and the special interests that support it”. Part Ⅱ warns of the fate that awaits if we “don’t fix the dysfunctional duopoly that controls Washington, DC” The third section focuses on how the parties hold on and reinforcement their power. Part Ⅳ is the part that I found most useful.  It proposes an Independent “path that will lift up every American”.

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Steve Guarin (r) being presented with a 2016 Anti-Corruption Award by Juliana Francisco.

Declaration of Independents by Greg Orman is not only a good read, but warns us of the dangers of partisanship and the need for voters to discuss, civilly, their disagreements. This kind of level headed give-and-take will help us correct a government that “is less, and less, capable of making logical decisions. The parties have invested themselves in partisanship, not principals, ­gamesmanship, not statesmanship.”

Steve Guarin lives in the Bronx.  He is retired and an activist with the New York City Independence Clubs.

 

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#

***

 

Readers’ Forum–Steve Hough

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Steve Hough, testifying before the Florida Ethics and Elections Committee in 2017 about the need to open the primaries to independent voters.

A Look at A Declaration of Independents by Greg Orman

Before reading his book, I was somewhat familiar with Greg Orman. I had been impressed with his 2014 run for the U.S. Senate. When the Democrat dropped out of the race, I remember thinking he had a real chance of winning. For independents, such opportunities are few and far between, especially at that level. Of course, I was aware that Pat Roberts ultimately retained the seat, but it was great getting a behind the scenes look at what transpired during the campaign. Beyond that, it was refreshing to read such a detailed narrative of what it means to be an independent.

I am a lifelong independent, but as Greg points out in his book, most Americans are preoccupied with making a living and don’t have a lot of time to think about politics. For most of my adult life, I was content to vote for the perceived lesser of two evils. Rather than worry about the government’s impact on my life, I was focused on strategies necessary to adapt. However, that is not to say, as Greg suggests, I was not insulted by the behavior of politicians on both sides of the aisle.

When politicians are more concerned with getting reelected than solving problems that affect the daily lives of their constituents, something is terribly wrong. What’s wrong is meticulously detailed in Greg’s book and, absent our propensity to support unwarranted wars, it reflects a “manifesto” I once published years ago on a personal website. At that time, I was afraid I was alone in my way of thinking, and it is exciting to see a candidate for governor espousing true independence.

Having been a casual observer of politics before retiring in early 2012, I had a rude awakening once I began to delve into what passed as political discourse on the internet, first in the comments section on my local newspaper, and then on Facebook. I came to the conclusion early on that those active on various sites were doing nothing more than parroting talking points gleaned from media sources and calling each other names. It reminded me of trash talk between sports rivals only far more rancorous. Both sides rejected objective criticism, and no one appeared open to participating in rational debate. The “Frankenstein media” was alive and well, and with the recent revelations about Russian meddling in our last election, I am even more concerned about its negative effects. It didn’t take me long to adopt the mantra, “We have the government we deserve”, and I was frustrated by a feeling of being unable to have an impact. That frustration caused me to seek other ways to engage. I sought out other independents.

Since being affiliated with Independent Voting for over five years, my hopes for positive change have risen considerably.

Although the problems detailed in Greg’s book still exist, and in many cases are worsening, more people are claiming independence from the duopoly. Although the Freedom Caucus still gets more attention than the No Labels Problem Solvers Caucus, independents and reformers are networking and agreeing on needed structural changes. Although 80-90% of incumbents are still returned to office, discontent is finding a new voice in the independent movement. Although the rules of the game remain rigged in favor of the corrupt duopoly, an increased number of vibrant challenges are chipping away at the wall of obstruction. Although Democrats and Republicans still dominate, the persistence of people like Greg, renews our faith that change is not only possible, but that we may be on the cusp of a major upheaval in the political process.

 

Steve Hough is a lifelong independent and became an activist for political reform after retiring as an accountant. He is the director of Florida Fair and Open Primaries.

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POLITICS for the PEOPLE 

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#

***

Readers’ Forum—Natesha Oliver

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Natesha Oliver with Independent Voting President, Jackie Salit.  Kansas City, MO 2017

 

Reading A Declaration of Independents by Greg Orman hit me in several ways. I laughed at the absurdity of an elected official, a sitting elected official, living in a totally different state than the one he is charged to represent. Then I cried, for the same reason and for the fact that he actually won reelection.

That is profoundly sad to me.

It’s like are Americans that far removed from caring about the people they send to office and their “ability” to RELATE to their, the American People, concerns, especially community concerns.

I mean at this point it seems like the only reason parties succeed is through the detachment of its constituency to even the most basic values for good representation, being part of the “community” even if “community” encompasses the entire state.

Then I cried for myself, when the book pointed out the reality that most of the people born in the bottom 20 percent will more than likely die there.

Talk about scary AND depressing. Because I was born in the bottom 20 percent and has had no success in getting out and trust I have and am striving to in more ways than is necessary to say.

To know that partisan politics really does play a role in that reality is angering yet I say again is it the parties or the detachment of the American People?!

Greg’s telling of the conditions that “governs” our Government is eye-opening in some respects because I am still young enough to not know when government was actually functioning and mind-boggling because REALLY??? Our Government has truly lost a lot of the values that was subtly instilled in my beliefs of “do the right thing and all will work out”. That is simply untrue and that is simply the hardest pill to swallow.

Yet!!!

Greg Orman does leave me with a smidget of hope.  Even if it is from his own determination to fix the duopolistic nature of our governing body.

His call to Independents to run for office and for Americans to consider the Independent path in politics is very sound. He has mapped out a way for Americans to regain some form of power back in such an overtly disregardful and corrupt political environment.

Will his call and the call of other Independent activists be answered?

Time will tell.

Natesha Oliver is the founder and President of Missouri Independents Stand Together (M.I.S.T.). She lives in Kansas City, MO.

***

POLITICS for the PEOPLE BOOK CLUB

CONFERENCE CALL with Author GREG ORMAN

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SUNDAY, APRIL 15th @ 7 PM EST

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

***

Reader’s Forum–Sue Davies

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Sue Davies on a recent trip to Antartica

Thoughts on A Declaration of Independents

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

by Greg Orman

I very much enjoyed reading A Declaration of Independents and Greg Orman’s very detailed description of the failings of the two-party system, his characterization of independents and our important role. Breaking the duopoly of the two-party system is critically important to the future of our political process.

I have been active in the independence movement since 1986 and founded New Jersey Independent Voters (NJIV) in 2016 when I moved to New JerseyIn New Jersey, we have 2.4 million registered independents—more than the Democrats (2 million) and Republicans (1.2 million)All of the statewide and most of the local elections are decided in the primaries. But, independents cannot vote in the primaries unless we change our registration to one of the parties. We have a lot of opinions in NJIV and many ideas about amplifying the voice of independents. Some of our members want to work through Democratic country committees and others are interested in trying to take over the Republican party, some work with the Green party and others believe in no parties. We have conservatives, liberals, progressives, moderates. All agree that we should not be paying for a political process that excludes us as independents. 

Book ImageReading the second chapter, “My Path To Political Independence” had me thinking about my own path over these many years. I grew up in a Republican area of Long Island. During our mock presidential debate in sixth grade, I was the only student in class supporting George McGovern. In high school, I attended every School Board meeting. I thought it was undemocratic to not have a student representative on the Board and campaigned (unsuccessfully) for that throughout four years of high school. 

On to college, where I majored in political sciences and was active in women’s, gay and lesbian, peace and anti-nuclear weapons and other progressive causes. In 1981, I did a summer internship in Washington with the Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition, bi-partisan, regional association of democratic and republican senators from 17 states. My job was to analyze the economic legislation being proposed, included the efforts to create urban enterprise zones and the Reagan tax cuts. I came out of that summer disillusioned with electoral politics and determined to make change outside of the electoral process. For the next five years, I threw myself into progressive grassroots organizing. I helped organize unions at my first two jobs, went to Nicaragua to help build a school (during Iran-Contra), was active in anti-poverty efforts, started the Philadelphia women’s newspaper and was one of the founders of numerous progressive groups including ACT-UP, NJG (Jewish-Lesbian group), Women’s Pentagon Action and other peace and anti-nuclear efforts

After a number of years, I realized that there were limitations to what could be accomplished without an electoral component. At the same time, I was not willing to become a democrat. I thought the party (and the whole political process) was corrupt and was co-opting the political causes I believed in.

In 1986, I met Dr. Lenora Fulani and Dr. Fred Newman. They were co-founders of a number of organizations, including the New Alliance Party (a progressive third party). In 1988, I worked on Dr. Fulani’s presidential campaign and ran as an independent for statewide office in PA. Many of my longtime progressive partners attacked my efforts and voted for a pro-life candidate solely because he was a democrat. I loved traveling the state and campaigning for Dr. Fulani, bringing people who were left out—African Americans, Latinos, gay and lesbian, poor and working-class people of every color—into the political process as independents. I had discovered a new path.

Over the past 32 years, I have run as an independent in Pennsylvania, New York, California and Massachusetts and managed a number of independent campaigns. I have personally spoken to thousands of people from all walks of life, creating new conversations and new ways of being together. I am proud to be building a place where all voices can be heard. 

Greg Orman and I have taken different paths and ended up in the same place.  We can speak to and hear each other. And, that’s what I most love about being an independent.

Sue Davies is a longtime independent activist and the founder of New Jersey Independent Voters. Your can follow NJIV on Facebook . For the past 30 years, Sue has been a senior nonprofit executive in New York and New Jersey and now serves as an Adjunct Professor at NYU. When not organizing in New Jersey, Sue is often found traveling the world (www.travelforlifenow.com).

***

POLITICS for the PEOPLE 

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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