Reader’s Forum–Melissa Meyer and Ramon Pena

If you have not started reading The Secrets of Mary Bowser, perhaps the Memorial Day Weekend gives you an opportunity to take this rich and rewarding journey.

Below are comments from two Politics for the People members who have just started reading the book.

MELISSA MEYER

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I’ve listened on audio tape to a very small piece of Lois Leveen’s book and her depiction of the life and work of Mary Bowser.

The beauty of Ms. Leveen’s  prose about an ordinary Sunday juxtaposed against the horror and inhumanity of slavery….  To read about the ordinary lives of African Americans loving each other, is a joy…. even as their joyous times are cut short under the control of their slave masters. Ms. Leveen takes you into a moment of history without teaching, but inviting you in.  Thank you!

Melissa Meyer is the Coordinator of International Programs at the East Side Institute in New York City.

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RAMON PENA

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I am enjoying this book although still halfway through.

Two things that I love about Mary is that she always listened as a child. By listening she was becoming educated to the politics of that time. She even continued doing this as an adult.

I also loved her relationship with her father. He loved her dearly and she loved him back. The book is full of these father daughter moments. Thanks Lois Leveen for giving the readers a different kind of story about slavery.

Ramon Pena is a long time independent activist and lives in New Jersey.

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Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk CoverHappy Memorial Day Reading

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Politics for the People

Conference Call

With Author Lois Leveen

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

Join us and Explore

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

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Reader’s Forum — Steve Hough

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I enjoyed reading Lois Leveen’s historical novel The Secrets of Mary Bowser. While being based on a true life figure, Mary’s story is as incredible as if it had been total fiction. As I had no knowledge of Mary Bowser before, the book affected me on several levels beyond the enjoyment of reading a well-crafted novel.

Much of what has been written about the Civil War chronicles events from a military perspective, but not being a student of such things, I am not surprised I had never heard of Mary Bowser. However, for those who do study military campaigns, intelligence gathering would be an integral part of the story. A former slave, having been freed and educated in Philadelphia, voluntarily returning to Richmond, pretending to be a slave is remarkable. To then become a servant and spy in the Confederate White House is unimaginable. But then, I also had never heard of Katherine Johnson before the movie Hidden Figures was released.

Another surprise was how my visualization of slavery and the antebellum South had been limited to atrocities occurring in the bowels of slave ships, the brutality of Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Coverplantation life, and the perils faced by those who attempted to escape and by those who aided them. Mary’s experience as an urban house slave of a well-to-do merchant may have been vastly different than those on plantations, but her bondage was nonetheless cruel and inhumane.

I live in the South. I first moved from Southwest Missouri to Florida as a teenager after my parents divorced. That was 1968.  I only lived here for two and a half years before returning to Missouri to finish high school. After joining the Army and living abroad, then moving to California for a few years, I returned in 1987. Much has changed since 1968, but much has remained the same.

Just as Mary experienced segregation and discrimination as a free young lady in Philadelphia, vestiges of the past still afflict many today. Perhaps most prominently, the Jim Crow era manifested the lingering toxic attitudes displayed by whites in the South, however many people of color all across the country are adversely affected by our shared history and an institution abolished long ago.

While we can point to a plethora of anecdotal evidence on a daily basis, comparative data confirms this. Everything from disparities in wealth, quality of education, employment opportunities, and incarceration rates, points to an ongoing struggle for true equality. Our economic and political model imposes arbitrary limits on the resources available across the broad spectrum of society, and a pecking order exists within the context of competition favoring some more than others. While the struggle is not exclusive to communities of color, one cannot help but believe our history plays a role in amplifying the disparities.

That history, and its impact, is still a point of contention and continued debate. From a call for reparations to simply seeking to remove monuments to the Confederacy from prominent public spaces, the ghosts of our past still haunt us.

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 Author Lois Leveen

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

Join us and Explore

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

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Reader’s Forum—Steve Guarin

The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen

A review by Steve Guarin

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I, and most everybody else, never heard of Mary Bowser. I never learned of her in school. In fact I was well into adulthood before I even learned of the name and all I knew of her, was that she had something to do with spying on the Confederates. It wasn’t until I read the book about Mary, written by Lois Leveen that Mary Bowser became a person. Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk CoverShe was a rarity among black people due to the fact that she was well educated. She was a rarity among all people. She did what she saw as right even though it was hard, even dangerous.

There are many scenes of danger, but the one that sticks with me, is when Mary killed a man. This man was a real danger to Mary and the daughter of her former owner, Elizabeth Van Lew. This man caused Mary to act in an unusual and desperate manner. Mary was able to quietly come up in back of him and smash his head in with rock. At this point the fear and rage that came with living under the terrible conditions of slavery caused her to go berserk. She hit the man over and over, and though I was surprised I also felt that Mary was justified.

Ms. Leveen created Mary Bowser with a full story to tell. Unfortunately written history wanted to do without Mary Bowser. The chroniclers of doings and goings on in our yesteryear’s, especially during the 1800s, left very spotty reports about the black man’s or women’s doings. In a very important part of the story, Mary was serving, literally, in the capital of the Confederacy as the (slave) servant of the President of the united secessionist states. Was this so? Because I had been taught nothing about Mary, I had to look it up. Thank God that in this age we have Google, for if we didn’t I still wouldn’t know the she really did work in Jefferson Davis’ house.

I unreservedly recommend this book.  It is a very creative story about the happenings during the most interesting time in this country’s history. Action, adventure, a little romance, and morality banging their heads together.

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

 

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Politics for the People

Conference Call 

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

Will Explore

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

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With Author Lois Leveen

 ***

 

Reader’s Forum — Harry Kresky

Lois Leveen’s historical novel, The Secrets of Mary Bowser, tells the inspiring story of a young woman born into slavery in Richmond VA who became a spy for the Union with access to the papers and conversations of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The book portrays many aspects of America before and during the civil war: the cruelty of slavery; the courage of African-Americans who fought against it; the conflicted P1100330relationship between African-Americans (slave and free) active in the struggle and white abolitionists; the agonizingly slow, but inexorable defeat of the Confederacy.

It is also a story about human development. Mary Bowser’s parents, forced to live apart as slaves with different masters, instilled in their daughter a determination to be free, the importance of focusing and working towards that goal, and the need to become worldlier.  She had the good fortune to be bought and freed by an anti-slavery member of the family that owned her and, at her sponsor’s urging (and with the full support of her parents), moved to Philadelphia where she was able to study at a school for freed African-Americans.  And, of course, that meant leaving her parents behind in Richmond.

Mary Bowser proved to be the top student in her class, an avid learner outside of school, and an astute judge of character and analyst of social and political dynamics.  Whether her accomplishments are attributed to genetics, opportunity or luck (likely all of them), Bowser’s story demonstrates the importance of being able to live in a more cosmopolitan environment and interact with many different kinds of people, white and black, kind and not so kind.

And the responsibility on all of us to relate to people as who they can become.

Harry Kresky is counsel to IndependentVoting.org and one of the country’s leading experts on nonpartisan primary reform and the legal issues facing independent voters. He is also a poet (poems for friends).

 

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Politics for the People

Conference Call 

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

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With Author Lois Leveen

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Reader’s Forum–Joan DeCollibus on Mary Bowser and her Mother, Minerva

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I just finished reading Lois Leveen’s story about Mary Bowser, a Virginia slave who was freed in her teenage years and went on to school in Philadelphia and became active in the Underground Railroad. While the story focuses on Mary and her journey out of slavery, on Mother’s Day weekend, I am thinking of her mom, Minerva.

Minerva raised Mary in a slave household where they lived together, serving the Van Lew family. Minerva’s husband and Mary’s dad worked for and lived with another slaver. They were only allowed to see each other on Sunday’s. Minerva raised her daughter with care in their slave household, always protecting her from the dangers of slavery and teaching her everything she could so that Mary could steer clear of trouble with the Van Lew’s.

Upon the death of her father, Elizabeth Van Lew, an ardent abolitionist, inherited money, enough to buy the household slaves from her mother which she does. While Minerva and Mary are freed by Elizabeth, we are disappointed to learn that she can not buy Mary’s father’s freedom.

Elizabeth hatches a plan to educate Mary in Philadelphia. Mary’s mom stays on at the Van Lew household to be near her husband.

I was struck by the courage it must have taken Minerva to let her daughter go on to Philadelphia alone. Mary was going off to a city on her own at a time when she could have easily been enslaved again by any white person who claimed she was their runaway. Mary, as ever courageous as her mother, actually shielded Minerva from the greater dangers that she was exposed to as she was secretly working as an abolitionist spy.
If her mother had only known! I am sure she would have been worried to the core while also being very proud of the daughter she raised.

Today, growing up black in America continues to be a threat to young people who are routinely rounded up and harassed by the authorities. On Mother’s Day, my heart goes out to every mother raising kids in a world where their lives are undervalued and they face racism at every turn.

Joan DeCollibus, an independent, living in Manhattan, is the owner of Ruffina.nyc, where she designs and produces clothing and accessories for little dogs and their humans.

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Our Politics for the People

Conference Call 

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

Will Explore

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With Author Lois Leveen

 Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Cover

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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#

***

 

 

 

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.

***

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#

***

Reader’s Forum–Steve Guarin

Book Image

 

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#

***

 

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