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”.

20161005_awards_014

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#

***

 

Advertisements

Readers’ Forum–Steve Hough

CRC testimony

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.

***

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

_1080328

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

Book Image

SUNDAY, APRIL 15th @ 7 PM EST

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

***

Reader’s Forum–Sue Davies

IMG_5554

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#

***

Reader’s Forum–Frank Fear

Book Image

A Friend Helped Me Write This Review  

Sometimes you need a friend. Writing this review was one of those times. I could go only so far with it. I needed help. But before I get to my friend’s part, let me share what I have to say.

I recommend Greg’s book to anybody who’s thinking about running for elective office as an Independent. It’s an especially good read for newcomers to the political scene. They’ll read about the personal experiences of a person who has experienced the fire of American politics.

I also think readers will find Greg’s work to be illustrative of the ills that face America politically. I especially like the way he writes about “The Legislator-Industrial Complex” (p 182-183)—how politicians shift positions to fit the direction of political winds…and the campaign money that comes with it.

But, truth be told, I wanted more than Greg had to offer. I found the book’s sub-title—“how to restore the American Dream”—to be hyperbolic. And while Greg’s critique of the current political system is good, I had read most of it earlier and elsewhere (e.g., “money is the mother’s milk of politics” (p. 141).

Most importantly, I stumbled over a number of Greg’s assertions. One example is his contention that the Democratic Party has become progressively liberal (p. 155). A bond that connects me with many of my Independent friends is that we believe the mainstream Democratic Party has evolved into a centrist party. It’s not liberal enough. That’s why we left it.

More concerning, though, is Greg’s numerous categorical statements about Independents. Here’s one example (p. 23): “…one of the real strengths of Independents—they’re able to approach an issue with an open mind and see all sides of an issue.” That contention doesn’t jibe with my experience (some do, some don’t). And Chapter 12 is full of assertions that need to be validated. That includes what Greg claims about “The Shared World View of Independents” (pp. 261-263), “Shared Independent Principles” (pp. 263-265), and “The Independent Approach” (pp. 265-266).

That’s when I turned to a friend for perspective. In response, she told me something that I hadn’t thought about before.

“To be independent is not always the same as being an Independent,” she pointed out.

To make the case, she talked about the student organizing movement underway in the wake of the Parkland tragedy. “Those students are showing what it means to be independent,” she asserted. “What’s more, they aren’t addressing any, old topic. It’s the dicey, tumultuous politics of gun control where progress of any kind is agonizingly slow and treacherous.”

“I get it!” I responded. “They’re operating in a different paradigm from politics as usual.”

“For sure,” my friend said. “In the conventional paradigm, there’s the Independent option vis-à-vis the Republican and Democrat options. But when you think about politics that way, danger lurks. The Independent option can end up looking and acting like a political party, especially if the primary goal is getting more and more Independents elected.”

“Gosh, that’s business as usual,” I responded. “Yes, it is,” she said. “What America really needs is a radical political movement—a radical movement to change the status quo of America’s politics.”

“Ok,” I said. “And one of those pathways involves everyday Americans organizing for change.” “You bet!” she responded.

“Think about it,” she continued. “The Parkland students didn’t come to their organizing work by way of extensive background or even with much aforethought. What’s more, they aren’t in authority positions. They don’t represent any organization or group. They’re independent political actors speaking up, acting out, and demanding change—not as politicians, but as political activists—motivated by personal experience with a brutal act.”

“Gosh!” I said. “Americans everywhere can do what those students are doing, and they can do it on any issue they choose.”

“Yes, that’s right,” said my friend. “Sick and tired of political inaction, they’re assaulting the formal political system through good, old-fashioned people-power.”

“What do you make of that?” I asked.

“I’d say they’re doing their part to restore The American Dream.”

 

frank-fearFrank A. Fear is professor emeritus, Michigan State University, where he served as a faculty member for thirty-year years and worked in various administrative positions for nearly twenty years. Find him on Twitter @frankfear and on Tumblr, “For the Public Good”.  Frank also writes about issues that intersect sport and society. You can read him at The Sports Column.

***

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–Maureen Albanese

 

Book Image

A Declaration of Independents by Greg Orman is a must read for anyone with who is disgusted with the paralysis that is affecting our national government.  It lays out in clear language that the 2 party system thwarts actual governance so the will of the people isn’t Maureen Albanesepossible.  Mr. Orman’s struggle to gain traction as a candidate, highlights everything  that is wrong with our current system.  One of his idea term limits is something that should have happened along time ago.

 After reading A Declaration of Independents it makes it abundantly clear to me that the following needs to happen to make our government work for the people:

  •  We need open primaries.  I shouldn’t pay for sham elections that I can’t participate in.
  • All political ads should be Public Service Announcements.  So no hit jobs on your opponent, just you explaining why you are running and where to get your policy proposals.  The TV networks will balk as they stand to loose a lot of money because PSA are free,  but I don’t care.
  • Real debates, not run by the political parties.  And more of them especially town halls where the voters can ask the candidates the real questions.
  • No more Political PACs of any kind. Everyone is limited to contribute up to 300 dollars per candidate per election cycle.
  • Easy ballot access if you plan to run as a candidate.  The same ballot access for All 50 states.  You shouldn’t have go through hoops if you are running a National Campaign.
  • Term limits
  • All former politicians must wait at least 7 years after leaving office to lobby their fellow politicians.
Mr. Orman’s book is a conversation starter.  We all must work every day to get the democracy we deserve.  We need to talk to each other without the prism of political parties.  Democracy is not a sport it shouldn’t matter which party wins only that government is by the will of the people.

Maureen Albanese is an administrative assistant and activist. She lives in Manhattan.

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#

***

Reader’s Forum–Michelle McCleary

 

Reddressgala

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#

***

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#

***

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.

***

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.

***

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

***

New Selection—A Declaration of Independents by Greg Orman

 

Book Image

I am delighted to announce our first selection of 2018.  A Declaration of Independents  by Greg Orman was released in 2016.

In 2014, Greg Orman–a successful business leader and entrepreneur–ran for U.S. Senate in Kansas as an independent.  His landmark campaign attracted national attention as he nearly beat incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts.  The Democrat in the race dropped out, recognizing that Greg had animated record numbers of voters and was in the best position. The race was very close until the very final days.

The book chronicles Greg’s journey to becoming an independent and his experiences in this historic campaign.

In Declaration of Independents, Greg describes the huge price we are paying as a result of the toxic partisan political culture in Washington. Greg spells out how that two-party machine works, the supporting institutions that reinforce the paradigm limiting both competition and accountability to voters. In the final section of the book, Greg lays out his vision for reinventing our political system.

In his Acknowledgements, Greg writes that he had been “…writing this book in my head for over fifteen years….” He goes on to share the impact of his campaign on the book, “What would have been missing [had the book been written before the campaign] is the perspective that comes from having run for office in Kansas and being able to talk to my fellow citizens about issues that matter to the.  Without our campaign, there would be no book. Running for the U.S. Senate was genuinely the honor of a lifetime.”

ORman announcement photo from IVN

AP Photo

In January, Greg announced his independent candidacy for Governor of Kansas.  In an interview with Tim Carpenter from the Topeka Capital -Journal, Greg shared how he thinks about being an independent:

For me being politically independent is not about ideology. It’s about 3 things:

  • it’s about putting my state and my country ahead of a political party.
  • it’s about using facts and common sense to solve problems, not just clinging to rigid ideological solutions even when they are not working.
  • and importantly, it’s about being free from obligations to party bosses and special interests.”

Later in the interview Greg shared his view of state government, “At the end of the day we’ve had a government in Topeka that has been very resistant to the involvement of its citizens. And you’ll see when we come out with our transparency plan that we plan to open up the statehouse to the citizens of Kansas. We view them as equal partners in the problem solving process and we’re going to involve them.”

IVN has been regularly covering the campaign. In his latest article about Greg’s campaign launch, Shawn Griffiths writes,

The two parties will do all they can to make this about them — a race between red and blue. They — along with their allies in the media — will tell Kansas voters that any vote outside the two-party duopoly is a wasted vote. Republicans will accuse Orman of being a closet Democrat, while Democrats will say he is really a Republican.”

Sound familiar???

As we head into the 2018 election cycle, I am eagerly diving into A Declaration of Independents, looking forward to reading it with all of you and having the opportunity to talk with Greg.

Happy Reading!

***

POLITICS for the PEOPLE BOOK CLUB

CONFERENCE CALL with GREG ORMAN

SUNDAY, APRIL 15th @ 7 PM EST

  • Independent Lens

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 343 other followers

  • Featured Links

  • Categories

  • Facebook

  • Links