Queens’ Reader’s Forum

Today’s Reader’s Forum features commentary from two P4P members from Queens.

Photo on 9-24-15 at 12.03 AM

RICHARD RONNER

RATF**KED: The True Story Behind The Secret Plan To Steal America’s Democracy, by David Daley, reads like a sophisticated political thriller, with great characters, suspenseful strategizing, and brilliant, offensive (in both senses of the word) tactics. What’s jarring, though, is that it’s a true story – about us, the American people, and the ongoing assault and trampling of our democracy. I found reading this book an emotional experience – initially disheartening and infuriating, at the level of corruption and moral bankruptcy of large parts of our governing class. I repeatedly reminded myself that all this is not a surprise, that I have known about this in theory and in its broad outlines, but it still packs a punch, being confronted with the details and calculating methods, and the personalities involved.

But the second, more considered emotion, was one of optimism and hope – there are great exposings going on these days; we need to know how these things work, we need to know sensually why and precisely how our votes don’t translate to our power. It reminds me of the experience following Hurricane Katrina, when the effects of the racism in the fabric of our society was visible for all to see in the coverage of the storm’s aftermath in New Orleans. Of course, I also believe that without ways of acting on this information, it will not remain in our consciousness for long. But the exposing, the pulling back of the curtain to reveal the inner mechanisms, is a good, if sobering, thing.

An overall reservation I have about the book, is that I find it still partisan, in the distinctions made between the two parties. Whether the Democrats were too busy partying, or caught sleeping after Obama’s election in 2008 while Redmap was being hatched, or whether they were calculating on whole other level, I don’t know, and we may have to wait for another book to discover. I don’t really buy that one party is a whole lot smarter than the other. In some respects, I attribute the success of some agendas over others to the more creative and practical activism of some segments of the population compared with others. But this is a book about the parties and how they work. Others will have to write on the role of the grassroots in this effort.

Richard Ronner is a nurse practitioner and a long time independent activist. He is active with the NYC Independence Clubs.

 

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NANCY HANKS

“America has got to be more than its Parties and Americans have got to be more than party pawns,” says Natesha Oliver in her review of Dave Daley’s book, RATF**KED: The True Story Behind The Secret Plan To Steal America’s Democracy.  I agree — Americans must be more than party pawns. But will we? And how? We’re Ratfucked — or we develop.

I was a kid when  they did away with the poll tax, born and raised in the mid-1950s-early ’60s in northeast Arkansas. I cast my first vote in 1972 at age 18 in Richmond VA (the US Supreme Court had just lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 through the 26th Amendment to the Constitution) for George McGovern.

My first vote was a hopeful, if youthful, and defiant anti-war vote. Little did I suspect that I would spend my whole adult life working at the grassroots for ordinary people on behalf of voting rights, with Cathy Stewart, Fred Newman, Lenora Fulani and many many others.

Dave Daley’s RATF**KED led me to my bookcase to leaf through an earlier book with a similar theme: Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America (1973) by Walter Karp. Writing of Lyndon Johnson’s failed Great Society, Karp says

 “… there is a political reason for a reform President frustrating his own pledged reforms. It is none other than the ruling political principle in modern American politics-the preservation of party power, that power whose sole foundation is organization control of the political parties…. the essential and inherent danger to party power is independent political ambition, the presence in public life and public office of men who ignore the interests and defy the dictates of party bosses and oligarchies. To preserve their power, party organizations must try constantly to eliminate the political condition that breeds independent ambition. That condition, in general, is the free political activity of the citizens themselves, their own efforts to act in their own behalf, to bring into the public arena issues that interest them and to encourage their activity the independent ambition of public men. The political activity of the citizenry, whether within or without the major parties, whether it be as local as a village election, is always a danger to organization control of parties, and precisely because it strengthens independent ambition. There is in this Republic, however, one great wellspring animating citizens to act in their own behalf: their own understanding that by means of politics and government what is wrong can be righted and what is ill can be cured. In a word, political hope.”

I’m grateful to Dave Daley for his current insight and spotting the Bullsh*t  that serves the powers that be. We don’t need them. We the American people don’t need this kind of political supervision. We need to develop.

Independently yours,

Nancy Hanks.

PS – Our next Queens Quarterly Gathering is this Sunday, June 4th, 6-9PM, the Politics for the People conference call.

Nancy Hanks is an independent activist and the coordinator of the Queens Independence Club.

*Reminder*

Conference Call with David Daley

Author of RATF**KED

Sunday, June 4th at 7 pm EST

Call: 641-715-3605
Pass code: 767775#

Ratfucked book image

An independent take on Indispensable Enemies

Our current book club selection was a recommendation from Steve Richardson, a founder of the Virginia Independent Voters Association.  I asked Steve to share some of his thoughts about the book with us.

Steve Richardson, 2013 Anti-Corruption Awards

Steve Richardson, 2013 Anti-Corruption Awards

“Indispensable Enemies helped me see that parties have no more interest in competition than corporations.  Both invest heavily in the illusion of choice to hide their true goal of absolute power.  Duopoly – sharing with just one challenger – is the next best thing.

Karp’s theory turns the Median Voter Theorem upside down.  In our system, electoral competition would force parties toward the middle on most issues.  However, if all choices have been agreed upon by collusion between the parties, we have a “heads politicians win, tails voters lose” situation.  We have seen steady erosion of the average citizen’s interests as the size and scope of government has grown to encompass more and more so-called special interests.  Politicians argue that log-rolling is what makes our system work, but this is just rationalization of what Karp reveals is as systematic deception.

For Independents, this is yet another argument for structural reform – a reason why any bipartisan “solution” leaves foxes in the henhouse and perpetuates the looting.  I don’t advocate accusing anyone of anything.  In fact, as I believe Karp explained, collusive practice is so natural in this environment that most of the people contributing to it are not even aware of the implications of their actions.  I do think we should dissect what is wrong with party politics as a matter of principle and use those arguments repeatedly to promote alternatives.

Our electoral system should not force voters to join any party because parties are factions (ideologically opposite positions) that concentrate power and divide the people.  Especially in today’s complex world, we need a system that facilitates issue-based coalitions that form, reform, and dissolve as needed, with no institutional barriers that protect them as centers of power.”

Steve Richardson

Indispensable Enemies – December 2013 Book Club Selection

Indispensable Enemies

Walter Karp wrote Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule In America in 1973.  It’s a scathing and insightful look at how the two parties operate together to prevent competition.  I first read the book in the 1990’s and was delighted when Steve Richardson, a member of the IndependentVoting.org Election Reform Committee recently read the book and wrote me a note about it.  Steve said, ” It offers a unique and shocking theory of bipartisanship in U.S. politics that might be useful to our movement.”   In this moment of government dysfunction when the American people have lost confidence in our elected officials capacity to move the country forward, I think it will be valuable to read Karp’s book.

You can purchase a copy of Indispensable Enemies on Amazon (used start at $3.95) or from Harper’s Magazine ($14.95).

We will be discussing our selection in a Politics for the People conference call on Sunday, February 9th.  Happy reading and stay tuned for upcoming posts about the book and its author, or better yet, send me your thoughts and questions.

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