Reader’s Forum — Lou Hinman and Sheryl Williams

LOU HINMAN

While I was reading The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen, I saw Call Mr. Robeson, the one-man show written and performed by Tayo Aluko, at the Castillo Theatre in New York. Like Paul Robeson, Mary unnamedBowser made a political choice: she rejected the life of relative privilege that was open to her as a talented, educated, free black person living in the north.  She chose instead to return to Virginia, and risk her life in the war for the liberation of her people.

Ms. Leveen’s account of Mary Bowser’s heroic life also shows very clearly that an entire nation cannot abuse and degrade a whole group of human beings without corrupting and degrading itself.  The injustice of slavery corrupted not just the southern “slave power”, but the northern “free” states as well.  Ms. Leveen shows us how racism infected even the abolitionists in the north.

Today, one hundred fifty-three years after the end of chattel slavery, the corruption of racism is still degrading, poisoning, shaming, and holding back America.  Three generations ago, President Truman (DP) told Paul Robeson that the time was “not right” for anti-lynching legislation.  This past week, the NFL ruled that its players would face sanctions if they kneeled during the national anthem to protest police violence against the black community.

The racists – and this includes Roger Godell, the smooth-talking Commissioner of the NFL – reserve their most rabid hatred for people of color like Mary Bowser, Paul Robeson, and Colin Kaepernick who have the unmitigated temerity to lay down their privilege to stand with their people.  The rest of us reserve for them our greatest respect, admiration, and love.

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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SHERYL WILLIAMS

In reading Lois Leveen’s book, “The Secrets of Mary Bowser” I am reminded again of the importance of reading American history. A very richly textured book about the life of a real person, a former slave, Mary Bowser. The level of detail in both the hardships and the mundane have had quite an impact on me.

 

IMG_20171125_084439I can’t but help think about how some of the themes in the book are common to present day African American families. For example, I grew hearing from the oldest generation of my own family stories of the lack of certainty about who was born when given the lack of record keeping as it applied to a people who were once enslaved. The conflicting emotions of pride and loss at just the possibility of access to education. As an adult, attending the with my parents the very same church I attended as a child, listening to announcements about young people in the church who were graduating from high school and soon to be going away to college accompanied by cheers and tears.

The thing that probably surprised me the most, was from the very beginning to see slavery through the eyes of a child. Maybe it’s because I’m older now, have a better sense of what it means for a parent to want better than they had for their children. And since I don’t have any children myself, think about my own parents, and their parents for before them and the strength it must have taken to send children off into nearly unimaginable hostility only to hope against hope that would that they not only survive but also thrive.

A very powerful book, I hope everyone reads.

Sheryl Williams is a long-time independent; an activist who believes in the power of the people.

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Politics for the People

Conference Call

With Author Lois Leveen

TOMORROW

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

Join us and Explore

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

 ***

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Reader’s Forum — Vicki Karant

A Review of  The Secrets of Mary Bowser

Vicki KarantLois Leveen has crafted a compelling novel, reconstructing the probable path that Mary Bowser took on her road to becoming a spy in the “Gray House”, the Confederate home of Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina during the American Civil War.  We learn early on that Mary knew that “a slave best keep her talents hidden, feigned ignorance being the greatest intelligence in the topsy-turvy house of bondage.”

By the age of eleven, in Richmond, Virginia, Mary could memorize overheard conversations when company came to visit her slave masters.  Mary was in possession of that most valuable commodity: information, the author observed.  Those around Mary recognized her to be extremely intelligent.  Upon her emancipation by the daughter of her slave owners, Mary’s mother stated to her daughter that she would live a different, special life “not just from mine but from most colored folks.”

Miss Bet, who released Mary from slavery, became her patron, taking her to Philadelphia for a classic, if segregated, education that included math, literature and Latin.  Mary’s years in Philly also introduced her to the world of northern racism where one might be able to go to a department store if one was black but not the opera.  Mary joined the Female Anti-Slavery Society and sewing circle.  There she encountered the snobbishness of lifelong freed blacks who did not understand the realities of slaves’ lives while still working for abolition.  She met Quakers who believed in freeing the slaves but could only allow blacks to sit on separate benches during worship meetings.

Life in Philadelphia enabled Mary to participate in the abolition movement, introducing her to activists.  She attended meetings where the great speakers of the day expounded on the need to end slavery.  More importantly, Mary’s best friend’s family ran a stop on the Underground Railroad.  Mary worked with them in the years before she completed her education.

Upon completion of her schooling and due to the death of her mother and the impending Civil War, Mary returned to Richmond to be with her aging father.  Known as an Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Coverabolitionist and a risk taker, Mary was approached by a man posing as a slave trader.  In reality he was working to undermine the Confederacy.  He was fully aware of Mary’s sophisticated education and uncanny memory.  When a job appeared in the “Gray House” to be the servant to the wife of the president of the Confederacy, Mary took on the task.

In the years before recording and listening devices, before social media and cable news, Mary used her memorization skills to provide information to the north by being a quietly observant spy.  Her education, both formal and informal, gave her the courage to risk her personal life in the cause of enabling the Union to prevail. She contributed heroically to the cause of abolition.

Dr. Vicki Karant is a retired Social Studies teacher and supervisor.  She has advocated among her students and colleagues, urging the need to vote.  She is committed to expanding the right to vote to independents in primary elections.

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Politics for the People

Conference Call

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

With Author Lois Leveen

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

Call in number:  641-715-3605 

Passcode 767775#

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Reader’s Forum — Jenn Bullock

Ind PA at National Conference

Independent Voting National Conference of Independents 2017 with Nichele Richardson, Stephen Bouikidis, Barb Patrizzi, Melida Davila, and Jenn Bullock of Independent Pennsylvanians

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

Racism in the 1800’s, and beyond.

What it means to be free in the 1800’s, and beyond.

It’s complicated, for Mary Bowser: a smart, inquisitive, courageous black gal turned spy.

Lois Leveen’s The Secrets of Mary Bowser does such a powerful, cutting job at expressing the contradictory, complicated, painful face of racism and classism, southern-style and northern-style.

I so appreciate her willingness to expose the condescension of the progressive white abolitionist movement in her portrayal of Miss Bet, who is Mary’s white savior and who has the white savior complex, not recognizing her own racism.

Mary expresses that there is a certain kind of freedom as a slave in Virginia because she was with beloved family and the race arrangement is known, and experiences a certain kind of bondage in Philadelphia with the class structure:  keeping some free blacks in another sort of chains with limited economic and educational opportunities, while the so-called middle class blacks put on airs to separate themselves from the lowly Negros.

But what I find most powerful, particularly as a white progressive Philadelphian in the new millennium, is Leveen’s unapologetic exposure of northern racism.  Mary, excitedly thinking she could ride the omnibus when she first arrives in free Philadelphia, is kicked off and called nigger.   Mary wonders how could a place so different from Virginia as the city of brotherly love make her feel the same, and even worse than the south.   Then, It took my breath away when her new black associates in Philadelphia challenged Mary, asking what she missed about slavery and the south:   “Who could miss slavery?”  Mary said.  “Only, at least in Richmond, slavery’s the reason why we’re treated so bad.  What’s the reason here?” (p92).

McNeely and Co

An Omnibus features prominently in this 1860 lithograph by William H. Rease of G. H. McNeely

Today, with leadership of Black Lives Matter and Me Too and 43% people identifying as independent while the two major parties maintain control of our democracy, it’s still complicated.   I am so proud to be an activist with Independentvoting.org, and play a role as coordinator of the Pennsylvania affiliate, Independent Pennsylvanians. My work to make elections fair and open in Philadelphia, petitioning on the same streets Mary walked many years ago, with a multi ethnic group of activists is very important to me.

I look forward to finishing the book this week and to the call Sunday.  I will hold close Mary Bowser’s courage and the author’s wonderful rendition of her life.

Jennifer Bullock  is the coordinator of Independent Pennsylvanians.

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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

Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Cover

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.

Will Explore

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Cover

With Author Lois Leveen

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Reader’s Forum–Dr. Jessie Fields

Thoughts on the novel, The Secrets of Mary Bowser and the Civil War from Dr. Jessie Fields

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The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen is a sensitive historical novel that highlights the participation of African Americans enslaved and free, in the abolition of slavery and the defeat of the Confederacy. Mary Bowser was an enslaved young woman who was freed, lived in Philadelphia where she went to school, studied, read widely and was courted by but ultimately rejected the wealthy scion of a free black Philadelphia family. Mary returned to Richmond to care for her ill father and to work for emancipation. She posed as a slave in the Confederate White House and passed valuable information to the Union.

The novel is divided into three sections called books, Book One and Book Three take place in Richmond, Book Two in Philadelphia.

Mary’s mother, is the enslaved Minerva, a name that refers to the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts, and to the Greek goddess Athena. During the years before slavery was ended by gradual emancipation in New York she was separated from her family and brought by the Van Lews to Virginia. Minerva teaches Mary to make riddles which includes lessons in being quick witted and observant. The ultimate riddle that Mary lives is her work as a spy communicating information in code straight from the desk of Jefferson Davis to General U. S. Grant and the Union Army. But Mary is not simply a spy for the preservation of the Union, she conveys or holds back information to ensure that the war is not ended without ending slavery.

One of the many features of the novel that deeply moved me was the portrayal of Mary’s family and how though enslaved they manage to make a home in Richmond, their relationship to each other is one of enduring closeness and deep love.  Her parents sacrificed greatly to allow their daughter to be free and she was determined to do all she could to end slavery.

 In Philadelphia Mary boards with an illiterate mother and daughter who refuse her offer to help them learn to read, she observes the poverty of many of the free black population, as well as the racism of the north where blacks were segregated, denied access to any except the most menial jobs, evicted from public vehicles, and were not accorded equal citizenship rights. Mary observes all this from her perspective of having lived in slavery and having family still enslaved. Eventually she becomes a key member of the Philadelphia underground anti-slavery network centered around the establishment of Alexander Jones, the undertaker and father of her closest friend Hattie. Mr. Jones funeral business is a stop on the Underground Railroad, with escaped slaves transported in coffins.

Wilson Bowser who Mary marries was a driver on the Underground Railroad from Richmond to Philadelphia, and he enlisted, as many African American men did, in the United States Colored Troops. The enlistment of free blacks and slaves was key to the Union victory in the Civil War. Also enslaved men, women and children contributed to the defeat of the Confederacy by leaving the plantations as soon as Union troops arrived.

Mary overhears many conversations in the Confederate White House (nicknamed the Gray House). Including conversations between Jefferson Davis’ wife, Varina Davis who Mary and others name Queen Varina and the Confederate secretary of war, Judah Benjamin, who is from Louisiana and to whom Varina mangles the French Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Coverexpression tant pis. Mary names Benjamin “Aunt pis”. In one conversation between Varina Davis and Judah Benjamin on the likelihood that Queen Victoria will side with the Confederacy in the Civil War Varina says , “Britain needs us as much as we need her. Why, without Confederate cotton, what use are English mills?” Benjamin responds, “You might say the same for the New England mills, yet the Yankees make war with us.

They go on to discuss Lincoln’s offer to the border states of financial compensation for each slave in exchange for gradual emancipation. This proposal never ended up passing into law. Varina Davis defends the argument of the Confederacy that they were fighting not for slavery but for states’ rights to govern themselves. Benjamin responds, “You are correct. We do not fight for slavery. Neither does Lincoln (fight to end it). We fight to win, and so does he. But he is willing to sacrifice slavery in the process, while we are not.”

Mary took this conversation as substantiation of her mission to make the preservation of the Union contingent on emancipation from slavery. Slavery was the fatal flaw of the nation that cut violently into the soul of the country. Four score and seven years after the American Revolution it took a Civil War to end it.

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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Our Politics for the People

Conference Call 

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

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The Secrets of Mary Bowser

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

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

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.

***

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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