P4P Recordings–A Conversation with Greg Orman

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Please join us for our next selection:

The Secrets of Mary Bowser.

Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Cover

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

We will be talking with author Lois Leveen 

Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.

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Reader’s Forum–Steve Richardson

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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#

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Readers’ Forum–Steve Richardson & Lou Hinman

STEVE RICHARDSON

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I finished the book last night.  Honestly, it was not my type of book.  I rarely read novels and found the quasi-biography and this author’s style awkward.  I could not even remember who Sanger was, so I did learn some ugly truths about the history of contraception.  I could have learned more from a brief article, but this book was written for people who already knew her public story.  I may be reading too much into the story but should get an interesting reaction from Ms. Feldman, either way.

Terrible Virtue is an intriguing title that isn’t really explained in the quote of Margaret Sanger or by the author.  Most readers, myself included, are probably grateful for the deeds that ultimately led to reproductive freedom for women in the U.S. and wondered what was terrible about them.  The answer comes in the form of letters/testimonials by Sanger’s family and friends.  They paid the price by loving someone who could not love them the way they wanted and probably deserved to be loved.  Over and over, Margaret made the choices that contraception would make possible for all women.  It did not paint a pretty picture; it made her appear selfish.  But it did keep her from falling into the traps that had kept virtually all women in misery until she made rebellion her singular goal.

Sanger indulged what ambitious men learned long ago – that great achievements require indifference to expectations, especially those of loved ones.  History is not made by people who cling to comfort and sentiment.  Anyone moved by friends’ ordinary concerns cannot hope to withstand extraordinary challenges from enemies.  This does not mean there are no feelings; it means there are many choices to be made and those choices have consequences.  Margaret Sanger was willing to endure the judgment and disappointment of those she loved to pursue a worthy objective.  Feldman’s book reminds us that heroes are not always seen that way by those who were sacrificed on their journey.        

 

Steve Richardson is a founding member of the Virginia Independent Voters Association and serves on IndependentVoting.org’s national Election Reform Committee.

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LOU HINMAN

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Terrible Virtue, by Ellen Feldman, is the story of Margaret Sanger, and her pivotal role in the long struggle to make birth control accessible and legal in the United States.

I remember that Lisa McGirr’s book The War on Alcohol (a Politics for the People selection two years ago) exposed how Prohibition was aimed at denying alcohol consumption to poor people, and the rapid influx of working class “foreigners” into American cities.  At the same time, the discriminatory enforcement of the Volstead Act allowed the well-to-do to go on consuming alcohol.  McGirr showed how the 18th Amendment was only possible because the development of democracy was subverted and held back at a time of rapid social change and economic growth, and how it’s overthrow was made possible by the rapid enfranchisement of new working-class voters during the 1920’s and the building of a new electoral coalition.

The struggle for reproductive rights (although not over even now) overlapped the struggle against Prohibition, and involved the same underlying issue.  The rich and the well-to-do had access to birth control, but poor people did not.  Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in American in 1916.  In 1921 (the year after the Prohibition became law) she founded the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

One of the virtues of Feldman’s book is its account of the appalling oppression of poor and working class women without access to birth control.  I have to confess that as a political activist who came of age at about the time that Margaret Sander passed away in 1966, I never thought much about this.

Another important virtue is Feldman’s moving account of Margaret Sanger’s development as a rebel.  Her rebellion was rooted, not in ideology, but in her hatred of oppression, and her fellowship with other working-class women – her sisters.  As she developed as an agitator and organizer, and as support for her work grew, she came to know many wealthy and influential people.  But she never let herself be deflected from her goal, and used her privileged social location to broaden the base of support for her cause.

Another virtue of Ms. Feldman’s book is that she depicts the personal conflicts and sacrifices Margaret Sanger endured in becoming a leader.

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

Politics for the People Conference Call

With Ellen Feldman

Sunday, January 22nd at 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

Reader’s Forum-Who Stole the American Dream?

Today we kick off a series of posts about our current selection written by P4P members.

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Steve Richardson

Who Stole the American Dream?  According to Hedrick Smith, the author, it’s big business owners who decided offense was their best defense against increasing regulation and taxation by the federal government.  A few radical moves by Nixon in the early ‘70s provoked the backlash that created armies of lobbyists in Washington and a relentless push to unburden businesses – at the expense of workers.  It would be decades before the key outcomes – income inequality, partisan gridlock, and dangerous levels of public debt – would become evident.

The timing of our discussion could not be better.  Smith’s book was published four years ago, when the chronic economic and political concerns were hidden by the Great Recession.  Americans are just now coming to the realization we are dealing with systemic challenges.  It is encouraging that voters are looking beyond the political party establishment for solutions.  I would like to think that behind the campaign circus is an awakening – that voters know more than they have been given credit for and they’re exercising the only obvious options.  In that case, there is hope for voters who have basically slept through the burglary of their dream.  As Smith puts it, “Americans will have to come off the sidelines and reengage in direct citizen action in order to reestablish ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’”

This syncs with our independent voter message.  He – and we – have many ideas of what could or should be done, but none of them matter until and unless our fellow citizens are ready to take matters into their own hands.  By focusing on specific actors and actions, Smith has made a valuable contribution toward motivating the victims to fight back.  Millions of Americans can relate to the loss of jobs, home equity, and retirement benefits, and Smith builds a strong case that these were not natural “free market” consequences; rather, our economy has been plundered by capitalists who managed to turn Washington into a profit center.

Clearly, we need to get the money out of politics – not by regulating campaign contributions but by closer scrutiny of public policies.  It is remarkable how long we bought the “trickle down” economic theory that what was good for business would be good for workers.  It is now incumbent upon the 99 percent to determine what is good for us.  But we’ve outsourced democracy to two parties that have violated our trust, so the first step is to take back control of our government by changing the way representatives are elected.  Mr. Smith deserves credit for including election reforms in his 10-step plan to “reclaim the dream” (#9 Rebuild the Political Center and #10 Mobilize the Middle Class), but I would have placed them first and second.

Steve Richardson is a founding member of the Virginia Independent Voters Association and serves on IndependentVoting.org’s national Election Reform Committee.

 

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Reminder: Politics for the People

Conference Call With Hedrick Smith

Sunday, June 19th @ 7 pm EST

(641) 715-3605   Code 767775#

Reader’s Forum: Steve Richardson and Natesha Oliver

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STEVE RICHARDSON

Prior to reading Lisa McGirr’s The War on Alcohol, I thought Prohibition was, as the author described popular notions of the era, “an aberrant moment in the nation’s history, wrongheaded social policy waged by puritanical zealots of a bygone Victorian era, with few lasting consequences.”  I expected a connection with the War on Drugs; it was noted but not explored in any detail.  What surprised me is that the war on alcohol drove millions of voters into the arms of  the Democratic Party and gave FDR’s New Deal a populist, revolutionary energy beyond what may have been justified on economics alone.

I knew Lincoln was a Republican and wondered how the party lost black voters; now I know.  They merged church and state to enforce “good” behavior – a “perfect storm” of ill-conceived public policy that could only lead to punishment of defenseless citizens.  The sad part of this experience is that Republicans seem to have few regrets (else we would not have the ATF, DEA, etc.).  Apparently, they concluded the mistake was overreaching; outright prohibition created a hugely profitable black market.  Today, “sin taxes” regulate the supply of tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and marijuana – splitting profits between government and business.

Democrats are far from blameless in perpetuating these wars.  Evidently, they learned that being the Big Brother of oppressed minorities is a powerful negotiating tool.  Republicans have been remarkably successful in expanding federal police powers (including the recent example of DHS) because Democrats have found limitation more profitable than prevention.  As McGirr explained, law enforcement was a local matter before Prohibition, but it has been a subject of intense interest in Washington ever since.  The lesson of her book is that there were lasting consequences to the 18th Amendment – institutional components of a police state.”

Steve Richardson is a founding member of the Virginia Independent Voters Association and serves on IndependentVoting.org’s national Election Reform Committee.

 

Natesha Oliver and June Hirsh (R)

Independent Voting activists Natesha Oliver and June Hirsh (r) at the National Conference of Independents, March 2015

NATESHA OLIVER

Just finished reading “Citizen Warriors”, ch.5 of The War on Alcohol by Lisa McGirr.

To be honest, I really don’t know what to say so I will start by saying Lisa McGirr’s account of enforcement during Prohibition by ordinary citizens is eye-opening, it’s like Citizens went on a self aggrandizing mission to “clean up” what they considered problem people.                                                                                                   The reality that Prohibition was spearheaded by the church, more or less, isn’t shocking; Ththe fact that the church aligned their cause with the KKK to enforce the law is shocking…
I have not finished the book yet what I have read affirm my belief that racism still heavily exists in politics because politics was the platform people used to push their superiority agendas, be it the Church or otherwise…     WTH!!”

Natesha Oliver is the founder of MIST, Missouri Independents Stand Together. She lives in Kansas City.

Reminder: P4P Conference Call

with Lisa McGirr

Sunday, April 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call in number (641) 715-3605

Access code 767775#

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

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