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


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.




“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.


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


Karp’s take on the restoration of self government

Anthony Del Signore

Anthony Del Signore has just started an internship with the NYC Independence Party and IndependentVoting.org.  Anthony is a political science student at PACE University. He has been reading Indispensable Enemies and wrote a post looking at the last chapter of the book.

Chapter 14 – The Restoration of Self-Government

“Augmenting the Foundations of Liberty”

“Throughout the majority of Walter Karp’s book Indispensable Enemies, the means, structures, and powers of the two major political parties take center-stage in a scathing repudiation of the status quo. Chapter 14, “The Restoration of Self-Government,” on the other hand, takes a much different tone. This tone is hopeful that party collusion, municipal annexation, and ever-powerful party stalwarts can be revolutionarily usurped through an augmentation of liberty and self-governance.  But these ideas are not novel or never heard of before. Karp takes his blueprint from our Founding Fathers, who wrote extensively on the merits of localized self-governance.

To structure his chapter, Karp relies on Thomas Jefferson’s two “fundamental means” to restore self-governance. First, local self-government must be extended to every member of the Republic. Second, “republican education” (or in this sense, a sort of civic engagement experience in which each individual can think for him or herself how to secure freedom). Working in conjunction, they would stem the tide of rapid municipal annexation and bring autonomy not only to the political life of the present, but the political life of the future.

The question Karp strives to answer first and foremost, is, are local assemblies the strength of a free nation? He states:

“… [A] mass of citizens with no direct share in power, no local assemblies, no local political arenas, is easy for political usurpers to control” (pg. 304).

This statement actually has two meanings. The phrase “political usurper” can mean the dominant party bosses of either the Democrat or Republican parties. Or it can mean a “restoration of what has been deliberately destroyed” by a thoughtful and engaged local citizenry (pg. 304).

In 2014, we see both meanings in action. In ever increasing numbers, America is becoming centralized and urbanized politically. More than 50% of Americans live in cities. Now, towns are merging with others to ensure financial survival because of a shift from the industrial economy to the emerging “silicon valley” economy. This is securing party control in state elections as the electorate turns into an “urban mass” disinterested in politics. On the other hand, we are beginning to see pockets of independent, localized movements, able to come together because of the internet. The rise of the Tea Party movement, Occupy Wall Street, and many localized chapters that I am sure many of you are familiar with are only known because of the internet.

Karp goes on to describe invisible “lines” that are drawn seemingly arbitrarily to separate townships from cities and stifle political action at the individual level. To combat this, every citizen should belong to a community which has relevant political power. This community should have localized authority which can speak on behalf of its citizens. Karp carefully states that this does not mean towns cannot merge for financial reasons. However, they should not merge for political ones. I have always been a proponent of the local community boards in New York City having actual power to influence change. A localized approach would give them that power. But, for people to become civically engaged, according to Karp, they have to be taught how to do so. This is where republican education comes into play.

Republican education, at its core, is a study of political history and a dismantling of the education bureaucracy. According to Karp, this is a revolutionary change in teaching from his time or even today. For example, he equates contemporary history lessons to the obliteration of political history. In essence, Karp argues the political “oligarchs” are fastening a message which keeps students disinterested in individual thinking and ensures division so that the parties can further ensure security once these students mature. How this can be changed is through localized control of education. One can only assume that Karp would not be thrilled with such measures as New York State Regents exams and Common Core which standardize requirements for proficiency in a number of subjects for wide swaths of students. However, in conjunction with newly established ward governments, Karp believes the educational pursuits of trade would give way to a more enriching educational experience.

While this may be true, the reality of 2014 is that education is still merely a “vocational training camp.” With higher education being the business that it is, this trend does not seem to be dissipating. Parents and students alike are staring at tuition bills calculating how much they need to make in salary once they or their children graduate to merely get by. Fields once thought to be bastions of security, such as law, are becoming perilous career choices. With localized education, perhaps some of these problems may be solved. However, in an ever-expanding globalized economy, is this solution even viable? Perhaps a more enriching experience can be gained on the internet where thinkers of all stripes can lay their own foundations at very inexpensive rates. Perhaps this is the future of republican education. This blog is a testament to that.

More than ever Karp’s vision in “The Restoration of Self-Government” is gaining traction. The idea that closed primaries are a detriment to our democracy and that funds should not be allocated to those closed primaries is something many people are beginning to understand and agree with. We are at the precipice of political reform. While all of his visions may not come to fruition, a step in the right direction is something he would be proud of.”

I am looking forward to our conversation on Sunday at 7 pm EST.  The call in number for the conference call is 805 399-1200 and the access code is 767775#. 

Foundations of Party Power

Dr. Jessie Fields took a look at Chapter One–The Foundations of Party Power.

Dr. Jessie Fields at the 2012 IP NYC Spring Chair Reception

Dr. Jessie Fields at the 2012 IP NYC Spring Chair Reception

“The two parties function in symbiosis.

In the first chapter of Indispensable Enemies Walter Karp debunks the assumption that the two party’s main principal of action is to win elections and that parties operate as instruments of representative government. He gives many examples that occur primarily between the years 1900 and 1970 of party leaders running weak opposition against each other, sabotaging insurgents of their own party or supporting the other party’s candidate to maintain control of the party organization. Karp describes the power of the parties: “When a party organization is in control, its leaders do not merely put up candidates for elective office, they control what a substantial number of these men do once elected. Such a party does not merely “manage the succession to power”, it has power and it wields power.”

He highlights century long statewide two party relationships in which one party dominates statewide and another controls certain urban areas with little change in the relative status of the two parties in each state despite enormous social and cultural changes in the society as a whole.

Karp examines how party politics divides the residents of the states and the country pitting one community against another. “Persuading one segment of the citizenry to blame another segment for its troubles is a constant practice of party organizations.”

His examples of how the parties respond to insurgents and independent grassroots movements seem very relevant today. Especially here in New York City where Adolfo Carrion the former Democrat and Bronx Borough President who worked in the Obama administration and who became an independent and ran for Mayor, was shut out of the debates and almost all media coverage.

I am tempted to ask what Karp would make of today’s extreme partisanship in Congress and the various states and the development of the independent movement and the fight for structural political reform such as nonpartisan elections and redistricting reform. He died in 1989 just a year after Dr. Lenora Fulani’s historic presidential run in which she focused a spotlight on two party corruption of our electoral process. Our movement can learn a great deal from Walter Karp’s writings and I believe he would be thrilled at our growth.”

—Jessie Fields


Join the Indispensable Enemies Conversation on Sunday, February 9th at 7 pm EST.

The call in number for our book club conference call is 805 399-1200 and the access code is 767775#.  I look forward to our conversation.

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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