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Appendix B: A Challenger’s Letter to Independence Party Members

 

August 1, 2002

Dear Independence Party member:In the spirit of independence with a lower-case “i”, I am a candidate for U.S. Senate in the Independence Party primary along with the party’s endorsed candidate, Jim Moore. I did not seek endorsement at the July 13th convention.

The Independence Party of Minnesota is on the move. Although Governor Ventura and Lt. Governor Schunk are not seeking reelection, the party has a strong opportunity to succeed them in candidates Tim Penny and Martha Robertson. Both are political leaders with distinguished records of public service combined with moderate views. Theirs is a centrist appeal which has borne fruit in attracting defectors in past or present office holders from the DFL and Republican parties. The prospect of party success in this year’s elections is more promising than in previous years both at the gubernatorial level and with respect to other state offices.

The reason that I have filed to become a candidate for the U.S. Senate is a disquieting feeling picked up at the St. Cloud convention that, in the public eye, the Independence Party no longer stands for anything. Issues are the problem. Yes, the Republican and DFL parties have both been captured by “extremist” elements and the Independence Party stands in the middle; but what exactly does this mean? How, for example, does the Independence Party stake a “middle position” with respect to the Christian right? What is the extremist position within the DFL party and how do we differ from it? All these specifics are covered up by muddled generalities about being in the middle. I believe that outstanding personalities are not enough for a third party to achieve lasting majority status. As the Republicans supplanted the Whigs on an anti-slavery plank, so third parties in our day must ride a wave of compelling issues to win majority status.

When Ross Perot founded the Reform Party in 1992, his message of controlling Reagan-era budget deficits resonated with the voters. So did his warnings of a “giant sucking sound” as businesses relocated to Mexico under NAFTA. Where are these issues now? Well, the budget deficit was (until September 11th) brought under control through bipartisan efforts and a robust economy. The Independence Party has abandoned the Perotist position on “free trade”. A new issue has emerged in campaign finance reform. However, embracing such issues is hardly unique to the Independence Party. John McCain, Russ Feingold, and others have a higher profile on them than we.

The U.S. Senate seat is the key policy position with respect to national and international issues. I have looked over the policy statements of our endorsed candidate, Jim Moore, and found nothing that is unique and compelling, nothing that clearly differentiates the Independence Party from the others. Eliminate waste in government, be fiscally responsible, hold schools accountable for results, crack down on corporate abuse - you can hear one or another candidate espouse such positions in the two major parties. How is Mr. Moore going to insert himself into a discussion between the two $10 million candidates, Coleman and Wellstone? He won’t. I believe that such a candidacy, respectable but bland, will be a wasted opportunity. I propose an alternative.

Last year I was a candidate for Mayor of Minneapolis, filling in at the last minute for a friend who had dropped out of the race. We were landlords. We both realized that, as such, in a city whose political culture has long stigmatized landlords, in a hostile media environment, at a time of sky-high rents, our chances of winning were slim to none. I filed under the label “Affordable Housing- Preservation”, running a purely negative campaign. Carrying literature and a picket sign, I wandered through downtown Minneapolis telling voters how the city had torn down hundreds of units of structurally sound housing, how its development agency misused the power of eminent domain, etc. The newspapers would not print my articles or letters. Until the last week of the primary, I had two minutes total in the candidate debates. But in my two minutes I told Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton to her face that she had to go, along with her buddies on the City Council.

Unexpectedly, another “minor” candidate and I were invited to participate in the last candidate debate. We acquitted ourselves well. When the Star Tribune article on this event neglected to mention our participation, I wrote a letter to the editor calling attention to our candidacies. I later sent a press release to the media on behalf of the minor candidates which said, “You may not have been interested in our political views but perhaps you’d like to hear us sing.” So it was that a group of obscure mayoral candidates including me appeared on three Twin Cities television stations singing patriotic songs on the local news on the evening before September 11th.

I mention these things to indicate how I would approach the Senate race. As a mayoral candidate, I did not personally do well; but the job got done. We swept the entire leadership of city government away in a one-party town, using our issues, providing key help to the winning candidates when it was needed. To use a football analogy, I knew that my role in this effort was to be a blocker, not the one who carried the ball across the line for a touchdown. The important thing was to convey a sense of urgency that Minneapolis city government needed to change. We could not afford to be subtle or polite. We had to get in there in a visceral way and fight for change. So it is with the 2002 Senate race. Up against staggering odds, the Independence Party candidate needs to be out there swinging and take ideological risks. We cannot afford to play it safe.

This party needs to embrace issues which are central to the political process and which differentiate us from the other parties. However centrist, we need to be more partisan with respect to issues, not less. We need to be passionate in our convictions. My convictions may not be the same as those of other Independence Party members - and I will not portray them as such - but they are consistent with IP principles. I will present them to the public in this year’s primary, expecting to be called a “racist”, “communist”, “kook”, and everything in between. Like the blocker who opens up daylight for the touchdown runner, I will open up core issues that will pose real alternatives to the prevailing political views and prepare the way for future electoral victories.

To avoid the clutter of proposals, I will focus on two issues in the primary campaign. They are stated as follows:

(1) “I believe in the full citizenship, dignity, and equality of white males.”

(2) “I believe that the federal government should enact legislation to reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by the year 2010.”

Neither of these positions has, to my knowledge, any organized base of support at this time. Both would be immediately and aggressively opposed by powerful political interest groups. The first principle would be opposed by dominant extremist elements in the Democratic Party. The second would be opposed by dominant extremist elements in the Republican Party. Since the extremes of both parties have taken over, statements such as mine opposing them will, of course, be seen as being beyond the pale. I expect to take flak for them. But I also intend to open up new political territory through which moderates from the Independence Party can move to majority party status. However, a word of explanation is required.

Independence Party members often see themselves as being “neither too liberal, nor too conservative, but in the middle”. But what does this specifically mean? Seventy years ago, the main political division ran along the lines of economic interest: rich versus poor, management versus labor. In the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt, liberals were those who sided with labor unions and poor people. Conservatives were those who sided with business interests and the rich. Forty years ago, in the 1960s, a new political alignment appeared with the triumph of the Civil Rights movement. The segregationist South was put down by northern liberals including Minnesota’s own Hubert Humphrey. That realigned African Americans, who had been Republican since Reconstructionist days, with the Democratic Party and brought the previously “Solid South” into the Republican camp. The Civil Rights movement of black people became a model for the Women’s movement, the Gay Rights movement, and the immigrants movement of Hispanics, Asians, Somalis, and other peoples.

Today, the core ideology of liberals and of the Democratic Party is that of victimized peoples fighting for full citizenship in U.S. society, being opposed by conservatives who reflect the fears and prejudices of the ancien regime. “White males” identify the socially retrograde groups destined to decline, although individual white males (such as Bill Clinton) can avoid that unflattering designation by aggressively embracing the liberal ideology of Civil Rights, feminism, and demographically defined “human rights”.

Which side is stronger, liberal or conservative? The answer to that question depends on which front the political battle is being waged. On the economic front, I would say that the conservative position is stronger. Big-business interests prevail over those of organized labor. Although the Republicans are predominantly the party of business, money from well-heeled groups buys influence in both the Republican and Democratic Parties. On the social and cultural front, however, the liberal position is stronger. The history and ethics of the Civil Rights movement and its successor movements have become like a civic religion. People lose jobs and face public disgrace by voicing the wrong opinion on matters of gender and race. Furthermore, when you add up all the blocs in the Civil Rights coalition - African Americans, women, Hispanics, Asians, gays, disabled persons - you have an overwhelming majority of voters, one whose numbers are destined to increase while the residual group of Americans shrinks. “White males”, the core of that residual group, are losers in the political game.

I often hear political candidates who say “I am an economic conservative but a social (or cultural) liberal”. Well, so are big business, academia, the media, and both the Republican and Democratic Parties. They all support big-business interests while embracing the values of feminism and Civil Rights. While one might suppose that the white men who run the large corporations might sympathize with their demographic brethren further down the food chain, that proves not to be the case. Most are ardent supporters of affirmative action for others even if they themselves have escaped the process. The big foundations, universities, media, and the courts are all active boosters of cultural liberalism. Anyone on the make in this society knows which side to support. Therefore, when I hear someone say he is an economic conservative but a social liberal, I do not see this as a sign of independent thinking but of “piling on” the winning side. To this, in the Senate race, I say “I am an economic liberal and a social conservative”. I say this not with any assurance of winning but because I think it is right.

The first plank in my campaign for Senate is to support “full citizenship, dignity, and equality of white males”. I, of course, also support the same for white females, black females, black males, and everyone else in this society. We are all entitled to human dignity. But I do not see the other groups as being politically at risk as white males are. In liberal circles, the very term, “white male”, is used as a political epithet, a term of derision and scorn. The fact that someone in a high corporate position is, like me, a white male does not mean that I will derive a personal advantage from it. Could I expect such a person, say, a multimillionaire lawyer or corporate executive, to give me a free cup of coffee because I share his demographic traits? I doubt it. Whites selling out whites, males selling out males, white males selling out other white males, seems to be more what is happening today. We need to return to the original ethic of the Civil Rights movement: that individuals should not be judged by stereotypical views of group behavior but by their individual behavior. Those who profess to be supporting “tolerance” can themselves be quite intolerant of those who hold different political views.

In the culture area, the solution lies in acts of individual defiance to oppressive social norms. It lies in the uninhibited exercise of free speech. Still, it is appropriate to raise this topic in the context of a campaign for federal office because cultural liberalism has inserted its values into laws and regulations. While all citizens are theoretically “equal under the law”, the law also recognizes such categories as “protected classes” whose members are, so to speak, “more equal” than others. Government has created systems of preferential treatment in hiring, business contracting, educational admissions, housing, and many other areas which, by a strict reading of the 14th amendment, would be judged unconstitutional. But the judges are political appointees who are unwilling to see it that way. The livelihood of many lawyers depends on it.

The economic issues are also important. I am not a libertarian. I believe that government has a role to play in regulating the economy and a responsibility to do so when there are problems. I am disturbed by the fact that long-term real wages have been declining and work hours have been increasing for the people who do the grunt work in this society - persons in all demographic categories. Labor unions have been ineffective in reversing this trend in part because the bipartisan “free trade” agenda has allowed corporate enterprise to escape labor and environmental regulation by going off shore.

Like Henry Ford, I believe in the economic utility of leisure as a way to increase the need for consumption as well as to bolster employment opportunities. But today’s business leaders and economic conservatives oppose such proposals for the sake of more short-term profits and so more opportunities to draw money out of the system for themselves. Government can and should regulate the supply of labor to allow more people to have full-scale wages and adequate amounts of personal free time even if this means that the economy will sustain cutbacks in “growth” industries such as crime and incarceration, pill pushing, gambling, litigation, military preparedness, and other fixtures of a compulsive economy.

I know something about the economics of work and leisure, having published several books on this and related subjects. I have coauthored a book on work-time issues with a former U.S. Senator, published op-ed pieces in the New York Times and other leading newspapers, and advised a member of Congress who introduced a shorter-workweek bill. I’m prepared to slug it out with any academic or business spokesman who raises theoretical objections. As a concrete recommendation, I propose to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to establish a 32-hour standard workweek (and raise the overtime penalty rate) within eight years. Let’s be bold.

Sincerely,

William McGaughey

See next item in Appendix.

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