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Appendix K: An Experience in New York
On Sunday, January 19, 2003, an organization called Committee for a Unified Independence Party held a national conference in New York City to discuss organizing political independents with reference to the 2004 Presidential election. Dr. Lenora Fulani who has been a candidate for President of the United States is the chair of this organization. The day-long conference attracted about 900 participants. One session was shown on C-SPAN.
Conference organizers emphasized the fact that
in a recent opinion survey 35% of Americans considered themselves to be politically
independent compared with 32% who considered themselves Republicans and 31%
Democrats. The implication was that if independent voters could be organized
in a unified way, their candidates could win national elections - a big IF.
The Independence Party of New York provided a working model of how this might be done. The New York party has 250,000 registered members. It also sponsors a primary in which candidates from other parties are allowed to participate. This party provided the margin of victory for the current Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and also for New York Governor George Pataki, both Republicans.
The Independence Party includes members from one end of the political spectrum to the other. Both leftists and rightwingers are welcome to participate. The New York party aims to build a nonideological grassroots movement for reform of the political process. Founded in 1994, this party is now New York States third largest. The Liberals and Greens have recently lost major party status in that state.
I was struck by Dr. Fulanis statement that she and other political independents work with people weve learned to hate. The two-party system, she said, was a system built upon demonizing ones opponents. It teaches people to despise others. The new paradigm is to focus on what we can do together. If people are focused on action, said Fred Newman, a political philosopher and Fulanis mentor, they put their biases aside.
This statement meant something to me because of my recent experience as a candidate for U.S. Senate in the Independence Party primary. My platform consisted of two controversial planks - support for a 32-hour workweek by 2010 and dignity for white males. The Star Tribune refused to accept a paid ad from me because it referred to dignity for white males.
A conference organizer, Nancy Ross, introduced me to Lee Dilworth, an African American man from Mississippi who was a veteran of the 1964 Freedom Party and a recent Reform Party candidate for Congress. I told him about my campaign platform. Dilworth was intrigued. He wanted to get together and talk further about it. Likewise, Dr. Fulani laughed when I mentioned dignity for white males. She was for that, too. Fulani gave me her business card and encouraged me to send her a copy of the manuscript for this book.
A third African American who responded positively to the white male theme was former six-term Democratic Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney from Decatur, Georgia. I recall that she once introduced a bill in Congress for a 32-hour workweek. McKinney was a warm, engaging person who also gave me her card.
I had a sense of openness and acceptance at this conference which bodes well for the future of political independents. Here were people of all races, ages, genders, sexual preferences, and political persuasions interested in working together for the betterment of our common society. This was, indeed, a paradigm shift from the old politics of polarization by gender or race and the despising of ones opponents. It was a can do spirit that could change the political landscape if, as the conference organizers envisioned, political independents became united.
I almost did not make this conference. Last-minute airfares were expensive and I feared driving alone to New York City from Minneapolis in the dead of winter. At the last minute, I purchased a Greyhound bus ticket and made the 30-hour trip to the East Coast. The conference was held several blocks away from the site of the former World Trade Center. To my knowledge, I was one of two Minnesotans present at the conference, the other being Doug Stene, the Independence Partys Second Congressional District chair. Additionally, Bill Hillsman, creator of Wellstones and Venturas winning television commercials, was on the panel.
The star of the show, however, was Victor Morales, a candidate for U.S. Senate from Texas, who, on a slim budget, came out of nowhere in 1996 to finish first in the Democratic primary, losing narrowly to the incumbent Senator, Phil Gramm. He delivered an impassioned personal narrative relating to his campaign experiences. The audience applauded him warmly.
Morales was also the last person with whom I spoke at the conference. I met him on the street as we were both walking away from the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. He, too, gave thumbs up to my support of dignity for white males. We all speak from our hearts to express our own convictions. Thats the process that Morales, Fulani, Dilworth, Newman, McKinney, and other political independents cherish and, hopefully, will pass on to the larger community.
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