October 13, 2010
Mr. Paul C. Gullixson
The Press Democrat
427 Mendocino Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA
Dear Mr. Gullixson:
From time to time I’m inclined to draft letters to the editor and short articles on and around the subject I write about: political Independents. Infrequently, I actually submit such materials for publication. Invariably, it’s in vain. I never ask “why”. I know why. The answer is twofold: Firstly, there simply isn’t a Media platform today for what I would describe as an Independent political point of view, not even a nascent one. Secondly, because the author has no apparent credentials to write about these issues. Both reasons are understandable. That doesn’t necessarily make them justified.
Concerning the first point, almost all Media have a political orientation and therefore a corresponding editorial policy. It needn’t be either visible or blatant, though often it is. The same applies to most periodicals, popular or otherwise. They simply don’t want to see pieces contrary to their political orientation. An Independent political viewpoint appears to be in obvious conflict with traditional ideological sympathies. And to a large degree, it is. So, if that’s the case, why give it a forum? That’s the part that it is understandable.
A second rational for dismissing someone presenting an Independent point of view is that it is held by most not to exist; that there is no such thing as an Independent political position. It’s difficult to refute this conviction because, if truth be acknowledged, today Independents have yet to recognize anything common, politically, around which to rally; no philosophy around which they might coalesce. And, as important, no leadership has emerged to direct them toward this goal. Thus, a view that holds there is no such thing as an Independent political position today is not unreasonable—it’s wrong, but not unreasonable.
Independents represent a huge national contingent of what appears to be disappointed and/or disillusioned Americans who by the mere act of declaring themselves Independents, signal they are not happy with either major (or any minor) party. And yet, somehow, the Media assumes they don’t have a political point of view? The very (political) act of rejecting either major party proves that they must have. Understanding this point rules out ignoring an Independent political position as justified. It may not be all that obvious, but it’s there; only a seed on the verge of sprouting, perhaps, but it’s there.
What is this Independent political point of view I claim having an insight into? It’s what used to be called the goal of the political middle: Politics that delivers government that works for most of the people all of the time and all of the people at least most of the time. This is not centrism, but moderation. Today, Independents are a proxy for the political middle; the political faction that has been erased by the two main parties in their ideological struggles against each other. Two-party politics today has deteriorated into an “ideological feud” between the far Left and the far Right, with the consequence that many feel that the results of government are unacceptable.
Ex-Senator John C Danforth has expressed the need to rebuild the political center better than I in his (2006) book, Faith and Politics:
“Now the collapse of the political center . . . has advanced to the point where it is a teetering ruin of its former strength. . . . Those who espouse the politics of sharp contrasts despise the political center. In their opinion, the center stands for nothing. . . . The reason many Americans are turned off to politics is not, as party ideologues lament, that they do not have clear enough choices between candidates. It is the opposite. They have extremely clear choices, but they do not like either of them. . . . I have heard many people use essentially the same words in describing their election-day frustrations: I want to check a box that says, ‘None of the above’.”
Just who are those people Senator Danforth is speaking about? Not unrealistically they are the only slightly committed republicans and democrats and all those independents. They are the “moderate middle” that both parties need to win elections, but whom they do not, and do not intend to, represent politically. They are but a means to the parties’ ends: electoral superiority.
At some point, leadership along the moderate lines of a Senator Danforth—to use an example— will come forward to reconstruct our political center. Independents will be a principle building block in reconstructing this moderate ideological political option for America’s voters. What I write about is what independents may well support—and why—and vote for: policies that are less ideologically driven and more consequentially based. Policies as I describe in my book on an Independent political option.
As for the second reason why what I write is ignored, it’s likewise understandable: who is TR Harry to write on such matters? Well, he’s just an average American of voting age (and then some!); a registered Independent, and an advocate for those so politically inclined. That is really all that matters. That he favors an Independent political option is open and above board—he wrote a book about it! That some of what he writes may conflict with accepted wisdom, or goes against the grain of the existing political status quo is, he believes, not unhealthy for our political debate.
When in 2000 I won a primary and ran for the US Senate, the Editorial Board of the Kansas City Star asked me why I was running. Was it to make some kind of a statement? My answer was no, I was running to win. I had considered the circumstances and believed, based upon my assessment of the race as a third-party candidate, that the probability was good enough to make the effort. As it turned out, rather than one of three candidates in the race, I eventually was one of seven, and that, so to speak, “upset my apple cart.” The point is that now, as then, I have pondered the situation surrounding the phenomenon of political Independents. They mirror why and what I was in the campaign for in 2000. My writing today is thus a continuation of what I perceived was politically lacking some ten years, or more, ago. Does this history provide me with any “credentials” to write about these issues? Well, if nothing else, it should demonstrate some commitment, some persistence and continuity in dealing with it. I hope that would count for something in any discussion of credentials.
I would welcome an opportunity to meet with you to discuss the possibility of periodically providing you with material on this subject for your paper. I can be reached at 707 836-0275.
Thomas Richard Harry
Enclosure: The Gathering of the Clan
Copy to: Ms. Catherine Barnett