I'm not one of those centrists who pretends I'm not a partisan. I'm as politically opinionated as the next guy — but I do attempt to watch when my personal biases result in giving candidates I support, or in this case an organization, more leeway than I'd give anyone else.
I probably have been quiet on the subject of the Independence Party of New York (IPNY) until now because of my bias. I've heard about too much drama, too many nasty rumors, too close connections to outside groups and other such mixed messages coming from IPNY to use them as a positive example independents should look to as role models.
The following is one more example of this from Richard Winger at Ballot Access News:
The New York Times reports that the Manhattan District Attorney now alleges that leaders of the New York Independence Party knew, or should have known, that a Republican political consultant stole over $1,000,000 from Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The District Attorney wants the Independence Party to put that same amount of money in an escrow fund, even though no one alleges that the party has the money.
I've learned more about issues facing the IPNY in recent months, but very little in the way of things I can quote or link to, other than part of an email I got from IndependentVoting.org staff member, Gwen Mandell. I asked her how the party she's so involved with would think about her trashing the whole idea of political parties. She told me that IPNY "would be dead in the water if non-partisan elections were to be enacted," and that IndependentVoting.org and IPNY are pushing for such things on principle anyway.
A party is a whole lot of things, not just the sum of its activities during the primary season, and I don't see why nonpartisan elections would sink a well organized party. It is, however, strange that they would be inclined to support something they thought would leave their party "dead in the water." I wonder if rank and file members of the party would agree with this.
Luckily, there is more going on around the country for independents looking for how they can build an opposition to the two party system. The Independent Party of Oregon is a trailblazer (basketball pun intended) that independent groups, whether they are parties or not, can look to for a model of success to emulate. Oregon's party is much more open, more grassroots and has had a huge impact in their state with very little money. You can't argue with numbers, as the folks in Oregon have registered nearly as big a share of registered voters in their state, in less than four years, than IPNY has managed in twenty years (3 percent vs 3.6 percent).
Parties aren't the only avenue for independents, but we should not automatically be against forming a party for centrists and moderates, where most independents stand, just because the two major parties have given us such bad examples of how political parties can be run. We can do better.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.