A political groundswell back towards the middle is underway. This is great. May the center not only hold, but expand.
Here in Oregon, Ben Westlund has dropped out of the Republican party and is running for governor as an Independent. Moderate presidential candidate Michael Smith wants to go to the Republican National Convention in ’08 and shake up the party’s right wing.
Perhaps most significantly, John and Leah Frohnmayer are organizing The Independent Bandwagon that, they hope, will reach voters in every community in Oregon. I learned about this much-needed movement from their recent letter in the Portland Oregonian:
Your editorial on independent voters (Feb. 3) is exactly right. That is why we are starting "The Independent Bandwagon" to encourage voters to register independent; vote on merit, not party affiliation; and to encourage independent candidates in Oregon.
The Oregon Legislature is hopelessly partisan, with both parties bringing dishonor to the legislative process. If we can't talk to each other, we can't solve our problems. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats will reform themselves, and neither has a lock on all the good ideas.
If enough independents vote, we can choose nonpartisan candidates who are interested in the issues and in communicating to solve our problems.
If you are interested in The Independent Bandwagon, contact us at [email protected].
JOHN and LEAH FROHNMAYER, Corvallis
I did just that, and heard more about what the Frohnmayers are up to via their emailed reply.
Thanks for responding. The Independent Bandwagon is a movement, not another political party. (The reason we don’t want to be a political party is because then we, too, would become partisans. We want to be free to champion the good ideas wherever they arise.)
We are individuals who are tired of watching our elected representatives of both parties bicker instead of solve problems. We believe our society’s problems are real: education, environment, jobs, fair taxes and dozens more; and that neither party can respond because both are captives of big money.
We believe to take back our government we have to elect enough Independents that political parties will need us to help find answers. As such, Independents can be the honest brokers in our political system and reestablish communication.
We believe that any candidate, regardless of label, has to earn our vote by persuading us she or he will work for us, not for a party.
We do not claim to own the truth or the answers, but we do know the present system is broken and it won’t fix itself. We intend to organize Independents to join the Bandwagon in every community in the State. Our first step is to post a CMS (Content Management System) site to allow us all to interact, share information and work in each of our communities to develop a strong voice and collective impact.
They’re right. We don’t need another “Independent” political party, though sometimes it will be necessary for centrist candidates to run as Independents—as Ben Westlund is doing. More importantly, I’m hoping that The Independent Bandwagon will demonstrate the strength of the middle, so that both Democratic and Republican candidates will have to moderate their positions in order to be elected.
Currently both parties play to their extreme bases, as Mortimer Zuckerman editorialized in a recent issue of U.S. News & World Report. He says, “America has always flourished when it listens to the heartbeat of the people, when centrist leaders have sought consensus…Today, sadly, our divisions encourage our enemies, dishearten our allies, and sap our resolve. We must change gears.”
When I took the World’s Smallest Political Quiz I came out as a Liberal, not a Centrist. Yet I’m a registered Independent. And I almost always vote Democratic. So I don’t think progressives have anything to fear from The Independent Bandwagon, Westlund’s candidacy, and other motion toward the political center.
The center is the place from which change most easily occurs. As a Tai Chi student, I’m well aware of that. When you get off-balance and tilt too far in any direction, you’re stuck. If you need to flexibly respond to a changing circumstance—such as a punch heading for your face—you can’t.
Similarly, both Oregon and the United States are unable to deal with pressing problems because the Democratic and Republican parties lean so far toward the left and the right they’re unable to move the body politic in a centrist, balanced fashion.
Ideologues no longer will get my vote. Candidates from any party with good ideas will.
Just the tip of the iceberg?
Maybe the extremes of both parties have finally tipped the balance and essentially made themselves irrelevant. I’m thrilled to see the “Independent Bandwagon” (maybe it’s my nature as a tuba player.)
I think the distinction is critical that they don’t intend a new party, but a philosophy. If the electorate can gather around a clear, centrist movement, the parties will eventually follow.
I’ll be in touch with the “Bandwagon”, and I’m encouraged by the PEARL project recently stirring thing up in the Corvallis area. I think there’s much more pent-up demand for a new style of politics than the politicians realize.
Candidate for President
Posted by: Michael Smith | February 15, 2006 at 02:21 PM
I agree with your comments on the political center and with your article from December:
"The right is right on immigration reform"
Posted by: Hal | February 16, 2006 at 08:18 PM
I'll be contacting the Bandwagon as soon as I'm done here. Thanks for the tip!
I too have taken political quizzes that showed me outside of the "center." And I think that underscores the fact that being an Independent is not necessarily the same thing as being a centrist. I've been a registered Independent (non-affiliated once Oregon gained an "Independent" party) since Bush 41. Prior to that I was a Republican and even after that I continued to vote GOP about 2 to 1 over Dems. Since Bush 43 got in office that has flip-flopped and I find myself voting for Dems most of the time.
For me there are two separate issues in play.
One is ideology. I self-identify as a moderate, meaning that I see some merit to both Liberal and Conservative ideologies but also see lack of merit to aspects of each.
The other is that I don't believe it is healthy for either party to gain nearly as much of the upper hand as the Republicans have over the last decade.
Posted by: Kevin | February 18, 2006 at 07:26 AM