Third Party & Independents Archives

Seeking Political Reform Through Solidarity

All over the Internet are sincere efforts to reform and improve America’s political-government system. The downside is fragmentation of the subpopulation that has escaped brainwashing, cultural distraction, and self-delusion. Strategic solidarity is missing, but is possible.

Millions of discontent, dissident and truly patriotic Americans see our federal government as corrupt and untrustworthy, disrespectful of our Constitution, under the grip of moneyed interests, subservient to corporate and globalization elites, unresponsive to the needs of ordinary people, and very much on the wrong track. But they are not united.

This subpopulation no longer believes that electing different Democrats or Republicans will turn around the nation. Many have stopped voting. Some believe violent revolution is necessary. Some think that only national economic disaster will produce necessary change. Most find hope in a particular reform strategy that has attracted their attention and respect. However, so many reform efforts reduce prospects for success.

I am talking about political-government reforms, not party reforms. Many successful websites often described as “progressive” seek changes in the Democratic Party. On the political right others hope to reform the Republican Party. Party reform is not the same as reversing the many declines in American democratic institutions. Devotees of popular sites like dailykos.com, moveon.org and huffingtonpost.com, for example, still believe that electing different Democrats is the solution, while true dissidents have given up on that. Being passionately anti-Bush/Cheney does not change their loyalty to the two-party system.

For the dissident subpopulation, fragmentation impedes building a critical mass that can precipitate a tipping point for revolutionary change that solves systemic national problems. Fragmentation results in large measure because of the ease of creating new groups with their own websites. Dissidents align with some web group (and sometimes several), hoping and perhaps praying for success, even if they admit the probability is low.

Admittedly, our monumentally negative and complex national situation will not receive some quick magic-bullet solution. And many will argue that we need multiple strategies and that many of them are complementary. Yet the fragmentation-critical mass issue must not be ignored any longer. Especially when we acknowledge the myriad, powerful forces supporting our ugly, oppressive status quo system and their demonstrated capability over many decades to beat back serious reform attempts. Success requires solidarity. If we do not take the fragmentation problem seriously, untold numbers of micro-reform groups will remain marginalized. Just what status quo forces want.

Realistically, reaching consensus will be resisted by many reform-groups that would not be selected as the priority, solidarity option. One cannot ignore the considerable egos of activists that have energetically created a web group, and that have attained supporters – though rarely in significant numbers. They sincerely believe that their strategy is the best one and having relatively few supporters does not deter them. Many are as opposed to alternative reform strategies as those in the status quo establishment, but not all. Most celebrate their long shot status with a religious zeal bordering on obsession. We need passion for a solidarity strategy.

This requires maturity and open-mindedness from entrepreneurial activists to acknowledge that some other strategy offers more promise of wide scale success. Joining together in common cause is necessary to save our nation.

Umbrella Strategy: What we can strive for is that many reform advocates can support another strategy that does not contradict or oppose their own one. In seeking a solidarity strategy, we want the capacity to serve as an umbrella movement that ultimately can assist others to succeed or at least fairly compete against each other for public support.

Unlikely Mass Action: The solidarity strategy should not be dependent on changing the behavior of enormous numbers of people. Many sincere groups believe that millions of converts will change more than their thinking or values – they will change their behavior. They trust that their information stimulus will produce their desired response. One group aims at convincing people to have only one child per couple as the planet-wide solution. Another preaches voting out incumbents. Another wants supporters for replacing our representative democracy with direct democracy – despite being antithetical to our constitutional republic framework. Such micro-movements hope that true believers will voluntarily choose to behave in the desired fashion. But how can one person confidently believe that millions of others will behave likewise? Such groups typically exist for years despite no objective evidence that their message is causing millions of people to behave similarly.

Unlikely Lawmaking: Many other groups, such as those pursuing specific electoral reforms, base success on Congress eventually passing the desired law. But if we are talking about profound reforms, passage is unlikely. Powerful moneyed interests spend whatever is necessary to preserve the status quo through lobbying and campaign funding. Getting dissidents to send letters to members of Congress, sign petitions and participate in street protests are tactics that rarely succeed against the corrupt power of money. Moreover, many of these groups pursue beneficial but narrow reforms that will not profoundly change our system. Note that I am not talking about worthy issue-specific actions that often mobilize large numbers, such as the recent success to kill the attempt to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants and as yet unsuccessful attempts to impeach Bush and Cheney, stop the Iraq war, and stop globalization.

It comes to this: Is there a solidarity strategy for achieving deep reforms? Yes. Some time ago I anguished over the decision to dedicate my time, energy and money to a movement that I had researched and concluded had the capacity to produce many major reforms. An Article V convention could be the successful solidarity strategy. The Framers of our Constitution created this option exactly because they anticipated the loss of public confidence in the federal government. That day has arrived.

This strategy is a clear constitutional right. An Article V convention, moreover, would provide a legal venue for consideration of many possible amendments. Indeed, when I examined countless reform groups, the clearer it became that many goals could be instituted through constitutional amendments – our ultimate lawmaking opportunity.

Why so many failed attempts to get an Article V convention? Powerful groups on the political left and right had opposed the convention. They wanted to retain their ability to greatly influence public policy and feared a convention that circumvented all three branches of the federal government. The great hypocrisy was that those professing to honor and love our Constitution opposed using exactly what our Constitution offers us.

I first wondered why Congress had not proposed an amendment to remove the convention option. But then I realized that Congress has chosen to conceal its opposition to a convention. But two of our greatest presidents backed it: Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I linked up with other conventionists and now we have a major web presence for Friends of the Article V Convention at www.foavc.org. We are nonpartisan and will not endorse specific amendments. We have shown the potential for wide scale success by achieving remarkable rapid growth in membership in just a few months and have begun building state chapters.

If you are a true dissident looking for major political-government reforms come with an open mind to our website. Access a wealth of information and analysis that refute any fears you may have about a convention (because of propaganda from anti-conventionists). If you have a reform group or are committed to one and can envision a constitutional amendment to reach your goal, consider affiliate membership for your group.

In solidarity there is strength. Much strength is needed to meet our common reform goal of restoring American democracy and rebuilding a trustworthy government.

Posted by Joel S. Hirschhorn at July 12, 2007 11:20 AM
Comments
Comment #226057

My proposed solution would be to fund a national recall group. If we as a nation were to fund a group that reviews complaints and then finances and organises a recall effort on legislators failing to meet the will of the majority that elected them, there would at least be a threat. I’m just thinking out loud here and in a general way. For instance Murtha voting against his proposal to “redeploy”. There is no threat to members of congress that make specific promises to the voter and then , once elected, do whatever suits them.
One thing for sure, i agree the fix has to be to the system. Another party is unlikley to solve the problems of unresponsive government. 3rd parties attract so many differing interests that they quickly fragment and fall away.

Posted by: John in Texas at July 12, 2007 2:56 PM
Comment #226278

Joel,
What America needs is a group of civil leaders who know and understand that the time has come for the Youth of the 60’s & Silver Spoons of the 70’s to allow the Children of the 21st Century to PUC their Parent’s World. For why is has been the duty of the current Establishment to maintain the status quo, the only way forward for any and all political parties in America and Humanity is to build a “More Perfect Union” that is based on everyone understanding that it is in their Inherent Best Interest to be a civilized Human.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at July 14, 2007 12:55 AM
Comment #226279

Henry,
I couldn’t have said it better myself. You think as most of us fellow Human Beings, now the real problem is finding someone who is electable and shares our views. The Democrats and Republicans don’t even know who they are any more. Got amy ideas?

Posted by: Ken at July 14, 2007 1:00 AM
Comment #226284

Ken,
Thanks. However, why I do not agree with the current Establishment, the Founding Fathers of America made the two party political system to protect a Man’s Unalienable Right to learn from his own rage and a Lady’s Unalienable Right to have “God” prove her wrong as “We the People” seek the Questions of Enlightenment. Therefore, may I suggest that everyone VOID Washington until Our Elders and Powers-that-Be of Man & Society prove to the Children of the 21st Century that they have learned their Guaranteed Civil and Constitutional Rights as Our Civil, Political, and Religious Leaders of Society.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at July 14, 2007 6:01 AM
Comment #226290

Henry, our founding fathers had not even contemplated political parties in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. George Washington was elected without a single political party. Political parties were invented shortly thereafter, and not for the reasons you cite, but, to divide the voters and give recognition to differing policy agendas with differing vested interests trumpeted.

As long as parties represented broad vested interest differences, they remained democratic in nature. When the shifted from representing vested policy interests to representing financial interests, we began our long march to the oligarchy and corrupted system we suffer under today in which, largely, ONLY the wealthy special interests control the candidate selection and election process, and the shaping of American political policy domestic and foreign.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 14, 2007 8:33 AM
Comment #226292

Joel, you make one of the most astute and creative observations I have read in a long time, when you discuss the factionalization of reformists with common interests and goals.

Our political system and voters are driven by money and Public Advertising and Publicity. If it ain’t on TV, it doesn’t get voters attention. If a well recognized face isn’t attached to the cause, the cause gets little to no publicity (free coverage as news).

Hence, there is a bit of a catch-22 here. Should a reform organization achieve the kind of funding from a very wealthy benefactor or few, and obtain a famous face to attach to their cause, there is the potential of that reform movement taking off. On the other hand, by definition of having wealthy backing and a popular face attached, the organization will suffer the same accusations of mistrust afforded the already established political parties and in addition, raise the ire and mobilize the opposition of the duopoly parties to invent, advertise, and publicize undermining and discrediting information about the reform organization’s benefactor, spokesperson, and constituency.

In other words, the reform organization will become the target of wealthy special interests to put distance between voters and that reform organization. And since those wealthy special interests now largely control media, publicity, and government officials, the Catch-22 fix is in for a rising reform organization.

I have struggled with this reality of our system for a few years now, trying to see a way through. But, I am always diverted by reality back to the same, possibly inadequate revelation: the voters will not be moved in the numbers necessary UNTIL their perception of living the good life has been destroyed. Only then, will entertain a non-traditional alternative to the wealthy special interest dominated duopoly party system that continues to prove its inadequacy to resolve our nation’s major timeline and structural problems.

Daniel Summars at Vote Out Incumbents Democracy and FOAVC has been saying since I learned of him, that voters will not reject the current system until their livestyles as they know them have been destroyed. Of course, that is like trying to put the flood back behind the dam after it fails.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 14, 2007 8:50 AM
Comment #226294

David,
I respect that the vast knowledge of America’s Laws and Teachings comes from the Old World and am happy that we function as a Nation and a Society on what is the Known Logic and Reason of Man. However, seeing that I am just an American Layman Citizens, do I not get to hold that Knowledge & Wisdom in such a manner that it allows me to have my own opinion about My Guaranteed Civil and Constitutional Rights?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at July 14, 2007 9:04 AM
Comment #226301

Guys,
Lets get to the Heart of the matter. If you know an Independent canidate that will run I’ll donate %1,000.00 to their campaign right now. I’m just a working class fellow but if money talks I’ll chip in. Give me a name and reach for yur wallet.
When we get this individual in office we can get campaign reform through public finance. Anybody up for less lip service and more action?

Posted by: Ken at July 14, 2007 11:13 AM
Comment #226309

Guys,

Al of you are very well rehearsed in your writting skills. I’m quite impressed with the way you communicate with people, but the only person on this Blog that is taking action is David Remer. The rest is just talk about things we already know, and no action.
Thanks David. I checked out the VOID web site. I’m ordering my stickers now, but I need to know if your organization has any SIGHNS I can post in my yard and along the most traveled routes of my community. Your organization has a noble purpose and it’s time to take it to the next level Brother. I’m in!

Posted by: Ken at July 14, 2007 12:31 PM
Comment #226327

Henry, it is supposed to be a nation of law, not of individual preferences. I know many in government no longer believe this, and most wealthy special interests definitely don’t, but, it is the principle upon which the U.S. Constitution, flawed as it was, was built around. I personally don’t believe this principle was one of its flaws, but, one of its greatest insights.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 14, 2007 2:38 PM
Comment #226328

Thank you, Ken, for being one of the few, one of the proud, and one of those with the conviction to act upon your complaints to change them. You hit the nail on the head when you implied far too many Americans are content to complain to their barber, store clerk, or spouse, and yell at the person on the TV, and go back to their routine. They don’t realize they just accomplished nothing to improve that which they were complaining or yelling about. But, they feel better, and we all know, that is what counts, right? :-(

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 14, 2007 2:45 PM
Comment #226329

Henry, thank you too for keeping Ken company in actually having taken action to change what’s happening to our beloved country and way of life.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 14, 2007 2:46 PM
Comment #226353

I’m going to frame a question for everyone on this site. You don’t have to answer in writting either. After reading the post relax in your favorite chair and answer silently to yourself a simple Yes, or No.
First lets start with the very definition of the word “Patriot”.

PATRIOT
SYLLABICATION: pa-tri-ot
NOUN: One who loves, supports, and
defends one’s country.
ETYMOLOGY: French patriote, from Old French, compatriot, from Late Latin patrista’, from Greek patristes, from patrios, of one’s fathers, from pater, patr-, father.

This is the definition of the word “Patriot” exactly as it is listed in the American Heritge Dictionary.
The Founding Fathers were a remarkable collection of fellows that had a genuine and sincere vision for our country. What we are seeing today is not it, and I certainly don’t need a politician, philosopher, lawyer or any one else telling me what they thought. I can read as good as anyone else.
My question is this. Are you a Patriot?

Posted by: Ken at July 14, 2007 7:53 PM
Comment #226381

Ken,

I think I love, support, and defend the ideals of our country as expressed in the Constitution. That’s not exactly how your dictionary defines a patriot, but that’s what the word means to me. Without our ideals, our nation is nothing special. The nuance here is between nationalism and idealism. So, sorry, that wasn’t a simple “yes” or “no,” but if we are critical thinkers, we can’t let others set the agenda ;)

Posted by: Gerrold at July 15, 2007 12:25 AM
Comment #226414

Your post resonates with me, now for my follow up. What are you prepared to do about it? Are we going to bitch about it, by practicing our writting skills in posting blogs, or are we willing to break a sweat to fix the problem.
Personally I’m a long time member of the “Working Class.” Sore muscles and perspiration are the rewards of my efforts, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I do in fact respect you and your opinion Gerold. You are actively participating in the Democratic process by voicing your opinion, and I might add you articulate quite well, but are you willing to turn the talk into action? If so, How?

Posted by: Ken at July 15, 2007 11:44 AM
Comment #226424

Ken,

I could certainly be accused of not doing enough. I do belong to some organizations that espouse causes I believe in,I do attend some local government meetings but by no means all, and I do engage in political dialogue with people who don’t agree with me, both in writing and in the spoken word. Because we are a nation of ideas and of voters, I think that is important.

As far as more direct action goes, I’m not certain what else to do. I’ve considered donating to VOID and I may end up doing so. I also find appealing an Article V convention, but honestly my thoughts on that are still developing.

Posted by: Gerrold at July 15, 2007 1:09 PM
Comment #226498

Gerold,

I hope you have your teaching boots on. I have read several posts on the Article V convention, but to be quite candid I’m missing several pieces of the equation. In a nut shell what are we talking about with the Article V initiative?
Again I respect your opinion and knowledge.

Posted by: Ken at July 15, 2007 11:21 PM
Comment #226550

Gerrold, you and I are in the same boat on the Art. V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. I too am learning and developing an awareness of this complex topic.

I have benefitted greatly from my 16 yr. old daughter this last week. I have been helping her read through and understand the U.S. Constitution which is part of her SAT exam review materials. I have read it many times in the past, but, this experience of assuming the responsibility for insuring my daughter understands it, has been a very eye opening experience.

I have learned that our U.S. Constitution as originally drafted was flawed in many ways. The flaws don’t detract from its being the most incredible design for government ever created. But, it has far more flaws than I was ever aware of before. The flaws occur for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that our founding fathers were products of their own time and they had no crystal ball on the future. Additionally, there were realities to come in the future, which they could not possibly anticipate, like the power of political parties, and the defining of money as speech under the First Amendment.

As I read the Constitution on the amendment process, I recognize that Joel has an extremely valid argument, that the efforts by our current government to ignore the call for a Constitutional Amendment convention by the states is itself unconstitutional in part. While the States may convene a convention in a Hotel or Football stadium on their own, the results of their labor must be acknowledged and accepted by the Congress, before ratification by the States of the proposed Amendments can ensue.

Since, the overwhelming number of incumbents in our Congress are opposed to any Art. V convention, (John McCain opposed it just the week in an interview), the question is posed, how can anything move forward on this UNTIL the states convene? The answer is, it can’t and won’t.

Hence, an organization must come to the fore, like the Friends of Article V Convention, and grow in public support before the resources can be accumulated to actually carry out a Convention by the States independently of the U.S. Congress. It is clear to me now, that if such a convention convenes, the incumbents in the U.S. Congress will be forced acknowledge the convention, and what happens after that is anybody’s guess.

But, it is unmistakably clear that nothing substantial will improve in the structure of government and political process without the Convention. So, I have, in just the last 24 hours, concluded that I must become a member of the FOAVC, thanks to my daughter’s request for help in understanding the U.S. Constitution.

I must hasten to add here, that to travel down this road, will be expensive, socially discordant, extremely difficult, and be accompanied by many serious perils for America’s future. But, I have concluded that the perils of not trying to correct the flaws in our U.S. Constitution and laws and interpretations emanating from it, are more dire in nature and more likely to come to pass.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 16, 2007 1:41 PM
Comment #226629

David R.,

That’s a remarkable shift on your part. I seem to remember when this debate last came up several months ago, you thought Convention calls must be for specific amendments. By that benchmark, the states are a few short on a few amendments. I may be misremembering. But you seem to be saying that now you think the calls are cumulative regardless of particular amendments? If so, then could SCOTUS force Congress to call the Convention (which is how I interpret Article V — 2/3s of the states must apply and Congress calls the Convention).

What’s to prevent a permanent Constitutional Convention?

Posted by: Gerrold at July 16, 2007 11:40 PM
Comment #226631

David,

Wait… I just reread your post. You’re saying that the states can convene a Convention without Congress calling for it after application by the states?

Here’s the first part of Article V:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments. …

Doesn’t that say Congress calls the Convention?

Posted by: Gerrold at July 16, 2007 11:47 PM
Comment #226640

Gerrold, you read it right, and interpreted it right. But, as I wrote, the entire dynamic changes IF the states convene a Convention without Congressional authority. The Congress, by that I mean the duopoly parties, could be pitted against an overwhelming backlash if the states convene on their own, and draft amendments which the majority of Americans could get behind.

Congress could be forced by the backlash of public opinion to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Convention, or call for it to reconvene under Congressional authority.

My point is, if the states want a convention, they should convene one. If they want the Amendments to become reality, their delegates MUST be willing to hammer out Amendments which the majority of Americans could eventually sign on to and back. The Republican and Democratic incumbents in Congress would have no future in politics if they didn’t yield under these circumstances.

And yes, upon reading and explaining this part of the Constitution to my daughter, I have become more educated on the topic. My position has changed as I believe I said above.

You said: “But you seem to be saying that now you think the calls are cumulative regardless of particular amendments?”

Yes, there is no verbage in the Constitution that stipulates the calls cannot be cumulative, no time restraints on reaching a State Consensus for a Convention, and most importantly, the Constitution does not state the calls from each state MUST be based on the same Amendment issues. Having understood the language of the Constitution on this matter, I was forced to amend my position on it.

Moreover, it occurred to me, that the political dynamic of the states convening without Congressional authority could actually blow up in Congress’ face, if the delegates from the states acknowledge that potentiality and design their efforts toward that end. In which case, they could actually be successful in forcing the Congress to not only convene an official Convention, but, also to sanction the Amendments for ratification by the States if overwhelming public support is achieved.

By overwhelming public support I refer to the majority of the Independent voters. For if the majority of the Independent voters support the Amendment recommendations, combined with the constituents of either the Democrats or the Republicans, a majority of the American public, 60% or more, becomes too high a profile for Congress or the out party to slap in the face, without serious political repercussions at the polls for years to follow.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 17, 2007 2:08 AM
Comment #226657

David R.,

What you say makes sense. It occurred to me that if the states do convene on their own, Congress might not challenge in court because then it would have a good chance of opening to the courts its own refusal to call.

A plain reading of Article V seems to support your assertions. I’m not sure why I didn’t see that before, but ideas new to us take time to accept.

Another big issue is time limits on calls. SCOTUS has ruled before that Congress may set deadlines on ratification; presumably it could also set deadlines on state calls.

What do you think about the states taking this directly to SCOTUS?

(Btw, I wasn’t chiding you for changing your mind. If we can’t change our minds, then there is no point to debate.)

Posted by: Gerrold at July 17, 2007 8:37 AM
Comment #252865

Joel S. and Responders,

I too, have struggled mightly about what should be done. It took 30 years of chicanery to get us into this situation and there are no quick fixes. There must be a little less talk and a lot more ACTION. Cut to the chase. First, what is wrong? Our Government is not much more than a lackey for big business, period. Second, what needs to be done to reclaim/reform our Government? There needs to be accountability for elected/appointed officials as part of the political equation. Three, how to invoke accountability? Establish a Third Party w/RULES (www.demreps.com), where elected/appointed officials who are members of the Party must retain a two-thirds approval rating of the majority of the Party MEMBERS. If, for example, a Senator from this Party fails to support the Party agenda and x percent of MEMBERS complain, a state-wide Party vote MUST be held and if the Senator fails to get a two-thirds approval from the majority of MEMBERS (We The People) then he/she is rejected from the Party with no further Party support for his/her political endeavors, ever. Please, think about the consequences of that and then visit demreps.com where we are looking for a little less talk and a lot more ACTION.

Hardball

Posted by: Roy Ellis at May 14, 2008 10:49 PM
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