21 Feb 2011

The Rally of Liberal Independents Masquerading as a Conference for All Independents

In my latest post on over at WNYC’s Its a Free Country, I talk about how disappointing the conference of independents was, that I flew halfway across the country to see.

I was expecting a conference… an event where you’d have networking, sessions where you’d actually learn something, etc. Since IndependentVoting.org says one of their focuses is nurturing local groups, I thought they’d have some kind of training for them, but the event really was a rally for almost entirely left leaning to left wing independents, not just independents. I was uncomfortable as a centrist… I would have probably walked out if I had been a right leaning independent duped into coming to this thing.

I actually offered to run a training session for people on websites, social networking and related things… they turned me down. Apparently a friendly chat between the president of their organization and a long time local activist was deemed important enough to take up a chunk of time there. A cheesy mock trial took up the end of the event… clearly more important than teaching activists the basics of grassroots organizing, which I found they were seriously lacking in:

One organizer told me something about learning, after years of trial and error, that personal contact activities yielded the best results. This is, of course, is true, as door knocking, phone calls and events have literally been proven statistically to be the best use of volunteer time. But he should have learned this in the first couple of hours of contact with someone who had any level of experience with grassroots organizing, not after a few years of trial and error.

After talking to activists from several states, I found this was the norm, even among those who’d been working with this organization for years. This event was a missed opportunity to educate their activists on these things, rather than merely entertain and preach to their choir, which is what the event mostly consisted of.

I knew IndependentVoting.org is a liberal group, stating openly (in classic liberal spin) that they’re the “Progressive Wing of the Independent Movement”, but I thought they’d set that aside, ala No Labels style, for a conference of independents. Instead I heard just as much vilification of the right at this rally as you would find a meeting of democrats.

Calling this even the Conference of Independents makes as much sense as their spin, and outright lies, on Top Two “Choke Point” Primary rules, their claim that Obama is (I kid you not… Jackie Salit says this all the time) an independent and their doublespeak calling what is going on with independents around the country is a movement.

IndependentVoting.org has been a pillar in the independent community for years. They’re charting a course that is damaging to the possibility of a REAL independent movement, and I hope I can help convince them to turn themselves around. More on that soon, and in coming months… until it stops.

Author Details
After a few years of blogging on other sites, Solomon launched ‘Rise of the Center’ – the precursor to Uniters.org, leading to a number of interviews and freelance opportunities, most notably covering the 2012 election cycle on WNYC.org – the website for the largest NPR station in the country, in New York City – and reported from the floor of the 2012 Democratic & Republican National Conventions. After a hiatus from politics, the horrific circus of the 2016 election, and more generally increasing extremism and corruption, brought him back to this project.
After a few years of blogging on other sites, Solomon launched ‘Rise of the Center’ – the precursor to Uniters.org, leading to a number of interviews and freelance opportunities, most notably covering the 2012 election cycle on WNYC.org – the website for the largest NPR station in the country, in New York City – and reported from the floor of the 2012 Democratic & Republican National Conventions. After a hiatus from politics, the horrific circus of the 2016 election, and more generally increasing extremism and corruption, brought him back to this project.

57 thoughts on “The Rally of Liberal Independents Masquerading as a Conference for All Independents”

    1. I’m not going to try and say I’m more, or their less, of an independent just because most independents are centrist or moderate… just wasn’t what I thought they had billed it as.

  1. They reached out to me when I got on the ballot as an independent candidate.  I gave them a hearing.  Their Board membership tells much of their left-wing tale.  After listening to part of one of Salit’s monologues falsely advertised as a conference call, I received from them a video about Obama — America’s first independent president.
    The premise of that label was that Obama had defeated (the more conservative!) Clinton machine.
    They aren’t going to change, Solomon.  They don’t exist to promote ballot access reform, etc.  They exist as a coalition of various left-wing activists, looking for strength in numbers to serve the left as such.

    1. Actually they’ve done a whole heck of a lot of very important legal work defending open primaries. I’m totally in support of that, and any other issues like that. They just lose me when they… well… start talking for any length of time.

      They’re very prone to spinning to the point of obvious lies, like their hiding of Choke Point “Top Two” Primary rules behind the banner of Open Primaries, and this garbage of Obama being an independent.

      I’m fine with them being a liberal independent group, but they shouldn’t title their rally a “Conference of Independents” unless it is both a conference, which this wasn’t, and actually for independnets, not just their kind of independent.

      I don’t know if they can be convinced of their folly on Choke Point Primaries… but I’m going to try anyway, and when it comes up, as it looks like it will in NY, CO and AZ, I’m going to help those fighting it and rake them over the coals until they get their heads out of the sand, or at least stop pushing it.

    1. I’d love to see the liberal side of the independent groundswell (they also use spin to call it a movement, which it clearly isn’t… yet) better organized… I just think it is stupid of them to be so hostile to other groups that could be allies in the fight against the two party system, even if not allies on other issues.

      My blog, for example is openly centrist, with a big tent that I try to have open for contributions from moderate left leaners and moderate right leaners.

      I could be all high and mighty and pretend that independent and centrist/moderate is the same thing, and that those who aren’t are Independents in Name Only, since most independnets are in fact moderates or centrists, but that’s just as much hogwash as so much of the bullshit spin IndependentVoting.org spews.

      They really should just be more honest. If I had known what the event was going to be about, I would have stayed home and gone to the No Labels event at the end of the month instead.

  2. So, you went in knowing “IndependentVoting.org is a liberal group, stating openly (in classic liberal spin) that they’re the “Progressive Wing of the Independent Movement”, and you’re surprised that it was a conference for liberal independents? I once went to a Seahawks game and was really surprised when the Padres didn’t take the field.

    1. I thought they could rise above their personal ideological positions and live up to the name of their event… be welcoming to independents of all stripes. Explains a lot about how ineffective they’ve been at helping start and maintain local independent groups.

      1. I do agree with you on that. They seem to have done a poor job of communicating what exactly the event was. I don’t have a copy of their schedule of events, so I have to take you at your word that they were at most, deceptive about their intentions, and at least inept at communicating their intent. Chalk this up as “lesson learned”?

  3. I support open primaries and a weakening of 2-party dominance, too. But in the interim, we have overwhelming 2-party dominance, especially at the level of governor/congress/president.
    In the context of that dynamic, what sort of independent is someone who calls his or her self an independent but virtually never votes for one side or the other? Maybe they are independent in theory, but they’re partisan in practice. Trying to transcend 2-party partisanship with folks who overwhelming act as partisans is an iffy proposition.
    I agree with both of you that it’s still worth trying to find common ground on some narrow issues like open primaries.  But folks who are actually independents in practice are going to fare better over the long-term by knitting together that smaller but much more solid coalition of open-minded pragmatists. We’re about a third of a third of the population, maybe 1 in 10. But we’re the ones who determine most of the big outcomes, because we’re the only ones who aren’t already decided, in practice.
    The more visibly united THIS bloc becomes, the better.
    I agree

    1. Its not a complicated thing to see why left leaning indies usually vote for dems, and right leaning indies usually vote for the reps… they’re just closer to them ideologically so they represent the lesser evil. I’m one of the bloc in the middle, that is growing as the parties continue their slide away from the center, who is increasingly willing to vote for neither, or a moderate on either side.

      We have to have something to rally around. No Labels is too vague, IndependentVoting.org is clearly not up to the task… it’d be great if it sparked and just happened, like the Coffee Party seemed to be before it became clear it was just another partisan group pretending to be nonpartisan.

      Doesn’t have to be a party, could be something like the Tea Party or Netroots, but could be a party, or both. I’d like to see both personally, as well as a whole slew of issue groups like the left and right have.

  4. There are tons of “independent groups” or “moderate groups” that aren’t.  Same with blogs and such.  I like the fact that this blog is not one where a heavily partisan bias can be noted, kudos on that.
    This group sounds kinda like the inappropriately named “The Moderate Voice” which is full of heavy left bias.

    1. Sad but true…

      One of the reasons I started this blog was because TMV, which used to be far and away my favorite blog, took a hard left turn, and did some things with their site that makes it no different than a spam site in my opinion… with all of those ads and making you jump through hoops to comment.

      We need strident voices representing moderates and centrists who are actually moderates and centrists from both left leaners and right leaners, and everything in between. They dropped the ball… I’m picking it up.

      They’ve been around for just over 7 years, and we’ve been around for just over 7 months. In that time we’ve gone from zero to about 1/12th their traffic. This wont be the case for long.

            1. Excellent book about the battle at Thermapolea, or however you spell that, haha. Apparently fairly historically accurate, and a really damn good read. I’m a fan of pre-Alexander Greek history.

      1. Well a while back (November) I dropped some advertising for you in their suggestions section
        [link no longer active]
        And I’m not sure if I’m actually a right leaning centrist or not, really depends on the issue, I’d define myself as a strict constitutionalist Libertarian/RINO with a more than anything I suppose.

        I have some very strong views to the right on a few issues, especially economic ones, but to the left on others, mostly social issues, and tread the middle on a variety such as abortion. war on terror, police authority, etc.

        That being said I generally prefer a consensus approach as I know not everyone shares the same views except on Constitutional issues.

        1. Or you can just look at my blog (although it hasn’t been active in some time and tell me what I am, LOL.  Its a bit anti-Obama in the recent posts but very anti-Bush in earlier ones, so judge for yourself if you like.
          I do have some great graphics though I think =D
          ????? ???? (Molan Labe)

        2. Centrists are a lot like SUPER moderate libertarians, in that they lean right on fiscal, and left on social… just not nearly as far as libertarians do on either.

      2. One of the reasons I started this blog was because TMV, which used to be far and away my favorite blog, took a hard left turn…

        Which is one of the reasons I very seldom blog at that site anymore.

          1. I don’t know what happened to him.  I haven’t really blogged as much there as a I used to partly because of folks like Kathy Kattenburg.  It become to much like Dailk Kos and if I wanted that, I’d just go to Daily Kos.

        1. I think TMV’s apparent turn to the left may be more of the right’s shift to the far right. There are very few (that I’ve been able to find, anyway) moderately conservative pundits and bloggers. There are plenty of moderately liberal and a few that hover around centrist, weaving left and right. But most conservatives, it seems, are far right or else they’re considered RINO pariahs by the right. National columnist Kathleen Parker seems to be the only conservative pundit who doesn’t shift towards Hannity-land.

          1. No… they got rid of some of their right leaners and brought in some flaming liberals. That Kathy Kattenberg woman is what was the last straw (giant log might be more appropriate).

            Actually there are a ton of moderate conservative bloggers… Dennis Sanders (who comments in this thread and has the blog Big Tent Revue) is among them. FrumForum, Outside The Beltway, some of the folks on PajamasMedia have moderate streaks, RebelYid… off the top of my head.

            1. Kathy Kattenburg still refuses to admit that census worker Bill Sparkman was a suicide even after a coroner’s report, LOL.  She still thinks it a anti-government worker murder.

              1. I stopped reading a long time ago. I don’t have any specific examples, she’s just a huge flaming liberal. Good for her, but a site can’t accurately call itself a voice for moderates when one of its most frequent bloggers is such an ideologue.

          2. I don’t pay attention to big media anymore, and don’t miss it a bit. Online news is a hell of a lot better than cable news… and the smart bloggers I read, even the partisan ones, are generally a ton better than the blowhards on TV.

            1. Well if moderately conservative bloggers like Sanders pick up their toys and go home, how is a site like TMV supposed to stay moderate or centrist? Instead of jumping ship, why not try to enlist others to contribute?

              1. I would have left too, and Dennis is much more of a right leaner than me. I would never blog on a site that calls itself the Voice for Moderates and includes people who aren’t remotely moderate. Just like the two major parties, if they’re being so disingenuous, better to drop them altogether in my opinion and start anew, as Dennis did, and I did when I stopped reading. Their traffic has gone WAY down since the change, so it appears I’m not alone.

                  1. I don’t think sticking around is necessarily wrong, just not the path I’d take… same goes for both major parties. I respect those who think they can turn the parties around… I just think they’re wrong that both it is possible, or that either is worth saving.

                    It’s Joe Gandelman’s site. I like his work… but he’s the one that chose to make the changes. If that is what he wants to do with his site, more power to him. Just not a site I’m a fan of anymore.

                1. Right. Better to let the site flunk itself. Unless the leader or leaders are able to make sure the site continues to deliver what it has promised, into the cyber-dustbin of internet history. Or at least obscurity. 

                  I bailed on TMV years ago when it became reflexively anti-Bush and anti-war. And I was neither pro-Bush nor pro-war!

                  Someone asked something like “why not stay and try to keep it balanced?” Well, no one wants to be a useful idiot by lending legitimacy to a disingenuous enterprise, especially if they don’t have any true stakeholder power.

                  What I am liking about this blog is that it seems to have, at least for now, established a decent critical mass of posters who get it  about the ideals of centrism (as we call it for lack of a better term, my quarrels aside).

                  1. I try not to use the word centrISM because it implies that there is an ideology of the center, which I don’t see much evidence of.

                    Centrist is a whole other story… just a range on a map of political belief, like left or right. I don’t keep score, to make sure we have some balance between moderate left, moderate right and more core center, but I have tried to pull in folks that represent that range.

  5. You know Soloman, you might consider a bit of artwork, then again maybe you like not having any….however, I was thinking and figured I’d throw an idea out there for something along that line.
    How about The Vitruvian Man? It kinda matches the color scheme and wouldn’t be that intrusive and it is by Da Vinci so certinly has the connotation of rational thinking and great intellect, Vitruvian Man is also centererd but reaching out both left and right but only reaching so far as a central sphere representing an outreach to those willing to get into proximity of the center.  The multiple arms also kinda give an impression of flying or rising, and his sphere is already outside of the box and he seems on the verge of breaking through if he were to fly.  This represents breaking out of traditional in the box thinking and that left and right are not the only options politically, but going up is as well.

    Just a thought, I think it would look kinda spiffy as a background, but maybe it wouldn’t.

    1. I don’t want to have graphics distracting from content, but I do need to get around to making a logo. Bunch of other smaller site mods I want to make… just need to get around to hacking away at them with my meager graphic and CSS skillz.

  6. I think a little bit of branding is a good idea. Maybe start a brainstorming thread on that.
    How about something like a simple logo that transmits your ideals, maybe supported with a randomizing feed of quotes that supports those ideals. That would give you an identity without being too intrusive.
    When I was in my critical thinking program, I liked the idea of a logo that transmitted the idea of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. And isn;t that waht some of the folks here imagine as well? A way past the partisan feedback loop of constant thesis-antithesis?
    Visually, a logo that incorporates an entire spectrum fed into a lens and then a focused beam coming out is a good fit.
    A great place to find quotes is a book called the Great Thoughts by George Seldes. It even has a thematic index, so you can locate all the quotes on liberty, or equality, or pragmatism, or whatever. I have a collection of excerpts organized around the merits of critical thinking, which could serve as a starting point. Just to give you an idea, I’ll paste a few in a separate post.

  7. So, the idea would be to have a source list of quotes that served as inspiration or solace or set a tone, an then you’d display one a day, or put them on periodic refresh.
    Below is a set of samples I simply cut and pasted from my source list which is alphabetical by author. I just picked some from K through 0.  Undoubtedly they are not all apropriate or relevant, but I think they give some idea:

    The only means of strengthening one’s intelligence is to make up one’s mind about nothing-to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.
    -John Keats, English poet (1795-1821)

    …the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and a thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling; a paltry mediocrity.
    – Soren Kierkegaard, Danish theologian (1813-1855)

    It is my melancholy fate to like so many peole I profoundly disagree with and often heartily dislike people who agree with me.
    -Mary Kingsley

    I am a fellow citizen of of all men who think. The truth, that is my country.
    -Alphonse DeLamartine, French writer (1790-1869)

    The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.
    -Ursula K. Leguin

    That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.
    One certainty we all except is the condition of being uncertain and insecure.
    -Doris Lessing

    Complacency is a far more dangerous attitude than outrage.
    -Naomi Littlebear

    New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.
    Reading furnishes the mind only with material. It is thinking [that] makes what we read ours.
    -John Locke, English philosopher (1632-1704)

    It is a piece of idle sentimentality that truth, merely as truth, has any inherent power denied to error or prevailing against the dungeon and the stake. Men are not more zealous for truth than they are for eror…The real advantage which truth has consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, or twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it.
    -John Stuart Mill, English political economist, philosopher

    A man that is ashamed of passions that are natural and reasonable is generally proud of those that are shameful and silly.
    -Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

    If you’re going to hold someone down you’re going to have to hold onto the other end of the chain. You are confined by your own repression.
    -Toni Morrison

    If you can’t help it, don’t think about it.
    -Carmel Myers

    Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
    -Anais Nin

    You cannot put a rope around the neck of an idea; you cannot put an idea up against the barrack-square wall and riddle it with bullets; you cannot confine it in the strongest cell your slaves could ever build. When kindness has left people even for a few moments, we become afraid of them as if their reason had left them.
    God be my judge that I hate fighting. If I be damned for anything, I shall be damned for keeping the two-edged sword of thought tight in the scabbard when it should be searching the bowels of fools and knaves.
    -Sean O’Casey, Irish dramatist (1884-1964)


    1. I could… either put a quote widget at the bottom of the sidebar, or at the bottom of the site (I think anyway… sounds like something I should be able to find).

    1. Sure. Email it to me, or contact me through the contact tab at the top of the site.

      I like the idea… we’ll see how I implement it on the site, but I’ll put a post up here in a bit asking for submissions.

  8. I agree. I was short a word there. I identify with what you like to call  ”center independent.” And as I’ve said before, I am skeptical of folks who call themselves independent in theory but always manage to end up supporting the folks on one side, always the same side. Willing to grant mulligans based on the limits of regional opportunities, though.

    Depending on where you are, you might not have had a legitimate opportunity to vote for a republican or democrat you could really support, but you might have admired one from another state.

    Most center independents I speak to seem to be fairly libertarian on social issues, and in favor of fiscal responsibility  if not outright fiscal conservatism. But if there’s a main ideal, I think it’s a meta-ideal related to critical thinking in the strong sense. Beliefs and positions are held conditionally and always open to correction based on new data. Evolution of thought comes from a desire to encompass the valid counterarguments of folks who argue against their positions. Robin Hanson calls it “estimating truth.” I have a post on that somewhere at my website.

    The center independent may be someone with a long interest in politics which has led to a sort of a decoding ability, the ability to discern signal from static, content from style. Party identity does not factor into the evaluation of policy proposals. And so on.

    I am generally held up to ridicule as being sanctimonious by partisan when I say stuff like this. And I hope this doesn’t sound like patting myself on the back. For me it’s a crucial matter of maintaining my interest in politics without going insane. As time passes, most of what comes from the partisan static machines is easier and easier to see as devoid of signal, and I respond accordingly.

    But I have virtually no success in transmitting such ideas to anyone who is not already hip to the vibe. It’s a problem.

    1. I love cranky critter’s articulation of “decoding ability,” the ability to see through rhetoric and correlations to litmus issues, and to evaluate each statement and each issue on its own terms.
      What I have observed with the Wisconsin crisis is that some political activists CAN adhere to on-its-own-terms-edness, and STILL choose political-bloc thinking.  US politics is binary; these individuals are firmly in one camp on most issues; so they MUST ally with that camp on all issues.
      For example, some Wisconsin teacher-strike supporters aren’t very concerned about public-sector collective bargaining per se, but they see it as one line of defense against plutocracy — and a CRITICAL funding source for Democrats.

  9. My post highlighting Robin Hanson’s list of opinion warning signs can be found <a href=”http://thecrankycritter.blogspot.com/2010/10/critical-thinking-about-political.html”>here</a>. A few favorites:

    You are uncomfortable taking a position of high uncertainty about who is right.

    You find it easy to conclude that those who disagree with you are insincere or stupid.

    You are reluctant to change your publicly stated positions in response to new info.

    You go easy on sloppy arguments by folks on “your side.”

    Your opinion doesn’t much change after talking with smart folks who know more.

    You find it hard to list weak points and counter-arguments on your positions.

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