"Morning Joe" is in mourning. The deceased is the Republican Party of balanced budgets and international restraint.
MSNBC host and former Congressman Joe Scarborough announced last week that he was leaving the Republican Party. In an impassioned piece for The Washington Post, Scarborough cited Donald Trump’s actions and Republican Party leadership’s silence as the basis of his decision:
“The wreckage visited of this man will break the Republican Party into pieces — and lead to the election of independent thinkers no longer tethered to the tired dogmas of the polarized past. When that day mercifully arrives, the two-party duopoly that has strangled American politics for almost two centuries will finally come to an end. And Washington just may begin to work again.”
Welcome to the (anti-) party, Scarborough! You are joining the roughly 45 percent of Americans who are abandoning the Democratic and Republican Parties or never joined them in the first place. Not only are our ranks growing, but political scientists and pollsters are finally acknowledging that independents are not apathetic fence-sitters but engaged Americans concerned about how the parties and partisanship are ruining our country.
But if I’ve learned anything about American politics in my 20 years as an independent activist and advocate for electoral reform, it’s that nothing automatically leads to anything. There are no straight lines in politics. Change is not inevitable. The parties work hard to muffle the impact of this exodus towards independence. Independent voters might comprise 45 percent of the country, but the parties still make the rules. And here’s rule No. 1: Independent voters must accept that they are second-class citizens in our democracy.
Independent voters in many states cannot register to vote as independents — they must choose from derogatory voter registration language like “unenrolled” or “decline to state.” Independent voters are not allowed to serve as poll workers in states like New York — it’s a job only Democrats and Republicans can apply for. Independent candidates are locked out of participating in the presidential debates and have to gather many more signatures than party candidates to have their names appear on the ballot.
Independents in dozens of states pay taxes for primary elections that they are barred from. The two forms of gerrymandering that dominate our country — partisan gerrymandering and bi-partisan gerrymandering — share a common commitment to protecting the parties at the expense of the voters, especially independents. The Federal Election Commission is comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans — which guarantees deadlock — instead of two Democrats, two Republicans, and two independents, which the current statute allows for and would produce functional oversight of the electoral process. Local and state boards of elections are run by Democratic and Republican appointees.
We do need to elect independent thinkers no longer tethered to tired dogmas, as Scarborough suggests. That is true. And we need to free independent voters from the iron maiden of partisan election laws and practices that keep them from fully participating.
Implementing open primaries is where I start. It’s simple and popular. Let all voters vote in all elections. Don’t make party membership a condition for participation. Don’t let the parties — private, non-government organizations — decide who can and cannot vote in publicly funded elections. If we can break down this barrier, the American people will be better positioned to take on the dozens of other ways the parties hold on to old dogmas and insulate themselves from independent voices, from change and from progress.
My hope is that Scarborough takes his independence seriously and uses his location in the media to publicize the growing chorus of voices calling for the full enfranchisement of independent voters. While just five years ago the conversation about reform was limited to money in politics, there is a surge of new leaders and organizations who recognize that the party control of the process itself must be disrupted. There are hundreds of articulate, passionate, committed and accomplished independent leaders and reformers working around the clock to reform our political system. The country needs more opportunities to hear from them!
Don’t mourn Joe. Join the fight to unleash the power of independents.
John Opdycke is president of Open Primaries, a national election-reform group.
This article was written by Open Primaries (National) Board Member Dr. Jessie Fields for the Daily Caller
The fight for voting rights for African Americans produced a historic outcome, the Voting Rights Act, but party politics continues to cut short the potential of the movement to fully empower the African American community and to sustain an ongoing process involving the American people.
The hard fought battles and sacrifices, the marches and protests of the nonviolent civil rights movement of the mid twentieth century has enshrined in the American soul the doctrine of equal voting rights, but the vision of the movement that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave voice to did not end in the passage of legislation. He often spoke of the central role of voting rights in addressing racial segregation, “Our whole campaign in Alabama has been centered around the right to vote. In focusing the attention of the nation and the world today on the flagrant denial of the right to vote, we are exposing the very origin, the root cause, of racial segregation in the Southland.”
The Voting Rights Act which the movement in Selma produced was a critical achievement, extending the franchise to many more blacks and other minorities and resulting in more people of color getting elected to public office. But black voters were quickly consolidated into the Democratic Party and thus into a two party system that divided the American people for partisan political gain. The Democratic Party came to dominate the black community.
That the black community would become a foregone conclusion as the constituency of any political party was not the mission of those who marched for voting rights. Closed party primaries and partisan redistricting continue to segregate black communities and today many African Americans feel taken for granted by the Democratic Party and rejected by the Republican Party. The 2016 presidential election starkly demonstrated the effects of this reality. Two million independent black voters were excluded from voting in the presidential primary and over one million African American voters did not participate in the general election because they felt that given the choices, their vote could not be meaningful.
In a New York Times article 11 days before the successful completion of the Selma to Montgomery march Dr. King wrote, “When the full power of the ballot is available to my people, it will not be exercised merely to advance our cause alone. We have learned in the course of our freedom struggle that the needs of twenty million Negroes are not truly separable from those of the nearly two hundred million whites and Negroes in America”.
This view, that the vote for African Americans was to be a tool for the political empowerment of the black community and for the growth and development of the entire country is a view not focused on who gets elected or which party wins but on fulfilling the needs and aspirations of ordinary people. And it was moving and historic, a developmental moment when people all over the country from all walks of life responded to Dr. King’s call and came to march in Selma. This was Black leadership bringing the people of Selma, from the sharecroppers to the students, the old and the young together with other Americans to change the country.
That fight for the political power of minority communities is far from over. Take a tour of black communities across America, communities that still suffer from disproportionately high poverty, poor schools, violence, police killings and mass incarceration and in 2008 were hit hard by the recession and home foreclosures and you will see the results of these communities being politically marginalized and abandoned.
To fully realize the vision Dr. King had for America and for the black community, we need to continue to develop new ways of coming together across racial and political divides, we must envision new types of coalitions and new conversations. We can no longer restrict our aspirations to the rising and falling fortunes of any political party. We must once again provide the leadership to build a more open political system and for the free and equal right to vote for all voters without restrictions of party affiliation.
Opening the primaries and independent redistricting are key to true minority enfranchisement because they give all voters, including the millions of minority voters who are independent, equal voting rights, the actual freedom to vote for who they choose to rather than the party dictating the choices, and the political mobility to build new kinds of on the ground coalitions.
At the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery march, Dr. King spoke about the effect of post reconstruction segregation at the ballot box, “…the threat of the free exercise of the ballot by the Negro and white masses alike resulted in the establishment of a segregated society…That’s what happened when the Negro and white masses of the South threatened to unite and build a great society..”
We must continue to lead the country. To do that, the black community cannot be reduced to a special interest. We are a people who have forged the fight for equality and full voting rights in America with our blood and sweat and often our lives. When Dr. King was assassinated he had not reached the age of 40, yet he continues to reach beyond the time in which he lived. We can listen to hear his voice today to carry us forward.
Dr. Jessie Fields is on the board of Open Primaries, a national election-reform group. She is also a founding member of the Independence Party in New York City and a Harlem-based primary care physician.
As we’re sure you are aware, Florida is a closed primary state. This means that in order to vote in a primary election, Florida residents must be registered with a political party. It also means in the primaries, they are only be able to vote for candidates running for a position within their registered party. In general elections, however, they are able to vote for any candidate in any party.
In our opinion, closed primary states need to be brought to an end. Not only are they restrictive and suppressive, but they further divide our nation by strengthening party identification.
When voters are forced to decide on a party to affiliate themselves with, they become attached to that party. Of course, they do have the free will to vote for whoever they chose to in the general election, but registering as one party or another does tend to cause most voters to develop a mentality that influences the way that they vote. This bond people start to feel with their party has the power to influence voting patterns and impact overall election results.
Many people who are voting for the first time don’t know much about politics. Thus, they often don’t know much about political parties or which one aligns most with their beliefs. A lot of the time they end up choosing a party for the wrong reasons. It might be because their parents, significant other or friend support that party. Either way, these voters are commonly not thinking independently.
When a young person is just starting to explore the world of politics, they should be able to do so free of ties and regulations. They should be able to consider themselves an independent or bipartisan and still have the right to vote in a primary election. By forcing them to identify with a particular party, they lose the right to vote for candidates across the board they may want to support. Instead, they vote only from the percentage of candidates they are allowed to vote for.
What’s more is sometimes even voting veterans, young people and adults who are well versed in politics, still aren’t exactly sure where they lie on the political spectrum. For many people, casting a vote is about a person, not a party. Plenty of well-educated voters find themselves falling somewhere in the middle. Denying these holistic thinkers the right to vote for candidates they wish to support in the primary election is not only suppressive but unjust.
In addition to these restrictions closed primaries put on voting freedoms, these regulations also further divide our already disconnected nation.
As mentioned before, when voters are forced to identify with a specific party, they often become more attached to that party. They think of themselves as a Republican, a Democrat or a third party. Not as an independent thinker.
Even if you are registered with a party that you don't feel strong ties to, you often can’t help but get offended when you see a social media post calling your party ignorant. You can’t help but become angry when your distant relative rants about your party at the Thanksgiving dinner table. No matter the strength of your ties, you still become upset when someone challenges a part of who you are.
Especially after this last election cycle, people have been clinging to their party ties. Americans become more divided every day and closed primaries are only working to further separate us from our fellow citizens.
While seeing an end to closed primaries is not the only solution our country needs to come together again, it is certainly a good start toward a more connected and tolerant country.
Dear New Mexico Open Primary Supporters,
We’re excited to announce that we’re going to be using CivNet, a New Mexico-based online network for community action, for a lot of our ongoing communication. One of NMOP’s values is to strive for a dialogue from every political persuasion. In that vein, CivNet provides an open platform for community members to connect with diverse individuals who come together on these important political process reform issues, find opportunities to get involved, and organize to take action. We are going to be leading A LOT of action over the next 6 months as we approach the next legislative session.
This will also allow us to better assess who wants to be active with our organization and who wants just occasional updates. We will continue to send out email through this list, but if you’d like to get engaged on a more regular basis and learn more about what NMOP is working on regularly, please sign up for CivNet and join the NM Open Primaries Project on CivNet. If you have any questions, feel free to email email@example.com or you can learn more at www.civnet.com.
The NMOP Board
New Mexico Open Primaries continues to attract state-wide,and national, media attention with the progress we have made - educating New Mexicans and our leaders about the need for structural political reform:
Please take a moment to read the pieces linked below and share these them through email and social media:spread the word - we're making progress and change is coming
From the Independent Voter Network: Upcoming Lawsuit: New Mexico Closed Primaries Violate State Constitution
This piece published by Now Associations: How One Advocacy Group Is Making The Case For Open Primaries in New Mexico
Make sure to Click on this link for this piece - Nonprofit Group Pushes for Open Primary Elections - which appeared in the Farmington Daily Times above the fold.
Dear New Mexico Open Primary Supporters:
The NMOP Board is pleased to announce the results of our first general election survey. We asked all candidates in this 2016 general election running for the State Senate, the State House, the Secretary of State and Congress to complete a short on-line survey. Twenty-one candidates responded.
Things you can do:
Use this information to help you decide who to vote for
Share this information with other voters
Contact your candidates to let them know the importance of these issues to you
Click HERE for a table containing the complete survey results.
Thank you for your support of NMOP. We welcome your input and suggestions and of course your financial support. You can find us here.
Bob Perls and the NMOP Board
The court date for our independent candidate ballot access challenge is September 2 at 3 pm in District Court in Santa Fe. Founder Bob Perls will be there and if allowed, will testify.
Thanks so much to Rod Frechette for filing and being the attorney, all pro bono!
Court challenges are not exciting, but in a state without citizen ballot initiative and referendum, we must rely on the courts to push the legislature forward so that we have competitive elections. Making ballot access fair to all candidates is just one of a number of reforms New Mexico Open Primaries is dedicated to.