Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The Campaigns
How is a nonpartisan to make it to Congress? Running as an independent is daunting: many states have gargantuan requirements for voter signatures on a petition in order for an individual to get on the ballot for the general election. Signatures are singularly vulnerable to challenge. Even if one survives the challenges, the nonpartisan independent faces the third-party syndrome, the reluctance of even those inclined to support nonpartisans to “throw away” their vote on a probable loser, or worse, a possible “spoiler”.

So, A Modest Proposal advocates running as an avowed nonpartisan in the primary of one’s major party, in hopes that voter disaffection with the regular party organization, its leadership and performance, will produce a win over its designated candidate. Such a win, giving the nonpartisan the major party line on the ballot for the general election, would emphatically not be an act of piracy, for the nonpartisan will have won the line in a fair fight, not having sailed under false colors.

The issue in the primary will be simple: do you, voter, want an independent-minded nonpartisan to represent you, one beholden to no one but you, or a hand-picked regular who’s beholden to the party leadership for the designation, for money and canvassers, and beholden, perhaps, to big donors, as well?

It will be helpful if the nonpartisan has name recognition, has run for office before, and has money, but these days an appealing candidate can raise large amounts of money in small contributions via the Internet or through bloggers. Howard Dean and John Kerry demonstrated this in the 2004 campaign. A nonpartisan who has caught the public eye – and the media are always alert to unusual developments in politics – can appeal to bloggers, donors and volunteer workers beyond their constituency, be it a Congressional district or, for an aspiring senator, a state.

It would be enormously helpful if some public-spirited philanthropist of the George Soros stamp formed a national nonpartisan foundation to contribute seed money to help worthy nonpartisans launch their primary campaigns. The sons of the late Senator Paul and Sheila Wellstone, who died so tragically in 2002 in the crash of their campaign plane, have done something of the sort for frankly progressive candidates, that is, raise money for their Wellstone Action organization “to jump-start a new generation of professional organizers and grassroots leaders who will run for office themselves.” A number of graduates of their program have run for Congress, and many more for state and local office, several having won election.

If the nonpartisan wins the party nomination, in the general election the nonpartisan Republican or Democrat should pour on more of the same message that won the primary. The optimum, of course, would be a general election in which a nonpartisan Republican faces a nonpartisan Democrat!

To download a complete copy of A Modest Proposal, click here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


On the op-ed page of The New York Times for January 19, 2006, Norman Orenstein and Thomas E. Mann, veteran observers of the political scene, had a piece which deplored the excesses of the current Congress, not just lobbying scandals, but repeated violations of “the rules and norms that govern Congressional deliberations, debate and voting”. As the Republicans were in control of both House and Senate, they came in for the sharpest criticism, but the Democrats did not escape unscathed. “The two of us have been immersed in Washington politics for more than 36 years”, the authors wrote, “We have never seen the culture so sick or the legislative process so dysfunctional.” Can anyone doubt that the presence of even a few nonpartisans in Congress can only work for betterment?

Part I of A Modest Proposal made the case that a nonpartisan in Congress, despite isolation, can be an effective legislator and make a significant contribution to its work. It did so by presenting mini-legislative-biographies of five impressive Congressional insurgents of the 20th Century: Senators “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, George W. Norris (who served first as a Representative), Burton K. Wheeler, and Wayne L. Morse, and Representative Fiorello H. LaGuardia (sometimes collectively referred to herein as “the Part I insurgent quintet”).

A Modest Proposal urges some able, independent-minded women and men to run for Congress as avowed nonpartisans, not as independent candidates, but by entering the primary of a major party – in which, of course, they are registered – and run as frank and open nonpartisans in hopes of defeating the choice of the regular party organization and taking over the party’s line on the ballot in the general election.

To download a complete copy of A Modest Proposal, click here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


A Modest Proposal submits that the accounts of the political careers of the foregoing quintet of party insurgents, mavericks, rebels (they have been called all those names and more) make the case that a nonpartisan, unbeholden to anyone but one’s own conscience and constituents, though forced to play a lone hand in Congress, can make a significant contribution to American politics; that an independent-minded nonpartisan can command the support of constituents for long periods of years. A Modest Proposal hopes that some individuals will accept the proposal to run for Congress as nonpartisans; even a few who succeed can make a difference for the better.

To download a complete copy of A Modest Proposal, click here.