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Independents

Beyond the Vote

September 30th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Imagine what would happen if a huge chunk of citizens stopped accepting what they are told by one of the parties, stopped just aligning themselves with candidates from one of the monopoly parties, and started deeply studying, analyzing and thinking about the issues of government independently.

Imagine if they shared their thoughts openly with many others, instead of just letting the news be defined by the big media responses to the big parties.

Imagine the revolution that would occur in the voting citizenry.

This is exactly what happened in the decade the Internet went mainstream. It is valuable to know the profound history that led to this freedom revolution.

Keynesianism

Karl Marx agreed with Hegel that history is created by the dialectical conflict between upper classes and the masses; Lenin transferred the attention from class warfare to the conflict between rich and poor nations.

Most Americans and Europeans adopted this view during the Cold War. Indeed, the Cold War was the “inevitable” result of class conflict leading to conflicts between the governments of the “greedy” nations and the collectivized socialist states.

Keynes, like Lenin before him, shifted the debate by arguing that since many nations were not willing to adopt socialistic government ownership of all business, the only solution was for big businesses to give people privatized “socialism” such as health insurance, savings programs (like the current 40lk), retirement programs and other employee benefits.

Keynes further predicted that if government did things right, then small businesses would be increasingly less able to offer such benefits over time and that eventually big business would run the entire economy in partnership with highly-regulating governments.

Together, Keynes thought, big government and big business would phase out the disruptive, nonconformist and anti-social element of independent small business power and replace it with big corporations offering all the benefits envisioned by socialism.

Simultaneously, governments would keep mavericks, entrepreneurs and innovators from rocking the boat. Socialist goals, albeit through private corporate means, would be implemented into all capitalistic nations.

The result would be the end of warfare between owners and labor and the solution to most world problems.

Keynes said that once companies become so big that they are less focused on profits than appearing caring, helpful and socially responsible to the public, they will make decisions based on public relations and therefore socialistic values rather than making money.

If enough big companies could be coaxed to this point, and if increased government barriers to small-business success could effectively squelch entrepreneurial initiative, even the most capitalistic nations would provide privatized “socialist” safety nets for the whole society.

This is aristocracy, pure and simple.

In such a system, big corporations would work together with big governments to continually increase the delivery of socialistic goals such as:

  • Free education for all
  • Free health insurance for all
  • Free health care for all
  • A society of employees
  • Jobs for everyone
  • A meritocracy of experts ruling society
  • A docile and obedient populace

This system was adopted slowly but consistently so that Richard Nixon could announce by the mid-1970s that “we are all Keynesians now.”

In short, Keynesianism promotes big government with high levels of regulation along with big business promoting various private offerings of socialist goals.

This social safety net has proven popular in all the Western nations, and has offered a number of short-term and positive lifestyle benefits.

It has also proven a better solution than government-only socialist equivalents in one-party states like the USSR, Eastern European nations and modern Russia, China and Cuba.

In multi-party nations like France and Germany some parties promote big business and others big government, and still others emphasize their pet areas of focus.

In the United States the maintenance of Keynesianism requires a major party supporting the government, a major party supporting big business, and a system of swinging back and forth between the leadership of each.

When the big-government party is in power, the Government-Industrial-Complex grows, and when the big-business party is in power the Industrial-Government-Complex expands.

When Keynesianism is flourishing, both parties use power to increase entitlements, foreign involvements and government spending.

Taxpayers and small businesses suffer.

The End of History

Francis Fukayama predicted in the 1990s that with the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War this conflict between the rich and poor nations was over; he called this “the end of history,” citing both Hegel and Marx.

In the ensuing model of the 1990s, where everybody was a “capitalist,” economies flourished.

With a united Germany, declining Soviet power, and the dot.com and real estate booms, everybody seemed to have forgotten Keynesianism in the Roaring 90s.

Everybody, that is, except the two big parties.

Entitlements, debts and deficits grew during the Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations.

When 9/11 struck, everyone realized that history was far from over and that major challenges were still ahead. If the end of history had come, Keynes won.

Ironically, the fact that Keynesianism uses capitalistic means to accomplish socialistic ends allowed both liberals and conservatives to claim victory.

Conservatives rejoiced that socialism had lost to markets, and liberals celebrated that the era of big, irresponsible capitalism was over.

Unfortunately, what they brought us was far from the utopian ideal envisioned by socialism’s iconic philosophers or the freedom statesmen in history.

In fact, it was not so much socialism—where the state provides for all—as aristocracy, where the masses provide for the elite.

But back to our narrative: Keynesianism requires both political parties constantly and vocally doing battle. Neither can fully win or destroy the other; and when one wins an election the other is needed to play a minority role until it can win back the majority.

Whichever party is in power, the scope of government and big business must both increase during their tenure.

Of course, the result is that the far right hates Democrats when they are in power, and then turns on Republicans when they win and grow government. The far left does the opposite, hating the Republicans when they rule and then turning on Democrats in power for not doing enough.

Mainstream members of both parties simply support their party and dislike the opposition.

The key action in all this, the thing which makes Keynesianism work, the linchpin of the whole model, is for the citizenry to do nothing but vote.

Of course, they can live their lives, work at their jobs, send their kids to school and volunteer in their community. If they do these things, plus vote, they are good citizens. No more is asked, or wanted, from them.

“Just shut up and vote,” is the subtle message from both parties.

Of course, if one is an expert in politics, if it is their job, they are expected to do more than vote. They are required to study government, the issues and impact public opinion.

The same applies to professional journalists, attorneys, professors, etc. But this only applies to professors of political science, law, public policy or a related field.

Professors of literature or chemistry, for example, like postal workers and soccer coaches, are encouraged to leave governance mostly to the experts.

This cynical view is, unfortunately, widespread. Keynesianism depends on a society of experts where nearly everyone leaves governance to the political professionals.

Citizens are subtly taught that voting is the role of citizenship, along with serving on a jury if called up, and to otherwise leave governance to the experts.

After all, their party is watching their back for them and keeping the other “evil” party from doing too much damage.

Or, if the other party becomes dangerous, their own party leadership and the media will let them know.

Responses to Being Patronized

When a few citizens realize that they are being “handled” by the professionals of their party, the first response is naturally to want to elect better party leaders.

When time shows that this doesn’t work — that in fact it is the nature of party leadership to spin the truth and patronize the party rank-and-file — the disillusioned party loyalist often looks to some extreme group within the party—such as the radical right or the fringe left.

Alas, honest citizens find that faction leaders are usually as prone as major party heads to spin the issues and handle party members.

At this point, many party members just give up.

“The other party is bad,” they rationalize, “and my own party leaders are just too political. But at least candidates from my party are better than those from the other party.”

Some sincere seekers actually ignore tradition and years of brainwashing and seek for a better situation in the other party.

At first, party switchers may find a few things they really like better about the new party—especially if they attend in-person events and get to know some of the people in the other party.

“Republicans /or/ Democrats aren’t so bad,” they realize.

The longer they stay with the new party, however, the more they see that both parties are run in virtually the same way, like a formula primetime program, with the same character-types inhabiting the various roles.

Eventually they see most of the same problems that caused them to question their original party.

The idea that both parties are a problem is like the end of history for many voters. Most have seen politics itself as a war to put the “good” party in power and kick out the “bad” party.

So when a voter realizes that both parties have serious problems, and even worse—that neither party is likely to really solve America’s problems—there is a major paradigm shift.

Some give up in utter frustration, while others get really mad at their own party. Others get even more angry at the “other” party and refocus their support for their original party.

But one reality remains in the minds of most people arriving at this understanding: Neither party has the answers, and neither party is likely to really fix our problems.

More, the system is basically designed so that the party of big government and the party of big business take turns being in charge.

When regular citizens understand the goals of Keynesianism, it is a major shock.

At this point, what is a caring, sincere and committed citizen to do? When you learn that parties are parties are parties, how do you stay involved in governance? And how do you stay positive and optimistic about the future?

The Big Decision

The answer to these questions is for citizens to begin to study and think a lot more about government and to stop ignoring freedom by leaving it to the political professionals.

Unless regular people realize that freedom is up to them, not the experts, and that they need to learn more and take more action to make a real difference, they are unlikely to become true citizens.

When a person does make these realizations, however, he or she drastically changes. He becomes excited about impacting freedom.

There are three major ways to do this, and the three are drastically different:

  1. Populism
  2. Activism
  3. Independence

This is “the big decision” for free citizens who really want to maintain and even increase freedom.

Whether your political views are generally liberal, conservative, libertarian, progressive, green, or centrist, the big decision is a powerful way to start making a real difference.

Here are more thoughts on the three paths of the big decision:

1. Populism

This means openly and vocally fighting the system, pointing out its flaws, and actively participating in influencing change.

Populism has a long history in America, from the People’s Party movement of the 1880s and 1890s which arose because many people felt that neither of the two major parties would listen to them, to the Progressives of the early 1900s, the Labor movement of the 1920s and 1930s, or the counter-Culture revolution of the 1960s and the counter-Populism of the 1970s.

More recent populism includes anti-incumbency, Tea Parties, Coffee Parties, and the Green movement, among others.

2. Activism

Activism consists of committing to one of the major political parties and really having a powerful influence on it.

While I strongly emphasize the rise of independents, it should not be understated how valuable truly independent-thinking citizens can be if they choose to maintain strong party ties.

This is not only a legitimate but a highly-needed role of promoting freedom in our society. Both major parties need more members who really study, analyze, independently think and participate in improving party communication, leadership and impact on society.

3. Independence

This means becoming your own, personal political party—a party of one citizen.

Today there are more independents in the United States than either Democrats or Republicans. Independents don’t depend on any party but independently study, analyze, think, spread their influence and then vote for candidates and issues they feel will most help the nation.

Whatever your decision—whether you choose to help improve society through populism, activism or independence—note that is it vital to do certain things.

Those who simply depend on party experts leave these things to others, and the result is a loss of freedom. These things include:

  • Making a deep study of the principles of freedom and the U.S. Constitution.
  • Studying the history of freedom in order to truly understand current and future events within their context.
  • Studying and analyzing current issues in depth and from many different perspectives.
  • Considering the views of those who disagree with you and really understanding the points of merit (and not just your points of contention) in their ideas.
  • Drawing your own independent conclusions about proposals and policies after deep study.
  • Articulating and sharing your ideas with others.
  • Using your influence to impact the direction of the nation on specific issues and in general.

Populists are often criticized for not doing these things, but those who do can make a real, positive difference in populist circles.

Activists who commit to these things can greatly support party choices, and independents need to do these in order to have a meaningful impact.

The American founders wanted citizens to do these things, and predicted that the loss of such behaviors by the citizens would be the end of the republic.

If we want our freedoms to remain and even increase, we must be the kind of citizens who deserve such freedoms.

If we leave our future to the current power of Keynesianism, we will see more of the same: on-going crises, angry and ineffective politics, increased government spending and debt, increased taxes and regulations, continuing foreign conflicts and the loss of American lives, and an inability of government to solve our major problems.

The more the parties fight and the louder the conflict, the greater the power of Keynesianism. Keynesianism depends on heated arguments that drive the citizens to demand bigger government programs.

As long as the party of big business and the party of big government hold a joint monopoly on our society, voters will vote and little will change—except that debts, economic crises and problems will increase.

If this is the future we want for our country, we just need to leave politics to the politicians.

In contrast, the future of freedom depends on citizens who do a lot more than just vote and serve on jury duty. It depends on citizens who do the things which bring freedom—as populists, activists or independents, but all studying and thinking independently.

The American system was designed with the people as overseers of government. We all need to fulfill this role better.

We need a party of small business, a party of family, a party of entrepreneurial leadership, a party of the regular citizens, a party of freedom.

The American founders had a name for such a party: Citizens. Such a party naturally occurs and grows in free society when we do our true part as citizens.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Business &Economics &Government &History &Independents &Liberty &Politics

The 8 Facets of Freedom

September 29th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

A new tribe is needed.

Actually, its constituents have been around for a long time. But they have functioned as individuals, sometimes as families, and more rarely as small groups of people.

But as a tribe or nation, it has never gained traction or achieved critical mass.

Such a tribe believes in freedom, real freedom, for all people in an ordered society that protects liberty for everyone.

This ideal has been proposed by many, and fully achieved by no nation in history. The American founders promoted it—but even they fell short.

Perhaps an isolated tribe or two have accomplished it; but such events are recorded as scripture, myth or legend rather than meticulously documented history.

For the rest, it remains an illusive utopian dream.

Three of the biggest challenges of our time—the need for a revolution of entrepreneurship, the need for more independent-thinking citizens, and the need for more leadership in the emerging e-tribes and other new-style tribal groups of the world—all unite in their call for the growth of a new tribe dedicated to freedom.

False Two’s

One of the major reasons the tribe of freedom has seldom achieved power in the world is that human beings naturally tend to break into competing groups—but without dividing on the true lines of difference.

Madison outlined the benefits of this tendency in Federalist 10, and there are many positives of factionalism that have contributed to American freedom.

But there is also a major downside.

Tocqueville taught in Democracy in America that every nation divides itself into two major parties, each competing with the other for ascendency.

He called these the party of aristocracy and the party of democracy—one seeking to divide the people according to class, and the other attempting to spread equality.

In America these became the party of agriculture versus industry, then North versus South, later the city versus the country, and most recently Democrats versus Republicans.

But dividing the nation into red and blue states (or liberal coasts versus conservative flyover states) misses the real division among us.

Ancient divisions between aristocrats and peasants, as well as medieval conflicts between feudal lords and neighboring states, made the same mistake.

When war arose in history, re-alignment into Hawks and Doves also missed the point. So did historical conflicts over the color of roses and violent arguments between religions.

Our historical and modern divisions are not the real divisions, and this means that the battles go on for all of history without conclusion or solution.

To end the conflicts, to fix the unending battling of sides, we need to clearly understand the two sides as they really are—the real parties.

The Real Divide

Unlike elementary or high school culture, and unlike college, career and even adult culture, the real divide takes us all the way back to kindergarten.

Indeed it is one of those key lessons that we all should have learned in early childhood. In some ways (as humorously recounted by author Robert Fulghum), the lessons of kindergarten are the most important of all.

The divide of all humankind can be understood in the most basic terms: Some people spend their lives angry and afraid, while others live in the attitudes of hopeful and helpful.

These are the basis of the real world schism.

Angry and Afraid

The Scarcity Party sees a world of battling, competition, scarcity, winning or losing, and always trying to get ahead. It is the party of predators and victims.

Its members see others as either potential mates or potential enemies. They quickly notice differences between people, and they seek to get themselves and those in their group (family, race, religion, faction, nation, etc.) ahead of everyone else.

They want others to lose more, and for their own to win more.

In their anger and fear, they avoid pain, push for whatever they think will benefit them, and are willing to step on others to get what they want.

The Angry & Afraid Scarcity Party (A²) has a long and sad history of causing, escalating and reliving most of the problems in world history.

Hopeful and Helpful

In contrast, the Helpful & Helpful members of the Abundance Party (H²) spend their lives trying to help people, improve themselves, and seek better lives and a better world.

Because they are not afraid, it is fine with them if others don’t support them or do something different. They are secure.

For the Abundance Party, life is not about themselves. Yes, it is about becoming better; but even this goal is a merely a means to helping the world improve.

If they were angry, they would expect everyone else to join them in fixing the world, and even try to use the force of government to require charity.

But they are content to do their own work of improving the world and helping others, inspiring and urging them to be and do their best through exemplary leadership, rather than expend angry energy trying to force others to change.

Pretty much every nation, organization, philosophy, political viewpoint, religion, community, company and family has both A²s and also H²s.

The H² Partiers do nearly all of the good in these groups, while the A²s cause nearly all the problems.

If the H²s from all groups would work together, the mischief of the A²s would soon be mitigated.

But as it is, the H²s constantly find themselves in superficially adversarial positions from each other (due to their institutional affiliations) even though such conflict is not their purpose or their nature.

Party Folly

Ironically, if you have strong Democratic ties it is tempting to call Democrats the Hopeful & Helpful and label Republicans the Angry & Afraid; those with loyal Republican connections assign the opposite labels.

But neither type of labeling is truly accurate. There are a lot of H²s and A²s in both major political parties.

The H²s and the A²s make up all the members of the Democrats, Republicans, independents, socialists, environmentalists, right-wingers, radical leftists and every other political group.

If you know what to look for, they are pretty easy to recognize. The A²s include those who are any of the following: Bush-haters, Obama-loathers, racists, bigoted about religious or secular beliefs, promoters of violence in modern America, etc.

Republicans like to point out the Angry & Afraid people in the Democratic Party and act as if they speak for the whole party, and the Democrats do the same thing when attacking Republicans.

A Self-Defeating Hybrid

An interesting hybrid also exists, which is likewise problematic. Historically, too many Democrats have combined Afraid and Helpful, while too often Republicans have been Angry and Hopeful.

Unfortunately, the internal conflict and the philosophical and operational inconsistencies of these amalgams basically cancel out the good they could do to truly promote freedom and make a difference for good.

The world needs more hopeful and helpful people, and the future of our freedom and prosperity depends on it.

The strong emotions of anger and fear too frequently block the path to progress.

However, before we can fully understand the differences between these two major Parties of the A²s and the H²s, and the application of this construct, we need to understand the eight meanings of freedom.

There are six great basic traditions of freedom, each enjoying differing levels of support from various political and social groups. These include the following:

  1. Political freedom
  2. Economic freedom
  3. Religious freedom
  4. Individual freedoms (often called privacy)
  5. Freedom of the press
  6. Academic freedom (sometimes called freedom of thought)

The seventh and eighth freedoms are actually forms of protection.

A seventh freedom, national security, consists of using power to defend these other freedoms from aggressors and attackers.

And social justice, an eighth freedom, is the process of ensuring that these other freedoms are truly available to all people—not just to a limited few from a certain class, race, or other group.

A few leftist radicals use “social justice” to mean the extreme redistribution of wealth from rich to poor in socialistic and even communistically controlling ways; just as fringe right wingers at times promote almost-fascist government powers in the name of “national security.”

However, the more reasonable and normal definition of social justice (and national security) is essential to freedom: to take constitutional freedoms to all.

True liberty requires all eight types of freedom. Anything less falls short (although any measure of freedom is certainly better than none).

Indeed, a society which increases one of these freedoms is nearly always headed in the right direction. And, in fact, each freedom tends to promote the adoption of the other seven.

For example, increased academic freedom or freedom of the press naturally encourages the spread of political and economic freedoms—and vice versa. Freedom promotes freedom, just as force encourages the increase of force.

Unfortunately, the historical reality is that the two major American political ideologies have tended to emphasize the following division:

Conservative

Liberal

Political Freedoms Individual Freedoms (Privacy)
Economic Freedoms Freedom of the Press
Religious Freedoms Academic Freedoms
National Security Social Justice

Fighting each other over which column is most important is misguided and dangerous. It has seldom brought anything but pain to our nation and its citizens.

This becomes even clearer when we consider the focus of the Scarcity Party from both the conservative and liberal camps: “Stop the extremists on the other side from taking away our freedoms in the name of their petty and radical pet projects.”

Such a view is highly inaccurate, and comes from fear, anger and a deep lack of trust.

While it is true that the Angry & Afraid types within the other Party will continue to cause negatives, it is more important to notice that the Helpful & Hopeful folks on the other side are truly trying to make the world better.

Whatever you may think about the “other” party, an important segment of both Republicans and Democrats are actually H².

Many independents and entrepreneurs are naturally inclined to the H² perspective.

As more people think about politics in a non-partisan and increasingly independent way, and as more people become entrepreneurs and develop leadership skills like greatly increased initiative and tenacity and so forth, the H² viewpoint will continue to spread.

Unfortunately, in politics, Republicans and Democrats often vehemently promote the four freedoms they value most and simultaneously discount or attack the other four.

Other parties and many independents make the same mistake. For example, some conservatives frequently denigrate the freedoms of privacy or the press in their attempts to promote religion, while some liberals too often trample economic or political freedoms in their zeal to increase social justice.

Likewise, conservatives sometimes deny social justice when political and economic freedoms are not really at stake, just like liberals at times refuse to allow religious freedom or incentivize the power of the private sector out of fear that social justice must be an exclusively government project.

Both sides engage battles for their pet types of freedom, and then don’t turn off the fight even when the other side suggests something truly positive.

All of this is the natural result of the Angry & Afraid worldview.

In reality, the Hopeful & Helpful people in both the Democratic and Republican Parties, as well as the H² independents and members of minor parties, really do care about all eight freedoms.

Some have been inclined to focus on certain freedoms above others, either by their upbringing, education or party affiliations, but those with an H² outlook are friends of all eight freedoms.

When we start to comprehend this more accurate view of the world, a new understanding of the real division emerges:

Scarcity Party

Abundance Party

political freedoms for me and mine political freedoms for all, everywhere
economic freedoms for me and mine economic freedoms for all, everywhere
religious freedoms for me and mine religious freedoms for all, everywhere
individual freedoms for me and mine individual freedoms for all, everywhere
freedom to say what I want freedoms of expression & the press
freedom to think what I want academic freedom for all, celebration of many views
national security national security for all nations
victory for me and mine social justice for all peoples

This chart is remarkably different than the one we saw earlier, and it illuminates the major difference between the fundamental values and attitudes of the two real parties—the A² and the H².

Their views of the past, current issues, and visions for the future could hardly be more divergent.

Both groups of course include pessimistic and also idealist people, and there are various different schools of thought in both.

But the most significant factor separating these two great Parties of humanity is their worldview.

The Hopeful & Helpfuls value their own ability to contribute to the world, while the Angry & Afraids see themselves as victims of a powerful “they” which is to be opposed, feared and hated.

The H2s see that all six of the basic freedoms are vital, that social justice spreads these six freedoms, and that national security protects and maintains them.

Together, all eight freedoms are essential for a healthy, free and prosperous society.

Our nation and world desperately needs a Party of Freedom.

Such a party would not be an official political party, since its goal would be to unite and build rather than to win or govern.

It would be made up of everyone who believes in all eight facets of freedom, and that we can work together to promote them, increase and spread them, and keep them protected and safe in a dangerous world.

It would be full of people who approach the world in an attitude of hope and help.

The idea of a freedom party is made realistic by the technology of the day, which allows people from all places and walks of life to connect and cooperate.

Such a party would have a higher-than-usual makeup of entrepreneurs, creeds and backgrounds.

The one thing they would share in common is a belief in the essential value of all eight meanings of freedom.

Certainly such a tribe would have its share of debates, factions, and disagreements, all of which are healthy to freedom.

The guiding value would be that any proposal, policy or plan they supported would be good for freedom overall—not just good for one type of freedom at the cost of another.

We need a freedom party in our day, an unofficial tribe of people working together on the shared vision of more freedom for all people in each nation of the world.

Of course, given the reality of our modern world, such a party does not need to be a single, organized entity with bylaws and officers.

In fact, freedom will benefit most if a host of people simply promote the eight types of freedom in the organizations and groups they already support.

For freedom to truly increase and flourish, it needs to become more of a value to all of us. We need the following:

  • An informal freedom party made up of many diverse people and tribes that share the philosophy of full freedom with all the other groups and peoples.
  • An understanding that when we promote one type of freedom at the expense of another we actually hurt us all.
  • A commitment to more openly look beyond our own limited opinions and cooperate with people of differing views who truly do care about freedom.

Without all of these, freedom will struggle and decline.

For those who love freedom, it is time to broaden and deepen our understanding of true freedom. It is time to use our influence to spread the values and ideas of freedom.

The technology is there, and it is time to use it. Real freedom has always been a bottom-up project led by the regular people in a society.

All eight facets of freedom are essential, and it is up to the regular people to promote them all.

This is the future of freedom, and it depends on each of us.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Entrepreneurship &Independents &Liberty &Politics &Service &Tribes

Save the Cheerleader

September 21st, 2010 // 4:00 am @

In our current two-party system, independents need the two big parties.

There is, of course, an Independent Party, and people have differentiated members of this party from independents by using the phrase “small ‘I’ independents” to denote those who aren’t part of any party.

Few independents have any interest in joining a third party. They consider this a worse option than signing up as a Democrat or Republican.

Most independents share a frustration with both major parties, and they see partisanship itself as symptomatic of America’s problem. Independents especially dislike the political wrangling of party battles.

But let’s get one thing clear: In nearly all elections, most independents end up voting for a candidate from one of the two big parties.

There are several lessons to be learned from this.

Let’s Party!

First, independents need the parties.

Perhaps a non-party arrangement like the one envisioned by America’s founding fathers will someday offer a better system. Or maybe independents will eventually take over one of the major parties.

But in our current system, independents need the parties to be and do their best. Independents need to be able to choose between the highest caliber of candidates and policies, and the sheer numbers affect both the ability to get a message out, and the ability to attract willing candidates.

Bottom line: the parties are still providing the available options for our votes.

Second, the two-party system needs independents.

When the big parties hold a monopoly on political dialogue and innovation, centrist members of both parties congeal together a great deal and the parties often seem more alike than different.

Throw large numbers of independents into the mix, however, and the parties are forced to energetically debate their platform and the weaknesses of their opposition’s candidates, policies and so forth.

They have to articulate their message more clearly and differentiate themselves in order to garner independent votes.

Ironically, as much as independents abhor political fighting, it is by contrasting themselves with such “vulgarity” that thoughtful, idealistic and principled independents define themselves.

Not as a group, of course—but as individuals who are independent of and above the disingenuous and exploitive methods and motivations they believe typify the party loyalists.

The noisy and unproductive debate is the point to which independents are counter-point.

At the same time (and this is point number three), the strong influence of independents keeps either party from obtaining too much power for long.

Studied, serious-minded citizens who think and act independently and make their influence felt are exactly the type of citizens the American founders hoped would populate the republic.

Party loyalties too often reduce this level of independence. At their best, independents function as much-needed checks and balances on the two-party system that has become too powerful.

Party People

The independents need the parties, and the two-party system needs the independents.

But a fourth lesson might be the most important. The individual parties themselves actually need independents.

Political parties are only as strong as their collective members, and there are certain types of members that are extremely valuable to party influence.

For example, parties benefit from Traditionalist members—people who were raised with passionate loyalties to Democrats or Republicans.

Such members nearly always vote for the party and its candidates, and often they cast straight party votes without seriously considering other options. Their allegiance to the long view of Party dominance overshadows their concerns and even outright disagreements with the Party.

Politicos are a second important group of members in any party.

Politicos love politics. They watch it with as much interest and passion as dedicated sports fans follow their team. Politicos listen to party leaders, think about and memorize talking points (often unconsciously), and promote the party line. They also study lots of literature debunking the other party and pass along these arguments.

A third type found in both parties is the Intellectual. Intellectual Partyists are distinguished most by their habits of skepticism and asking questions. They consider party literature mere propaganda and instead search out and study original sources.

Intellectuals typically read opposing party sources as much or more as works from their own party.

Policy Wonks are a fourth type in any party, and they care most about specific proposals, plans and models, and enjoy studying them in detail, discovering patterns and flaws, and creating counter-proposals and solutions.

They examine, scrutinize, analyze, write and attend lots of seminars, panels and other events filled with discussion. Most of them make their living doing this in academia, media, punditry, the lecture circuit or blogosphere, or the like.

Party Leadership

A fifth type of party people, Activists, are usually familiar with the other types but they put most of their effort into influencing state or federal legislative votes, agency policies, judicial cases or executive acts.

They are found at all levels of government from local to international organizations. Some of them put most of their focus into elections.

Party Officios, a sixth type of party promoters, hold party positions (voluntary and informal as well as official) in local precincts all the way up to national committees.

Some are full-time paid professionals or experts, but the large majority of them voluntarily serve as officers, delegates, candidates, unofficial advisors and other roles in the party.

Among party Officios are those holding office. These elected and appointed officials represent their party in specific positions of public service.

Seventh and eighth types are Donors and Fundraisers. They of course play important roles in all parties, since politics is expensive and funding often significantly influences policy and elections.

There are various other types of people that help parties succeed, but the most influential type of all is the people who could simply be called “Majorities.”

The obvious power of Majorities is that they have the numbers and therefore the votes to steer the party. They elect the delegates who elect the party candidates, and their influence is deeply and widely felt in general elections.

Majorities are mostly made up of regular, non-politician, thinking citizens who have the most influence on party delegates, general donations and the general voters.

Majority types are usually not Traditionalists, Politicos, Officios, Wonks or political experts.

But they keep track of what is happening in society and think seriously about political concerns, issues and elections. They spread their influence day after day and impact thinking widely and consistently.

The media is seldom able to predict close elections because of this wildcard: Since Majorities’ type of engagement is largely internal and interpersonal, and because their influence is largely in a realm that is under-valued (or perhaps beyond the control of) those in power, it is almost impossible to know what Majorities are really thinking and to predict how they will impact outcomes.

Save the Cheerleader

So why do the parties need independents?

At first glance, it might appear that the parties would do better if independents would just split and join the big parties.

But a deeper analysis shows how significant the growth of independents has become.

Independents aren’t just the new numerical majority; they are the barometer of success.

As a type, independents aren’t Traditionalists, Politicos or Officios. Most of them are Majorities, and a lot of them are Wonks.

In short, they care little about the future of the party, and a lot about helping both people in particular, and the nation in general.

Parties need the votes of independents, but they need something more. The two big parties both need independent Majorities.

When they are receiving independent support, they know that they are probably on track. Or, when they lose independents, they know to step back reevaluate their direction.

There are certainly times when government officials need to ignore independents and everyone else and stand firm on the right path.

But most times they can pretty much tell how well they are doing by finding out what the independents are thinking.

Of course, independents aren’t always right. But they are right more often than the big parties because in general, they care more about the nation than about party power. Madison and Jefferson would applaud.

This is a great benefit to both parties. In some ways, independents have made it easy for politicians. Win the independents, win the election.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Government &Independents &Politics

Independents & the Tea Party Movement

September 20th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Click Here to Download a PDF of this Article

Much of the media represents what it calls a “third” view as sometimes independents and other times the Tea Party.

In recent elections, these two groups have often voted together. They both tend to vote against entrenched power, and they both support better fiscal discipline from our leaders.

Beyond these two similarities, however, they bear little resemblance.

The Tea Party is angry at Washington. Independents want to see Washington get its act together.

The Tea Party is comparatively extreme in its views and strident in the tone of its arguments. Independents are typically moderate in viewpoint as well as methodology.

A majority of Tea Party supporters are former Republicans who feel disenfranchised from the GOP. Independents come from all parts of the political spectrum.

Tea Party enthusiasts tend to promote “revolution”—although their platform is more clearly defined by what they object to than by what they propose to do about it. Independents want substantive and tenable reform.

Tea Party crowds often act like football fans during big rivalry games. Independents most often talk like accountants analyzing today’s financials.

The Tea Parties want big, symbolic, massive change. They’re pretty clear on whom they think is to blame for America’s problems and they frequently recur to name-calling and sarcasm to make their point. Independents want certain policies to be passed that significantly improve government and society.

Tea Party supporters see themselves as part of a big fight, and they want to win and “send the bad guys packing.” Independents want the fighting, name calling, mudslinging and partisan wrangling to stop and for our leaders to just sit down together and calmly work up solutions to our major national challenges.

Voting

Tea Parties are bringing out more conservative voters to take on the Democratic majority. Independents are voting against Democrats right now because they want to see real progress, just like they voted against Republicans during much of the last decade.

If the Republican Party swings right, most of the Tea Partiers will consider their work done. If the Republican Party swings right, most independents will give it far less support.

Tea Parties are viscerally against liberalism. Independents will vote against Democrats on some issues and against Republicans on others, always throwing their support behind the issues and projects they think will best help America.

Few Tea Partiers voted for Obama. Many independents did. A lot of Tea Partiers see Sarah Palin as a viable presidential candidate. Hardly any independents support Palin or consider her a viable candidate for high federal office. Most Tea Party members vehemently disliked Ted Kennedy. Many independents like him a lot.

Many Tea Party supporters want Obama to fail, and in fact believe that he has already failed. A majority of independents are frustrated with President Obama’s work so far but sincerely hope he will turn it around by shifting his focus and adopting what they consider moderate and needed changes.

The Tea Party tends to compare Obama to the likes of Hitler, while most independents admire and like Obama personally even while disagreeing with the substance of some of his policies.

In short, Tea Partiers and independents aren’t cut from the same cloth and actually have very little in common. But, as mentioned, they have been voting together for the last six months and will likely continue to do so for some time ahead.

That being said, they are unlikely to stay connected in the long term. Of course, there are a number of independents who have aligned themselves with the Tea Party or Tea Party events in order to have an impact right now.

That’s what independents do.

How Populism Succeeds

Which group [independents or the Tea Party] is most likely to last? The answer probably depends on upcoming elections.

The Tea Parties are a populist movement, meaning that their popularity requires at least three things:

  1. An agreed upon enemy with enough power to evoke strong fears, anger and emotion
  2. An upcoming event to rally around, such as elections or national seminars
  3. A sense that they can actually change everything quickly and drastically

The first and second factors will stay around as long as a Democrat is in the White House.

Tea Party fervor may be lessened by the midterm elections if, and only if, a lot of Democrats lose—but will likely resurge again as the next presidential election nears.

The third requirement is what has generally doomed all historical populist movements. The Tea Party revolt is new and may gain energy. But things will change as soon as one major (and inevitable) event occurs.

When the Tea Party wins a major election and then watches its newly-elected candidates take office and join the system, it will turn its energy from activism to cynicism and lose momentum.

If those the Tea Party elects make a splash and take on the establishment, or symbolically seem to do so, the Tea Partiers will breathe easy, congratulate themselves on their victory and go back to non-political life.

If the new officials make few changes and Washington seems as bad as ever, many Tea Party enthusiasts will lose faith and give up on activism. More on this later.

The History of Conservative Populism

This series of events is cyclical, and the pattern has repeated itself many times. The Anti-Federalists, Whigs and Moral Majority all, in their day, fizzled out on this cycle.

Likewise, “constitutionalism” arose during the 1960’s, gained influence with publications and seminars in the 1970’s, and culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan.

After his inauguration, most constitutional organizations saw their donations and budgets halved—or worse—and many disappeared. The term “constitutionalist” lost it power—indeed, became a label for energetic irrelevance—and the nation moved on.

After Reagan, Rush Limbaugh increased in popularity and influence leading up to and throughout the Clinton years, and his radio show became the rallying point of conservative populism.

The press worried about the growing power of talk radio and both major political parties listened daily to Limbaugh’s commentary and strategized accordingly.

“Dittoheads” (Limbaugh fans) saw Clinton as the great enemy and rallied around elections, the Contract with America, and (between elections) Limbaugh’s show.

But with the election of Republican George W. Bush, Dittohead Nation congratulated itself on victory and mostly turned to non-political life. Today there is little excitement about or commentary on becoming a Dittohead.

It should be acknowledged that conservative populist movements have often added positive ideas to the national discussion and many of its leaders have helped raise awareness of freedom and promote citizen involvement.

In this sense, Anti-Federalists, Whigs, the Moral Majority, Constitutionalists, Dittoheads and the Tea Parties are not insignificant to American politics. They have had, and likely still will, huge impact.

Liberal vs. Conservative Populism

Note, in contrast [to conservative populism], that liberal populism typically follows a different path.

Movements such as Abolition, Feminism, Civil Rights and Environmentalism build and build until they are legislated. At that point, liberal populists get really serious and set out to expand legislation.

Not being saddled with trying to establish a negative, liberal populists don’t lose momentum like conservative populists—because the liberal objective isn’t to stop something but rather to achieve specific goals.

The challenge of conservative populism is that its proponents are, well, conservative. They see life as fundamentally a private affair of family, career and personal interests.

To the conservative, political activism is a frustrating, anomalous annoyance that shouldn’t be necessary—an annoyance that sometimes arises because of the actions of “bad” people abusing power.

The conservative soul idealizes being disengaged from political life; as a result, conservative populism is doomed to always playing defense.

The conservative will embrace politics when to continue to avoid politics poses a clear and present danger.

When conservatives engage politics in popular numbers, they do so in order to “fix things” so they can go back to not thinking about government.

The liberal soul, on the other hand, sees political life as a part of adulthood, natural to all people, and one of the highest expressions of self, society, community and the social order—not to mention a great deal of fun.

Many liberals greatly enjoy involvement in governance. The liberal yearns for participation in society, progress and politics.

They care about family and career as much as conservatives, of course, but many liberals consider involvement in politics to be at the same level of importance as family and work.

The Future of Tea & Independents

Tea Parties will likely grow and have impact for some years, but they are unlikely to become a long-term influence beyond Obama’s tenure.

In contrast, independents may well replace one of the major parties in the decades ahead.

Few independents are populists and are therefore not swayed by the political media or party politics. They watch Fox and MSNBC with equal skepticism, and prefer to do their own research on the detailed intricacies of the issues.

They generally distrust candidates and officials from all parties, believing that politics is a game of persuasion and spin.

Also: Independents really do stand for something. They want government to work. They want it to provide effective national security, good schools, responsible taxes and certain effective government programs.

Like conservatives, independents want government to spend less and stop trying to do too much. Like liberals, independents want government to tackle and fix our major challenges and where helpful to use effective government programs.

Independents want health care reformed, and they want it done in common-sense ways that really improve the system. They apply this same thinking to nearly all major issues.

Like many liberals, a lot of independents enjoy closely watching and participating in government. They take pleasure in activism and involvement. They prioritize political participation up there with family, career and personal interests.

All indications are that the Tea Parties are a short-term, albeit significant, movement, while the power of independents will be here for a long time ahead.

When the current political environment shifts and conservative populists lose their activist momentum, independents will still be studying the issues and making their views known.

In fact, a serious question now is whether the Republican and Democratic parties can both outlast the rise of independents. The answer is very likely “no.”

Click Here to Download a PDF of this Article

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Current Events &Government &History &Independents &Politics

The Latch-Key Generation & Independents

September 16th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The rise of Independents isn’t an accident. It is the natural result of both major parties emphasizing politics over principle and ideology over pragmatism.

A third reason for the rise of Independents is the widespread loss of blind faith in man-made institutions (like government and corporations) as the answers to society’s challenges.

These institutions have failed to perform, over and over, causing many of even the staunchest state- and market-loyalists to feel skeptical.

Fourth, the e-revolution has created a technological power of the citizenry, at least in the ability to widely voice views that diverge from the mainstream parties.

The Internet gave Independents (and many others) a voice. People who believed in common-sense pragmatism and principled choices over party loyalty have been around for a long time, but the e-revolution was needed to give them group influence.

But all of these reasons are really just after-the-fact justifications for why so many people are no longer channeled politically through one of the top parties.

They explain why people aren’t Republicans or Democrats, but they don’t explain why Independents are Independents.

Some Independents are actually from the far right and just anti-liberal, and others are leftists who are Independents because they are anti-conservative. Some are one-issue Independents, emphasizing the environment, feminism, race, the gold standard, etc.

A growing number of Independents, however, are Independents because they believe in a shared new ideal.

They have faith in both government and the market, but only to a certain extent. They are truly neither liberal nor conservative, but moderate. They want government and markets to work, and they want to limit both as needed.

Still, they are not just moderates, they are something more.

Three Versions of Management

What makes these Independents tick? They are motivated by a new focus, a set of goals surprising and even confusing to anyone who was taught that American politics is about right versus left, conservative versus liberal, family values versus progressivism, religious versus secular, hawk versus dove, and all the other clichés.

Independents are something new.

Daniel Pink argues that business is going through a major shift, that the entire incentive landscape of employees, executives and even owner-investors is changing.

Our ancestors were motivated mostly by “Management 1.0,” Pink says, which was a focus on physical safety and protection from threats.

“Management 2.0” came when people learned to produce things in a routine way, from planned agriculture to industry.

People became more motivated by a “carrot-and-stick” model of “extrinsic motivators.” Managers, teachers, parents and politicians created complex systems of rewards and punishments, penalties and bonuses to achieve results in this new environment.

In this model, conservatives are 1.0 because they want government to limit itself to protecting its citizens from external threats, to national security and legal justice.

Liberals support a 2.0 model where the role of government is to incentivize positive community behaviors by people and organizations, and also to enforce a complex system of punishments to deter negative behavior.

In education, 1.0 is the one-room schoolhouse focusing on delivering a quality, personalized education for each student.

In contrast, 2.0 is a conveyor-belt system that socializes all students and provides career rewards through job training, with benefits doled out based on academic performance.

The problem with 1.0 is that education is withheld from some based on race, wealth and sometimes gender or religion.

The 2.0 version remedies this, ostensibly providing democratic equality for students from all backgrounds; but the cost is that personalization and quality are lost, and a de facto new elite class is created by those who succeed in this educational matrix.

On the political plane, 1.0 promoted freedom but for an elite few, while 2.0 emphasized social justice but unnecessarily sacrificed many freedoms.

Version 3.0 combines freedom with inclusion, and this is the basis of the new Independents and their ideals.

It may seem oxymoronic to say that pragmatic Independents have ideals, but they are actually as driven as conservatives and liberals.

Independents want government, markets and society to work, and to work well. They don’t believe in utopia, but they do think that government has an important role along with business, and that many other individuals and organizations have vital roles in making society work.

They aren’t seeking perfect society, but they do think there is a common sense way in which the world can generally work a lot better than it does.

Mr. Pink’s “Management 3.0” is a widespread cultural shift toward “intrinsic motivators.” A growing number of people today (according to Pink) are making decisions based less on the fear of threats (1.0), or to avoid punishments or to obtain rewards (2.0), than on following their hearts (3.0).

This isn’t “right-brained” idealism or abstraction, but logic-based, rational and often self-centered attempts to seek one’s most likely path to happiness.

Indeed, disdain for the “secure career path” has become widely engrained in our collective mentality and is associated with being shallow, losing one’s way, and ignoring your true purpose and self.

This mindset is now our culture. For example, watch a contemporary movie or television series: The plot is either 1.0 (catch or kill the bad guys) or 3.0 (struggle to fit in to the 2.0 system but overcome it by finding one’s unique true path).

Settling for mediocrity in order to fit the system is today’s view of 2.0.

In contrast, the two main versions of 3.0 movies and series are: 1) Ayn Rand-style characters seeking personal fulfillment, and 2) Gene Rodenberry-style heroes who “find themselves” in order to greatly benefit the happiness of all.

Where the Greeks had tragedy or comedy, our generation finds itself either for personal gain or in order to improve the world.

Whichever version we choose, the key is to truly find and live our life purpose and be who we were meant to be.

And where so far this has grown and taken over our pop-culture and generational mindset, it is now poised to impact politics.

Few of the old-guard in media, academia or government realize how powerful this trend is.

Generations

Independents are the latch-key generation grown up.

Raised by themselves, with input from peers, they are skeptical of parents’ (conservative) overtures of care after years of emotional distance.

They are unmoved by parents’ (liberal) emotional insecurity and constant promises. They don’t trust television, experts or academics.

They don’t get too connected to any current view on an issue; they know that however passionate they may feel about it right now, relationships come and go like the latest technology and the only one you can always count on is yourself.

Because of this, you must do what you love in life and make a good living doing it. This isn’t abstract; it’s hard-core realism.

Loyalty to political party makes no sense to two generations forced to realize very young the limitations of their parents, teachers and other adults.

Why would such a generation give any kind of implicit trust to government, corporations, political parties or other “adult” figures?

Independents are more swayed by Google, Amazon and Whole Foods than Hollywood, Silicon Valley or Yale.

Appeals to authority such as the Congressional Budget Office, the United Nations or Nobel Prize winners mean little to them; they’ll study the issues themselves.

Their view of the experts is that whatever the outside world thinks of them, they are most likely far too human at home.

Officials and experts with noteworthy accolades, lofty credentials and publicized achievements make Independents more skeptical than star-struck.

They grew up with distant and distracted “corporate stars” for parents, and they aren’t impressed.

Having moved around throughout their formative years, never allowed to put down deep roots in any one town or school for long, why would they feel a powerful connection to country or nation?

If the government follows good principles, they’ll support it. If not, they’ll look elsewhere.

They understand being disappointed and having to move on and rely on themselves; in fact, this is so basic to their makeup that it is almost an unconscious religion.

If this all sounds too negative, consider the positives. The American founding had many similar generational themes.

Raised mostly by domestic help (parents were busy overcoming many out-of-the-home challenges in this generation), sent away to boarding schools or apprenticeships before puberty, the founders learned loyalty to principles over traditions, pragmatic common sense over the assurances of experts, and an idealistic yearning for improving the world over contentment with the current.

Today’s Independents are one of the most founders-like generation since the 1770s. They want the world to change, they want it to work, and they depend on themselves and peers rather than “adults” (experts, officials, etc.) to make it happen.

Independent Philosophy

There are many reasons why Independents don’t resonate with the two major parties, but this is only part of the story.

Most Independents aren’t just disenfranchised liberals or conservatives; they are a new generation with entirely new goals and views on government, business and society.

This is all hidden to most, because the latch-key generation isn’t vocal like most liberals and conservatives.

Trained to keep things inside, not to confide in their parents or adults, growing numbers of Independents are nonetheless quietly and surely increasing their power and influence.

Few Independents believe that there will be any Social Security monies left for them when they retire, so they are stoically planning to take care of themselves.

Still, they think government should pay up on its promise to take care of the Boomers, so they are happy to pay their part. Indeed, this basically sums up their entire politics.

They disdain the political debate that so vocally animates liberals and conservatives, and as a result they have little voice in the traditional media because they refuse to waste time debating.

But their power is drastically increasing. The latch-key Independents raised themselves, grew up and started businesses and families, and during the next decade they will increasingly overtake politics.

Like Shakespeare’s Henry V, they partied through the teenager stage, leaving their parents appalled by generational irresponsibility and lack of ambition, then they shocked nearly everyone with their ability and power when they suddenly decided to be adults.

Now, on eve of their entrance into political power, few have any idea of the tornado ahead.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Business &Culture &Current Events &Generations &Government &Independents &Politics &Technology

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