Cult of Personality? Not Exactly

By Phil Fuehrer

The Independence Party has often been criticized as being a party perpetually in search of the next big name to run for office.  Moving from Jesse Ventura, to Tim Penny, to Peter Hutchinson, Dean Barkley, Tom Horner etc., etc.   A secondary criticism has been that the IP’s ideology simply shifts with the candidate du election-saison.  Or, more to the idea that the IP has no ideology and is simply a cult of personality with the cult shifting allegiances from one election to the next.

The criticisms are not exactly correct.  But, there is some design behind it causing that perception.  Here’s the history.

When it comes to the platform, constitution/bylaws, and the Independence Party of Minnesota there were two main areas of thought as it was constructed in the mid-90s.

First, it was intentionally thought through at the time that we did not want a platform that addressed every issue under the sun. We wanted to cover enough topics to put some flesh on the bone so to speak but that was it.  It was widely viewed by the majority that taking too many narrowly focused positions would simply drive people away from the fledgling party.  In fact, there was great debate initially on limiting the platform to no more than one side of one page.  It was a position that we followed.  We have added planks and statements since then but much of the sentiment in maintaining a pared back platform has remained.

The second area of thought (related to point one above) was the idea that candidates would provide for much of the party definition.  The platform would be “some” meat on the bones – a mutually agreed upon skeleton (party philosophy) but candidate positions would finish fleshing out what the party stood for in terms of positions and ideas.  We tried to design a very candidate-centric party rather than a party-centric party.  The belief was that there would be numerous candidates running at all levels during each election cycle.  The quantity of candidates, each adhering to our base principles, values and skeletal platform planks would naturally create a generalized knowledge of beliefs, ideology and understanding of where the party stood on all issues.  In reality, we have not yet been able to run a quantity of candidates in multiple elections to create the results we wanted.  So, it has looked to the general voter like we jerk from candidate to candidate every two to four years.  I can see how it can come across as a cult of personality with a perpetual search for the next big named gubernatorial or senate candidate though that was not the the intent.   I can also see how the IP may also have come across as ideologically deficient.

Neither criticism is exactly true, but the perception is clearly there from those not steeped in party history or daily party workings.  The structure we’ve tried to use has obviously had its share of problems. I, for one, am open to and anticipating discussions on some redesign and/or paradigm shifting.  We have a great opportunity before us to make positive changes that will truly grow the Independence Party into a force in Minnesota and beyond.  Let’s not waste it.

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