By Phil Fuehrer
For a decade, much of the mainstream press has repeatedly tried to “kill” the Independence Party – or, at the least, write our obituary. To paraphrase Mark Twain, even with the results of November’s elections, the reports of our death are greatly exaggerated.
This year, it was a full court press to write us off including such headline nuggets as:
“Jesse’s Party in Shambles…”
“Third Party Blues…”
“…Senate candidate throws party into disarray”
What Was Lost
In short, the IP really only lost automatic ballot access. This is not a small thing but it is not, in any way, an insurmountable barrier. The next elections in 2016 have no statewide races (save for President) which means our ballot access petitions will require 1000 or 500 signatures depending on the race being talked about. A decent campaign and improved party structure will allow us to meet these thresholds where we wish to run candidates. Shoot, if the Libertarians were able to gather the 2000 signatures needed for each of those statewide candidates they just ran (five of them) we can turn in petitions of 500 or 1000 supporters where needed in 2016.
Some people think we also lost access to the public financing system we have here in Minnesota. That is only 1/3rd true. We KEEP the Political Contribution Refund (PCR) program. The PCR is the fully refundable $50 per person per year ($100 per married couple) contribution program that allows you to give to qualifying candidates and parties. The IP (both the state party and sub units) continue to be qualified to receive PCR contributions.
We also KEEP what is called the “party account” from the state tax check off system. When you do your state taxes there’s a box you can fill in to have $5 go to the party (and their candidates) of your choice. The $5 neither reduces your tax refund nor adds to your payment – you’re simply directly allocating that $5. The IP’s code is “13”.
We do lose what is called the “general account” – an amount of money that all qualifying candidates in a given race split evenly. Only major party candidates get this piece of the pie. It is a very important part of a statewide campaign’s budget, particularly governor. For example, it would’ve meant an additional $178,000 to the Nicollet for Governor campaign had she qualified to receive this piece. But, as noted above, there are no statewide races in 2016. There are, however, state representative and state senate races. In those races we’ll lose roughly $2400 and $4500 respectively. Certainly, it’s nice to have more funding but those are numbers that can be overcome in a local “knock on doors” race.
What We Gain
In the end we have likely gained more than we lost with the 2014 election results. How can that be?? Let me offer an explanation.
The first thing we gain is tangible and a direct result of our most recent “failure” – ballot petitioning. With major party status and automatic ballot access there is no way to keep, shall we say, undesirables off the ballot. If you’re not running someone for an office – anyone can file for it. Even if you do run someone, a primary election can result in your preferred candidate losing (see this year’s U.S. Senate race for us). With a petition requirement, the IP will be able to decide who gets the effort/support and, therefore, who represents us in the election. We’ll also be able to skip the primary and the costs associated with that race. While we haven’t needed to petition in 20 years, the 2016 races require fewer signatures and a good “practice” opportunity for us in advance of the 2018 statewide races should we still need to use the petitioning route.
Our other gain may be a little less tangible but is likely more important. We’ve been given a kick in the pants to fix some things in the party. Many folks criticize/believe that the IP has only been a party of personalities – moving from election to election grabbing a name du jour and their attendant followers to maintain our status. Penny, Hutchinson, and Horner are always mentioned. Whether it is true or not we now clearly need to beef up our organization and take some corrective measures. These corrective measures should take the shape of altering the party’s organizational structure to allow us to run more efficiently and with greater efficacy. I believe we also need to take another look at both our platform and ideological structures to create a party that truly draws people in.
With our 2014 results in the books we have no excuses to delay in beginning these discussions and changes in 2015. No, Virginia, the Independence Party did not “die” last month. We’re still alive and, in some ways, in a better position than we would’ve been had we maintained major party status.
Paraphrasing Mark Twain again, if you think the commonwealth’s “political clothes” are worn out, you need to be an agitator for a “new suit”. That means the IP runs candidates and keeps on keeping on – allowing the citizenry to “vote him down if they do not see the matter as he does.” So, that is what we will do. Now, if we can just get the fourth estate to quit treating us like a Monty Python skit we’ll certainly get better.
Read additional posts by this and other authors, visit the IP Blog author page for more. Phil Fuehrer can be reached at philfuehrer (at) gmail.com