Last month the State Central Committee approved structural changes that, I believe, will allow for the Independence Party to more effectively harness our energies and efforts as we work to revitalize the party. But, there is more that we must do. We also need to redefine the philosophy/ideology of the Independence Party.
This is Part I of what will be a three-part post on the direction and issues on which we need to begin rebuilding our brand with the voters of Minnesota.
We were formed as a party of reform. Indeed, for about a four-year period (1996-2000) we renamed ourselves the Reform Party. Fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets, and electoral reform are foundational to who we are and to our beliefs.
However, we need to do a better job (and with more emphasis) of advocating, promoting and otherwise disseminating those beliefs. We need to have issues where the Independence Party comes “top of mind” to voters and issues of reform should make up a bulk of those issues. But, which ones?
Budgets and finances immediately come to my mind. The Independence Party believes budgets should be structurally balanced meaning we don’t believe in delaying or shifting payments, borrowing or using other accounting gimmicks to give the illusion of a balanced budget.
In 1992, one of the driving issues of reform was the national debt. When Ross Perot ran for President, the debt, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, was as bad/high as during the Great Depression – at about 50%. Today, it’s even worse – about 74% – or, on par with our situation at the height of WW II. Projections show it getting even worse.
We need government that is fiscally responsible, will pay our way as we go and one that will STOP MORTGAGING OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURES – both the Republicans and Democrats have proven that they are incapable of fulfilling the job. We need to re-find our voice on these issues and keep hammering their importance.
Campaign and election reform is another area where we have maintained historical consistency. We continue to partner with such groups as FairVote MN and have moved much closer to The Centrist Project. We champion public funding of campaigns, term limits and Ranked Choice Voting. It is time to also begin championing proportional representation for the State House so that we can broaden the diversity of thought and opinions in state legislature and get more women serving to boot.
We stand against “Citizens United” which permitted Super PACs and unlimited contributions from corporate and union treasuries and believe that the MN Legislature just did us all a disservice (and possibly an unconstitutional act) in pushing an already nearly impossible petitioning process closer to impossible.
There are also plenty of reform issues that have grown in importance in the last 20 years. We were the first major party in MN to advocate for the legalization and regulation of cannabis. Not because we advocate getting stoned (or even drunk) but because, when it comes to marijuana, prohibition has failed, just as it did with alcohol. There is a social justice component to decriminalizing marijuana as well when blacks in MN are arrested at nearly 8 (that’s eight) times the rate of white Minnesotans when usage rates are similar.
The “War on Drugs” has also seemingly led to a militarization of our police forces in both attitude and armament. Cities of a certain size should have a SWAT team and a Bearcat vehicle or two. However, do those teams need be clothed in woodland combat camouflage gear, arrive in mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles or be used for purposes beyond their mission (special responders to emergency situations)? The answers are all “no.”
As a party we also need to look at and take lead on issues of prison reform, immigration reform, death with dignity and the regulation of online poker.
Reform lies at the heart of the Independence Party. It was and continues to be at the core of who we are and for what we advocate. And there is a LOT that needs to be fixed. We need to remind people of our support for balanced budgets, fiscal responsibility, and campaign and election reform. We must work to have the IP come “top of mind” for other issues such as cannabis regulation, police militarization, and death with dignity. And, while we’re at it – give us the freedom to play some legally regulated online cards.