Saturday, January 8, 2011

A View From The Perimeter

Third party politics seem to be flourishing in Schenectady County. The Alliance Party, founded by Roger Hull, is poised to stage a third party threat to city politics. In Town of Rotterdam politics, the No New Tax Party (NNTP) will re-emerge with a return appearance by Brian McGarry. Both men announced their intentions for 2011 pre-Christmas 2010 and have indicated that they would be announcing full candidate slates eventually.

I am intrigued by these developments and will be paying close attention to their evolution. My immediate question regarding these announcements is whether they will be true “independent” endeavors or morph into some hybrid of the two-party state. By that, I mean will they be seeking cross endorsements from the major parties or solely go their own way? This was an aspect I wrestled with to some degree during the first NNTP run. After my previous experience, I prefer a pure independent approach.

From newspaper reports so far, it appears the Alliance Party does not intend to seek any cross endorsements (though I suppose that doesn’t mean they won’t receive any) while the NNTP will be seeking major party endorsements (though that doesn’t mean they’ll receive any) in addition to their independent ballot line. Of course, both efforts will face the daunting task of actually creating their own independent ballot line regardless of whatever endorsements they might receive. Success or failure at that endeavor is really the important wild card either way.

Concern starts creeping in depending on how all of this ultimately unfolds. My whole life revolves around a notion of being “not beholden.” I believe cross endorsements can taint that. The major parties don’t relinquish power easily – they want to pick their own candidates – not be dictated to. Making nice to secure additional ballot lines runs counter to what should be the underlying motivation to create an independent ballot line anyway, in my mind. If major lines are deemed a desirable advantage, then simply primary for them, much like I did in 2009 (much to the Republican Party bosses’ dismay when I won.) My point is that if you think you have appeal to a major party voter base, then appeal to it through a contested primary, independent of party power bosses. Even this approach has a downside though as some people will start to question “your real stripe.”

Of course, I’m not a politician – and politicians and their strategists will tell you my approach is a losing one. (Hey – I lost – they must be right.) I wonder why the major parties are so intent then on trying to usurp independent efforts. Quite simply, it’s because they recognize the threat and are quick to try to diminish it through absorption, if possible, or outright dismissal, if necessary.

Courage of My Conviction

Conviction. This is one of the most important attributes I look for in gauging a person’s character, especially when it comes to politicians. Let’s face it, there are plenty of “great guys” that still have trouble finding their backbone when the sledding gets a little tough. A fantastic notion is immediately compromised in the absence of conviction. In the presence of conviction, even a fledgling idea can become fantastic. Conviction is powerful – it is transformative. Unfortunately, it can be as equally fragile and vulnerable. Not only do you have to know what you believe, you have to actually believe it. You have to believe it when the sun is shining and you have to believe it in the fiercest windstorm.

Having conviction doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be stubborn, inflexible, or uncompromising either. More accurately, it’s about being unwavering in principle. In the end, words and actions have to be consistent.

Not Beholden

The 2011 election season has (unbelievably) commenced already with local independent hopefuls staking their claim early. I’m not among them nor do I expect to be anytime in the near future. What interests me at the moment is that the major tenets of my campaign seem to have found a continued voice through new candidates. I’d be lying if I said there’s not a degree of satisfaction in that development, but I think it was inevitable – our effort was early but the underlying motivation behind it was pervasive and is now simply taking better shape. I’ll be watching closely to see how it unfolds.

Of course, these developments have caused some to speculate about my political future. I’ve always maintained I was never a politician – just a concerned citizen. I remain so. Being an effective part of the solution doesn’t always involve running for office. Make whatever you’d like of that. I always do what I think I must to be able to sleep at night and look at myself in the mirror the next day.

Keep your eyes on those that step forward. Hold them to their word. Make sure they have a clue beyond their rhetoric. I was happy to read a comment on another forum recalling my philosophy of not being beholden. It was discussed in a political sense, but the phrase “not beholden” wasn’t just for my campaign. I actually live by that every day. It has helped me succeed, and at the same time, it has held me back, but it works for me.