Reader’s Forum–Frank Fear

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A Friend Helped Me Write This Review  

Sometimes you need a friend. Writing this review was one of those times. I could go only so far with it. I needed help. But before I get to my friend’s part, let me share what I have to say.

I recommend Greg’s book to anybody who’s thinking about running for elective office as an Independent. It’s an especially good read for newcomers to the political scene. They’ll read about the personal experiences of a person who has experienced the fire of American politics.

I also think readers will find Greg’s work to be illustrative of the ills that face America politically. I especially like the way he writes about “The Legislator-Industrial Complex” (p 182-183)—how politicians shift positions to fit the direction of political winds…and the campaign money that comes with it.

But, truth be told, I wanted more than Greg had to offer. I found the book’s sub-title—“how to restore the American Dream”—to be hyperbolic. And while Greg’s critique of the current political system is good, I had read most of it earlier and elsewhere (e.g., “money is the mother’s milk of politics” (p. 141).

Most importantly, I stumbled over a number of Greg’s assertions. One example is his contention that the Democratic Party has become progressively liberal (p. 155). A bond that connects me with many of my Independent friends is that we believe the mainstream Democratic Party has evolved into a centrist party. It’s not liberal enough. That’s why we left it.

More concerning, though, is Greg’s numerous categorical statements about Independents. Here’s one example (p. 23): “…one of the real strengths of Independents—they’re able to approach an issue with an open mind and see all sides of an issue.” That contention doesn’t jibe with my experience (some do, some don’t). And Chapter 12 is full of assertions that need to be validated. That includes what Greg claims about “The Shared World View of Independents” (pp. 261-263), “Shared Independent Principles” (pp. 263-265), and “The Independent Approach” (pp. 265-266).

That’s when I turned to a friend for perspective. In response, she told me something that I hadn’t thought about before.

“To be independent is not always the same as being an Independent,” she pointed out.

To make the case, she talked about the student organizing movement underway in the wake of the Parkland tragedy. “Those students are showing what it means to be independent,” she asserted. “What’s more, they aren’t addressing any, old topic. It’s the dicey, tumultuous politics of gun control where progress of any kind is agonizingly slow and treacherous.”

“I get it!” I responded. “They’re operating in a different paradigm from politics as usual.”

“For sure,” my friend said. “In the conventional paradigm, there’s the Independent option vis-à-vis the Republican and Democrat options. But when you think about politics that way, danger lurks. The Independent option can end up looking and acting like a political party, especially if the primary goal is getting more and more Independents elected.”

“Gosh, that’s business as usual,” I responded. “Yes, it is,” she said. “What America really needs is a radical political movement—a radical movement to change the status quo of America’s politics.”

“Ok,” I said. “And one of those pathways involves everyday Americans organizing for change.” “You bet!” she responded.

“Think about it,” she continued. “The Parkland students didn’t come to their organizing work by way of extensive background or even with much aforethought. What’s more, they aren’t in authority positions. They don’t represent any organization or group. They’re independent political actors speaking up, acting out, and demanding change—not as politicians, but as political activists—motivated by personal experience with a brutal act.”

“Gosh!” I said. “Americans everywhere can do what those students are doing, and they can do it on any issue they choose.”

“Yes, that’s right,” said my friend. “Sick and tired of political inaction, they’re assaulting the formal political system through good, old-fashioned people-power.”

“What do you make of that?” I asked.

“I’d say they’re doing their part to restore The American Dream.”


frank-fearFrank A. Fear is professor emeritus, Michigan State University, where he served as a faculty member for thirty-year years and worked in various administrative positions for nearly twenty years. Find him on Twitter @frankfear and on Tumblr, “For the Public Good”.  Frank also writes about issues that intersect sport and society. You can read him at The Sports Column.




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Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

2 thoughts on “Reader’s Forum–Frank Fear

  1. Dear Cathy:

    You were very smart to ask your friend to add his thoughts because they were profound and enriching. Bring him on again !! What he wrote was beyond political and more about saving America from a dog eat dog system that will destroy America. We really don’t have a two party system at all. It is not a system but groups of people who control ballot access at every level of what should be We the People’s Election system. Those kids at Parkland soared above politics and SOARED
    into the hearts of many of the American People. Your friend did a lot of soaring with his writing ..and so do you Cathy my friend !

  2. Frank,
    Thank you so much for your thoughts on the book. Yes, as many of us are painfully aware that democracy has been thwarted by everything from draconian bureaucracies to unscrupulous special interests. Political movements like the young people of Parkland give me hope.

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