Forward – A Virtual Discussion with Andrew Yang, Co-hosted by Open Primaries

On Wednesday, January 12, people from across the country joined Politics for the People host Cathy Stewart and Open Primaries President John Opdycke for Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang & the Forward Party *But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask, a virtual discussion with Andrew Yang, author of Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy.

You can watch the full video below:

Reader’s Forum — David Belmont & Lou Hinman

Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang & the Forward Party
*But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask
A Virtual Discussion Hosted by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
Wednesday, January 12th at 3pm EDT
Register here today!


David Belmont


David Belmont

It’s a sign of the times when a person who is passionate, intelligent and entrepreneurial chooses to leave the major parties and become a political reform activist, as Andrew Yang has done. And (to wax philosophical/methodological for a moment) hopefully it is a tool and result as well.

Because (to me) there’s an inherent contradiction embedded in such a move. This historic moment is at once crying out for systemic change in our political culture and a horrible environment for such a change. Recently, the Democrats and Republicans have hijacked the concept of democracy for their own purposes (once again). Most Republicans are insisting that the Democrats stole the 2020 election. The Democrats are claiming that everything would be ok if only those nefarious new Republican election laws get overturned.

Where are the American people in all of that? Disappeared. Which is what the future holds for Andrew Yang if we collectively are unable to create an environment where a people’s democracy can take the forefront in the public conversation.

Fortunately, thousands of Americans have been active for many years in political reform efforts that empower the American people. Some of them will be present in our upcoming conversation with Andrew. We welcome him with open arms, open minds and open hearts.

David Belmont is a multi-media artist, community organizer and long-time political reform activist. He was Ballot Access Coordinator for Dr. Lenora Fulani’s 1988 presidential campaign and is currently a researcher for Independent Voting.


Lou Hinman – An Open Letter to Andrew Yang


Dear Andrew Yang –

Lou Hinman

As often happens, Steve Hough of Florida Fair and Open Primaries goes to the heart of the matter. Please be sure to read his post. I have this to add:

I love your book and the courageous choices you have made. I hope that you run for president in 2024 as an independent, and get on the ballot in all 50 states. (There are people who will be on the Politics for the People Book Club zoom call, and many who will not be, who could help you with that.)

Of course, the Democratic Party will come after you with everything they’ve got. They’ll spend millions trying to throw you off state ballots. They’ll call you a wasted vote, a spoiler, a stalking horse for Trump – and worse. The major media (long-time bed fellows of the duopoly) will be against you. You’ll have the fight of your life to get on the ballot nationwide and into the presidential debates. Finally, there will be hysterical pressure on you to drop out before the election.

Can you win? I don’t know — and neither do the Democratic Party boosters. (How could that possibly be known, in a political environment as destabilized, dysfunctional, and disrupted as the one we’re living in?)

But of this I feel pretty certain: If you commit to this fight and declare your determination to see it through to the end (something Bernie Sanders, as a Democrat, would not do) thousands of independent activists will flock to your campaign. If you run a national campaign, you’ll raise tons of money from ordinary people, and you’ll get millions of votes. If you don’t win, you will have shown that the two-party tyranny can be seriously challenged, that the political conversation has been permanently changed – opened up to options beyond what the special interests that support the Democrats and Republicans are willing to endorse.

Perhaps most important, you will have shown that the American people have entered the political fray for their own account — that they won’t be intimidated by another hysterical warning that another Republican presidency (Trump or whoever) means the the end of civilization.

For far too long, the political horizon of voters in America has been only the next election – that is big part of why we are in such trouble now. If you stay the course but lose, you will have built something priceless with the American people – a movement, a foundation, and a hope that extends beyond the horizon of 2024, on which the American people continue to build.

But my short answer to the “spoiler” smear is this: If America is indeed a democracy, then it’s up to all the voters – not the Democratic Party or the Republican Party – to say who is spoiling what in America.

What do you think, Mr. Yang?

Lou Hinman lives in New York City and is an activist with IndependentVoting.org and a member of Independent Voting’s Welcome Committee.

***

Join us Wednesday, January 12th
at 3pm EDT
For a Virtual Discussion
With Forward Author Andrew Yang
Sponsored by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

***

Reader’s Forum — Al Bell

Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang & the Forward Party
*But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask
A Virtual Discussion Hosted by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
Wednesday, January 12th at 3pm EDT
Register here today!

Al Bell

An Amazon rating of 4.7 is quite an achievement for a non-fiction book, though at still low total count. Andrew Yang’s Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy is a serious attempt to assess what ails us in this second fifth of the century. He believes we need to harness the power of institutions and processes for selecting our leaders by reinventing both.

A lot of Americans, especially Independent Voters, agree. Early responses to Forward reflect that conclusion. The opposition has yet to seriously engage. It will, with a vengeance.

Full disclosure: I have not read the book, though I will. What logic would justify
commenting on a book I haven’t read? This one: I want Mr. Yang to succeed as a
candidate, whether he does so as an author or not. My comments are based on two
ideas: 1) what readers have already said via Amazon reviews, and 2) my own thinking about how a competent independent candidate will succeed in a political morass even the parties cannot negotiate, despite their long histories.

Most voters of any persuasion will never have read his book; the majority will not even know he wrote one. His strong supporters and his strong opponents will read it. They will show up at the polls in strength; winning depends on appealing to multiple others. This appears to be central to the recently formed Forward Party. We can advance Mr. Yang’s program best now by asking him key questions and sharing credible answers—as widely as possible.

  • Is Forward a movement or a party? Will confusion on that be an obstacle?
  • If the former, how will that operate? If the latter, why will it not behave as other parts do?
  • How will Forward candidates identify under current election rules?
  • What is being done to gain support of the myriad “good government” organizations?
  • How will Forward policies, programs, and strategies be shaped, and by whom?
  • What will prevent Forward from going the way of all previous third parties?
  • Where are positions on foreign policy and the military/congressional/industrial complex?
  • As appealing as fact orientation is, how will powerful emotions in politics be overpowered?
  • Do you see Forward as fundamentally a coalition of Independent minded voters?
  • How can we best expand support for the Forward Party if we wish to do so?
  • If you continue to seek the Presidency, who will be your Vice President?
  • How will you continue to avoid the poisonous campaign advisor disease?
  • Why not just eliminate primary elections entirely?
  • What about a National Debt transfer tax on stock shares traded, scaled by time held?

Mr. Yang’s election losses are only failures if we do not learn the lessons they offer and apply them to an unprecedented opportunity for reinventing and reinvigorating our Nation.

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona. Al served on Independent Voting’s Eyes on 2020 National Cabinet, working to get the 2020 presidential primaries open to independents across the country.

***

Join us Wednesday, January 12th
at 3pm EDT
For a Virtual Discussion
With Forward Author Andrew Yang
Sponsored by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

***

Andrew Yang, Moving Forward as an Independent and a New Party

Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang & the Forward Party
*But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask
A Virtual Discussion Hosted by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
Wednesday, January 12th at 3pm EDT
Register here today!

By Frank Fear
January 10, 2022

“I feel more…independent,” Andrew Yang wrote in his blog recently, announcing that he was leaving the Democratic Party. In a crisply written piece entitled “Breaking Up with the Democratic Party,” Yang declared, “I believe I can reach people who are outside the system more effectively. Making partisan arguments—particularly expressing what I often see as performative sentiment—is sometimes uncomfortable for me. I often think, ‘Okay, what can we actually do to solve the problem?’ I’m pretty sure there are others who feel the same way I do.”

To understand more about Yang’s substantive trajectory, I picked up a copy of his new book, Forward: Notes on the Future of our Democracy (New York: Crown, 2021). I found it to be an excellent read, especially for Progressives. Here is why.

Yang calls out the political system for what it does—a great job serving ‘The Establishment,’ including myriad professionals who work in supporting fields, professions, and sectors.

First, Yang calls out the political system for what it does—a great job serving ‘The Establishment,’ including myriad professionals who work in supporting fields, professions, and sectors. Second, Yang addresses a trifecta of political issues–electoral, institutional, and public policy reform—and does so carefully by describing why things got off the rails and how we can make things right. Third, Andrew Yang tells the truth about the corporatized, 24-hour (not) ‘news’ networks. Yang makes fact-based assertions and personalizes his critique by drawing on his experience as a presidential candidate. Finally, Yang writes about party politics with clarity and honesty. His is not just another homily on “What’s wrong with those Republicans?” Democrats are not off the hook. That is because parties—irrespective of stripes—suffer from self-aggrandizing, inside-the-tent, salvo-throwing behaviors. They are parties after all.

I found Forward to be a powerful book written by somebody who does not fit the conventional political profile. Of that, I am thankful. However, I do not get why Yang’s practical response (the subject of the book’s last chapter) involves establishing a new political party—The Freedom Party. I can live with that outcome if it happens; I support about any initiative designed to shake up the system. But it was not the chapter on the Freedom Party that captured my attention; it is what came before. Here are four examples of what I mean.

First, I applaud Yang’s emphasis on open primaries and ranked-choice voting—two methods to reduce, if not eliminate, the party-centered approach that has American politics in a stranglehold.

Second, I like Yang’s focus on setting goals and tracking progress on matters that affect people (e.g., reducing the percent living in poverty, the infant mortality rate). Organizations everywhere set goals and measure progress, but it is not the way we do business in American government. Because we do not, the U.S. does not have targets to achieve—as it did in the 1960s with the quest to go to the Moon. And not having national goals is a significant reason the U.S. looks terrible in international rankings. With nothing to shoot for, we wander. The U.S. ranks #28 in the most recent edition of the Social Progress Initiative, an embarrassing and unnecessary outcome.

Third, I support Yang’s emphasis on human-centered capitalism. His proposal for Universal Basic Income could be implemented quickly and efficiently—just as were the Subsidy Checks—without people having to meet a list of qualification standards. Just allocate funds to improve lives and advance the economy. Doing so would also contemporize the concept of Social Security. I also like his take on how we measure the economy currently—that it needs to change, from tracking Gross National Product and the stock market, to focusing on measuring impacts on human well-being.

Fourth, I applaud Yang’s emphasis on public policy reforms, three reforms in particular. It is time to replace the concept of employer-offered health benefits (an approach that became widespread following WW II) with single-payer health care. Access to health care is a public right. We also need to re-establish The Fairness Doctrine, which the Reagan Administration repealed in 1987. Otherwise, the public will continue to be fed ‘spin,’ and fair and balanced news coverage will continue to be at risk. It is also time to reform the tax code and end the ‘elite charade’ Anand Giridharadas writes about in Winners Take All. Monied elites need to contribute their fair share to the commonwealth rather than picking charities they deem worthy and then getting tax credits in exchange. Finally, it is time to modernize the Communications Decency Act of 1996, Section 230 in particular. Corporatized social media platforms, like Facebook, should be held legally responsible for content published on their platforms. Today—with an Act passed nearly 30 years ago—they are not.

Having highlighted things I value in Yang’s book, what do I think about the concept of the Freedom Party? There is a better alternative. I’d like to see a politically unaffiliated Andrew Yang join forces with organizations that function in the Independent political sphere, Open Primaries and IndependentVoting.org, among other groups. Establishing a national coalition with Yang as the public face of an Independent political movement appeals to me. Here is why.

If we are truly serious about transforming America’s political system, let us do it by taking an unwavering voter-centered, candidate-driven, and party-less approach. Besides, it avoids a common trap associated with making any type of transformational/extraordinary change possible, that is, relying on a conventional means (a new political party in this instance) to produce out-of-the-box outcomes. It is the new wine in old bottles syndrome. In politics, it will not be a matter of whether—just when—problematic features of party organization take hold.

That said, it is an easy trap in which to fall. Transformational thinking focuses all too often on what we seek to accomplish and not equivalently (as it should) on how we propose to make transformation a reality. Really smart people think that they can overcome past issues—even issues they readily acknowledge—because (this time) they will build a better mousetrap. It is still a mousetrap, though, with the same problematic features, including (in this case) the structures, processes, and culture of party organization. Yang acknowledges as much when he writes: “Putting people—however well-intentioned—into a corruptive system of personal and political incentives produces nothing but dysfunction and disillusionment.” (p. xxvi)

He is right. Parties are a problem. Any party. Any time. The party option is unnecessary, too. I believe America is ready for a party-less approach to electoral reform, human-centered capitalism, and effective/modern government. I also believe that a good share of America’s Independents (consistently self-identified in Gallup tracking polls as between 40-50% of voters)—as well as a fair number of party affiliates—will be drawn to those outcomes, especially if they are articulated by a charismatic, intelligent, and authentic spokesperson like Andrew Yang.

“The time to build anew is now,” Yang writes (p. 296). “Change won’t come easily. We are going to need to fight for it.” He is right. And I am in.

Frank A. Fear is professor emeritus, Michigan State University, where he served as a faculty member for thirty years and worked in various administrative positions for nearly twenty years. Frank also writes about issues that intersect sport and society.

***

Join us Wednesday, January 12th
at 3pm EDT
For a Virtual Discussion
With Forward Author Andrew Yang
Sponsored by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

***

Reader’s Forum — Richard Ronner

Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang & the Forward Party
*But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask
A Virtual Discussion Hosted by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
Wednesday, January 12th at 3pm EDT
Register here today!

Richard Ronner

Andrew Yang has written a brilliant book, an honest and clear-eyed appraisal of the state of our society, the problems we face, the causes of those problems, and some ideas on how we can fix things up. Now, this may be standard fare these days as we live in some pretty dire times with a lot of people hurting and a lot of people with opinions about what should be done to alleviate this pain. But I think Yang’s take on things stands out. I find him startlingly original in much of his thinking, and he casts a wide net in his analysis.

Admittedly, he didn’t come up with all these ideas by himself; facing a problem, he talks about consulting with people who have focused on and thought about and written about that problem. But he does take responsibility for coming up with doable responses to the problem to fix it. Just one quick example will suffice: Yang sees the impending demise of local news organizations everywhere, in this digital and world-wide internet age, as a serious problem in a democracy, as they are key in effecting civil engagement in the population. His solution is for the society, the government, to subsidize them, not for any ideological purpose, but as a practical solution. Andrew Yang is practical, and not ideological. And he gives generous credit when plugging creative solutions others have put forward, like top-five or ranked-choice voting and open primaries from Katherine Gehl, Michael Porter and others.

Yang is a very astute observer of human nature and has a hands-on CEO’s understanding of what humans need to function well. He seems to not be constrained by ideology or previous ways of looking at things, but is willing to head into new territory and to think outside the box. I also find Yang to be movingly open about his own shortcomings and vulnerabilities, as when he urges us to make liberal use of grace, tolerance and forgiveness in judging and dealing with one another (and ourselves), because we are all human, and we will mess up.

I am particularly in favor of his call for people to get involved and build a movement for change. Although I hope he runs again for president, I don’t think he has run as the one who will save us, but as one who accepts responsibility, and is willing to put himself forward as a leader. I think this is a very important book for anyone who wants to impact on our present and future.

Richard Ronner is a nurse practitioner and a long time independent activist. Richard is from Queens.

***

Join us Wednesday, January 12th
at 3pm EDT
For a Virtual Discussion
With Forward Author Andrew Yang
Sponsored by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

***

Reader’s Forum — Mike Marthaller

Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang & the Forward Party
*But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask
A Virtual Discussion Hosted by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
Wednesday, January 12th at 3pm EDT
Register here today!


Red Flags as I reflect on the book FORWARD: Notes on the future of our Democracy


Mike Marthaller

As I’ve been reading Forward I have also been rereading Plutarch, Lives and essays; watching hours of Andrew Yang’s various YouTube discussion; and taking advantage of the many excellent YouTube historical presentations that supplement and reinforce my years of reading and life experiences much of it in a time before “Social Media.”

I have been reflecting on my own 80 trips around the sun and my experience in the military, federal and local government, small businesses, aviation, trucking, instructing, safety, law enforcement, corrections and efforts to offer others an opportunity to break old cycles of hopelessness, poverty, loss of self-reliance and violence.

 I reflect on my facing mobs intending and attempting to kill me because of my race or political beliefs and on my time as an elected official. 

I also reflect on my journey to become a “peace ambassador” with the realization that opening a listening dialog, both nationally and internationally, seems a key to avoiding the destruction of another revolution. Revolutions that destroy the opportunities for peaceful, well thought out evolution. Evolution that minimizes the Oh S—, quick fix unintended consequences when change is driven by fear.

I reflect on my long view of tribes, civilizations, religions, species through the various ages or stages, from hunter gathers, agriculture, industrial, information, that have risen and fallen. I ask WHY, what seems a common thread?

I come to several conclusions, although “nature” regards equal opportunity, key word opportunity, as a survival imperative. We somehow seem to reach a critical mass where we lose sight that equal opportunity also involves, no it demands, personnel RESPONSIBILITY. 

Although Mr. Yang points to the many issues we are again facing in our efforts to survive in this new world I nowhere see him acknowledge that government, who he wants to correct our challenges, or that businesses, churches, civic and social organization, political parties are composed of INDIVIDUALS, individuals programed to survive in the world as it is or is becoming. Individuals who are often fear driven to avoid the consideration that survival requires equal opportunity based on our natural gifts and free opportunity to contribute to the whole.

He often discusses the loss of jobs due to AI and the inability to retrain large numbers to “code.” He misses or avoids the uncounted good paying jobs currently begging for workers in the trades, jobs that at least the next generation will not be replaced by automation.

The “becoming” should raise a question, many questions at what point does the law of nature require us to consider are our efforts actually offering a necessary hand UP or are we prolonging the inevitable with hand OUTS. 

I consider as I read Mr. Yang’s many options and conclusions the old saw “the devils in the details” one of the details is a failure to ensure each individual has an equal opportunity to rise or fall. We would be well served to discuss just what rising or falling actually means to our species survival and to recognize that the whole must include the various choices of Individuals and groups within the whole of humanity. 

Do I see the 3rd Party, open primaries and ranked choice voting as a Tool? Yes, but unless we acknowledge that we are ALL Individuals who have a responsibility to work and contribute to the whole we are again doomed to fail?

Although Basic income has a great sound and is currently popular, I have not seen any discussion on how Mr. Yang sees our future 1, 5, 20 years in the future. Are we doomed to repeat the cycles of revolutionary change, boom and bust? I have seen no discussion on exactly what “money, Bit Coin, etc.” is. 

No discussion that in the final analysis, “money” is simply a trust-based trading media for the necessary means of basic survival, i.e. food, water, shelter.

We must have discussion on the effects the concept of a guaranteed income has on the necessary survival imperative to compete. We must discuss the many markers telling us a hungry world has come to our doors and has become successful even as WE, Americans are led to believe “Racism” is preventing success.

I would value the opportunity to sit and discuss with Mr. Yang but as I read his book, I wonder how much time he has given to studying “The Wisdom of the Ages.” Has he considered that “We, civilizations, cultures, have been here before?” 

Has he considered how his youthful experiences have colored his views of a broader biological reality? 

Peace and prosperity through responsibility.

Mike Marthaller is retired from the military, a peace activist, a City Councilmember from rural Washington, and active with Braver Angels.

***

Join us Wednesday, January 12th
at 3pm EDT
For a Virtual Discussion
With Forward Author Andrew Yang
Sponsored by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

***

Reader’s Forum — Dr. Jessie Fields

Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang & the Forward Party
*But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask
A Virtual Discussion Hosted by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
Wednesday, January 12th at 3pm EDT
Register here today!


Notes on Forward, a book by Andrew Yang


Dr. Jessie Fields

Political innovators outside of the two party political system working to break it open, who give voice to the experience of ordinary people and seek to transform politics on behalf of those people are vitally needed in our country today. Andrew Yang is one such innovator. His book Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy is a book of clear reflections that is divided into three parts: the first part is experiences and insights from his presidential campaign, the second is on the interrelated problems facing the country and the third is all about solutions.

Essential questions about our country are raised in the introduction, “Democracy by a Thread:”

How did it come to this?

What happened to our belief in the future?

And, most important, what can we do about it?

We read again of the failed and woefully inadequate government response to the pandemic while simultaneously steeped in levels of crisis of the latest surge of the latest Coronavirus variant now spreading in the United States and around the world, ongoing economic and climate devastation, police brutality and racial inequality. It is strangely steadying to stay with this book which interconnects all these and gives direction and hope for what can be done.

A central theme of Yang’s on which he ran for president is the “ongoing dehumanization of our economy” against which he has been a stalwart promoting and implementing trials of universal basic income.

He writes,

We have allowed our economy to become punitive and inhuman for millions of Americans. The pandemic and its aftermath have made it more inhuman still.”

American workers have not shared in the gains of the high tech economy, while vast fortunes have been built.

The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay rose from 20 to 1 in 1965 to 271 to 1 in 2016.”

Many are working long hours and multiple jobs to survive.

As I see it, the ongoing inhuman economy started way before automation and way before the pandemic, even before 1619. Many writers such as Princeton University professor Matthew Desmond trace our nation’s peculiarly brutal version of capitalism to slavery.

Andrew Yang has pushed for universal basic income and a human-centered economy. As he points out in the book, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for a guaranteed minimum income. Speaking in 1967 in his address to the convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta Dr. King said,

We must create full employment, or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other….Now our country can do this. John Kenneth Galbraith said that a guaranteed annual income could be done for about twenty billion dollars a year. And I say to you today, that if our nation can spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet right here on earth.”

Unfortunately there is a huge gap between what the American people need and policy a majority of Americans agree we should implement on the one hand, and the policies that emanate from our electoral and governmental systems on the other.

To begin to address this gap Yang promotes structural reforms of ranked choice voting and open primaries to enable dramatic new approaches. In response to decades of partisanship, failure and dysfunction more and more Americans have become independent voters who are not Democrats or Republicans. Enfranchising all voters including independents to participate equally in all elections including the pivotal primary elections is essential to transform policy to meet the real needs of the American people and to close the gap between the people and our government.

As I speak with patients and family members and weigh the risks and benefits of new Covid-19 treatments in patients with underlying medical conditions I long for us to create wholistic policies and practices in which all aspects including medical care, housing, education and economics are grounded in the health and well-being of people and communities. This is why I am an independent.

I look forward to the Politics for the People conversation with Andrew Yang on January 12.

Dr. Jessie Fields is a physician practicing in Harlem, and a Board member at Independent Voting and Open Primaries.

***

Join us Wednesday, January 12th
at 3pm EDT
For a Virtual Discussion
With Forward Author Andrew Yang
Sponsored by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

***

Reader’s Forum — Jennifer Bullock

Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang & the Forward Party
*But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask
A Virtual Discussion Hosted by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
Wednesday, January 12th at 3pm EDT
Register here today!

Jenn Bullock (L) and Stephen Bouikidis (R)

Crises require transformation, of how we do it all…

Thank you, Andrew Yang! Running for President of the United States and then for Mayor of NYC with a commitment to honesty, humanity and integrity is no small feat. Thank you for speaking out publicly on the critical need for structural reforms in our political and election systems in order to address the crisis of our democracy. Thank you for inviting the country to join a new party that advocates for needed structural reforms. And thank you for writing Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy.

As a long time political activist fighting for Open Primaries in Pennsylvania with Independent Pennsylvanians and as a psychotherapist deeply concerned about our mental health, individually and collectively, I so appreciate your strong advocacy for open primaries as well as the mental health needs of our citizens. Your personal stories were so moving, inviting us all to be regular humans together as we try to move through many difficult circumstances.

Just like we cannot address fundamental issues of education, health care, the economy, etc. without structurally transforming how our political system works, I wonder if cultural, relational, emotional transformation is also required (how do we build together with our disagreements? How do we incentivize innovation and the courage needed to try something new? How do we replace cancel culture with generous curiosity culture?)

I want to share an older blog I wrote when Obama was at the end of his presidency that asks our politicians, policy makers and media to develop a nuanced concern regarding our mental health: When we advocate for increased access to mental health care, we need to also consider the quality and kind of mental health care that actually helps us transform. This blog was written before Trump and COVID, so even more relevant today in my opinion. Perhaps when you are in the Whitehouse, you can hire me and my colleagues to collectively lead your newly formed Department of Mental and Cultural Wellness so that we can not only work to transform the way our corporations, media, politicians and elections operate, but also transform how we practice mental health, wellness and how we live and build community together.

Our nation is mentally ill … we need a new conversation on mental health folks!

Mass shootings, daily unnoticed violence everywhere, un-neighborly neighborhoods, poor health delivered by the most expensive health care system in the world, the divide between the haves and have nots expanding, and so on…

We are in dire need of new conversations and new solutions.

I am a psychotherapist who is part of a community of therapists, clients, activists who are committed to offering high quality, humane therapy services for all.

We are Social Therapists. We create therapeutic communities for emotional and social growth.

The conventional conversations we hear in the institutional halls of mainstream psychology and mental health treatment centers do not sufficiently explore traditional assumptions of what mental health is and how to treat it. The norm has been to place emphasis on the individual who “has something inside that is wrong,” and to underemphasize the fact that individual people are a part of a social fabric in a world that is not well.

Typical conversations we hear in the media on mental health tend to focus on ensuring greater access to services, without sufficiently attending to the quality and kind of care people might receive once access is improved.

Social therapists do not view mental health as a medical dilemma, but rather, as a cultural, social, and developmental task of supporting people to grow emotionally and relationally. We take the “do not stigmatize / do no harm” posture very seriously, and will not relate to other humans as broken, or label them as mentally ill. We reject the conventional medical model Doctor/Patient hierarchy. We also reject diagnostics, and the goal of getting “maladjusted” people to “adjust.” Interestingly, this creates space for both client and therapist to partner together in shaping the help clients need and want. This approach helps clients develop as leaders and creators of their lives.

The devastation of poverty, discrimination, stigmatization, and marginalization of people who are struggling in a world that is not well is of great concern to the Social Therapy community. We practice a group therapy approach where clients are helped by partnering with one another, and with the therapist, to develop emotionally. Clients are active participants of the therapy, and are supported to be builders of their lives. In this way, we differ from conventional therapies, have a different approach to the whole concept of what mental health is, and how to develop health in our world.

You can’t solve problems using the same tools that helped to create them. Question the status quo. Ask new questions. Do something new with others. Our nation…our communities need our help.

Jennifer Bullock is the Director of Independent Pennsylvanians, which is a proud founding member of the PA Open Primaries Coalition. She is a social therapist practicing in Philadelphia.

***

Join us Wednesday, January 12th
at 3pm EDT
For a Virtual Discussion
With Forward Author Andrew Yang
Sponsored by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

***

Reader’s Forum — Steve Hough

Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang & the Forward Party
*But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask
A Virtual Discussion Hosted by Politics for the People and Open Primaries
Wednesday, January 12th at 3pm EDT
Register here today!

Steve Hough

Like most Americans, I was introduced to Andrew Yang when he ran for president as a Democrat. As an unlikely candidate for the position, he attracted a large following by speaking to those whose jobs will be eliminated due to ever-increasing automation. Combined with the number of middle-class jobs having already been lost, his vision of the future was fertile ground for planting the seeds of a “Freedom Dividend”.

His presidential bid provided him a national platform and the name recognition to continue having an impact. As he told supporters after dropping out of the presidential race, “Together we will continue to do the work and move this country forward, because the Yang Gang isn’t going anywhere.”

While such a proclamation might be considered standard fare for the usual politician, Andrew Yang was not a politician. He had never held public office. Was it just something one says to comfort the foot soldiers after losing a battle?

It wasn’t long before he was in the political spotlight again, having announced that he was jumping into the race to become the next mayor of New York City. The presidential race was in the rearview mirror, but his role was still fresh in the public’s mind. He was considered an early frontrunner, but he was handicapped by COVID and a Democratic machine that rolled along unabated.

New York City used ranked choice voting in the Democratic Primary for the first time, and it turned out to be a very competitive race between Eric Adams and Kathryn Garcia. Adams, the ultimate winner, also became the de facto Mayor-elect as any Republican candidate would present token opposition at best in the general election. That being the case, over one million independent New Yorkers and every Republican were virtually denied a voice. Regardless of which party dominates a particular area, that is no way to foster a sense of true representation in any election.

Would his failed bid to become Mayor of New York City be the last we heard of Andrew Yang? No.

It wasn’t long before he announced he was becoming an independent, publishing a new book, and forming the Forward Party. When I heard the news, I was excited that someone like him was joining our club, but I also had reservations. I wanted to know more.

I began following him on Twitter and, after hearing him speak on several podcasts, I bought his book. Thankfully, I was then prepared to help counter the backlash. It was swift and unrelenting in those early days following the announcement. He was branded a traitor and accused of wanting to spoil elections for Democrats. Third parties had no place in American politics. Obviously, these folks had not read his book or listened to the numerous interviews where he prioritized the need for electoral reforms.

I don’t know how many times I posted quotes from his book in response to someone attacking him on Twitter. It was exhausting, but I wasn’t alone in pushing back against detractors. There were many others willing to join the fight in defense of a new way “forward”.

I have referred to Andrew as the “James Brown” of politics. For the past few months, there seemed to be a new interview almost daily. In those interviews, he always made a point of acknowledging those who came before him but, in my opinion, he is currently the hardest working man in the electoral reform movement. When you’re hot, you’re hot.

I welcome Andrew to the fight and thank him for agreeing to join the book club for a discussion about his ongoing efforts. May we all feel a little sexier in the months and years to come.

I know, the plumbing of democracy is not sexy. But fixing things is sexy.”

Yang, Andrew. Forward (p. xvii). Crown. Kindle Edition.

Steve Hough is a lifelong independent and became an activist for political reform after retiring as an accountant. He is the director of Florida Fair and Open Primaries.

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Join us Wednesday, January 12th
at 3pm EDT
For the Politics for the People
and Open Primaries Virtual Discussion
With Forward Author Andrew Yang
CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

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