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.

***

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!

***

Andrew Yang’s Third-Party Aspirations

In the Oct 21st, 2021 issue of the New Yorker, Isaac Chotiner sat down with Andrew Yang to discuss his vision for the Forward Party. We hope you will give this Q&A a read, and be sure to join Politics for The People and Open Primaries on January 12th at 3 pm ET for a virtual discussion with Andrew Yang. You can CLICK HERE TO RSVP!

By Isaac Chotiner
October 21, 2021

The entrepreneur turned politician makes the case for his new project, the Forward Party.

Andrew Yang, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has never held elected office, became a household name when he ran for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 Presidential election. After dropping out of the race in February, 2020, he set his sights on the mayoralty of New York City, and briefly led the Democratic primary polls before losing the nomination to Eric Adams. This month, Yang declared his next pivot. As he published a new book, called Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy, he announced that he is starting the Forward Party, which he hopes will break the “duopoly” dominating American politics.

Forward is both an account of Yang’s campaigns and a manifesto for his new party, which he believes should focus on advancing structural changes to the political system, such as open primaries and ranked-choice voting, and on lessening extreme partisanship. “Energy and passion won’t accomplish anything if all efforts are pitted in opposition to each other and the political system is designed to reward inertia,” Yang writes. “It’s the system itself that needs to be amended.” He also assures voters that they can maintain their current affiliations while joining his new party: “There will be Forward Democrats and progressives, Forward Republicans and conservatives, Forward independents and unaligned, and so on.”

I recently spoke with Yang by phone about his new book and his plans for the Forward Party. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we also discussed what he learned from running for office, how you can be a Democrat or a Republican and a member of his new party, and whether a third party can help American democracy.

You write about what being a politician does to your head. Can you talk more about that?

I started running for President as a relatively anonymous civilian, and that had some struggles attendant to it. I would say, “Hey, I’m running for President,” and people would say, “Of what?” or something similarly dubious. Then we gained steam and momentum, and the entire organization sprang up around me. In that environment, you wind up being something of an instrument, where people will say, “Hey, now you’re going to do this interview. Now we’re doing this event. Now call this person.” It’s a massive adjustment for, I would say, just about anyone.

I tried to say in the book that these experiences are probably not conducive to the development of a lot of the qualities that we want in leaders. I think most people would agree that the level of scrutiny that attends this process is probably discouraging a lot of excellent people from running. I think it’s more likely to impact certain groups that are probably going to be subject to even more scrutiny—women come to mind for me.

I also thought you were hinting in the book that it does things to your ego and makes you think of yourself in a certain way.

What I was hinting at is that it would make you a much worse manager. Your function is to get in front of a TV camera all the time. You’re probably not being super attentive to the needs of your team or figuring out what the interpersonal dynamics are. When I ran an organization, I spent a lot of time, for example, interviewing every hire. When you’re a candidate, people get hired in various locations and you meet them after the fact. I think that the process of running will end up eroding both management skills and empathy, and turn people more into avatars where they’re serving their new marketplace, and the new marketplace is going to be a set of TV cameras.

When you look back on your run for mayor of New York, what do you think your campaign got right and what do you think it got wrong?

I think, early on, we got right that a lot of New Yorkers wanted to be able to enjoy our city and wanted a degree of positivity in reopening. Then, as the campaign progressed, the focus turned much more to public safety, which wasn’t something that people associated with me. We’re very proud of the fact that we got more individual donors than any other candidate in history.

The book puts forward a lot of ideas, like ending the revolving door in Washington, and introducing an “American Scorecard” that would measure “societal health” in ways that go beyond economic indicators. More broadly, what is it that the Forward Party would accomplish?

The Forward Party is trying to realign our representatives’ incentives to line up more with ours, the general public, rather than the most extreme and activated partisans, who right now have disproportionate influence on whether someone is going to come back to office. One senator said to me something that I think maybe we’ve sensed, which is that issues are sometimes more valuable to a political party if they’re unresolved than if they’re resolved. What she meant by this is that if you have an unresolved issue, then you can get people very angry or excited about it. You can get people to donate to fight the other side. If you were to resolve it, then those catalysts go away. In this environment, because extremity is so disproportionate, you’ll actually probably pay a price if you compromise. Those are the incentives as they currently exist, and they’re driving us crazy.

You use the word “duopoly” in the book. When I hear that word, I associate it with Ralph Nader, who used it to say that the two parties were too close together ideologically. Are you saying that they’re too close together ideologically?

I think that there are different issues attendant to each party. It is a little bit overly simplistic to just say, “Hey, the extreme dominates,” because it makes it seem like it’s symmetrical, and it’s not precisely symmetrical.

Not precisely.

I do have a different critique, which I think is suggesting that corporations have undue influence over both parties. When I talk about the duopoly, in many ways I’m talking about the structural fragility of the system that we have. If you wanted to make a system that was resistant to authoritarianism, you would have more than two parties, definitively. Our Founding Fathers were anti-partisan. John Adams expressly feared two great parties that would just clash and clash. If you do have only two parties and one of them succumbs to authoritarian leadership, then there are very, very few safeguards, because the incentives are for everyone in that party to fall in line. If you wanted a more resilient system, you would have five political parties, or seven political parties. Then, if one party succumbed to terrible leadership, it’s a problem, but it’s not an existential problem the way it could be here in the U.S.

If, as you say, one party were to succumb to authoritarianism—and we do have a two-party system, which, at least for the moment, is not capable of being changed—would there be some danger of weakening support for the non-authoritarian party?

I think that there are these two tracks one could be pursuing. One would be electoral success, in the way that we currently look at it, and then the other would be institutional improvements and a strengthening of the system to make it more resilient, sustainable, and genuinely lowercase-“d” democratic.

I believe that the second path is imperative, and that’s why the Forward Party is going to be pushing for open primaries and ranked-choice voting in various states in 2022—to try and unlock more of our leaders from their incentives. This is not hypothetical. If you look at Senator Lisa Murkowski, in Alaska, she was the only Republican senator who voted to impeach Donald Trump and who is also up for reëlection next year. Her approval rating among Alaskan Republicans stands around ten per cent. This is a clear sign of why Republicans are so loath to defy Trump. One of the reasons why Senator Murkowski made this decision, in my view, is that Alaska last year got rid of the closed-party primary and now has a top-four primary and ranked-choice voting, where Senator Murkowski can take her case directly to the Alaskan public. That gives her a fighting chance. If we were to do that in more states around the country, you would see many more legislators act independent of party leadership, and that could be the difference between democracy surviving and civil unrest.

You say in the book that democracy “hangs by a thread,” referring to the 50–50 Senate. You seem to be implying that, if the Senate were in Republican hands, then democracy would be endangered. If democracy is hanging by a thread, if Democrats are barely in control, then it almost seems like insuring that Democrats remain in control is crucial. I wasn’t sure how the Forward Party fits into that.

The Forward Party’s mission is to try to reduce the perverse incentives that are threatening to tear the country apart. Again, I think that there are different approaches one could take, but I do think that far too little attention is being paid to reforming our institutions so that they are more genuinely representative and less subject to authoritarian impulses. I do remember that part in the book, and the fact that our government is right now so evenly split is to me a sign of just how tenuous things are.

What do you mean?

I understand what you’re driving at, Isaac. I obviously went to Georgia to try to help win those Senate seats. I believe that Democrats having control of the government would enable us to solve problems in a very difficult time for the country.

You say in the book that you could be a member of the Forward Party and a Democrat, or a member of the Forward Party and a Republican. Can you say more about how that would work?

Well, if you were to say to someone right now, “Hey, switch your party registration,” you’re asking them to potentially disenfranchise themselves in much of the country. We’re very practical. It’s a popular, inclusive movement. If you think that we need to reduce the polarization in our country and improve the incentives that our leaders are subject to, you should rally around open primaries and ranked-choice voting, and elevate candidates and officials who are for this upgrade. I feel like many Democrats would be very excited about this, as many Republicans would be excited about this. The state that has already implemented this is a red state, Alaska. This is an inclusive, popular movement that will require people of every political alignment.

So the idea would be to get Democrats and Republicans to sign up for the Forward Party’s agenda, not to run candidates in the Forward Party to challenge Democrats and Republicans?

Having someone run on the Forward Party line would be deeply impractical in the vast majority of districts around the country. We’re going to be supporting candidates who support these principles. I’m sure the vast majority of them are going to be running as Democrats or Republicans, because that’s much more realistic.

You talked earlier about the incentives in our current politics to be extreme. I’m wondering whether you think that that’s true of the Democratic Party. If you look at the last three Democratic Presidents, you have Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. If you look at the person you lost to in New York, Eric Adams, he is nobody’s idea of a radical leftist or someone who’s on the extreme in American politics. It seems to me that the Democratic Party, by and large, is still choosing candidates firmly within the mainstream. Do you sense that that’s not true?

I think, when you have a big race that’s nationwide, certain candidates still command a bigger share of the vote. The incentives that I describe in the book extend beyond the political incentives. It’s also the fact that we have cable news channels that have separated us out into ideological camps, and then social media pours gasoline on the whole thing and makes inflammatory content much more attention-grabbing and rewarding. One of the things I found in my campaign that we’re all familiar with now is that the most effective fund-raising e-mails from political groups are the alarmist ones, that act like the world is going to end if you don’t give them ten or twenty dollars right now.

You say that democracy “hangs by a thread.” I may agree with you, but that’s pretty alarmist, right?

You were asking about whether you have incentives to be a bit more sensational, and I would say yes, of course you do. I happen to believe that alarm is warranted right now. If you look up, you see that we can’t take anything for granted. One of the things I’m saying to folks on my podcast or book tour is that at this point in American life everything is on the table. What I mean by that is that whatever dystopian nightmare scenario you can think of, you should think that that’s a real possibility. Anyone who doubts that just needs to rewind to events of the past months, and realize that we’ve already been subject to events and scenes that would have been unthinkable just a few months prior. We should be regarding this as an all-hands-on-deck situation, where nothing is taken for granted.

You have said that thinking the other side is evil is bad. You also say that the Republican Party has brought us to the precipice of a real democratic emergency. How do you reach those people?

Almost seventy-five million people voted for Donald Trump, including family members of mine. The first mistake in my mind is to somehow lump such a massive group of people into a particular ideological mold. The fact is, if you sit down with people, they have very, very different perspectives and outlooks. One of the things that I’ve found in my thousands of conversations with Americans of every alignment, in small towns and big cities, is that if you approach someone and you’re not using coded language, and you present your ideas in a way that’s genuinely open, then people will give you a hearing.

One of the core values of the Forward Party is grace and tolerance. We’re not here to judge you or demonize you. Our enemy isn’t other Americans. Our enemy is a system that’s going to turn us against one another. There are a lot of Republicans who hear that and say, “That’s exactly what I’d wanted someone to express to me.” If we get beyond the current opposing camps, you can reach people of every background.

How do you think Joe Biden is doing as President?

I think Joe has done what he could. I think he’s taking a lot of heat for things that weren’t necessarily in his control. It’s just a tough time in America, and a lot of people are struggling and suffering, and I think there’s going to be a difficult position for a lot of folks who are in charge of various institutions that Americans feel aren’t able to deliver. That problem is, in some ways, bigger than Joe.

You write, “Our systems won’t amend themselves. The need for real change is clear, but change won’t come easily. The time to build anew is now.” How should people who hear rhetoric like that differentiate it from all the other rhetoric that they hear, which is very similar? I know you say this is a new party, a third party, but it also sounds a lot like what Americans are used to hearing.

We’re trying to get people focussed on the system itself and whether it’s set up to line up with our interests, or whether it’s arranged in a way that’s going to turn us against one another. I think that’s the big difference with the Forward Party, the sense that it’s the system itself that needs to be restored and rejuvenated. Just a process change to open primaries and ranked-choice voting would make legislators more reasonable and rational overnight. This is a movement to try and make America more reasonable and reasoned. Right now, unfortunately, no one’s rewarded for that. We’re getting rewarded for making people crazier and turning us against one another.

As you say, “Let’s move this country of ours, the one we love and will leave to our children, forward.”

I’m a parent, and I’m not proud of the country we’re leaving to our kids.

And so your advice to people is: stay a Republican or stay a Democrat but also join the Forward Party?

Yeah, that’s right. If you are not in one of those two parties and you wanted some new party to emerge, open primaries and ranked-choice voting can make it much more possible.

Do you guys take positions on issues such as gay marriage and abortion?

Well, we have six big principles that we champion: open primaries and ranked-choice voting, universal basic income, fact-based governance, a human-centered economy, a modern and effective government, and grace and tolerance. We’re all human, we’re all in this together. Those are the big principles.

So people who are sick of the normal political rhetoric should know about this six-point plan and try to move the country forward?

Amen. Let’s do it. We don’t have unlimited time.

***

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!

***

Why your representatives don’t represent you – On Yang Speaks

On October 29th, Andrew Yang sat down with The Politics Industry author Katherine Gehl on the podcast Yang Speaks. They discussed the lack of connection between our elected officials serving the public interest and getting re-elected; Gehl and Porter’s application of business principles to politics; and the latest innovations in political reform. Gehl received a 2021 Anti-Corruption Award from Independent Voting and is the founder of the Institute for Political Innovation.

Watch the full interview in the video below.

And if you would like to learn more about Katherine Gehl and The Politics Industry, check out the Politics for the People conversation with her here.

***

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!

***

Andrew Yang: Why he’s quit the Democratic Party to launch Forward Party, discusses new book

On October 18th, Andrew Yang appeared on the Bay Area’s local ABC7 News program Getting Answers to discuss political polarization, open primaries, ranked choice voting and third-party politics. Watch the interview and read the accompanying article below.

By Kristen Sze • October 22, 2021

When he joined [Getting Answers], Yang said it’s time for a middle-ground, common sense viable third party that represents the majority of Americans. He believes our current system and election process are producing more partisan candidates and widening our political polarization.

“The only way we’re going to get the polarization under control is if we change up the two-party dynamic that right now is leading to dysfunction and clashes. Eventually it’s going to lead to unrest, and even conflict and violence. So my goal now as the founder of the Forward Party is to present a new way forward that’ll actually enable different points of view to emerge, and make it so it’s not a zero sum game anymore.”

The Forward Party advocates for open primaries and ranked-choice voting as solutions. Yang points out that Congressional members are re-elected at a 92% rate despite consistently low approval ratings for the legislative body. He cites the growth of “safe” districts as a problem. 83% of districts are currently very red or very blue, and members’ job security “is centered around trying to please the most partisan voters in their district and their community… To win a ranked-choice voting election, I need to be on it 50.1% people’s ballots. If I cater to the extreme, I’m probably going to turn off someone else. It should diminish negative campaigning and make coalition-building more of a norm.” Yang praises California for having open primaries, as well as the use of ranked-choice voting in some of our elections, including Bay Area mayoral races.

In addition to election reform, Yang’s Forward Party advocates for “human-centered capitalism,” built around enacting a federal Universal Basic Income. Giving every American adult $1,000 a month was Yang’s main issue as a presidential candidate, and he continues to believe that is one way to include everyone in an increasingly automated, high-tech economy. Yang says the current employment-related benefits incentivize Americans to not work, since working would reduce or remove those benefits.

The Forward Party is current a political action committee, but it’s seeking Federal Election Commission recognition as an official political party. Yang says the Forward party will support candidates aligned with the platform whether they are currently Republican or Democrat, hoping to eventually run candidates under the Forward banner. He says his not worried about playing spoiler, as in siphoning off votes from one dominant party and handing the victory to the other dominant party. That is a traditional argument against third parties, and usually works against Democrats. But Yang says ranked-choice voting would mitigate that problem, and allow multiple parties to develop and thrive in the U.S., like in some European countries.

***

Please 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!

***

Special event with Andrew Yang, co-hosted by Open Primaries

Everything You Want to Know About Andrew Yang
& the Forward Party

*But the Pundits, Politicians and Parties Hope You Won’t Ask

On Wednesday, January 12th, Politics for the People will be co-hosting Open Primaries’ first Virtual Discussion event of 2022 – a conversation with Former Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang.

Yang has recently left the Democratic Party, started the Forward Party and started to advocate for structural political reform.


Now that I’m not a member of one party or another, I feel like I can be even more honest about both the system and the people in it.”

Andrew Yang

Yang has made it very clear that open primaries and ranked choice voting should be top priorities.

Please join us Wednesday, January 12th at 3pm EDT where our co-hosts, Open Primaries President John Opdycke and Politics for the People Founder Cathy Stewart welcome Andrew Yang to the growing independent political reform movement and do a deep dive into all things Andrew Yang. Grab a copy of FORWARD: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy today and bring your questions on January 12th.

You don’t want to miss this special edition of Politics for the People!
Register here today!

The 20th Annual Anti-Corruption Awards

On October 25th, Independent Voting hosted the 20th Annual Anti-Corruption Awards.

The hour long program also shines a spotlight on the growth and power of the independent voter at a moment when 41% of Americans refuse to define themselves through the political parties.

The event honored three significant innovators in the political arena — Each challenging the status quo in creative ways:

Katherine M. Gehl of The Institute for Political Innovation (IPI), Farhad Mohit of The Good Party and Gaby Cardenas of the Colibri Collective.

You can watch the full event below:

If you would like to donate to Independent Voting’s annual fundraiser, please go to independentvoting.org/donate.

If you want to stay connected with Independent Voting, go to independentvoting.org/newsletter-contact to join our mailing list and subscribe to our newsletter, The Hub.

And if you would like to take part in our leadership programs, please email national@independentvoting.org!

The 20th Annual Anti-Corruption Awards and a message from Frank Fear!

Please join Politics for the People host and founder Cathy Stewart for Independent Voting’s 20th Annual Anti-Corruption Awards!

Co-hosted by Stewart and independent activist Amikka Burl, this virtual event will be an inside look into the 45% of Americans who refuse to define themselves through the political parties, and the groundbreakers giving a voice to these independent voters.

Cathy Stewart
Amikka Burl

Tune in for this virtual event Monday, October 25th at 6pm ET to hear the new conversations and see the new activities and campaigns that are challenging the status quo of American politics from the organization that is winning recognition and respect for the independent voter.

The event will also present three Anti-Corruption awards, Cathy Stewart explains:

For twenty years the Anti-Corruption Awards have honored groundbreakers and change-makers in independent and reform politics. Some were famous, some were infamous, and some were people who never made headlines, but who made all the difference. This year, we’re honoring three outstanding innovators who are taking our movement to the next level.”

Amikka also shared her excitement for the event:

This virtual event is a fundraiser, so we’ll be asking folks to give to support this movement. And it’s also a spirit raiser. We all know that if you turn on the TV or check out social media, you see a lot of negative political commentary that goes nowhere and does nothing for our country. But, if you tune into our event, the Anti-Corruption Awards, you will see Americans working together from all walks of life to build something new, beautiful, and strong. So, we want everyone to tune in!

Register here!

The Anti-Corruption Awards will premier a new video —

What does America need to know about independents?

Independent Voting’s video was produced using dozens of videos submitted by independent activists and independent minded thought leaders from across the country. Frank Fear, professor emeritus, Michigan State University, shares his response with us below:

REGISTER TODAY for October 25th’s Anti-Corruption Awards!

2034 – A Politics for the People conversation with Authors Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis

On Thursday, August 12th, people from across the country joined Politics for the People host Cathy Stewart for a conversation with Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis, authors of 2034: A Novel of the Next World War.

You can watch the full video below:

Cathy kicks off the discussion with a question for Admiral Stavridis about the book’s origins:

Let me kick us off with a question for you, Admiral, about the origins of 2034. How did the collaboration with Elliot come about and why did you decide to tackle the fault lines in US-China foreign policy through a novel?”

Admiral Stavridis points to his love of literature and it’s potential to deter future conflict for an answer:

Yeah, I get the question a lot. You know, ‘You’ve written nine books of non-fiction. Why all of a sudden have you decided you’re a novelist?’…I’m an aficionado of cold war literature…because I felt if we could imagine how terrible a war would have been between the US and the Soviet Union, we had a better chance of avoiding it – it kind of acted in a deterrent kind of way. So reflecting on that, Cathy, it occurred to me that there’s really no comparative body of literature about how terrible a war between the US and China would be. And unfortunately, I think we are clearly finding our way in at least a cold war with China…”

To expand more on the origins of the authors’ collaboration, Elliot steps in:

…we share an editor at Penguin Press, a fellow named Scott Moyers, and so Scott came to me with this idea that the Admiral had had. And I don’t think he understood that the two of us had known each other for the better part of a decade and were already friends. When Jim was Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, He invited me to serve as the writer in residence for a semester…And so we started talking about this project – very quickly, we realized that, you know, we were aligned in what we wanted this book to be…It’s a lean book and, and it’s focused on a few principle characters…”


Cathy’s next question touches on the subject of independents, both in 2034 and 2021:

One thing I was struck by in the book that I wanted to ask you both about is the president is a woman and an independent, and I wanted to ask you why those choices, and also to comment on a growing trend…the trend towards independence among our veterans. Right now, 45% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans are identifying as independents. Why do you think that is and why the choice to have the president be both a woman and an independent?”

Admiral Stavridis offers his experience with the shift in people’s views of the two party system and his feelings on what that means for the future:

The choice of a woman was not even really a choice. I think I’d be shocked if we don’t have a woman president by 2034, the more carefully thought through choice was to make her an independent. And I, I had that idea from the very beginning, it aligned with Elliot’s views of things. I have two daughters in their late twenties, early thirties, millennials. They look at both political parties and they just shake their heads…We didn’t start out with Republicans and Democrats. We started with Federalists, wigs, independence. You know, it was a hodgepodge of political parties, took us almost a hundred years to really firmly solidify the grip that these two parties, in my view, unfortunately have on the political systems. And as a result, it’s going to take a while to undo that grip efforts like those represented by this group, I think are extremely important. So making her an independent was a foreshadowing of something I firmly believe will unfold probably by mid-century or so – we’re going to find our way to thinking very differently about a political process that I think most on this call would agree is almost irretrievably broken.”

Elliot offers his own experience with partisanship in the military:

…the observation that an increasing number of military veterans identify as independents, to me, that is not surprising. Politics is culture and in the military, you’re reared in, I would say a different – if even a subculture of American society and it is a culture that is very intentionally nonpolitical in that individuals are welcome to have their politics – and of course do have their politics as they should – but are taught that politics and partisanship are not first and foremost in the pursuit of the collective good necessarily, and that we suspend those beliefs to work towards a higher purpose. So I think after whether it’s four years or 40 years of inhabiting that culture, it then becomes very intuitive to take that way being that way of citizenship and have it extended to you in in civilian life. So to me, it’s no surprise that you see a high a high correlation between independence and veterans existence.”


And finally, Stewart asks:

What do you hope that readers will take away from 2034?”

Admiral Stavridis opens up with his hopes for the readers’ impressions of the book:

…my hope is that people will say, ‘This is a cautionary tale. This is what we don’t want to happen.’ And then they will begin to think more seriously about ‘How do we avoid it?’ How do we reverse engineer ourselves back from the calamitous year we described in 2034 and avoid sleepwalking, stumbling into a war with China?…The other echo you ought to get in this book is 1914, The Guns of August – Barbara Tuchman’s magisterial treatment of how Europe, which had all these intertwined economies, royal families related by blood, and yet they managed to stumble into [an] apocalyptic war that killed 20 million people…The world really spins on this axis, so we don’t want this. So how do we avoid it? And we don’t have time to unpackage all that, but I’ll simply say we need a strategy. We need a strategy for interacting in dealing with China. That is not premised on military dominance – cause that’s not gonna work. Nor is it premised on economic imperialism – that’s not gonna work. It’s not going to be strictly premised on waving our hands and saying ‘We’re just better because we’re Democrats and libertarians, and we have freedom in our society.’ That’s not gonna work. We need a clever nuanced strategy to face up to China. If we don’t, I fear we’re going to stumble right in the direction of 2034.”

Elliot then adds that he hopes the readers take the experiences of the characters in the book with them:

I would only add that as a novelist, I hope you walk away caring about these five characters and you feel like you spend a bunch of time with them and you know them – this story ends differently for each of them, some better, some worse. So I hope you remember what happens to them…And then I would only add to that as a reader, you’re walking, you’re taking that journey with them, and this kind of goes to your, your comment before Cathy about veterans and political independence. There’s something that that’s really struck me many years ago was when I first went to war when I went to Iraq, and I remember we flew over there. I led a platoon of about 45 Marines…there are a number of a handful of Marines who had never been on an airplane before. So their first airplane ride in my platoon was to go to Iraq. But then there were many more, obviously, who’d never left the country before. And so if you’ve never left the country before, and your first experience with foreign countries is a war in Iraq, I think for many veterans it’s a jarring experience, but in some ways, something good that comes out of that is it’s a very stark reminder that the nice life we enjoy in America, despite our dysfunction, needs to be earned. And 2034 is creating an alternate reality that’s very frightening, but there are many realities of how countries behave and reform that are there, you know, right outside of our borders, if we allow ourselves to get too dysfunctional. And so, again, for veterans, I think we often understand this intuitively because we’ve had these very formative experiences of going and trying to do something good in those countries, even when it doesn’t work out perfectly. And so I think, you know, if you’re going to read the book 2034, whether you’ve traveled all over the world or you’ve never left the United States before, I hope it gives you a glimpse into an alternate reality that we should be doing everything we can to avoid – and is avoidable.”


Cathy then opens up the discussion to Q&A questions from participants – the first of which comes from Dennis Flaherty in Arizona.

Gentlemen, it’s my honor, as an air force retiree, to be able to participate in this discussion. My question is, what should our response be when so-called ransomware attacks are suspected of being the camel’s nose, probing our cyber defenses?”

Admiral Stavridis takes the lead on this answer, saying:

…First of all, there is a national level response to not just ransomware, but these probes that are coming at us and therefore the National Security Agency, US Cyber Command and other government entities have a very strong responsibility to do everything they can to attribute these attacks. Secondly, when they can be successfully attributed, we need to begin by publicizing where they’re coming from. So most recently we’ve seen a spate of these coming from Russia, typically from criminal gangs that are operating with at a minimum, the acquiescence of the Putin government, probably with their encouragement. So we need to identify them. Number three, we need to respond nationally…Without getting into classification, I’ll simply say the US government has the ability to respond the trickier part of this…And your question implies it correctly is whether or not we then ought to have a kind of reckoning with the government. I’ll close on this by saying private companies have a responsibility here as well to protect themselves, to ensure they’re using good cyber hygiene to take advantage of firms that can provide tools to the individual companies because the threat surface is so vast here that the us government isn’t going to be able to prevent every attack. That ought to be private, public cooperation, both sides have to work together on that.”


The next question comes from Bob Perls in New Mexico.

As a former US diplomat, I agree that we’ve seen the state department’s influence reduced over the years. I’d love to hear the two authors’ thoughts about whether you think the balance between defense and Department of State needs to be better aligned – more in balance in the future – to avoid a 2034 scenario, or do you think it’s much more complex than that? What are your takes about the influence of state versus the Pentagon?”

Elliot leads the discussion, tapping into his military experience to address the question:

I would say in my experience representing and serving in the US military overseas, very often on the ground in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, young, on the ground troops were being asked to shoulder civic responsibilities at the local level that typically, one would imagine, would be handled by civilian agencies. And in many regards, you would see infantry men or special operations doing an admirable job starting a waterworks program or managing a road construction program. But these are not necessarily the things that they signed up – the missions they signed up to perform. So there was a lot of sort of ad hoc work going on. Now, the question then begins, do we need to make our state department more robust and give it kind of more granular tactical development capabilities? And I think there certainly is room for that, and I think there is definitely a downside in having the first and most forward facing portion of US engagement, in many places, be our military. I think anywhere we can have the face of America not necessarily be our military is probably a good thing because it is a less intimidating face.”

Admiral Stavridis concurs and adds his own remarks:

Could not agree more…Let me quote, Bob Gates, secretary of defense, former director of the CIA, one of my life mentors. Bob Gates was fond of pointing out that we have more people in military bands than we do foreign service officers. What’s wrong with that picture in my view? Quite a bit. Or my, my friend and contemporary general, later secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, who often said, ‘Look, if you don’t spend the money on diplomacy and development, you’re going to end up buying me more ammunition.’ And so here, I like to use the analogy that we’re all kind of familiar with, which is medicine, between soft power and hard power. So hard power, the use of the military instrument, is like at the end game in medicine – it’s when you have let things go, or you’ve been struck by a terrible disease and you have to undergo a difficult operation. The road to recovery is long. The chances of success are uneven. You really don’t want to be in that world. Over here, soft power, which is diplomacy and development…This is preventative care. This is taking a baby aspirin every day. This is taking a walk every day…It doesn’t cost very much. It’s not very painful to do it. It’s actually quite enjoyable and it is so effective. So cost-effective. So the point here Bob is yes, I would say take some resources…take it out of the hard power side of the equation and get it over here on the very soft power, highly cost-effective side of the equation. And as you deeply appreciate, it’s not just diplomacy it’s development to different things. Let me close by saying, I don’t want to imply that you don’t need hard power…You’re going to need hard power at times. But that long game combines them both – hard power and soft power together. That’s smart power as some have called it. I’m a strong proponent of finding that balance. We don’t have it right at the moment.”


Tiani Coleman from New Hampshire asks:

My question is related to this idea that I, as an individual who’s not involved in national security, all I can really think of that I can do, and that we can do, is to try to be better peacemakers in our own lives…try to be the kind of people who always want to bring about a peaceful solution in our own lives to try to create a culture of peace. But as your book suggests, things can turn south very quickly and we don’t have time to slowly create a better culture of peace. We have to know what we can do immediately. So I’m wondering, what can be done immediately to…try to avert this type of disaster? And in asking that question, I’d just like to point out Sarah Hunt, for example – she was actually portrayed as a very likable character of high integrity in my view, although she was also at the center of this and…made decisions that apparently caused a lot of this, some of them without her really even realizing what she was doing…what else would you have someone like her do differently?”

Admiral Stavridis gives the first answer to her question:

First of all, I resonate to your point that there’s a long game being played here of developing a culture that’s smart enough to avoid war. And that’s important both here in the United States, in China, in Russia, all around the world. And obviously we’re still falling into wars and there are conflicts all around, but compared to the 20th century, the 21st century is unfolding in, in my view, a somewhat better way then it did a hundred years ago when the world, literally, found itself sleepwalking into a war. So yes, there’s a cultural component to this, I would say…The immediate thing you can be doing is voting for candidates who make sense to you…I think the ballot box is a very strong place that all of us can register a desire for the kind of leadership that we want and need in the country.”

He then develops on his answer in regards to the choices Sarah Hunt makes in the book:

In terms of Sarah Hunt, yeah, she makes several crucial mistakes in the beginning of the book and later on. And so does Sandy Choudhry, the national security advisor in Washington DC. And the reason is because they’re human and humans make mistakes and mistakes lead to miscalculations from the other side…But that spark, that miscalculation, that human mistake, can we avoid those? I think we can help avoid those by how we train, in this military context that we’re discussing, how we train our military, how we train our diplomats, how we train Americans who go abroad in the service of the nation – their training, their experiences have to include mechanisms that help them avoid the mistakes that Sarah Hunt tragically makes, particularly in the opening pages of the novel.”


Carl Farmer from Rhode Island asks:

I was finishing up reading Thucydides and Herodotus, who are meant to be the beginning of history or the beginning of historical recounting. And it seems in that war, which was the Peloponnesian and Persian war between Greece and Persia, basically one good guy beats up the other good guy, and then eventually becomes very powerful. But then they fail later from rotting from within, which is, I think, a point of your, your book and so forth. I wish I knew exactly how we could make this better, other than all the things that are believing in like independent voting and things like that. The other thing is my granddaughter’s reading 1984 this summer for her summer read. And it’s 50 years on for your book. So two questions, how do we keep ourselves so that we don’t fall into that age old trap? And the other thing is, was this a bit of an homage to Orwell?”

Elliot tackles the answers to these questions, stating:

…When we began working on this book…the date wasn’t 2034, and the more drafts we did actually, we were – I think we began somewhere in the 2050’s – and the more we kind of played out the scenarios, the day kind of kept coming closer and closer…And it seemed to make sense, ‘Well, what year in the 2030s will we pick?’ ‘Well, let’s pick 2034, there’s nice echoes, nice sort of apocalyptic echoes there from 1984.’ And that seemed appropriate.”

He continues:

…With regards to your reading of the Thucydides…I think that one of the interesting things that comes with studying, thinking and writing about war is as much as things change, nothing changes. And it’s this age old human enterprise that we do generation to generation. So if you want to understand humanity, in some ways you can understand us through the ways we keep engaging this enterprise excessively over, over the millennia. And when it comes to Thucydides, there’s obviously this idea of the Thucydides trap, which many of you may be familiar with, which is this pattern of what occurs when a rising power challenges and established power…And so when you come into 2034, that is sort of the construct we’ve put into the book. Established power, The United States, is challenged by rising power, China…neither of them wins…You see, there’s a third party who is really the beneficiary of this conflict…oftentimes, it’s not very good to be the one who starts a war, but you always want to be the one who finishes the war…”


The next question comes from Independent Voting’s President Jackie Salit in New York:

The issue of US China relations – it seems to me it’s becoming more and more of a political football in the country. And I wonder if you could both speak to what it is you think that the American people most misunderstand about China?”

Admiral Stavridis is the first to answer, outlining American’s attitude of dismissal towards China:

I think the American people underestimate China. I think they have this sense that China for the last several hundred years has really not been a significant international actor…And that would be a mistake for any number of reasons that are becoming increasingly obvious…I think Americans tend to underestimate – not be aware of – those collective things and kind of have a feeling that, ‘What’s the big deal with China?’ Watch out. And I don’t say that in the sense of, I’m worried that China’s going to overtake us in zoom by us on the world stage. I don’t see that happening, but I think if we consistently underestimate China, they will, over time, become a much more capable actor who can shape the international environment in ways that are not to our advantage.”

Elliot joins the conversation, taking a look at the other side of the issue:

On the flip side of that coin, I think there is a strain in American culture right now, too, that is also quick to look at China, particularly with regards to the coronavirus and our two nations respective responses, as being sort of 20 feet tall. China is not 20 feet tall…And so much of that sort of broader framing is again, this sort of question of what are the most effective means of government and the most effective means of unlocking collective human potential? Is it through directing it in an authoritarian way, or is it through creating a system that allows individuals to flourish and focuses on the individuals?…And it seems as though, you know, we’re entering into that type of a conflict, not necessarily a military conflict, but a real conflict of thinking and conflict of ideas again. And I think, once again, the United States will be on the vanguard of trying to prove that a liberal world order is the one we should all be embracing.”

Admiral Stavridis jumps in to add one final thought:

…Can our ideas compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, gender equality, racial equality? Look, we execute them imperfectly. They’re the right values, can they compete on the international stage? And you know, people sometimes say to me, ‘You know, Admiral you’re right, it’s a war of ideas.’ No, it’s a marketplace of ideas. We’ve got to compete. We’ve got to recognize that China is very capably creating a narrative that says ‘A much better system for your country is a streamlined system of governance with the power of capitalism harnessed to it. Look at how America is falling apart because Republicans and Democrats can’t get together and solve problems.’ …That’s the narrative they’re putting out. We better have the counter narrative…We’ve got to construct the arguments to compete because it is not self-evident around the world that we’re the right answer anymore.”


The next question comes from Reed Flory, who asks:

What, optimally, should our future military look like?”

Admiral Stavridis responds:

We should invest more in cyber, both defensive and offensive. We should invest more in hypersonic cruise missiles…We should invest more in unmanned vehicles from space to the bottom of the ocean, because unmanned vehicles are not tethered to human endurance…We need more maritime platforms because that’s where these conflicts going forward, I think are going to be centered. And I would argue we need more special operations, more elite human teams to operate all of those systems…You’re not going, just get rid of all the aircraft carriers, get rid of every tank, get rid of third-generation fighter pilots. You’re going to still need some of those systems, but we ought to be spending more on the systems that I outlined a moment ago.”

Elliot brings the conversation back to the previous topic of history, adding:

We talked a little bit about history, and one of the themes in the book I hope comes across is it’s not just enough to have the latest and best technology, you gotta have the right technology…we, the United States, need to be very careful as we invest in our legacy platforms…that we’re not investing in the wrong technology.”


Our final question is from Harry Kresky in New York, who directs his question to Admiral Stavridis:

It’s not every day that an Admiral writes a book about history, future, politics. What kind of pushback, if any, have you gotten, Admiral?”

Admiral Stavridis acknowledges the feedback he’s received, responding:

I’ve gotten positive feedback from a wide variety of folks. I asked my team to look for other admirals who’ve written novels, and there are a handful, and most of them are historical fiction. I think I’m the first Admiral to write a book about future fiction. So we’ll put that one in the record book, but at least so far.”

%d bloggers like this: