What is CUIP & IndependentVoting.org and what is its mission?
We are a national strategy, communications, and organizing center working to connect and empower the 40% of Americans who identify themselves as independents. (See: Activist Center, DVD, The Neo-Independent magazine, and Talk/Talk).
Our mission is to develop a movement of independent voters for progressive post-partisan reform of the American political process.
We do not aspire to be another special interest. Independents seek instead to diminish the regressive influence of parties and partisanship by opening up the democratic process. Independents in the CUIP networks are creating new electoral coalitions such as the Black and Independent Alliance, supporting new models of nonpartisan governance and striving for the broadest forms of “bottom-up” participation.
Independents played a decisive role in the nomination and subsequent election of President Barack Obama, whose call for a transformation of the old political culture reflected the values of many independents. More than 19 million independents – roughly the same number as voted for Ross Perot in 1992 – chose to vote for Obama in 2008. The independent movement's shift away from the politics of the right-of-center Texas billionaire Perot to the left-of-center Obama was propelled, in part, by CUIP’s grassroots activism. (See "How the Independent Movement Went Left by Going Right")
Yet independents who backed Obama did not become Democrats. As the Pew Research Center reported in May of 2009, since the 2008 presidential election the number of independents is continuing to rise.
With the size of the independent voting bloc growing, the barriers that limit independent participation have become even more glaring.
What barriers do independents face?
Closed primaries, which exclude independents from the crucial first round of voting, is one major structural obstacle to a vigorous democracy. (See www.OpenPrimaries.org) Another obstacle is partisan control of redistricting, whereby state legislators – Republicans and Democrats all – carve up their state’s districts to guarantee the election of party-sanctioned candidates, using the power of partisan legislatures to support the status quo. Discriminatory ballot access requirements that are heavily biased against independent and third-party candidates, and the exclusion of such candidates from the nationally televised presidential debates jointly sponsored by the two major parties, are other obstacles. State laws that ban fusion and citizens’ initiative and referendum distance independents and all voters from the policy-making process.
Why do independent voters need a voice?
Although the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of political parties – and although George Washington warned us to beware of them in his Farewell Address to the nation – the major parties conflate their own institutional priorities and interests with those of our government. They operate a virtually closed system in which they make all the rules; independents have no representation on any of the bodies that regulate elections, from the Federal Elections Commission to state and local boards of elections. The rules are largely designed to keep out competition and to sustain the power of the parties themselves. Without traditional partisan allegiances and with a recognition that nonpartisan politics produces the best public policy, independents are singularly positioned to drive meaningful reform of the electoral process.
What is CUIP & IndependentVoting.org's political reform agenda?
CUIP works to bring about the structural reforms that will allow the American people to participate more directly in the political and policymaking process. (See You Can’t Change the Political Game Unless You Change the Political Rules)
Why does CUIP / IndependentVoting.org have two names?
CUIP (Committee for a Unified Independent Party) grows out of our origins in the organized independent political movement, where we continue to work across ideological and organizational boundaries to bring independents and third parties together. IndependentVoting.org, CUIP’s online presence, reflects our focus on grassroots organizing of unorganized and unaffiliated independent voters.
What is CUIP & IndependentVoting.org's history?
CUIP was founded in 1994 by veteran community organizers and third-party activists whose progressivism took an unusual form: in place of by-the-book adherence to ideology or a program of traditional issues, we sought to create new kinds of partnerships for new kinds of reform. The short-lived national Reform Party, which CUIP leaders helped to found, was one product of that enterprise, a left-center-right coalition linking the “radical white center” with voters in communities of color who were becoming increasingly independent. (See "How the Independent Movement Went Left by Going Right")
What is fusion and why does CUIP & IndependentVoting.org support it?
Fusion is an electoral tactic that allows independents to exercise their power as “swing voters” by giving their support to whichever candidates – Democratic, Republican, Independent – are most responsive to the independent reform agenda. Fusion allows independents to create coalitions and participate in politics as independents. CUIP’s fusion strategy does not require legalized fusion (only a half dozen states permit parties to cross-endorse) but advocates for legal cross-endorsement whenever and wherever possible.
Where does CUIP get its funding?
From thousands of individual donors in all 50 states.
What is the Black and Independent Alliance?
It is a daring new electoral coalition between African American and independent voters that in 2005 elected the first independent mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, and three years later “scaled up” to elect Barack Obama, America’s first “independent” president. (See "How the Independent Movement Went Left by Going Right")
Does CUIP endorse and/or campaign for candidates?
No. We give tactical support to local independent activists and organizations. They may choose to support particular candidates. In the 2004 election cycle CUIP launched Choosing an Independent President (ChIP), a project in which independent voter groups in our national network “screened” presidential candidates, engaging them in dialogue about the reform agenda of concern to independents. We repeated the process in 2008; ultimately many activists in our networks partnered with the Obama campaign to bring out the independent vote in the 33 states with open primaries and/or caucuses.
What are some of the grassroots activities that CUIP promotes?
CUIP’s network of associations of independent voters currently extends to 40 states. With support from the national office, independent activists are pressing for non-partisan and post-partisan reform of politics and government through ongoing outreach to other independents, hosting local discussion groups and statewide conference calls, developing reform legislation and meeting with and lobbying state legislators, testifying at legislative hearings, public education through writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces in local newspapers and working on a range of local political reform efforts. (See our Homepage and Activist page for details and updates.)
Every six weeks CUIP’s president, Jackie Salit, hosts a national conference call for new and veteran political activists. One hundred and fifty independent leaders from as many as 40 states participate in each of these conference calls, making them the largest regular gathering of independent voters in the country.
Who serves on CUIP’s Board of Directors?
Jacqueline Salit, New York, NY, is the President of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, Inc. (CUIP). A longtime journalist, political strategist and “on the ground” organizer, she is the executive editor of The Neo-Independent magazine.
Nancy Ross, New York, NY, is the Secretary/Treasurer of CUIP. She was formerly a partner in the Washington, DC-based lobbying firm of Ross and Green.
Omar H. Ali, Ph.D., Greensboro, NC, is Associate Professor of African American Politics and History at University of North Carolina, Greensboro. A national news commentator and advocate of non-partisan political reform, Ali's book In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third Party Movements has been praised as a "landmark work" by the National Political Science Review.
David Cherry, Chicago, Illinois is the City leader of the All Stars Project of Chicago. He is the founder of United Independents of Illinois.
Evelyn Dougherty, Boston, Massachusetts is the Director of the Boston Social Therapy Group and the Manager of the Outpatient Addition & Recovery clinic at Dimock in Boston. She is the chair and co-founder of the Massachusetts Coalition of Independent Voters.
Jessie Fields, MD, New York, NY, is a specialist in internal medicine on staff at Saint Luke’s-Roosevelt Medical Center in Harlem. She is a vice chairperson of the New York County Independence Party.
Bob Friedman, Birmingham, AL, is a former talk show host on WJLD AM and the station’s chief copywriter. He is the chairman and founder of Independent Alabama.
Lenora Fulani, Ph.D., New York, NY, became the first woman and the first African American presidential candidate ever to be on the ballot in all 50 states and is an outspoken advocate and organizer on behalf of the political independence of the Black community. A developmental psychologist, Fulani is also the co-founder of the All Stars Project, a widely respected after-school program for inner city youth and directs Operation Conversation: Cops and Kids. Together with Jackie Salit, she was a co-founder of CUIP.
* * *