“No Labels” connects to Independent Voters
Concern about the negative effects of partisanship is growing as evidenced by two high-powered political operatives—one a Democrat, the other a Republican—coming together to create the newly formed No Labels organization. Independent student leader Nolan DiFrancesco, founder of College Independents and an activist in IndependentVoting.org’s network, attended a No Labels meeting and paved the way for a meeting between our president Jackie Salit and No Labels founder Nancy Jacobson in July.
No Labels recently invited Salit to be a featured guest on their leadership committee's weekly conference call to speak to the concerns of independent voters. On the call, CNN correspondent and non-partisan reformer John Avlon (who chaired the Citizen Union’s NYC Charter Revision Task Force in 2010) introduced Salit. Describing her as one of the founders of the NYC Independence Party, which "has become a significant force in NYC politics," Avlon noted Salit’s role in Mayor Bloomberg's elections campaigns and her position as Executive Editor of The Neo-Independent magazine, "a publication well worth reading." (Thanks John!). Below are some of the key points Salit made in her testimonial to the No Labels leaders on August 30, 2010.
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No Labels is an important initiative that touches on a whole set of concerns that are fundamental for America’s independent voters.
WHO ARE INDEPENDENTS?
35% of the country today are independents, people who want to be a part of the political process, but they don’t want to be labeled and they don’t want to be dictated to by any political party.
This new fact of political life raises some very practical issues because our electoral system is really not set up to do that. For independents, the idea of No Labels is not simply a philosophy. It’s more of an engineering question. How do we reform and restructure America’s political system so that labels, which are in many respects equivalent to parties, aren’t controlling the gateway to participation?
The voters just passed Proposition 14 in California, specifically for that purpose. The voters abolished party primaries and set up a new top two system which allows the state’s 3.4 million unlabelled voters to participate in every round of voting. Proposition 14, by the way, passed by an 8 point margin even though every political party in the state – major and minor – vigorously opposed it.
NEW YORK CITY
We’re also in the midst of a prolonged battle in NYC right now where, in partnership with Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the Citizen’s Union, we’re working to introduce a non-partisan voting system. There are nearly one million independent voters in NYC – the majority of whom are Black, Latino or Asian – and they are locked out under the partisan system. The current rules say you must have a label to be able to vote.
BRINGING NO LABELS TO LIFE
For independents, these kinds of reforms – open primaries, non-partisan elections – are a way to bring No Labels to life. The pursuit of these reforms unites independents across the political spectrum. People often ask me whether we’ve seen what happens when independents can participate in first round voting. One need look no further than the White House to answer that question. In the 2008 primary election, 33 states held open primaries or caucuses where independents could vote. You could call them “no labels” contests. 65% of independents chose to cast ballots in the Democratic Primary, and 60% of those voted for Barack Obama, giving him his margin of victory over his rivals.
WHAT INDEPENDENTS WANT
Independents want post-partisan government. They want a non-partisan political process. And for all intents and purposes, in 2008, Barack Obama was the post partisan independent. The Democratic Party label came later. No Labels is a critical initiative because it underscores the need to break out of partisan boundaries and create a new political culture.
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