“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.” ~Abraham Lincoln
The political scientist Juan Enriquez has observed that when empires fall, it is because people give up on their government, and stop believing that their leaders represent their interests. What was once a vibrant, engaged society becomes a population of individuals focused on narrow self-interest. Quickly, what was once a purposeful nation of shared beliefs becomes just another place on a map.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
A Russian journalist interviewed me recently. He was interested in my run for governor of Massachusetts, and in the idea that I and a group of supporters from throughout our state had founded our state’s new United Independent Party. I told the journalist this was a very American thing to do, in that in our economy, especially here in Massachusetts, if an industry or a company is not serving its customers well, someone will start a competitor -- and beat them.
We can say we’re doing the same by establishing this new party in my run for governor, dedicated to the premise that everyone is equal, everyone’s civil rights must be protected, and our state’s government must spend taxpayer dollars wisely. It is, I believe, fertile ground that neither Democrats nor Republicans have covered, but which the majority of voters have long wanted.Over the last month, I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous candidate forums with the other candidates for governor of Massachusetts. On issue after issue, the candidates of the two parties speak in vague, nice-sounding platitudes. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which candidate is which, or even if they disagree with each other. Maybe this is what’s intended. Still, audiences who in the past might have been satisfied with this kind of charade no longer are.
In building the United Independent Party, and in the Falchuk for Governor campaign, we are building a powerful coalition of voters. We are doing it not by using the tired old demographics of left versus right, young versus old, higher taxes versus lower. Instead, our campaign coalition is an engaged group of all of those who feel the system no longer represents their interests, a “guerrilla campaign,” of sorts.
It’s an enormous group of voters, particularly considering that Massachusetts has the highest percentage of voters nationwide -- 53% -- who choose to no longer be in either the Democratic or Republican parties. What’s more, they don’t fit the misguided stereotype of the apathetic voter. These are people who advocate for causes, are deeply involved in community service, and take on meaningful projects. They care about making things work. They care about creating results that make them proud and make people’s lives better.
There’s not a lot happening in our politics that makes the people of Massachusetts truly proud of and motivated by their elected leaders. Voters may be giving up on the old, entrenched establishment, but they aren’t giving up on the idea that our politics can be a practical, pragmatic – even inspiring – way to get things done.
All that stands in the way is a belief system that says we are stuck with what we’ve got, a belief system that we can – and will – overcome, as the number of voters outside the “insider” major party circles continues to grow.
This, then, is the larger question:
What happens when a majority of people outside the two parties all realize that they are, in fact, the majority?
With seven months to go in the race for governor, with a team of a dozen full-time staff and hundreds of volunteers across the Commonwealth, we intend to find out.