In the 2014 election cycle, Victoria Jackson and Scott Lively launched campaigns for public office in their respective states, Tennessee and Massachusetts, as independent candidates. Jackson ran for a seat on the Williamson County Commission but lost by a wide margin to the incumbent earlier this month.
Scott Lively had more success. Recently, he officially qualified to appear on the ballot for Massachusetts governor.The problem is that Jackson and Lively are singled out by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report as part of “a dirty dozen of political candidates with extremist ideas.”
The other ten political candidates –- including a Democrat, six Republicans, and members of the American Freedom Party, Constitution Party, and Libertarian Party –- have various backgrounds in extremist Christian organizations, conspiracy theory peddlers, neo-Confederate hate groups, and extreme anti-abortion groups (the type that firebomb clinics and call for the murder of physicians).
Victoria Jackson, a former cast member of Saturday Night Live from 1986 to 1992, made it on the list because of her dissemination of hate-mongering conspiracy theories. A darling of Fox News and the tea party-right, she believes President Obama will dispatch a private army to kill her and other Christians.
Jackson also repeatedly expressed fear of all Muslims and claims they are out to “destroy America.” Regarding the LGBT community, she’s claimed that “allowing gay people to adopt children is tantamount to authorizing ‘pedophilia and sexual molestation.’”
Scott Lively is on a whole other level.
In 1995, he co-authored The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, where he “claims that ‘masculine’ gay men were responsible for the Nazi Party and thus the Holocaust.” Worse, he has taken his views abroad over the past 20 years and disseminates them through pamphlets and lectures focusing on “the ‘dangers’ of homosexuality and drumming up support for criminalizing it.”
His single greatest success was in Uganda; hundreds of people attended his lectures -- including teachers, politicians, and policemen -- where he claimed homosexuals rape children among other incendiary fabrications.
The result was the passage of a law that “stipulates life in prison for ‘aggravated homosexuality.’” An earlier version of the law made homosexuality punishable by death.
Lively is currently being sued by a Ugandan LGBT rights group and a U.S.-based rights organization for crimes against humanity. A federal judge dismissed Lively’s attempts to have the case thrown out. Lively has attracted national attention for his deeds (for which he claims no responsibility), including an investigation by John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.
The independent label, as it stands right now, only means “not a Democrat or Republican.” There are some organizations that are trying to take the independent label and turn it into a movement to end the political duopoly that controls the country’s electoral process -- a noble goal, but one that may have unpredicted consequences.
This goal is often bundled together with the goal of bridging partisan divides and coming up with moderate compromises. However, it’s not at all entirely clear that achieving the former will lead to the latter.
Victoria Jackson, Scott Lively, and others like them most likely support ending the duopoly and are probably amenable to nonpartisan election reform. But they certainly are not moderates and there is no room for compromise with them.
In fact, it would be immoral to even try compromising with characters like Lively. What is the “middle ground” between his views and civil rights for the LGBT community?
If the independent movement succeeds in opening the way for more independent candidates to run for public office (and perhaps in the distant future radically reform campaign finance laws to create an even playing field between them and major party candidate), it could very well lead to more candidates with radical and extreme views, not less.
The recent findings by UC Berkeley political scientist David Broockman cannot be overstated: there is, in fact, no such thing as a political moderate. “Moderates” are in fact people with a mix of extreme views.
The way political polling is conducted today, libertarians (those who support extreme social liberty as well as extreme market liberty) are coded as moderates. Scott Lively, for all we know, could be radically anti-capitalist because he may consider greed the “mark of the beast.” In that case, he too would be considered “moderate” by political pollsters.Additionally, and most importantly, voters are much more likely to vote for a politician who shares an extreme view with them than somebody who tries to be a "middle-of-the-road" politician. Why? Because voters want somebody who will not compromise when it comes to that extreme view.
In short, the independent movement will create the opportunity for more people to have their political voices heard and, as a result, vote in a more representative Congress and more representative state legislatures. However, a more representative Congress may be made up of several parties instead of just two and some of those parties will represent the most extreme segments of the American right and left.
This may not necessarily lead to intractable gridlock. Parliamentary-style coalitions can be built.
Additionally, more creative legislation can be introduced because there are more ideas represented. Polarized parties can clash and make the choices Americans face starkly clear.
The virtue of such fighting is being demonstrated today: The current flood of gay marriage legalization is not a result of moderate compromise, but because “radical” gay-rights groups made it abundantly clear what anything less than equal rights means.
The American public, finally, agreed with them after years of debates against anti-gay extremists. The extremists lost and Americans are passing laws. The same crucible of polarized debate can lead to the resolution of other, even bigger issues.
Scott Lively and Victoria Jackson should be provided political platforms as Americans. They are as much political independents as any other independent candidate. However, their candidacies may be chronicles of a death foretold –- the independent label may not survive after the accomplishment of its primary goal.