My 7 Takeaways Running for Congress As a Third Party Candidate

Like most everyone else, I am thrilled to see a new Congress that looks more like America than ever before. I am lifted by their new energy and commitment. I am delighted that their first shared effort was a sit-in protest demanding action on climate change, held inside the U.S. House of Representatives and the office of the Democratic Party leader.

I pray for the success of the freshman class of 2018. The key is whether Republicans and Democrats can get past hating each other to solve problems that matter outside of Washington DC. I’m not optimistic about cooperation between the two-party machines that run on billions of dollars in corporate and lobbyist donations.

1. Now More Than Ever

If the independent movement is the third way, if we have the solutions to heal our nation and move us forward together, we must run on a shared message, beginning with a shared vision and strategies for getting there. Now more than ever. It is Zero Hour.

We have run out of time for effective action to deal with rising hatreds, political violence, climate change, the erosion of our constitutional rights, endless war, contaminated water systems, out of reach health care, the abuses of family law, our dishonor to our veterans, our betrayals of the First Nations, and on and on.

2. The Enemy Is Us

Our struggling independent movement is competitive, rude, disrespectful, denies the consequences of our lack of unity, and stumbles over sexism, racism and every other “ism.”

If the independent movement is the third way, if we have the solutions to heal our nation and move us forward together, we must run on a shared message.
Dr. Lynn S. Kahn

In most third parties, the same dynamics play out as in the corporate-funded Democrats and Republicans – no courage to talk honestly about the impact of policies, no willingness to resolve the battles between radical ideology and realistic roadmaps for change, no efforts to truly build on ideas and policies where we do agree.

As an independent political movement, we have no discipline, no shared infrastructure, no money, and no message. We stop ourselves from creating the coalition that will solve America’s problems or even demonstrate how third party candidates offer different solutions than the current broken two-party system. We have not created this coalition even when 57% of Americans and 71% of millennials want a third party.

3. Populism, Activism, Realism and Implementation

Energetic speeches in front of hundreds and thousands of supporters stir passions – on all sides. That’s populism. Marching in the streets is activism and the path to visibility for many human rights achievements or at least awareness of endless wars or violations of human rights, environmental protections and social justice.

Realism is compromise in the context of political realities. Implementation is understanding how government works – legislative, executive and judicial branches – so you can recognize a distorted agency mission, or negligent contracting process, or performance measure focused on paperwork, not outcomes. We need political leaders who understand all the above.

4. The Ignored and Forgotten

Under all that anger in America is a lot of pain, much of it stemming from horrible government decisions from all our agencies and at all levels of government from local to federal. This is far more than broken government – this is real damage to children, families and communities by government agencies.

The evidence includes the contamination of our water supplies, PFAS and other toxins in everyday items, the crisis in dairy farming, the abuses of foster care and family law, racial differences in how justice is served and rising rates of addiction, violence, and suicide. The victims of government malice and abuse scream through gag orders – their voices unheard by politicians in Washington, DC and ignored by the independent movement.

5. Playing the Fear Card

The Republicans and Democrats stir up passions very well – from stoking fears of an invasion of terrorists on our southern border to running on fears about Trump, Trump, Trump. As an independent movement, we have no strategy to counter such divisive communication or get at the root causes of social rage and fear. What do we offer voters? We may think we know, the general public does not.

6. Corporate-Owned Media

Media attention at the local or district level depends on the candidate’s ability to get into the nuts and bolts of specific issues. The media wants stories, not just angry rants from candidates.

As a third party congressional candidate, I participated in all three televised congressional debates, all editorial board meetings where decisions about endorsements were made, and, with decades of experience driving solutions to complicated problems, I continue to receive reporter’s calls to comment on specific issues.

Still, as we all know, corporate-owned media favors the corporate-funded two-party system and far too many major newspapers and TV stations ignore us and gloss over Equal Access laws. We cannot solve this problem individually; only combined intention as a political movement will bring accountability from the media.

7. The Unasked Questions

In my mountainous, rural and expansive district touching twelve different counties, the congressional candidate forums and debates never questioned us about foreign policy, mass incarceration, institutional racism, endless wars, or cyber warfare. I’m guessing my urban colleagues were never asked about the crisis in dairy farming, the loss of local control over our food supply, the erosion of our constitutional rights or America’s evolving police state.

Same two parties, same bad results, same media bias. The two-party system avoids these questions, the independent movement must answer.

We Can Do It!  We are powerful together if we can craft a message of unity and roadmaps that solve complicated problems. Actions speak louder than words – now more than ever, we as an independent political movement must figure out how to build on our strengths to move our nation forward. We have all run out of time.