Independent Party of Oregon: The Seinfeld Party?

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

Recent articles in the local newspapers are talking about the possibility that the Independent Party of Oregon (IPO) is close to attaining “major party” status by virtue of exceeding 100,000 registered members.  God knows that Oregon, like the rest of the United States could use a new party but this isn’t it.

Oregon, like most of the Western states, used to be governed from the middle by virtue of a working coalition between rural moderate Democrats and urban moderate Republicans.  For years this coalition focused on what was good for the people of Oregon rather than what was good for their respective parties; i.e. the acquisition and retention of powers as both a means and an end.

But somewhere along the way, the early part of the 80’s I suspect, the Democrat politicians took a hard turn to the left and the Republican politicians took a hard turn to – well, to an odd formation resembling a circular firing squad which enabled them to stab each other in the back while looking each other in the eye.  No, you don’t have to support the critical elements of the Democrat Party to be a Democrat but you do have to support each and every critical element to be an elected Democrat office holder – the four elements are 1) taxpayer funded abortion on demand, 2) support for the public employee unions and all of their excesses, 3) higher taxes and 4) unrestricted growth in government.

To be a Republican you don’t have to support the critical elements of the Republican Party, you don’t have to even support the critical elements of the party to be an elected Republican office holder – in fact, adhesion to the party platform is considered de classe.  But you do have to abide by the principle of attacking anyone in the party that seems to be getting ahead – you know, like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) does.

But back to the Independent Party of Oregon.  First, let’s recognize that the Independent Party is mostly a clever gimmick.  The Democrats and Republicans recognized that they were losing “registered voters” to what then was characterized as “independent”, meaning “unaffiliated” voters.  Their solution was to limit those wishing to “self-identify” when registering to vote to identify only with organized political parties (e.g. Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, etc.)   A couple of bright guys calculated that they could seize the label “Independent” and capture the growing number of voters wishing to remain “unaffiliated” and who would unwittingly chose “Independent” when they really meant “independent.”  They were right.  It worked and as more and more voters express their disgust with the major political parties, those opting for “independent” continue to unwittingly register as “Independents.”

But, be that as it may, a political party ought to stand for something and you are hard pressed to find that in the Independent Party of Oregon.  I have scoured the web in search of the guiding principles of the IPO and have come up with nothing.  In its earliest iterations the leaders of the IPO dodged the issue by stating that the “Party is the platform” – wow, that’s deep!  They continued with a bunch of gibberish that seems to indicate that the party’s processes and technology platforms were, in essence, the definition of the party.  All of that is reminiscent of a once popular decision making process known as the Q Management Process.  It was a highly structured process that prevented one from actually making a decision without violating the tenets of the process.  It’s what happens when people think that the process is more important that the outcome.

The IPO was widely criticized as the “Seinfeld Party” – a comedy about nothing and a party about nothing.

But, it appears, the party has evolved.  The IPO website now includes an agenda:

“6 years and 9 member surveys later, we have realized that there is a great deal of agreement among not only our members, but the general public on 5 core issues:

    • Reducing special interest influence over our legislative process.
    • Increased transparency in government, particularly with how our tax dollars are spent.
    • The importance of protecting Oregon consumers, particularly with respect to banks, insurance companies and private utilities.
    • The need for a sensible approach to job creating and economic development.
    • Advancing the rights of Independent and non-affiliated voters.

“Our platform is subject to change over time, but these issues have helped to define the Independent Party in its work at the Oregon legislature.”

Add to that “do good” and “avoid bad” and you have a – well you have a Boy Scout Troop. Not that the other listed parties are much more pronounced (except the Libertarians who actually stand for something – like them or not).  Oh sure, the IPO has used “polling” to determine its “agenda” but every political party does the same and they use a technique known as “push polling” to ensure that the results agree with their predetermined positions.

But the IPO has shown itself to be just as self-centered as the Democrats and Republicans.  The only two things I could find on the web for which the IPO advocated were “public financed campaigns” and “open primaries” – both which benefit those without purpose and thus without resources.  It’s about acquiring and retaining power – just like all the rest.

Look, if there is to be a new party, then it should be a party that has a philosophical base that it can iterate and defend.  One that has a defined and measurable outcome.  So, if you want to transform the Independent Party of Oregon into a party to actually benefit the people of Oregon, let me suggest two guiding principles for consideration:

    1. Educational reform in which performance guides funding.  To do this there must be an established set of criteria using existing national testing standards to determine progress and deficiencies.  (I say national testing standards because Oregon Democrats have already wasted billions of dollars and nearly fifteen years in pursuit of the home grown Certificate of Initial Mastery and Certificate of Advance Mastery (CIM/CAM).  There needs to be teacher accountability based on a combination of student performance, management observation and peer review.  And finally there needs to be a general overhaul of the curriculum that reflects the reality that not everyone needs to or should go to college but everyone needs post secondary training.
    2. A commitment to economic growth through job creation.  Quality of life begins with a job.  Increased employment is the surest way to reduce poverty, welfare and government dependency.  It increases revenue to government and allows redirection of expenditures from welfare to programs benefiting all.  It is not government’s role to create jobs but rather to remove the inhibitors to job creation.  That centers primarily on restrictive regulations and discriminatory tax policy.  I have noted before such a tax policy to stimulate growth should include the following:
  • Everyone is required to pay. Everyone pays something and by doing so they reap the consequences of their acts.  Tax increases should likewise be equally applicable to all eligible to vote.
  • The number of tax rates should be minimized.
  • The tax rates for individuals should apply to all income without deductions.  There is no greater justification for providing a tax deduction for someone who pays $1500 per month in interest on a mortgage than there is for someone who pays $1500 per month for rent.
  • Tax rates for businesses should be abolished and the taxable income from such enterprises should be taxed directly to the owners/shareholders.  The vast majority of businesses in America are either partnerships (full and limited) or Subchapter S corporations where taxes are paid by the owners directly already.  It is absurd to tax a corporation for its profits and then turn around and tax the distributions (dividends) to its owners
  • Tax subsidies should be eliminated, including those to the producers and those to the consumers.  The most striking of these recently have been the tens of millions of dollars poured into the wind generation and solar energy industries.  These should include the direct subsidies through grants and tax abatements as well as the indirect such as the requirement that utilities purchase a fixed percentage of power from unreliable and costly wind and solar generation sources.  Government policy should not choose the winners and losers in a competitive environment.

It’s good that there is interest in a new party.  It’s unfortunate that this one is just like the rest.