by Sal Peralta
The Oregon Catalyst’s resident curmudgeon, Larry Huss, is the latest in a long list of partisans to take aim at the Independent Party and its process for establishing a platform and agenda.
Larry makes several claims in his essay, I’d like to respond to a few…
1) The IPO has no platform.
Untrue. What unites our members is a frustration with the two major parties and a belief that both parties need to work more effectively and collaboratively in service to the public interest.
Unlike the Democrats and Republicans who demand rigid adherence to a mashup of special interest positions designed to win the party money and votes, the IPO surveys its members to determine their preferences. The process is as rigorous as we can make it, using a methodology recommended to us by the Institute for Applied and Industrial Math. We aren’t interested in telling people what to think. We are interested in learning what our members want and then providing them with the tools to communicate their preferences to our elected officials and our candidates.
The party determines its agenda by implementing a series of preference surveys, with questions on each survey becoming narrower and more specific until the survey questions line up with specific legislation under consideration by the Oregon legislature. Members are given an opportunity to weigh in on their preferences and encouraged to lobby legislators in support of those positions.
2) The IPO has not done much
Here is a short list of IPO accomplishments and actions in the legislature:
Repealed a 2005 law that makes it more difficult to run for public office as an independent; defeated a 2009 law to gut Oregon’s campaign reporting system on the floor of the Oregon House after the bill had passed in the Senate. defeated a 2011 effort by the House Majority leader to gut Oregon’s open meetings law; helped to pass Buy Oregon First legislation that requires the state to give preference to Oregon businesses when awarding state contracts; pushed for reforms to the state’s PERS system; helped to provide tax credits for businesses that engage in capital construction for the purpose of expanding their workforce in Oregon; and fought to protect the public initiative system.
That may not be a huge list, but it’s a lot more work than folks like Larry give us credit for.
3) The IPO needs to be more overtly partisan.
There are already several strongly ideological parties in Oregon for people who don’t like the Democrats and Republicans. Libertarian, Constitution, Green, Progressive. None of these parties have much popular support for the same reason that Democrats and Republicans are losing popular support. All of them are rigid and ideological.
Most voters are not.
Larry runs through a laundry list of things that need to be adhered to if you are a Democrat. Republicans have a similar list.
My question is, why should someone’s view on abortion or gay marriage stand in the way of us working together on economic development or PERS reform? Social hot-button issues have long been a good way for the major parties to divide voters. Our party isn’t interested in the things that divide us, only in what unites our members.
There are a large number of candidates, voters, and views that are left out by the current system. What the IPO is doing may not be for everyone, but there is little question that it’s growth and early success are predicated on providing candidates and voters with a valid alternative to the two party system.
Folks like Mr. Huss may not like it, and they may not understand it, but until the major parties start listening to the American people, groups like the IPO are only going to continue to grow while support for the major parties continue to wane.
Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Sal Peralta is Secretary of the Independent Party of Oregon