New Yorkers will elect a governor and both U.S. Senators, along with all their Representatives, in 2010. With that in mind, I intend to repeat what I did during the presidential election year of 2008 and report on independent candidates for the biggest elections. While my survey of presidential aspirants revealed a lot of cranks and clowns, I hope that exercises like these will inspire other people to look beyond the Democratic and Republican parties for answers to the important questions of our time.
At the same time, I worry that these surveys only cater to a consumerist mentality among voters who are tempted to treat elections like they do their shopping chores, comparing pre-packaged products as much on the basis of advertising as on any objective comparison of candidates. In simpler terms, voters are stuck choosing from what's available when elections should be about voters stating what they want. When American politics was first democratized, as more people got the right to vote and no longer deferred to their betters, the ideal was somewhat different. People were supposed to get together, put together their own platforms or simply state their own principles, and invite someone to run as their candidate by endorsing those principles. Practice rarely lived up to this ideal, but we ought to consider returning to it. The American people need to get together and reach some agreement (i.e. some compromise) on their priorities. They need to do so as communities and neighborhoods. We have to insist on some geographic organizing principle because we need to bring together all the people who've been brainwashed into believing that their ideologies are irreconcilable. We cannot concede that the United States has become two nations -- liberal and conservative -- as tempting as that may be to people on both sides who would rather be rid of each other. As much as we need to challenge the perpetual usurpation practised by the American Bipolarchy, we need to challenge the ideological bipolarchy that has both fueled and fed off the partisan bipolarchy. We have to expose the artifice of "liberalism" and "conservatism." How many people really believe everything that a "liberal" or a "conservative" is supposed or reputed to believe? My hope is that once most Americans face each other honestly, once they find a way to communicate with each other without slogans or buzzwords, they'll no longer look like bogeymen or enemies to each other. Everything depends on a realization of common interest, a willingness to compromise and a recognition that any irrepressible conflict between "liberals" and "conservatives" only plays into the hands of a handful of party hacks and media demagogues. Those types want to keep us apart. The last thing they want is Americans discovering, with apologies to Thomas Jefferson, that "we are all liberals, we are all conservatives." But Americans can't wait for some leader to tell them that. They need to figure it out for themselves, soon, before they repeat the Bipolarchy Cycle and replace the present bunglers with the bunglers of four years ago. If they can figure it out, maybe they won't need a leader but someone who will really represent the will of the people.