As I’ve stated a few times over the past several blog entries, I’m very excited about the future of Pollitics Today. I’ve had a few guest writers write for the blog, I’ve had a few fellow blogs link to us and I’ve even amassed a few new Twitter followers and Facebook “likes”.
Yet I would consider the latest milestone to be perhaps the biggest and most important one of my blogging career. My favorite thing about politics is not necessarily following the “horse races” that go on (though I’m an admitted sucker for polling) but it’s about the interaction with people. Regardless of political beliefs, the one factor that should keep our system functioning as it’s supposed to do is the dialect between ordinary Americans. Hence why I wanted to get involved in the interviewing game, to learn not only what other people are thinking and believing in but learning about the world around me.
If I were to have a “motto”, it would probably be that no one knows it all (which is why the phrase “know-it-all” is a playground slur) but you will always learn from someone. Cliche? Of course but I steadfastly believe in that.
So keeping that in mind, I decided to think who I wanted to interview first. There are probably a million famous or significant people in the world who all probably have a million interesting things to say. Yet I wanted to reach out to someone who not only carved their own path but someone who is actively trying to change the world for the better.
Enter Rocky Anderson, the former Mayor of Salt Lake City and the 2012 Presidential candidate for the Justice Party. Mr. Anderson was gracious enough to talk to me via phone about not only some of his political history but on some of the issues that don’t just affect Americans currently but will also in future generations to come.
Mr. Anderson’s political career has seen him been perhaps one of the true “progressives/liberals” of our generation. In fact in 1996 when Mr. Anderson first sought political office in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, Utah Democrats perceived him as “too liberal” thanks to his board membership at Planned Parenthood, his support of a women’s right to choose and as president of the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
But to paint Mr. Anderson has a partisan would be an error. He rose to more national prominence by winning the non-partisan position of Mayor of Salt Lake City which of course hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. While Mr. Anderson espoused his support for climate protection programs (including the much-praised Salt Lake City Green Program), he also worked very closely with both Mitt Romney (during the Olympics) and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and even endorsed the former’s run for Massachusetts Governor in 2002 (in which Romney returned the favor).
But when watching Mr. Anderson’s endorsement of Mitt Romney, you can tell that while his party has changed (he’s obviously no longer a registered Democrat); his personal stances have not. When I asked him why he created his own party as opposed to joining another existing third party such as the Green Party, Mr. Anderson stated:
Well, we felt this country is in severe trouble. We need something new & effective. We wanted to form an electoral arm of a major, broad-based, democratic movement.
This is where I, as a political follower, sort of fell into a trap that I’m sure others have fallen into. I immediately started thinking what Rocky Anderson and the Justice Party had planned for 2014, 2016 and beyond without fully registering and appreciating what he said. Nowhere in that quote did Mr. Anderson state that he the word “Party” and while he stated that he learned things from this election to help him in the future; it wasn’t really the main point.
The main point isn’t quite just earning votes, fading from view and then trying again in the next mid-term or presidential election. As Mr. Anderson would point out to me and help me realize, it’s about creating a democratic movement to get issues up and bring them into the mainstream. To look at just numbers and figures does distract from the main goal.
Mr. Anderson would then cite the Green Party, who have been around for 20+ years and spent over a million dollars in this election, yet are “thrilled to see” one-third of one percent of the National Vote. The Greens do appear to come and go every presidential cycle but do little in-between to make the mark on the political system.
Again, I fell into the common trap. While political parties raise money to increase their standings in polls or vie for ballot access, movements are much more broad than singular people or candidates.
Mr. Anderson would continue off this point later on in our interview by stating that people tend to vote out of fear of the other party due to partisanship, which I would believe is true. Most voters, regardless of if they are Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, etc. usually don’t vote out of loyal support for their selected candidate but out of fear of what the other will bring to the table.
Another point to make was that George Washington was fearful of political parties tarnishing our system due to the fact that people would become “beholden” to parties and not the national interest. Washington’s belief does bring up an interesting point though. We hear advocates discuss the need for electoral reform, etc. but the thought of nonpartisan voting (much like Salt Lake City and other cities models) do have a certain appeal to them. As Mr. Anderson told us, running for a nonpartisan office means you don’t have to vie for the party’s endorsement at a convention.
The topic of conversation gradually shifted from electoral politics and movements to current issues at hand for the American public. One true thing that I’ve learned throughout my time on social media is the concern over the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA for short) which includes Section 1021 which in short, allows the U.S. Government to hold suspected terrorists (or their alleged allies) for an “indefinite” amount of time without due process or habeas corpus.
On NDAA, Mr. Anderson would tell me that he believes it is one of the more subversive, anti-American acts every passed through Congress.
NDAA, which is probably an unknown entity to most political followers, has been contested in a few states. The Rhode Island House voted for a repeal of the bill yet there hasn’t appeared to be much progress in getting the bill to higher courts. Mr. Anderson (and to watch him discuss NDAA live, watch this video) states that the administration of President Barack Obama “fights like the Dickens” to keep the NDAA lawsuits out of the courts.
But indefinite detention, no matter how unconstitutional it is, isn’t the only gripe that Mr. Anderson has with the Obama administration.
Mr. Anderson would state that the Amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has permitted the federal government to spy and the NSA oversees “thousands” of communication without cause and without identifying whose communication is being targeted.
Also he would continue by stating that people will challenge that but the Obama administration contends they are not worthy because there is “no proof” and the federal government won’t give away information because they’d claim it would “violate” classified secrets that would put the nation at risk.
Still, a big point of contention amongst not just Mr. Anderson but critics of the Obama administration is how there are clear continued policies that were left behind the George W. Bush administration. Americans are being spied on. Torture is condoned. Even though it’s a felony under domestic laws, this President says “well, let’s just forget this happened”.
Yet there should be problems with the way the Obama administration has handled torture, drones and other foreign policy acts. Mr. Anderson would show off his disgust with President Obama as it appears he determines what gets forgotten about and who is above the law.
The claims might seem a bit hyperbolic to the average supporter/critic of the current President but there are some genuine issues with the way America is dealing with it’s foreign standing. Mr. Anderson would invoke the play Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco which was written in 1959.
Rhinoceros, a play by Eugene Ionesco, is an allegory to the rise of fascism in Europe. People are turned away, possess the don’t rock the boat mentality, “it’s none of your business”, government knows better, etc. “Let’s just keep quiet” so it does appear that we have that kind of complacency.
I would then bring up the topic of drones, which is one of the main issues that struck a chord. Mr. Anderson would begin the drones topic by stating that “so far, 3 Americans have been killed by drone attacks” and thousands have died.
Mr. Anderson would tell me that the President unilaterally takes us to war in violation of the War Powers Clause, authorizes torture and engages in torture. There’s no semblance of due process and the targeting U.S. citizens? The Constitution states you cannot take life & liberty without due process of law, yet the President appears to be in direct violation of the United States Constitution.
Yet, it’s not just that administration that’s at fault. Mr. Anderson also says that even with all of these drone attacks, the mainstream media is “complicit in these tragedies” and which I agree, it’s a disgrace that they don’t get more coverage.
The topic then started to shift towards healthcare and the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (or “ObamaCare”). Even though the bill is championed by many Democrats, the bill really helps the insurance companies. Mr. Anderson, a champion of a single-payer health care system, is not one of those advocates.
He would state that the ACA was basically written by insurance companies who are making out like bandits and even after the entirety of the ACA is enforced, 30 million Americans will be without healthcare.
He would continue with showing the discrepancy between how much we pay for healthcare and the results we get. He continued by stating that fact that in the developed world, we have the 2nd highest rate of infant mortality.
In terms of maternal mortality (women who die during child birth), America has the 50th “best” rate which means that 49 developed nations are keeping more. mothers alive.
We have the next-to-worst rate of child poverty, which is over 20%. Only two countries, one is the U.S., have that high of a level and Romania is the other.
Mr. Anderson would state right afterward that the problem is the “for-profit industry”, a “parasitic” one in which America is the only developed nation that relies so much on for-profit health care. He would continue with that most Americans support a single-payer type system but the problem is money from for-profit industries buy off Congress and later the Presidency.
Also, it’s worth noting that many people were celebrating the fact that the ACA keeps children on parent’s healthcare rolls until they are 26 and they are no longer subjected to be turned away due to “pre-existing” conditions. Yet is that a victory worth celebrating? It’s awesome in terms of public relations, but will that really help people gain healthcare; especially if their parents lack health insurance; what happens?
The problem continues though with the future. Mr. Anderson would tell me that my generation’s shoulders would have far too much on their shoulders.
Anderson would state that on my generation’s shoulders, we are laying in accumulated debt and interest burden. On our shoulders is worsening security due to hostility and the catastrophes that occurred due to climate change. On our generation’s shoulders, you will be paying Social Security for the baby-boomers, who will be retired even though they left the mess to our generation.
One issue I always lamented on during the debate season was the lack of discussion about climate change. Four short years ago, it was towards the center of the debate but while we talk about what our debt will do to my generation but blatantly appear to ignore the mess we left with environmentally.
Before our interview was said and done, Mr. Anderson and I went through a few topics that almost appear to be universal for most Americans.
He would state that most people in the country believe that the War on Drugs is a failure. Racism is also evident in our incarceration rates. Drug usage is the same amongst whites, Hispanics and African-Americans yet 3/4ths of inmates for drug possession are African-American.
Most people want the troops brought back home from Afghanistan.
Most people want to see financial regulations yet Wall Street has its way. Glass-Steagal was repealed by the Clinton Administration. No regulations were brought up which is what brought us into disaster and again, a lot of regulations were taken away by Clinton. It is a problem that both Democrats and Republicans have contributed to.
Mr. Anderson is correct on quite a few things and that’s how money is corrupting our government. As you can tell, big business usually has its way whether it’s in legislation such as the Affordable Care Act or when it comes to the lack of regulation on Wall Street.
Yet we continue to let our governments get away with it, right?
In closing, I saw that Mr. Anderson’s Twitter account mentioned something about a “Justice Party Convention”. When asked about it, Mr. Anderson told us that he is looking into a two or three day convention over President’s Day weekend in Oakland, California. He insisted that it’s “not” like an ordinary convention but instead it’s to inspire people to bring about change in this country. Not just about the Imperial Presidency but about issues such as the rate of income and wealth between the rich and the poor. You basically:
have the aristocrats and the rest who are barely hanging on. Not since the 1920s have we seen such wealth discrepancy.
When talking to Mr. Anderson, I felt like I definitely not only learned some things but also found someone whose voice needs to be heard by more people. This isn’t an advocacy blog where I endorse candidates or tell you to donate to people but I couldn’t help but fully listen to Mr. Anderson when he was speaking.
Now some people may not agree with everything he states because you can’t please the world but what he said isn’t false. There are plenty of issues in not just our government but in our society as well. The feeling was that Mr. Anderson’s passion could be felt through the phone, even at 11:00PM Eastern Time, and you couldn’t help but sense that he wanted to continue to fight.
Some people like to think that when elections are over, so are the candidates missions. Now Rocky Anderson was a Presidential candidate, yes, but he seems like someone who wants to empower the people around him and that can last a lifetime to people. He is not alone either, but he is a voice that is sticking out today.
We as liberals and progressives sometimes fall into the trap of applauding and staying content when our party wins or doing the exact opposite when it loses. But causes should never die. We should never be complacent in what we want and blind support of a candidate is not a way to get things accomplished. You have to make your voice heard to make an impact or politics don’t exist. We are already have a multitude of problems but complacency or quitting should not be on the menu.
I can not thank Mr. Anderson enough for sharing some time with me. I genuinely enjoyed this interview and writing this piece and I look forward to seeing what things he does in the future.