A recent survey by the Center for Public Integrity ranked the First State as 48th in state integrity and gave it an overall “F: grade. Given the rather sorry state of our economy, numerous cases of poor financial management, increased loss of individual freedom and opportunity, new voices in Delaware politics are needed now, more than ever.
However, given the dirty — if not utterly filthy — nature of politics, many good, caring, kindhearted, creative and intelligent people are discouraged from seeking elected office, lest their reputations be dragged through the mud in partisan character-assassination campaigns. As a result, critical public questions and issues requiring complex scientific, technical, managerial and/or humanitarian solutions are distorted and overly politicized instead of solved.
Many, if not most, people in the First State are simply sick and tired of partisan politics as usual, and many have mentally withdrawn from what is all too often perceived as a corrupt, closed-door system. Consequently, they have lost the perception that they, as individuals, have a stake in shaping Delaware’s future.
The rise in the number of unaffiliated voters in Delaware is a major indicator that people have lost faith with the Democratic and Republican parties — both of which are increasingly perceived as intellectually stagnant, duplicitous and special-interest-controlled at public expense. The steady growth of the centrist Independent Party of Delaware is another factor.
The Delaware GOP seems especially dysfunctional and divided to the point of self-destruction by a combination of deliberate actions of factions within its ranks and its lack of effective leadership. However, the Delaware Democrats have their divisive factions, as well, but are publicly less fragmented.
Popular perception that elections (with few exceptions) are choices between “the lesser of two evils” and “Tweedledeedee” and “Twedledeedum” is both pervasive and perennial, as evidenced by low voter turnouts. On the national campaign, the major the fact that anti-party-establishment GOP presidential candidates are leading in the polls speaks for itself.
Unfortunately, in the prevailing Delaware Way, “plantation politics” scheme of things, this situation is all too structured and institutionalized. Witness the discrimination against and discouragement of working-class candidates dealt out by the shopworn and obsolescent “major” parties with their exorbitant filing fees, enshrined in the Delaware Election Code, in which the state of Delaware literally acts as a “bagman” in an apparent ballot-access racket.
There is also another form of electoral discrimination waged against the minor parties (those with less than 5 percent of total voter registration) that is designed to “keep them in their place”: exclusion from state-funded primaries. This arbitrary statutory provision imposes a rather clumsy nomination-by-convention system on smaller parties at their expense and raises fundamental constitutional questions of equal protection under the law, as the state of Delaware in the last decade assumed the financial burden of primary elections, formerly borne by the Democratic and Republican parties themselves. To top it off, Delaware has inordinately long closed change-of-party-registration periods.
Given current two-party political dominance in Delaware, and nature of the process, we will never have meaningful government reforms like initiative, referendum, recall, establishment of an independent inspector general, education reform, consumer protection and science-based economic, energy and environmental policies that enable, rather than hinder, business and individual development opportunities while enhancing environmental quality, better public financial management and operation, improved public infrastructure, etc.
The solution is theoretically simple, but practically complex, as it involves essential cultural change. Accordingly, there can be no power shift without a paradigm shift. To change government, instead of choosing between the same two parties, build new parties to provide leadership for the 21st century instead of the 20th century — a creative think tank with ballot access for the Conceptual Age instead of ideological propaganda machines for the Information (or, more accurately, Disinformation) Age.
This requires people with the courage, perception and perseverance to work at political reform despite all obstacles. This is the hard part. Finding new political talent is a difficult task in light of the current mess we are now in, brought about in large measure by the defective bipolar politics of the two current “major” parties.
We need new creative and effective leadership — candidates who realize that they are elected to serve the People and the public interest instead of the lobbyists and special interests.
We need a party that actively encourages – not discourages new voices and new ideas. Fortunately, there are rays of hope on the horizon. The voters can make a monumental difference in the 2016 election if just 5 percent change their current registration to the Independent Party of Delaware and become active in shaping policy for a better Delaware. The Delaware Constitution states that all power ultimately stems from the People. What holds true for government also holds true for political parties, as their power ultimately stems from registered voters.
A major realignment of this nature would enable voters to have a broader range of candidates in primary elections instead of the narrow choices of the largely distorted and discredited status quo parties. The greatest power that the voters have is the power of withdrawal from the closed-loop “two-party system” by opening a new political door to an innovative party of freedom and insight in the greater public interest.
Our doors are open and our ballot access is free of charge. The Independent Party of Delaware’s nominating convention will be held sometime in May 2016 unless enough voters join before next September to enable the IPoD to reach major-party status and participate in primaries.
Now is the time for good new candidates to emerge. It is also time for the voters to declare a power shift by actively affiliating with and building alternative parties to challenge the incumbents at the polls, as Delaware’s future is much too important to be left to the same old two parties.
Visit our website at www.independentpartyofdelaware.com for further details on how you can become a candidate, support a candidate or otherwise creatively shape the future of the First State.
Editor’s note: Wolfgang von Baumgart is the secretary general and chairman emeritus of the Independent Party of Delaware (IPoD).