Twenty-five years ago, Jesse Ventura, under the banner of the Reform Party, ran a grassroots campaign for governor in Minnesota. In a tightly contested race with two high-profile and well-funded candidates from the major parties, Ventura took his populist message to the people on a shoe-string budget. He reached out to audiences who were dismissed by his competitors and political elites. His celebrity and the energy he generated resulted in a gubernatorial victory that rocked Minnesota and the country.
Ventura went on to leave the Reform Party and created his own party, the Independence Party of Minnesota. After his exit from the political scene, the Independence Party lacked the celebrity and notoriety of Jesse Ventura and has struggled to compete against the fundraising machines of the two major parties. Today, the Independence Party is reclaiming its relevance, not through the power of celebrity, or extreme fundraising, but through the power of its ideas in the form of a new platform.
The Independence Party platform is the first step to building a competitive third party in the state of Minnesota. They say states are the laboratory of democracy. Minnesota and the Independence Party will demonstrate how an effective third party can challenge the major parties and turn the broken duopoly on its head. In so doing, we can forge a path for a viable multi-party system in Minnesota that will serve as a model for others to follow at the state and national levels.
We have much work to do, but we believe that the Independence Party platform positions us as a centrist and populist alternative to the extremes of the left and right. The “new center” that we are defining is based on three main themes of freedom, family and free markets.
We believe in robust support for families and children, public education, universal health insurance, child tax credits, childcare vouchers, universal pre-K, free community college and technical training. We believe in eliminating income tax for working families, not just for the poor and destitute.
How to pay for this? We believe in the power of free markets, less regulation, and new investments in Green Energy that will yield more high-paying jobs and economic growth. We believe in addressing intractable societal issues like climate change with market-based solutions such as a CO2 tax that will generate new revenue and assist marginalized rural and tribal communities with funding from carbon capture. We believe in energy solutions such as “new nuclear” and natural gas as the best options to bridge our conversion to a green economy.
Our platform offers much more to consider, with a range of policies that we believe will energize voters and revitalize discussion of solutions to the problems families face every day and not center our discussion on the latest outrage generated from the extreme left or right.
According to an April 2023 Gallup poll 49% of Americans identify as political independents. The rest of the electorate split evenly for each of the two major parties. Gallup finds that the 20-year trend toward independent dominance is due to “the disillusionment with the political system, U.S. institutions and the two parties, which are seen as ineffectual, too political, and too extreme.”
Reporting on the poll and the trend it identifies, Mike Allen of Axios writes, “By far the dominant U.S. party isn’t Democrats or Republicans. It’s: ‘I’ll shop around, thank you.’”
“We spend our days captivated by people with the most power and the biggest mouths,” Allen continues. “But it turns out a rising number of Americans want something else — political independence.”
Minnesotans deserve a third-party option that offers voters a choice beyond the usual partisan slogans. Twenty-five years ago, Jesse Ventura offered voters that choice. A choice they embraced. Today, the party he created, the Independence Party, is the “new center” option for Minnesotans. It should not take 25 more years to see another third-party victory in Minnesota.
Robert Hopkins is an at-large executive committee member of the Independence Party of Minnesota. To learn more about the Independence Party of Minnesota and read its platform, please visit: https://mnip.org/our-values/our-platform