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The Independence Party: a closing window of opportunity

Too often the IP is forced to take “anybody” willing to file for office. The messages get mixed up and sometimes are uncertain. 

The following are the words of MN Independence Party Director Kyle Lewis in a Facebook resignation of his position:

To this day, the IP cannot tell who it is or what it stands for…..the IP (is) in worse shape than when I joined……. I cannot keep my name as a leader of a party that I do not believe is the best option for the voters of this state.

Yes, the Independence Party of Minnesota is in worse shape now than it has been in the past. And there are a myriad of reasons for this:

1) They never built a core organizational structure. They were, essentially, victims of an early success when Jesse Ventura won a stunning upset as governor in 1998. That success too often led them to seek a similar shortcut to winning — namely the celebrity candidate.

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2) They forgot that all politics is local. And by local, I don’t mean statewide politics. I mean real local — commissioner, school board, legislative politics. That type of local politicking can be time consuming and a long term project. However, the IP never really started it.

3) Swinging with an issue du jour. Although the IP has a reasonably good party platform, they tend to swing with the politics of the moment. Term limits, balancing the budget, marijuana; the publicity issues stick but a consistent message is lost. The average person can’t point to a party position that is up front year after year.

The Independence Party still has major party status and its candidates can still qualify for public financing. But the money is too small to be really competitive and their status is tempting for single issue instigators to take over one office run or another. 

The current governor candidate Hannah Nicollet comes out of the Ron Paul movement — and although she denies that her background will dominate her message — it is hard to take seriously given the fervor with which Paul supporters cling to their core ideals.

Too often the IP is forced to take “anybody” willing to file for office. The messages get mixed up and sometimes are uncertain. 

In the end, they are a protest vote. A frustration vote against the two party system — and although that can be relevant, it is not a method for winning elections.

I have always believed that the IP has to first and foremost concentrate on a few key, local legislative races and have a presence in the legislature. They need to think in terms of a very specific strategy. Find weak spots and a particular message that will appeal to that place and time.

Even if they could find another celebrity type lightning in a bottle, it would still not solve their long term problem. Mr. Lewis was spot on with his statement. That is the IP in its current state.

But with the right strategy going forward, they might still have the opportunity to make something happen. They still have a window, but it is closing fast.

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This post was written by Dave Mindeman and originally published on mnpACT! Progressive Political Blog. Follow Dave on Twitter: @newtbuster.

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