Why I left the DFL


by Paula Overby. June 26, 2014 

Ever since I was a young child I have pledged my “allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” This pledge was not officially recognized by the United States Congress until 1942 and the words “one Nation under God” were added in 1954. There has of course been intense debate about separation of church and state and even the challenge that a democratic republic built on freedom of dissent should not require its citizens to pledge allegiance to it. It certainly did little to protect thousands of Japanese Americans who were deprived of their liberties and their livelihood under suspicions about their loyalty.

We live under a government where corporations are recognized as people and women are not. That has given me serious pause to question, “to what exactly have I pledged my allegiance.” A recent study from Princeton University, Testing Theories of American Politics, has concluded that the U.S. Is no longer a republic. “The US has become a country led by a small dominant class comprised of powerful members who exert total control over the general population — an oligarchy.” Would that not invalidate any pledge made to that republic? 

For me these questions are rhetorical. Robert H. Jackson writing for the majority asserted in clarion words how such ideological dogma is antithetical to the principles of the country, concluding with: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.". This principle is the fundamental basis of my decision to run for U.S House of Representatives and my subsequent decision to leave the DFL and join the Independence Party.

I entered the DFL from political activism in support of a candidate who was very instrumental in passing local civil rights ordinances. He was not endorsed by the DFL but at the time I had little understanding of the full implications of that consequence. I attended the district and state conventions, supported local campaigns, and worked extensively in the campaign to defeat the marriage amendment, which I held as a strong civil rights issue.

I became a member of the DFL State Central Committee when they added 50 at large delegates from underrepresented communities. I was selected as a representative of the GLBT community At the same time I became a member of three state standing committees, the Platform Committee, the Party Affairs and Coordinated Campaign Committee, and the Outreach and Inclusion Committee. As a member of a very small highly persecuted minority, I was of course quite passionate about Outreach and Inclusion. This was the new paradigm for affirmative action. It is no secret that Affirmative action was traditionally about registering minority voters and promoting loyalty to the DFL. For me, the principle put forth in Outreach and Inclusion was a very progressive movement that responded to the diminishing wealth of the the middle class and the changing demographics of this country with respect to cultural diversity. 

I was subsequently elected to the position of State Director by the State Central Committee on a very simple platform. “Ours is a nation of immigrants; a nation of minorities. To deny immigration reform is to deny our heritage and continuing to discriminate against minorities is to jeopardize our future.” … “The power of a great campaign is not in who wins and who loses. The power of a great campaign is in the message we create and the impact we have on our culture.” … “When we represent our values and engage with citizens we change our culture. That’s how we win. That’s how we create a sustainable victory.

It is also no secret that our political parties contain a glass ceiling which parallels the glass ceiling found in Corporate America. Ultimately, Outreach and Inclusion was completely ineffective at increasing the diversity of party membership and actually served to highlight the total lack of any initiative to promote women and minorities to positions of legitimate authority or persuasion. It emphasized the fact that our political process is functionally the same type of old boy network that characterizes Corporate America. The failure of Outreach and Inclusion emphasizes the fact that our political process is one of assimilation and a pledge of allegiance, not to any political ideals or social values but rather to the authority of the party. It is inherently prohibitive toward women, and in similar respects most minorities because the emphasis on power and control conflicts with women's relational values of community, care giving and cooperation. 

There is an illusion that progress demands full control, that the powerful elite are acting for the good of the party, that the party represents the interests of the people. This illusion is enhanced by political paralysis and government shutdowns. This political polarization is the fundamental failure of our two party system. It is emphasized in a recent Pew Research report, Political Polarization in the American. Public. “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades.” This is precisely what I discovered during two years of extensive engagement with minority cultures and other politically underrepresented groups, doing Outreach and Inclusion for the DFL. Politics is becoming increasingly extremist and a majority of American citizens are becoming increasingly disenfranchised. For a democracy, this is a very bad trend and does in fact allow for the controlling interests of the Oligarchy.

The future of our Democracy depends not on our ability to concentrate wealth and power but on our ability to distribute power and create a shared sense of responsibility. Leadership is the ability to motivate the masses and weave our individual achievements into a thread of common purpose. The Independence Party represents this new political paradigm. Voters identifying as independents are now in the majority.

To win in the GOP or the DFL you must demonstrate your loyalty to the party. I found no real commitment to the type of Allophilia demanded by cultural diversity. Power is represented by systemic rewards and special interests. For power to reside with the people, the representative must respond to the will of the people and not the will of the party. To win as an Independent you must earn the trust of the people you represent. The Independence Party represents independent candidates that subscribe to a similar set of values, something completely lacking in the other major parties.

For the benefit of voters our candidates share an overlapping commitment to Independence Party platform positions. The Independence Party recognizes that unanimous consent is not a realistic or utilitarian goal. The common good demands compromise that maximizes the worth of the individual. We have too many laws, too many policies, too many programs that fail to achieve any meaningful result because they lack the level of diversity that is essential to sound decision making in a complex society. Too often negative consequences overwhelm any potential benefits. The intelligence of the group will always exceed the intelligence of any individual member. As a society we can not afford to limit the collective intelligence of our leadership to a minority demographic that lacks any shared experience with the majority. In a political environment where the wealth of a small minority can dominate the will of the majority, the most important voice in the room is the dissenting opinion.