In Massachusetts, the race for Governor has been made more interesting with the introduction of candidate Evan Falchuk and his United Independent Party. It is a story which is both old and new at the same time. Every few years, somebody comes along and tries to buck the system by running as an independent. Those with more complicated political philosophies than the standard “left or right” choices allow for will perk up for a moment, but soon lose their enthusiasm as they watch that candidate fall as quickly as they rose. Everyone has learned that an independent party really just can not work.
This campaign, however, may have come in the right place at the right time. So far, the standard pattern has not been followed. The enthusiasm has not waned. This candidate has emerged at a time in history when people are more inter-connected than ever, and technology has allowed grassroots politics to take one giant leap forward from knocking on doors and passing out flyers at the mall. The assumption that an independent party will never work is starting to be challenged in a more meaningful way than has been seen in recent times. The “little people” are not as little as they once were.
There is an entire generation of voters which has grown up on the internet. They understand better than any who came before that they have a platform for their voice, and they know how to use it. They know that online news media craves their comments to boost their rankings, so they comment. They know that social media can reach around the world with a message, so they reach. They see public figures raised up and torn down by the click of a mouse which sends an unfortunate video out onto the web, so they understand the power they have. These are the voters who are hungry to prove that being independent is not the same as being alone. This is Falchuk’s audience, and they are listening.
Falchuk is calling his supporters by talking about a “movement.” He is not just talking about creating this party to give himself a platform so that he can seek election. He is selling a vision of an independent party which will not just put him into office, but which will be the vehicle for repeating the process in races across the state and beyond. He is creating a template which independent voters will quickly figure out how to replicate in races across the country. It is an old grassroots formula. An attractive, likable candidate with a common-sense message is as old-school as it gets. The tools now, however, have allowed that approach to reach an exponentially larger audience.
The key is not in the campaign being technologically advanced. It is the voters. The message of equality for everyone, of supporting small businesses and reasonable housing, and of frustration with the current system has resonated with the right people. There are entrepreneurs with struggling small businesses and brilliant nerds working at the mall because they can’t afford college. They are the technologically advanced unemployed with their Playstations hooked up to the web, and the social media moms. There are hordes of the frustrated who are being told that they can actually have a voice. Unlike similar voters from years past who were told similar things, these are actually believing and acting upon it. This group actually may break the cycle.
Whether Massachusetts actually puts a Governor in office from an independent party or not, this campaign may well be the beginning of a new paradigm. If not a new paradigm, it may be the emergence of a practical method of implementing a very old one. This is the new grassroots movement. Win or not, Falchuk is beginning to give voters a sense of their own power again. That is not a genie which is likely to go back into the bottle. With this model, it may well be that at this point in history a run from an independent party really can work.
By Jim Malone