The Future of New Dignity Party
Does New Dignity Party have a future? My expectations were dashed by the election results. Furthermore, no one contacted the campaign to express interest in supporting it or the party. Even so, this effort may have been better than nothing from the standpoint of future campaigns: It put the name of New Dignity Party in front of many people in Minneapolis who saw this name on the printed ballot, or on lawn signs, or on some of the thousands of pieces of literature distributed in the city. A beginning has been made.
If I am the only person actively involved in New Dignity Party, it will not be worthwhile for this party to run candidates - or a candidate - in future campaigns. I do believe, however, that the ideals are worth pursuing. It will take speeches before civic groups and other personal contact to get the word out effectively. The misconceptions regarding race and other identity issues will not lightly be dismissed.
Frankly, a race for Minnesota state office will take money to gain good results. I cannot afford to self-finance an effective statewide campaign. Either another New Dignity Party candidate or a group of candidates must do this. Money is no object for some but it is for me.
I would guess that at least $30,000 would need to be raised for New Dignity Party to meet the objectives of a statewide campaign. We would need to have candidates for at least three different offices on the ballot. We would need to have a booth at the Minnesota State Fair. We would need to do a certain amount of media advertising. Otherwise, old-fashioned shoe leather would have to take us to our destination.
If New Dignity Party wants to run candidates for Minnesota state offices, its candidates must get on the ballot by petitioning. State law requires that each such candidate must collect at least 2,000 signatures on a petition supporting his or her candidacy. Because the signatures are verified for legitimacy, candidates would need to gather a few extra signatures as a cushion. Let’s say that 2,500 signatures for each candidate would be a reasonable goal. The petitions would then be submitted to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, headed by my old friend Mark Ritchie.
The signatures can be gathered in several ways. First, the candidate can collect them himself or herself. That would take a huge commitment of time. Second, if New Dignity Party had a number of members, the burden of signature collection could be shared by several volunteers. Third, candidates can pay professional signature-collectors to do this work. I know from helping another candidate last year that the going rate is $1.50 or $2.00 per signature. Going that route, candidates could get themselves on the ballot spending a maximum of $5,000.
For candidates who collected the required number of signatures, it would not be necessary to win a primary. New Dignity Party would not have primaries. One could proceed straight to the general election.
Why go through this exercise? The goal, as I said, would be for at least one of the New Dignity Party candidates to receive at least 5 percent of the vote. Then the party would have major-party status like the Republican, DFL, or Independence Party. In the future, its candidates could get on the ballot without petitioning. Major-party status would also bring increased visibility and some opportunity to obtain funding through the check-off provision on the state income-tax return. Most importantly, it would give the new party momentum. The sky’s the limit for such a party in this day and age.
Despite the poor results in the Minneapolis election, I believe that a statewide race offers a good opportunity to win votes. Remember that I went from receiving 143 votes for mayor in the 2001 Minneapolis city election to receiving 8,432 votes in 2002 as a candidate for U.S. Senate in the Independence Party primary. Each election is different. The 2002 campaign did also include an identity-related plank. Minnesota voters are different than those in the city of Minneapolis. I think they would be more congenial to a new approach on identity-related issues if the right discussion took place.
As the 2009 campaign demonstrated, racial or gender identity is a messy proposition politically speaking, at least for a white man like me. But it is has increasingly become the main issue dividing us Americans along political lines. Identity is a serious problem. This issue will have to be dealt with forthrightly if our politics can have a healthy future.
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A message to you, the reader:
If you have gotten this far with my story of the 2009 mayor’s race in Minneapolis, you may have an opinion about New Dignity Party and its aims. Good or bad, please share it with me.
I hope you will recognize this campaign as an attempt to do something about a city government that is insufficiently responsive to people’s needs. Our political system is in disrepair on all levels of government. Our community is suffering, as Jimmy Carter once said, from a certain “malaise”, fed by betrayal of the public trust. Each of us ultimately sinks or swims with our community. We therefore cannot afford to ignore politics. A single person can make a difference.
In this case, you can see that my campaign for mayor did not succeed. The election results were disappointing by any standard. Yet, my candidacy and New Dignity Party did stake out positions that were different than most. A certain beginning has been made to deal with questions that are usually ignored.
If you agree with those positions, I would invite you to help build New Dignity Party. The first step is to contact me. (An email address is provided at email@example.com.) You are the key to what will become of this party. An initial contact does not obligate you to do anything, of course, but is is an essential first step without which the party will disappear.
A statewide election is coming up next year in Minnesota. This is a “make-or-break” situation for New Dignity Party. So we need to move quickly if our new party is to have a future.
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Statement eight years later, in June 2017:
It has now been eight years since the campaign for mayor and other city offices by New Dignity Party candidates. Nothing has since happened to revive the dream of a creating new political party of this kind. In 2010, I ran for Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota with Bob Carney as a Republican, briefly for state representative in Minnesota house district 59-B in 2012, and then for U.S. President in the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary. The last was a thoroughly disastrous experience. I have no further political ambitions at this time.
Even so, my many and various political campaigns since the new century began have been generally instructive. Even though there is no New Dignity Party engaging in election campaigns, I think it useful to keep the idea alive by posting a detailed, thorough account of the 2009 campaign in Minneapolis by three candidates under its banner. Let this be part of a package of writings that shed light on the state of our politics.