Fred Zimmerman: Independence Party not to blame

  • Updated: November 8, 2010 - 6:39 PM

Overall, the Star Tribune's coverage of the 2010 election was high-caliber and evenhanded. However, Larry Jacobs' characterization of the Independence Party as "incentivizing each of the other major parties to nominate candidates who are more liberal and conservative than most Minnesotans" was neither accurate, realistic nor rigorous ("What do they do now?'' Opinion Exchange, Nov. 7).

The forces of gridlock and excessive partisanship have been growing nationally for decades -- long before the origins of the IP. The obnoxious tenor of campaigns in many states has developed with no independent parties in the spectrum. It would be far more appropriate to describe the emerging propensity of voters to seek practical candidates as a reaction to the counterproductive partisan gridlock so many of us dislike.

Perhaps we should recall that IP candidate Tom Horner was endorsed by three former governors, a former governor of a neighboring state, a former senator, many elected officials and most Minnesota newspapers. We may find also that some of his ideas will ultimately gain approval.

As a matter of historical accuracy, the citizens of both Minnesota and Wisconsin have been quite comfortable zigzagging down the ballot to select candidates whose personal qualities and good ideas merit support. Often, the efforts of one-time independent parties such as the Progressives, Republicans and Farmer-Laborites have launched ideas that were ultimately adopted by the nation.

Whoever is ultimately declared winner of the 2010 governor's race in Minnesota will have achieved this distinction having lacked the support of more than 56 percent of voters.

Those who view the 2010 election as a massive endorsement of one party over another may wish to dig deeper. A more accurate appraisal may be that people are willing to give the other two major parties one last chance to be practical, cooperative and results-oriented. If the major parties finally succeed in working together, the country will be better off. If they do not work together, the quest for reasonable alternatives will continue, just as it has before.

FRED ZIMMERMAN

The writer is professor emeritus of engineering and management at the University of St. Thomas.

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