A Candidate for the 99%?

By Jim Catano

Salt Lake’s former mayor, Rocky Anderson, quit the Democrats and in a lively manifesto is calling for the formation of an alternative, third party. And yes, he’d consider running for office.

If you followed Rocky Anderson’s two terms as Salt Lake City’s mayor, you always knew that he inhabited the left wing of the Democratic Party. But when a new Democratic president proved to lean further right than Nixon and Eisenhower (Fox News “Obama’s a socialist” accusations notwithstanding), it was the final straw for Rocky—who recently resigned as a Democrat.

Not surprisingly, he’s not going quietly into the night.  

“Neither the Dems nor Republi­cans have done anything to solve the most pressing crisis facing our planet,” he said, alluding to the climate change, and lamented their “caving to the fossil fuel industry.” Rocky has a list of grievances against his own former party’s current political philosophy and “any one should be enough for a principled Democrat to say adios.”

I’ve pared down his list:

 “Collusion with the Republican Party in undermining the (social) safety net.”

Being a party to legislation “exacerbating the enormous inequality in income and wealth not existing in the U.S. since at least the 1920s.” 

Failing to “enact universal health care or even a public option” in contrast to every other industrialized nation.  

Conspiring with Republicans to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Rocky further contends, “Obama has set the stage for cuts in Social Security and Medicare,” and that “the budget disaster is primarily a result of the wars started by Bush and expanded by Obama.” 

He laments that “not one person responsible for financial fraud leading to the economic 2008 melt-down has been charged by the Obama administration,” and condemns “the revolving door straight to employment” between powerful corporations and the federal agencies they’re supposed to regulate.

Before the Occupy Wall Street movement (which he mostly supports) lifted the torch, Rocky was complaining that “Democrats are as much a part of the corrupt corporate cronyism as the Republicans—acting primarily in the interest of their campaign contributors.”  

He believes the Democratic Party is “as militarist and war-mongering” as the GOP and almost equally a lap dog of the military-industrial complex, having wasted billions of tax dollars on unnecessary or outdated weapons systems.  

But Rocky’s biggest personal complaint against today’s Dems is for backing down from their former high ground—human rights. He loathes “the use of unmanned drones to assassinate people” including their collateral damage  innocent men, women and children. 

He decries Democrat complicity in many of the extra-Constitutional actions in the War on Terror. He cites Obama’s continuation of Bush’s surveillance program on citizens, renewal of the PATRIOT Act, failure to investigate and prosecute abuses by the previous administration and, instead, to “just move forward and not look back” which he sees as “de facto immunity to high-ranking government officials for war crimes.” 

Obama is not exclusively at fault. Rocky began growing uneasy with the Democratic Party during the Clinton administration. He faults Clinton’s actions in “reducing the social and economic safety net” falsely billed as “welfare reform,” his signing of “the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act,” human rights tragedies such as turning a blind eye on the Rwandan genocide, and failure to lead the world in combating the climate crisis—symptoms that inform  Rocky’s opinion that Democrats have been jettisoning their moral compass and selling out to corporate interests.  

Many Congressional Democrats during the Bush years also get low marks for issues such as collusion over tax breaks for the wealthy and green-lighting the Iraq War.  

Not only did Rocky quit the Democrats, but he’s now calling for the formation of a new party that would “better reflect our constitutional and moral values, and support a return to the strong economy and support for the middle class that existed from the New Deal until the disastrous Reagan trickle-down-fraud years.”

He contends that the two major parties are not significantly differentiated because they “feed at the same trough” regularly filled with campaign contributions by wealthy corporate interests.

The new party Rocky envisions would aim to give the American people what they want: “Medicare for all, an end to the ‘war on drugs,’ no reductions of Social Security, an end to outlandish imperialistic wars, accountability for the criminality that brought about the economic melt-down, a strong challenge to the military-industrial complex and reduced military spending, a restoration of the rule of law, and an end to the influence of money in our political system.” 

What part would Rocky play? “I would entertain the idea of running as a candidate of an alternative party, but only if there were significant support for my candidacy from the outset.” He sees all existing third parties such as the Green Party as too limited in scope and vision to bind together a broad coalition across several racial, economic and political sub-cultures to make a major impact.   

So far, Rocky hasn’t pushed all that hard for the birth of a new party, but one of his friends is thinking big and has launched an exploratory effort to rally forces for a Rocky Anderson presidential bid. A few influential individuals (including Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame) have expressed tentative support, but for now only a “Draft Rocky 2012” Facebook page has been set up.  Rocky continues to run the High Road for Human Rights education and advocacy programs he founded. But stay tuned, folks. We’ve all learned that Rocky never disappoints when it comes to bold initiatives. 

Jim Catano is an underemployed freelance writer and editor who will compose for food.

This article was originally published on October 31, 2011.