Wikinews interviews Mike Lebowitz, chairman of the U.S. Modern Whig Party
Friday, July 17, 2009
According to the Pew Research Center, a non-advocacy organization that evaluates issues, attitudes and trends shaping the political landscape of the United States, centrism is on the rise in America. According to Pew, the number of Americans identifying themselves as independents has reached the highest level in 70 years.
Recently 36% of Americans say they are independents, 35% identify as Democrats, while 23% see themselves as Republicans. Some people are abandoning the major parties, re-registering as independent or joining third parties.
One of these third parties are the Modern Whig Party (MWP), who have enjoyed phenomenal growth over the past year; from just 3,000 members last summer to 30,000 now. With the Party's commitment to "fiscal responsibility" and "bold social progression", several conservative Democrats and centrist Republicans have been attracted to it.
Wikinews reporter Joseph Ford recently spoke with the Modern Whig Party's chairman, Mike Lebowitz, about the MWP's history, present state and future prospects. "Our membership is comprised of people from all parts of the mainstream political spectrum," Lebowitz explains. He says that the MWP has "pragmatic, realistic, and mainstream" approaches to the numerous issues facing America today.
"A number of print and broadcast media outlets have even gone so far as to proclaim that the Modern Whig Party is "potentially viable," and "makes sense"," Lebowitz points out. "We are building this organization realistically, methodically and gradually in an effort to get this right."
He went on to say much more — including why he thinks you should consider leaving the GOP or the Dems for the MWP — in the interview below.
In a nutshell, what does the Modern Whig Party stand for?
((Chairman Lebowitz)) Founded by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the Modern Whig Party represents a movement toward common sense, rational solutions ahead of partisan bickering and ideology.
((WN)) Is the MWP on the left or right end of the political spectrum?
((CL)) The general principles of the Modern Whig Party relate to fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and bold social progression. Looking a bit deeper into our detailed vision, the organization takes pragmatic, realistic, and mainstream approaches to areas such as energy independence and tax disbursement that take into account the needs of corporate America along with everybody else. To this end, our membership is comprised of people from all parts of the mainstream political spectrum. This tells us that we may be on the right track for developing that elusive formula where voters of all political stripes can find common ground with one political movement.
((WN)) How old is your party? Who founded it and why?
((CL)) The historic Whig Party was a dominant political force that included such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln. So in that regard, the Whigs are one of the oldest political movements in the nation. The modern revival was conceived by American soldiers serving in Iraq, who in turn communicated via the Internet such ideas with fellow soldiers in Afghanistan. In Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers have a lot of time to reflect. We watched how common sense rationality was being abandoned in favor of partisan bickering and decisions based solely on ideology. We noticed how the partisan fighting and ideological focus trumped common sense on not just military issues, but most other issues as well. This included traffic, education, trade, scientific development, fiscal soundness, energy independence, etc. Upon our return in 2006, we initially revived the Whig Party as a military advocacy organization on behalf of soldiers, veterans and military families. By 2008, we had attracted a group of military and non-military supporters to the point where we became a mainstream political organization. The historic Whigs represented a moderate, common sense movement focused on improving US infrastructure and education. In this regard, we found the Whigs to be an excellent fit in our modern context.
((WN)) Over the past few months, the Modern Whig Party has been steadily increasing in membership. Around this time last year, the MWP had under 5,000 members. Today, that number has grown to nearly 30,000. In your opinion, what is the reason for the MWP's sudden and rapid increase and popularity? Do you expect it to continue growing at this pace?
((CL)) As the word continues to get out about our organization, we do expect the Modern Whig Party to maintain its steady growth. A number of print and broadcast media outlets have even gone so far as to proclaim that the Modern Whig Party is "potentially viable," and "makes sense." Another outlet stated that this organization is the "fastest growing political movement in the nation." Perhaps the main reason we continue to gain traction is that these media outlets are recognizing that the Modern Whig Party is attractive to moderate Democrats, independents and disenchanted Republicans. At the same time, we are building this organization realistically, methodically and gradually in an effort to get this right.
((WN)) How exactly does the Modern Whig Party differ from America's two largest political parties; the Republican and Democratic?
((CL)) One important difference between the Modern Whig Party and the other two parties is that we look beyond partisan rivalry and will absolutely support a candidate or elected official from a different party if that person subscribes to a doctrine of common sense and rational solutions rather than ideology. We realize that most people are not limited to one distinct ideology and instead pick and choose based on specific issues.
((WN)) Is your party running any candidates for federal or statewide office in the 2010 midterm elections?
((CL)) Our strategy is to refrain from trotting out as many candidates as possible just to lose. Instead, we are diverting our resources and focus to a relatively small group of initial candidates who bring quality and viability to the table. We are continuing the vetting process for our potential candidates. So far, we have two announced candidates running for office. A well-qualified candidate named Gene Baldassari is running for the New Jersey State Assembly in the 14th District. That election is November 2009. In addition, Paul McKain is running for Congress in Florida's 2nd Congressional District. Paul McKain is a prominent entrepreneur, retired firefighter and recognized child-safety advocate who brings a wealth of down-to-earth experience and qualifications.
((WN)) Currently, are there any elected officials in the United States that are members of the Modern Whig Party?
((CL)) We have some prominent members who have signed onto this organization to include military generals, former GOP county/state officials and current/former elected officials on the local level. However, we do not have any elected officials on the Whig ticket as we still are a newly constituted political organization. In fact, many of our members remain on the GOP and Democratic rolls, which again, is something that we have no problems with as we continue to build.
((WN)) While the Modern Whig Party's moderate standings are similar to those of many Americans, the majority of voters are wary of joining or supporting third parties. This is largely due to the massive - and often spectacular - failures of the Libertarian, Green, Constitution and Reform parties. None of these were ever able to gain mainstream notoriety and/or longevity. How do you plan to prevent the MWP from following the same path to destruction that these parties did?
((CL)) The Modern Whig Party is essentially rewriting the book on building a viable, rational and realistic political movement. Third parties are actually similar to the GOP and Democrats in that they follow their own ideologies and remain unabashedly antagonistic toward opposing political organizations. In contrast, the Modern Whig Party will continue to focus on common sense, rational solutions ahead of such partisan bickering and ideology. At the same time, we are realistic as to the tough road ahead and understand that we are not entitled to members. This approach, along with our roots among our veterans, has proven to offer voters of all political stripes a viable, rational and non-fringe political home.
((WN)) By the time of the next presidential election, do you expect the Modern Whig Party to be a major player in the American political arena?
((CL)) You never know how events are going to develop. But nothing ever came out of doing nothing and we will continue to build and grow.
((WN)) Right now - more than any time in recent history - Americans are disgusted with both the Republican and Democratic parties. Many feel that the GOP went too far in their attempts to legislate morality and that the Democrats are plunging the nation into fiscal crisis. Why should the Modern Whig Party be considered a viable alternative to both of these?
((CL)) When people take a look at what the Modern Whig Party has to offer, a lightbulb seems to go off. So it is clear that people want a political party that places common sense, realistic, and rational solutions ahead of partisan bickering and ideology. Our job now is to get the word out and show people that it is ok to sign on and support what we are working to build. There is a profound desire for a non-fringe political movement that caters to independent-minded people in a rational manner. Founded by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, this organization is realistic and continues to catch on based on our recent history and political mentality.
- "Pew poll notes rise in independent voters" — National Public Radio, May 21, 2009
- "Independents Take Center Stage in Obama Era" — Pew Research Center, May 21, 2009
- "Modern Whig Party: '3000 members and growing'" — Independent Political Report, June 13, 2008
- "Whig History" — Missouri Whigs, unknown