Updated: May 5
Way back in 2000, after four years of the grand experiment building a new national party -- the Reform Party USA, founded by Ross Perot -- we saw the handwriting on the wall. The Reform Party was dead.
We picked up our feet and kept searching for a way out of the two-party system. We learned lots from the experiment, especially how to work on the things that we agree on starting with Perot's lesson. What are we doing to secure the economic well-being of the American people? Let's call it economic populism. That word -- populism -- can be used for good and bad, but we have held to the notion that no one owns it. The door has been open for decades since, in terms of how we use populism to truly empower Americans of all stripes.
In 2001, we decided to continue the experiment by building independent politics and economic populism without a party. We formed Independent Texans, PAC, a general purpose political action committee. We continued the "cross-partisan" experiment in Central Texas. That's about as far as the "poorest little pac in Texas" had the resources to go. We worked heavily in the City of Austin trying to reason with big real estate interests which have since taken the city off the affordability cliff.
In 2003-4, Independent Texans began working with the Austin Toll Party, founded by Sal Costello. Sal was just a regular guy, a Democratic voter, and a marketing genius. He couldn't believe that a bridge almost completed in his community in SW Austin, would have a toll on it. He got nowhere complaining about it to the City of Austin and the Texas Department of Transportation. After checking out the laws with some local attorney activists, he started calling the toll roads that had already been paid for, "double-tax toll roads."
Shortly thereafter, Sal met Linda and David Stall, of Fayette County. Both were avid Republicans. The Stalls had just begun to take issue with Rick Perry's scheme to build the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), aka the "NAFTA Highway." The $200+ billion project would have placed a 1/4 mile wide toll road from South Texas to the Oklahoma border over the most precious farmland in Texas (and the world), the Blackland Prairie. The road promised massive seizures of land through eminent domain. The Stalls hastily called folks out to a TxDOT meeting in Fayetteville. Over 800 people lined up out the door and around the building.
The Stop the TTC and "double-tax tolls" movement began to unite citizens in urban and rural Texas from all parties and persuasions -- from the John Birch Society to the Environmental Defense Fund! In 2005, then Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, began to turn the Comptroller's attention on the decision to transform our "pay-as-you-go" highway system into public-private partnership toll roads. The 300-page bill for the change was thrown on the desks of legislators late in the 2003 session, thanks to Governor Rick Perry's "highway henchmen", as Strayhorn called them. Alongside us was Pat Choate, renowned economist and former Perot running mate (1996).
In late 2005, Strayhorn made her move to leave the GOP and to run as an independent against Rick Perry. It is our belief she would have won this election had there not been another independent for Governor in this race. No offense at all to Kinky Friedman. It just was what is was.
We wrote a paper about this, "Divided We Stood," which has been lost in history -- a common experience for the losers in most fights. Just know that even with two independents, their combined voters came in second in a three-way race. Rick Perry was reelected with 39%, teaching Texans we hold plurality elections in November.
Though we were very disappointed Stayhorn didn't take Perry to the woodshed, we were delighted to have played our part in seeing Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor go down in flames and an end to the "double-tax toll roads." The latter was shepherd through Congress by none-other-than Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010 and used in her unsuccessful bid to unseat Perry in the 2010 Republican primary. Should she have also run as an independent? We thought so.
We here at Independent Texans strongly believe that the Trans-Texas Corridor transformed into Trans-Texas Water Highway -- the Vista Ridge, the "San Antone Hose" -- in 2014 when it was rammed through the San Antonio City Council. Be sure to visit LIV's water page, The Big Squeeze for the full story.
Much more that happened from there that includes more wins and plenty of loss. Will Texas ever clean up its act? Not likely without Texas business getting a clue that our growth and prosperity are tied to stability and a whole lot less kleptocracy. When will they accept this reality? Maybe never without a full blown independent electoral revolt.
On Governor 39%, we'll leave you with this thought. Whether you like plurality elections or not, our point is this.
Independent -- non-aligned voters and those who you might call "true independents" (let's say about 10% of Texas voters) can swing elections. And, if we can swing elections, we might just swing us out of the two-party duopoly that is the real cause of the death of democracy and prosperity for all. How we do this is the work of Independent Texans and any others who dare to work inside and outside (simultaneously) the two-party system.
In 2013, some of those who started Independent Texans also helped found the League of Independent Voters of Texas. LIV is a 501c4 non-profit, non-partisan membership association for Texans who want competitive elections -- MORE choices at the ballot box.
We invite you to check out LIV and become a member. Visit https://www.LIVTX.org