Sep 1, 2010

The Angry Moderate? An Interview with Alan Reynolds, Deputy State Chairman of the California Modern Whig Party

The Modern Whig Party received a boost last week with a front page article in the Wall Street Journal that profiled the group and detailed its efforts to "tap the angry middle." The story led to coverage of the group by a number of other media sources, including the Daily Show's Indecision Forever blog, and Brian Lehrer's morning program on NPR in NYC. One of the Modern Whigs quoted in the WSJ story was Alan Reynolds, the Deputy State Chairman of the party's California affiliate. I contacted Mr. Reynolds, and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions via email. Our discussion covered his response to the WSJ article, his motivation for getting involved with the Whigs, their immediate plans in California and his take on the state's gubernatorial race, among other things.

What did you think of the Wall Street Journal article on "the angry middle"? Did you find it reasonable? skewed? accurate?
Reynolds: I think it painted a realistic view. A political party is not created overnight, nothing is. We have an uphill battle, and do not necessarily expect our numbers to be those of longer established parties. I believe our view of focusing on Methodology over Ideology to be a good one, especially in a time when practicality dictates realistic changes that people can embrace, instead of the far right or left. Also, I don't believe we are a political party for only the "mild mannered," though they are free to join with us, we believe strongly in what we stand for, but are willing to adapt.
The article quotes you saying "the cards are stacked against us." Would you elaborate on this?
Reynolds: I believe that this means that, in what is in effect a two-party system, as a third party in general, it is difficult to penetrate onto the level of the Republicans and Democrats, and as as Modern Whigs we are a new party, which makes things even more difficult. This quote from the WallStreet Journal article was actually from Andrew Evans [oops! sorry. -d.] and I asked him to address it as well. Andrew writes: "the cards are stacked against us and this means that we realize we have a lot to do to be able to be to the point where we can be an option for the American people in every race, every election. There are very difficult and biased ballot access laws, which we and other parties must overcome. We know that our goal to offer Americans non fringe, moderate, practical solutions will take time to realize but we are committed to giving our all to serve the American people."
How did you get involved with the Modern Whigs? What attracted you to them? What turned you off to the major parties?
Reynolds: During the primaries for the 2008 presidential election, I found myself not being happy with any of the major party candidates, and started to look around for alternatives. While I had taken a look at the Libertarian party and even voted for them in the past (as well as Republicans and Democrats) they did not quite fit with me. The basic tenants of the Modern Whig party did fit, and the development of the "Methodology over Ideology" works well with my personal focus on results and frustration with partisan bickering. As a party we are composed of both people on the left and right who want to focus on the issues that can be changed without being drawn to extremes on issues that are divisive. While we may individually have views on these issues, we can still work together.
What are your responsibilities as Deputy State Chairman of the party?
Reynolds: Our State Chair in California is a busy individual, as he is also our Western Region Chair and serves on the Executive committee for National. What I try to do is provide guidance and answers to interested members and those that might want to take on a more active role in the party as well as provide leadership for various ongoing issues and projects. In addition I intermittently manage a Twitter page, @CAModernWhig, and generally work with our members and leadership on whatever needs to get done.
What kind of work are you (i.e. the Modern Whigs) doing in California? What are your immediate goals?
Reynolds: Our focus is on continuing to develop our message and let people know that we are a real option for them. We are working toward our goal of becoming a qualified political party in California, which is an ongoing project and encouraging people to make their presence felt in local government, whether that is to run for office, appointed positions, or just to be involved.
While the Whigs are organizing, what would you like to see result from this year's elections in California?
Reynolds: As we have no candidates of our own running for Federal or State positions our focus is to find candidates in other parties that we feel somewhat reflect our values in order to recommend them. There is also a strong sentiment from certain members that we need to have a change in our elected officials and that most of them should be replaced with new people. Considering the state of matters in California, I do not believe this to be a surprising view. In essence we need to support candidates that will listen to the voters and legislate what their constituents believe in, of course keeping in mind both the US and CA Constitutions, whether these are Independents, Republicans, Democrats, or third party candidates. In addition we will be posting a Voters Guide on the propositions on the ballot.
In an analysis on the CA Whig Party website from July, you size up a number of candidates for CA governor, and come down in favor of Chelene Nightingale, but state you could be swayed in favor of another candidate. Have you changed your opinion in this regard, or do you still stand by that analysis?
Reynolds: The analysis you refer to specifically did not include the Republican or Democrat candidates, not because I felt either of them to be lacking, but because I felt people might already know more about them than their 3rd party counterparts. The comments made in the analysis were my personal views and meant to get people to think about their options. At this time I have not completed an in-depth additional analysis, and while none of the listed 3rd party candidates fits my views 100%, I would still lean towards Chelene Nightingale among them, but have not yet decided who I will vote for.
On the front page of the CA Whig Party website, an announcement highlights the candidacy of independent/Whig Jeff Vanke in Virginia, stating that he is "competing in what is tantamount to a two-person race against a vulnerable Republican. There is no Democrat in the race while Vanke, a moderate, is currently polling in double digits." Given that this is in fact a 3-person race, with the Republican polling 71%, Vanke at 12% and the Libertarian Bain at 7%, is this not a misleading description of the situation in Virginia? I expect misleading statements from Democrats and Republicans, but have higher expectations for independents and third parties. Would you commit to placing a more accurate description of this race on the CA Whig website?
Reynolds: I believe that the statement mentioned is intended to be read to mean that due to there being only one candidate from a "Major Party" and with the Whig candidate, Jeff Vanke, being the other candidate polling in "double digits" (at the time of the poll) the race is essentially focused on the 2 individuals in the lead.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions!

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