The Man about Town: “The Elephant and Donkey in the Room”


Howard Dean, former DNC chair, reclines in his seat, looking over at the other people in the room.  Nearby, company leader and independent politician Greg Orman glances about at Danny Diaz, Jeb Bush’s campaign manager, and independent politics advocate Jacqueline Salit.  Meanwhile, political science professor Beth Vonnahme prepares to respond to verbal moves from the once-U.S. Ambassador to Portugal Alex Katz.  The bell has not yet rung.  The tension has not exploded.  In fact, the civility bell will have no need to ring.  This discussion of the significance of third-party and independent politics will not, unlike some of the events of a similar nature last year, end in a battle.  A civil political discussion with those involved with both the right and the left, finding common ground over a topic that stands beyond the two-party system.  Imagine that.

This event, The Elephant and Donkey in the Room, took place at the National World War I Museum.  However, there was an element of unorthodoxy to it.  Instead of being a lecture where someone talks and everyone else listens, the group at this event discusses numerous questions, with several coming from the audience and viewers across the country.  The moderator, who brought up the questions for discussion for the first hour, was Alan Katz, founder of American Public Square, the nonprofit that organized the event.

Throughout the discussion, the guests, as well as the host, periodically stressed the importance of politics that sat beyond the realms of the two-party system.  The statistically enhanced point was brought up that, since the 1960s and up until recent years, the number of people who were opposed to their child having a spouse of differing political beliefs has greatly reduced (rising from 5% disapproval in 1960 to 40% disapproval by 2010).

Multiple solutions were proposed near the end.  Among them, a parliamentary democracy and a jungle primary, as well as having candidates that deviate from the norm run with large parties.  Both of these allow politicians to avoid having to be loyal to a certain party and were generally supported by both host and guests.  Apart from this, it was proposed that third-party and independent politicians could even be the future of America.

“The Elephant and Donkey in the Room” offers very intriguing perspectives on the future and importance of those who sit outside of the two-party system.  It, like many other available lectures in the Kansas City area is very insightful, informative, and, of course, educational.

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