True Believers

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We all know about Tom Golisano’s big conversion.

Rochester’s successful businessman is, of course, associated with maverick runs at the governor’s seat from a third party line that he, for all intents and purposes, put on the map – the Independence Party.

Now Golisano has registered Republican. So what happens to the faithful the Independence Party’s true believers?

The Independence Party was born in Monroe County founded in the early 1990s as an alternative to the major parties. They would shun big donors and the top-down hierarchy of the Republicans and Democrats. They’d push for reform of government and appeal to the disaffected voter. It attracted a bushel of true believers in the wake of Ross Perot’s presidential run. No one with deeper pockets that Golisano.

But look at the party now. One former Monroe County Independence Party chairman (Dave Stockmeister) is running as a Democrat. A previous chairman (Don Porto) was openly courting George Pataki back in 2002 to run on the state party’s line. They have fended off insurgent attempts by the likes of left-leaning Lenora Fulani.

And now their champion is a Republican.

You’ve got to feel for the true believers still left. How many are left is hard to say.
You have to think that it’s a discouraging time.

History might provide them with a few sources of solace and comfort:

—The socially-conservative Democrats in the town of Greece. In the hey-day of the county Democrats, back in the late 1980s, a big source of support came from Greece Democrats. They were social conservatives but nonetheless sided with the Democratic Party.
Then, one-by-one, the defection to the Republican side began. There was John Auberger, now the Greece Town Supervisor, and Bill Reilich, now a state Assemblyman. The nail in the coffin, however, was Joe Robach. The son of Roger Robach, the state Assemblyman who perhaps best personified the Greece Democrats. Joe took over the Assembly seat. But we all know his story. He bolted from the party almost four years ago after feeling burned by the more liberal downstate Assembly leadership. He ran for the Senate, as a Republican. Now all that’s left of the movement is Fred Amato, who can’t run for reelection as a county legislator because of term limits. Whoever may be left in this camp should easily be able to reach out to the Indy Party true-believers.

—If you get outside of politics, more sympathy could come from the fans of the baseball team in Oakland, California. Back in the 1990s, fans of the Oakland Athletics (or A’s) embraced a baseball team that fielded a bunch of scruffy misfits who played the game well. They didn’t have a ton of money to spend on salaries and were the polar opposite to the big spending, corporate New York Yankees. But the A’s found themselves playing the Yankees often in the playoffs.
Their champion was a burly, long-haired, unshaven slugger named Jason Giambi.
When Giambi’s contract with the A’s ended, he put himself on the open market, available to the highest bidder. He shocked the faithful by accepting a big money contract from, of all teams, the Yankees.
When he announced his decision, Giambi had cut his hair and shaved his goatee, per the Yankees corporate dictates. He announced that his true love had always been the Yankee tradition and that, should he ever go to the Hall of Fame, he would wear the Yankee cap. Those who loved Giambi could certainly help those who backed Golisano.

—Another group of sympathizers are scattered across the country. These are the hardcore music fans who loved folk music. In the early 1960s these folkies loved their icons – Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez. They played acoustic guitar and sang solo on stage – leaning on their lyrics and voice to get out the message.
But no one was bigger than the man from Minnesota, who changed his name from Robert Zimmerman to — Bob Dylan. He played his acoustic guitar and sang about answers blowin’ in the wind and times that were a-changin’.
Dylan was a phenomenon. A folk king. Until the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, that is. On that day Dylan first walked on stage with other musicians. And they played amplified instruments, electric guitars, backed by drums. The folkies were shocked. Legend has it that fellow folk musician Pete Seeger tried to sabotage the amplifiers of Dylan. During that tour, Dylan continued playing electric. Fans yelled Judas at him.
But we all know what happened. Dylan allowed his music to grow beyond the folk, acoustic sound.

Left in the dust was the folkie faithful.

Just as it appears the Independence Party disciples are now being left behind.

Should an Indy Party true believer reach out to some of these other sympathizers, one would hope the message they would get is this: Never invest yourself in a single iconic force. Just like the Robachs and the Giambis and Dylans Tom Golisano is wedded to his own vision without affirmation from someone else.

You should do the same.

© Copyright 2005, WXXI

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