Q&A with Dan Schnur

first_imgUnruh Institute Director and former California Secretary of State candidate Dan Schnur granted the Daily Trojan an interview to talk about his recent campaign as a No Party Preference candidate — and what that means for the future of politics.  The following interview has been edited for space. Could you talk about why you ran for California Secretary of State without a party affiliation?I think there’s two questions there. One is why I became a No Party Preference voter, and the second is why it’s so important to the office. To answer in reverse order, it’s a pretty straightforward answer. The umpire shouldn’t be wearing a Dodgers or a Giants jersey, and by the same token, the state’s Chief Election Officer shouldn’t be Democrat or Republican. So I think it’s very important for the Secretary of State to be someone who isn’t beholden to either party.The other question is why I became No Party Preference. Like an increasing number of voters, I’ve begun to find that both parties are more ideologically extreme than my own political preferences. I’m for lower taxes and marriage equality, I’m tough on crime and I’m pro-choice, I believe that citizenship is a necessary part of immigration reform and that student test scores are a necessary part of teacher evaluation. That puts me fundamentally at both parties on a number of issues that are important to me.I feel like there’s a lot more pragmatism to that view, but when people see voters lined up on party lines and voting along party lines, there’s a feeling of solidarity. Where is that feeling of solidarity between No Party Preference voters, who might have seemingly disparate views? How do you generate solidarity in a voter base like that?We know that [No Party Preference] voters might hold both major parties in very low regard, but voters still use those traditional party identifiers as cues when they don’t have a great deal of other information available about the candidates. On one hand, the No Party Preference voting bloc is the fastest growing in California. On the other hand, it’s going to be some time before voters begin to relate that alternative to a particular set of policy and political choices. When you were running for Secretary of State did you notice a larger section of NPP voters? Something we certainly noticed during the campaign is that there’s been a great deal of statistical evidence in recent years to back up that instinct. Data shows NPP voters are now almost one quarter of the electorate in California. Polling shows that number is even greater among the millennial generation. Voters generally are increasingly identifying as independent of either party, but younger voters are doing so in much greater number. I’ve got a theory on that — my generation grew up in an era where there were three networks on the television and five buttons on the radio. We’re used to having a limited number of choices available. Today’s college students grew up in an era with an infinite number of entertainment options available to them. If you can have a thousand cable channels and literally millions of websites to visit, why in the world would you want to limit yourself to only two options when it comes to politics?But I am the second most important person in this conversation when it comes to millennial-based decisions, what’s your take on the situation?I don’t want to say that millennials are more educated, but I want to say that the fact that so much more information is available to us gives us the critical decision-making skills to allow us to discern between partisan politics, and what kind of policy we might want to get behind as it pertains to our personal well-being — much in the same way democracy was intended to function. It’s definitely not going to work as a two-party system in the future. But to bring this discussion back to you and what Unruh does, what kind of organizations are there to harbor this type of discussion on campus? There is not, not to my knowledge … Almost by definition, an organization of independents is an oxymoron. Where you begin to see those alternatives spring up on campus or in our community is around individual issues, rather than a third-party movement. The average person in college or elsewhere in the world doesn’t think, “I need to be a vanguard to start a third party alternative to Democrats and Republicans.” More likely is that they think, “Neither party is satisfactorily addressing my concerns about this particular issue, so I’m going to get involved with an organization that could make the kind of change that could work.” Is there anything else you wanted us to take away from your campaign for Secretary of State that we should have taken away as students?I don’t believe that [an] independent or NPP voter is inherently superior in any way to a member of one of the traditional parties. I would never dream of trying to convince a student who’s a principled conservative or a principled progressive to become more moderate. But one of the goals, one of the main goals of my campaign, was to make it clear that in addition to the principled progressives and the principled conservatives who populate California politics, is that there’s a need for a more aggressive option in between the 40-yard lines.I tell the students in my class that the difference between politics and football is that in politics, the victories come between the 40-yard lines. Even the most principled progressive or principled conservative in the world can’t make change exactly the way they want it, as long as we live in a democracy and not a monarchy. So the question becomes, “How do you bring those principled individuals on both sides closer to the middle in order to get something done?”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *