How To Be An Agitator

Posted by Andy Smith on May 29, 2015 at 8:30 PM

Right now in America a broad movement exists calling for change. It cannot be defined by any single label. Independent, Common Sense, Moderate, Centrist, they have all been used to characterize aspects of something much larger.

It is a movement driven by a deep disillusionment with politics. Its members are the crazy voters, the ones who view the low standards of leadership, the lack of government responsiveness, and the failure of Congress to do anything meaningful, and say "Enough is enough."

Right now, these voters represent a minority, but they shouldn't. In April 80% of Americans disapproved of how Congress was handling its job. Americans identify the government as our greatest national problem. Party affiliation has been in decline since 2008, and public approval of both parties is below 40% for the first time ever.

Polls show time and again that a majority of Americans are deeply dissatisfied with politics, but have lost faith in their own power to make a difference. It is the belief that we can do better, and the confidence to make that a reality, that sets this movement apart.

To effect the change we wish to see -- be it election reform, more independent candidates, a better functioning Congress, etc. -- we need to reawaken the self-confidence of the American voter and invigorate the calling of American democracy. Americans want change. What we need now is an army of agitators to show that change is possible.

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Celebrating Crazy Voters

Posted by Andy Smith on May 22, 2015 at 8:00 PM

That our political system is dysfunctional does not need to be overstated. The latest implosion over the Trans-Pacific Partnership demonstrates that enough, and a litany of polls and statistics reinforce the failures of Congress and the shared responsibility of both parties.

Yet when Americans decide to vote their minds and break from expectations, they are derided as crazy and denounced for refusing to conform to one side.

We have a different opinion. In a political system aching for change, it is the voters who disrupt, who break the status quo, that we need the most. They are the ones who see the problems endemic in politics and are willing to demand better.

So rather than deride them, we should celebrate the Crazy Voters, those of you crazy enough to make a difference.

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Greg Orman: We Need Independent Campaigns For President

Posted by Andy Smith on May 21, 2015 at 12:53 PM

Former Centrist Project Voice endorsed candidate Greg Orman has released an op-ed, calling for Independent presidential campaigns, and the reforms that could make them happen.

"The status quo is oftentimes very difficult to change, and those with something to lose are keenly aware of what’s at stake. But ask yourself a question: in a country where 43% of the people are politically independent, should candidates automatically feel like they need to be funneled into one party or the other to have a voice?"

You can read the full article here.

Greg Orman ran for Senate in Kansas in 2014, shocking politicos across the nation by his strong campaign in a two way race against incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.

The TPP Reveals the Cycle of Partisanship

Posted by Andy Smith on May 15, 2015 at 5:00 PM

This week there was considerable partisan fighting in Congress. Driven on by partisan ideologues within its numbers, one party vowed to hold up a key bill until other legislative items were addressed. A Senator, who had spent months crafting the bipartisan language of this bill, denounced it to the applause of his colleagues. While the party in support of the bill called for their opponents to act in the best interest of the nation, the vote failed on the Senate floor.

You would be forgiven for thinking that it was the Republican party in opposition to this bill, but in actuality it was the Democrats, led by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Harry Reid (D-NV), who orchestrated the party revolt. It was Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) who denounced his own bill, while House Majority Leader John Boehner who called for the Democrats to act in the best interest of the nation.

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Standing Up To The Bullies

Posted by Andy Smith on May 08, 2015 at 7:17 PM

Scrolling through the political news sites today, we found something very interesting: a story about a voter who believes they can make a difference. This voter, Justin Robinson, is a resident of the District of Columbia, who was frustrated with Rep. Andy Harris' (R-MD) efforts to block the legalization of marijuana in D.C., something approved by 70% of D.C. voters.

As he scrolled through scores of comments left on Rep. Harris' page by frustrated D.C. residents, he realized that all this opposition would produce few results. And then he had an idea:

"What's the one thing that politicians actually care about? It's re-election and it's money. That's the one thing that actually makes them tick."

And so he launched his very own Political Action Committee, the "Not Your District PAC," intended to target members of Congress who interfere with D.C. affairs. You can read more about his PAC here. This story is fascinating, here is why.

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CenterLine: Race and Politics

Posted by Andy Smith on May 05, 2015 at 11:20 AM

We at the Centrist Project have spent several years highlighting episodes in national politics that speak for themselves, that underscore the nature of a political system that just doesn’t seem fair anymore, that works for itself and not the people.

The following is taken from last week's CenterLine, our weekly newsletter that highlights important issues around the nation and attempts to bring to light those that you might have missed. You can sign up to receive CenterLine on our homepage, HERE.

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IVN Article: South Dakota Voters Lose Choice At Ballot Box

Posted by Andy Smith on March 26, 2015 at 4:47 PM

IVN Covers South Dakota Election Law

Independent Voter Network (IVN) has published an article detailing the passage and opposition to South Dakota's SB 69, which was signed into law by Governor Dennis Daugaard on March 20.

SB 69 is drawing severe criticism from Independent organizations and activists, including The Centrist Project, for its restrictions against voters registered with a political party from signing Independent nominating petitions. Supporters of the bill have argued that it represents an effort to establish consistency for candidates of all political affiliations, while opponents argue that it will ultimately eliminate the competition for the two parties.

You can read the full article here:

South Dakota Bill Limits Voter Choice & Ballot Access for Independents

Posted by Pamela Peak on March 23, 2015 at 3:47 PM


March 23, 2015

The Centrist Project Calls on South Dakota Legislature, Governor to Revisit Law Restricting Voter Choice and Ballot Access for Independents

Legislation to improve ballot access for Independents does the opposite when an amendment removed two critical words from the bill


Washington, DC — The Centrist Project calls on the South Dakota Legislature and Governor Dennis M. Daugaar to revisit Senate Bill 69 which restricts ballot access for Independent candidates, thanks to little discussed amendments that overturn the legislation’s intent.

Senate Bill 69 (SB69) intended to “revise certain provisions regarding elections and election petitions” at the request of the State Board of Elections. Senator Ernie Otten (R-6th District) added Amendment 69ca which struck out two words – “may not” – and as a result, prohibited any party affiliated voter from signing a ballot access petition for an Independent candidate. In effect, this bill prevents any registered party voter from supporting independent candidates to gain access to the ballot and limits voter choice. Another amendment, 69fe, increases the difficulty for an Independent candidate to gather the requisite signatures to be included on the ballot. The amendments appear to be a clear response to prevent future Independent candidates from challenging party candidates.

“For voters, by virtue of your membership in a party, either active or lapsed, your electoral rights have been truncated,” said Centrist Project Founder Charles Wheelan, a senior lecturer and policy fellow at the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College and the bestselling author of Naked Economics and The Centrist Manifesto. "This bill forces voters to drop their party affiliation if they want to support an independent candidacy.  That's not a choice that any voter should be forced to make” Wheelan said.

The legislation is out of step with the choices American voters crave. Over 42% of the American electorate have declared themselves Independents or unaffiliated with the major parties. The growing bloc of Independent and centrist voters threaten the stranglehold the two parties have over our political system, and parties can fight back by rigging election rules and campaign finance laws in their favor.

In 2014, The Centrist Project supported Senator Larry Pressler in his bid to represent South Dakota in the U.S. Senate as an Independent. When Pressler’s polling numbers reached 32% of South Dakota voters, both major parties poured in millions of dollars to counteract his candidacy, ensuring an Independent didn’t win the seat. SB69’s amendments appear to be another effort to protect the major parties influence over who can get on the ballot and limit voter options for electing Independents,” Wheelan said.

SB69 includes another amendment, 69fe, to modify the number of signatures required for Independents, from 1% of the total votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election, to 1% of the number of voters registered with no party affiliation. At face value, this drops the number of required signatures.  In reality, it dramatically increases the number of man hours required to collect signatures because finding people “qualified” to sign will be much more difficult. Of the total number of registered voters in South Dakota, 110,000 are qualified to sign, around 20% of the voting population across the entire state. The change represents a large hurdle for an Independent candidate without the backing of the party machinery to help with collecting signatures.

"I am sure that this bill, if well known, would be unpopular with South Dakota voters, because it takes important rights away from voters and reduces voter choice - no voter would be in favor of that. This bill provides further evidence that both major parties are willing to do anything, including taking away important voting rights, in order to defend their position, and it will only add to voter disillusionment of the two major parties" said Pamela Peak, Executive Director of The Centrist Project.

The Centrist Project is designed to empower the neglected but growing political middle by channeling the support of centrist Americans from across the country to a handful of key U.S. Senate candidates.  With control of the Senate closely divided, the election of a few pragmatic, moderate Independents who band together as a coalition would have a disproportionate impact on the chamber.  Independents can support the strongest policies for America, without worrying about towing their party line. Together, they can break the partisan deadlock that grips Congress and will help move America forward, putting us on a path to fiscal responsibility, environmental responsibility, social tolerance, and good governance.

“The Centrist Project is about fighting back against the extremists in both parties,” said Wheelan.  “Instead of throwing up our hands at the dysfunction and partisanship, we’ve found a way for Americans who are fed up with the extreme right and the extreme left to do something constructive about it.”

For more information about The Centrist Project visit and join the effort.



The Centrist Project is a 501(c)4 membership organization focused on breaking the gridlock in Washington by changing political incentives and helping elect responsible leaders. Its Centrist Principles include fiscal responsibility, environmental stewardship, social tolerance, economic opportunity and a pragmatic approach to solving policy challenges. The Centrist Project Voice is a separate segregated fund (SSF) of The Centrist Project. It is the nation’s first PAC to promote centrist candidates regardless of their party affiliation.  Visit for updates on our progress to end gridlock in Washington and to join the effort.


Pamela Peak, Executive Director

312.848.9726 | | @CentProj

Welcome to the Era of "Tom and Jerry" Politics

Posted by Pamela Peak on March 23, 2015 at 1:53 PM

Sometimes the cat chases the mouse, sometimes the mouse chases the cat, but nothing really happens.

The Republicans "won" the Senate in 2014. Do you remember what a big deal that was purported to be? How’s that working out for us? And if we are being honest, do we think anything would be different if the Democrats held control? Of course not. We have a systemic problem.  

...I watched a lot of “Tom and Jerry.” The only other recurring character was a housekeeper, who would appear every so often with a broom and whack both of them. It’s time for America’s disaffected independents, the largest and fastest-growing segment of the electorate, to pick up a broom. How else are things going to change?

Read Charlie Wheelan's full US News & World Report Article HERE>.

Thank You For Changing American Politics: An Open Letter To Our Supporters

Posted by Pamela Peak on November 05, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Fellow Centrists,

While last night did not deliver wins for all of our candidates, there is much to celebrate as a result of our efforts this election cycle. I encourage you to take 1 minute to watch this VIDEO message from our founder, Charlie Wheelan, to thank YOU for helping change American politics.

We taped this before election night to prove a point: we’re in this for the long haul. Change doesn’t happen overnight but we made great inroads in 2014. Together, we woke America up to the possibility that there is a way to fix Washington. We endorsed and supported five centrist candidates for US Senate, including three running as Independents without the benefits of a big-party label. We raised nearly $150,000 in early stage funds to fuel their campaigns months before the national media even took note. We mobilized supporters through events, social media, and the press, showing that Centrists across the country are a transformative force in politics. We reached more than 200,000 moderates in key states – like Kansas, South Dakota, and Georgia – reminding them to vote. And we created a national centrist movement that we will grow toward 2016 and beyond until our system is fixed. Thank YOU.

Charlie Wheelan provided his perspective on the mid-term elections in US News & World Report this morning. The two parties are in trouble. He asks, “When will the elections look more like the electorate?” That’s where our work comes into play. Read his full column HERE>

The big takeaways from Election 2014:

  • Lesson number one from our work for Independents Greg Orman of Kansas and Larry Pressler of South Dakota: Credible independent candidates can get traction in statewide races. We will see more of them. Voters are fed up with the two-party status quo and will embrace a candidate who vows to get things done and work against partisanship.
  • Lesson number two: Come Election Day, the parties will fight back mercilessly. Like any duopoly with a stranglehold on power, the two parties are going to hang on tight, even as the proportion of Americans who support one party or the other steadily dwindles. Something has to change. With 42 percent of Americans now identifying as independents, elections need to look more like the electorate.

It’s not all about who won or lost on election night. We’re in this for the long haul to change American politics. Our goal is to enable the election of 5-7 U.S. Senators who support fiscally prudent and socially tolerant policies, irrespective of their party affiliation. This powerful coalition becomes the swing votes for all major legislation facing our country, empowering the political middle which represents the largest portion of our electorate. That’s how we get beyond a system hijacked by partisan extremists and get back to governing. It will take a few election cycles – but we’re on our way with your help.

Our sincere thanks & stay centered,

The Centrist Project Team