Although he became famous for his condemnation of the War on Terror and the Bush administration, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson recently formally left the Democratic Party. City Weekly asked Anderson about his future plans and what prompted his defection.
You asked for your name to be removed from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee list. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back?
Actually, I think the final straw occurred long before I finally sent my letter. I have not been enamored with the Democratic Party for many years. I think it’s a party that, especially when it’s in power, is incredibly timid, unprincipled and gutless. The Democratic Party could have passed a single-payer health-care system at least approaching the civilized medical coverage system in the rest of the industrialized world. It could have ended the practice of torture, it could have insisted upon accountability for war crimes, and it could have stopped the outrageous Bush [tax] cuts for the wealthy, which have led our country into very dangerous economic times and are, I think, a real disaster for young people on whose shoulders the burden of our accumulated debt and interest payments is going to be resting.
You have said the answer to the budget problems in the United States is a new political party that promotes the interests of the public rather than the interests of the wealthy. Would you join this party?
We’ve seen an enormous transformation of the parties. It used to be the Republicans were bought and paid for by the banking and insurance interests and the Democrats were bought and paid for by labor and others on the left. Now, they’re all feeding at basically the same trough and are almost indistinguishable, except on certain wedge issues. In the meantime, the pensions and other savings accounts of the middle class in this country have been decimated. The only way out is another party. I would call it, frankly, a second party that actually represents the interests of the American people. There isn’t a real opposition force in Washington, D.C., anymore, and we the people have the capacity to change that and we must if our republic is going to survive. I consider myself an Independent, but I would be very pleased to work with others to form not just a political party to run another campaign, but to launch a sustained movement for major change in this country.
You’ve said you have no interest in running for office. Is that still true?
I really feel that movement-building and organizing people at the grass-roots level is where the power really lies in this country. It’s obvious now that, in most instances, we’re not going to see action being taken to solve problems facing our nation and our world unless political pressure is brought to bear, so I have a tremendous commitment to High Road for Human Rights. But I also would certainly contemplate running for elected office if I believed it could move things forward in an effective manner.
What would you say to young people who want to be politically active?
Everyone should be an active participant in their communities, in their nation and in their world. That’s not only a huge responsibility, but it’s an amazing opportunity to exercise what it means to be a moral human being. As long as there are people who are suffering in the world and we can help, we have an enormous obligation to do what we can. There are many ways of doing that. It’s not necessarily by running for office. It’s organizing with others. It’s pushing for change. It’s teaching. It’s raising awareness in our communities, starting with our families and friends. I think the question everybody should be asking [themselves] is, when they are 70 or 80 years old and they are looking back over their lives, what do they want to be able to say that they did to make this world a better place and to create a legacy that they can be proud of?