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The Elephant and Donkey in the Room

National World War 1 Museum and Memorial

The Elephant and Donkey in the Room

National World War 1 Museum and Memorial

On October 16, 2017, panelists Howard DeanDanny DiazGreg OrmanJacqueline Salit, and Beth Miller Vonnahme met at the World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City to consider the fate of the United States’ two-party system.

Live and streaming audience members joined the discussion as the panelists examined the relevance and future of the current party system. We asked these questions:

What role will American political parties play in the future? What will be the relevance of America’s two big political parties? What will they look like? Are independents or a third party the future?

Watch the video and view photos below!


Governor Howard Dean, former DNC Chairman, presidential candidate, six term Governor and physician, currently works as an independent consultant focusing on the areas of health care, early childhood development, alternative energy and the expansion of grassroots politics around the world.

Dean serves as a MSNBC contributor and is a strategic consultant for Dentons Law firm that has offices on five continents. Dean is also the founder of Democracy for America, a progressive online organization with one million members nation wide.

(bio from the National Democratic Institute)

Danny Diaz is a founding partner at FP1 Strategies LLC, a public affairs, media relations, digital communications and advertising firm specializing in project management, strategic planning, message development and advertising for political and issue-based campaigns.

Diaz has worked at the highest levels in national political campaigns. Most recently, he served as campaign manager for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.

Throughout his career, Diaz has helped Republican candidates in congressional, senatorial, gubernatorial and presidential races. He also serves as a strategist and consultant on various public affairs initiatives addressing a host of issues, including transportation, health care, retail and education.

In 2014, Diaz served as the general consultant in Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s general election campaign, as well as once again serving as a senior advisor to New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. Previously, he was a senior consultant to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in his campaign for Virginia governor in 2013. Diaz also served as a senior advisor to Governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.

In 2010, Diaz worked as a lead consultant on two of the most closely watched races in the country, Mark Kirk for U.S. Senate and Susana Martinez for Governor. Martinez became the first Hispanic woman elected governor in both New Mexico and American history.

In 2008, Diaz was the communications director of the Republican National Committee (RNC). As such, he managed the national party’s press, research and e-campaign operations, including specialty, regional, broadcast and online media.

Prior to that, Diaz served as deputy communications director for John McCain 2008 and deputy communications director at the RNC. He played a key role in developing and implementing the strategic media plan to advance the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, in addition to managing the committee’s independent expenditure program and anti-vote fraud efforts.

A native of Washington, D.C., Diaz graduated from George Mason University and resides in Vienna, Virginia with his wife, three daughters and son.

Greg Orman is a Kansas businessman who stood as an Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014. Orman’s historic run for the United States Senate against a three-term Republican incumbent brought unprecedented attention not only to Kansas, but to the modern election process itself.

Described by NBC News as “The Most Interesting Man in Politics”, Orman had the Washington establishment on the run during his insurgent campaign. The Republican Party mobilized dozens of national political figures and spent record sums of money to preserve a seat that had been in Republican hands since 1919.

Orman currently runs Exemplar Holdings, LLC, a private company that invests and actively manages a portfolio of businesses throughout the United States. Orman has built numerous businesses over his 25-year career in industries that include energy-efficient technology, recycling, construction, sporting goods, business services, medical devices, specialty manufacturing, and real estate.

Orman lives in Olathe, Kansas with his wife, Sybil, and their daughter, Imogen.

Jacqueline Salit is a respected political innovator and advocate for the rights of independent voters—now 43 percent of the American electorate. The President of (IV), a nonprofit strategy center and organizing hub, she has built the largest network of independent leaders and activists in the country. Her network is a sought after coalition partner in pursuit of political and structural reform. Salit hosts regular national conference calls with hundreds of activist independents nationwide. Her firsthand account of this growing and influential voting bloc, Independents Rising: Outsider Movements, Third Parties and the Struggle for a Post-Partisan America, was published in 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan.

An architect of ground breaking independent presidential runs in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Salit played a key role in the 1988 campaign of Lenora Fulani, which challenged numerous legal and political barriers facing independents and African Americans, and was a frontline figure in shaping a new coalition with Ross Perot and the Perot movement which led to the founding of the Reform Party in 1997. Within the Reform Party, Salit brought together left, right and center Americans under its non-ideological independent tent.

In 2008, Salit’s network of independent voters galvanized support for Barack Obama in the open Democratic primaries, key to Obama’s primary win over Hillary Clinton.

Salit managed Michael Bloomberg’s three campaigns for New York City Mayor on the Independence Party (IP) line, playing a crucial role in delivering the IP’s margin-of-victory-vote in 2001 and 2009, and the exodus of 47% of African American voters from the Democratic Party to support Bloomberg in 2005. Bloomberg and Salit partnered in 2003 in an effort to bring a nonpartisan election system to New York City. A second effort, in 2010, never came to the ballot.

Over the years, Salit and IV have supported ballot initiatives for nonpartisan primaries as well as legal and political defense of open primaries in Idaho, Hawaii, South Carolina, New Jersey, California, Oregon and Arizona.

Salit has hosted five national conferences bringing together independents, political reform leaders and community organizers from across the country. The next conference is scheduled for March 2017.

Salit’s political commentaries have appeared in: USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post, New York Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Daily Beast, Legal Times, Buffalo News, Union Leader, Albany Times Union, and New York Newsday. She’s been a featured commentator on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, CBC, PBS, FOX and CSPAN.

Salit is a native of New York City and now resides in Greenwich Village.

Beth Miller Vonnahme is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Her research focuses on the ways in which psychological processes affect the formation and persistence of political choices. Specifically, her published work and ongoing projects explore how voters process and use certain types of campaign information (e.g., scandal involvement, physical characteristics like weight) to evaluate political candidates. Dr. Vonnahme teaches courses on American political parties, interest groups, public opinion, political campaigns and voting behavior.


Allan J. Katz served as Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Portugal from March 2010 until August 2013. Upon his return to private life, Ambassador Katz joined UMKC as a Distinguished Professor with a joint appointment from the Bloch School of Business Management and the College of Arts and Sciences. He is the Founder of American Public Square, which is modeled after The Village Square, a local initiative he started in Tallahassee, Florida in 2006.

He is the creator of Katz, Jacobs and Associates, LLC (KJA). He serves as Executive Committee Chair of the Academic and Corporate Board to ISCTE Business School in Lisbon Portugal. He is a Non-executive Board Member of EDPR, a board member of the International Relation Council of Kansas City, and a board member of the WW1 Commission Diplomatic Advisory Board. He is a frequent speaker and moderator on developments in Europe and on American Politics.

Ambassador Katz is a lawyer by background who has been active in local and national politics for many years. In the private sector, he was the National Director of the Public Policy practice group at the firm of Akerman Senterfitt from 2004 to 2010. Previously, Ambassador Katz was the managing partner of Katz, Kutter, Alderman & Bryant, P.A., in Tallahassee, Florida from the firm’s inception in 1987 until 2004. He was the Assistant Insurance Commissioner and Assistant State Treasurer for the State of Florida from 1978 to 1983. Prior to that he served in Washington, DC as legislative counsel to Congressman Bill Gunter and David Obey and was the General Counsel to the Commission on Administrative Review of the US House of Representatives.

Ambassador Katz served as a City of Tallahassee Commissioner (2002-2009). He was the leader in having Tallahassee’s municipally owned electric company abandon an investment in older coal technology and instead pursued one of the nation’s most aggressive Demand Side Management programs. Ambassador Katz also served on the board of the Florida Municipal Energy Association, which is made up of the power companies in Florida.

Ambassador Katz has been recognized for his work as lawyer and a community leader. The Environmental Defense Fund and the Florida Wildlife Federation Fund honored him with the, “Champion for Climate Change” award.

Ambassador Katz previously served as the President of the Brogan Museum of Art & Science in Tallahassee, Florida; Board member of the Junior Museum of Natural History in Tallahassee, Florida; the first Chair of the State Neurological Injury Compensation Association, 1987-1989; a member of the State Taxation and Budget Commission, 1990-1992.

Ambassador Katz received his BA from UMKC in 1969 and his JD from Washington College of Law at American University in Washington DC in 1974. He is married with two grown children.

Roving Reporter

Nick Haines is host of KCPT’s primetime public affairs program, Kansas City Week in Review, and Executive Producer of Channel 19’s weekly food-for-thought-fight RUCKUS. He has headed up KCPT’s news and public affairs division for the past 16 years. He has earned three regional Emmy Awards and is a former BBC radio news reporter.


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