As a progressive former Democrat in Utah, the most reliably conservative state in the country, Rocky Anderson is no stranger to long odds or short shrift. Among other things, Anderson has been a fierce opponent of the Iraq invasion, supports gay marriage and is an ardent environmentalist. (Think former London mayor Ken Livingstone surrounded by conservative Mormons.)
As the former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah's capital and largest city, he also has a knack for framing an agenda in search of the broadest possible audience. "We don't talk about gay liberation in Utah," he told me in an interview in 2005. "We talk about healthy families and strong communities and say that in the most intimate aspects of our lives the government ought to butt out." He served two terms before bowing out voluntarily.
In the next year, he'll have to harness both that experience and savvy for the task he has now set himself: launching a new political party, the Justice party, and running for president in 2012.
His agenda is a familiar one on the left. Broadly speaking, he wants to break the hold of corrupting corporate influence on the two main parties and give a voice to ordinary working people. It also chimes with the general thrust of the Occupy movement, even though the latter has steered clear of engagement with electoral politics.
"The more time has gone on, the more it has become clear that we're not going see change in this country with these two parties," he says. "There are lots of good individuals in the Democratic party, [but] without Democrats voting the way they did in Congress, we wouldn't have invaded Iraq. We wouldn't have suffered as a nation because of these Bush tax cuts.
"Obama received more money from Wall Street than any presidential candidate ever. And they got a great return on their investment."