Dr. Carnita Atwater tries to drum up support for a third political party that she’s calling The People’s Party. Photo by Wiley Henry

By Wiley Henry

MEMPHIS, TN — Candidates vying for the office of Memphis mayor, city court clerk and all 13 city council districts will stump for votes leading up to the Memphis Municipal Election on Oct. 5.

Dr. Carnita Atwater, however, is miffed with the election process and the two-party system. On March 5, she organized a “political consortium” at The Kukutanna African American History and Cultural Museum in North Memphis to discuss “the root issues of our democracy.”

Much to Atwater’s chagrin, the consortium drew a sparse crowd of 30 people to the first public meeting to discuss the mechanics of legitimizing a third political party that she’s temporarily calling “The People’s Party.” 

“I invited whites, Blacks, Jews and Hispanics. Why didn’t they come?” Atwater asked those in attendance listening intently as she expounded on the need to introduce a third party.

“My own political party did not embrace me when I ran for governor,” said Atwater, who lost the Democratic primary last year. “I learned that we have a problem in our political party. So, we have to write our own narrative.”

Atwater said the idea of launching a new political party was birthed a year ago with at least 25 founding members that she would not name. She’s keeping the names a secret for now.

Because The People’s Party is still in its infancy stage, Atwater urged anyone who is disenchanted with the two-party system to help her build the organization. She plans to have it up and running nationally within six months. 

“If you’re tired of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Libertarian Party, or the Green Party, come on,” she beckoned. “We’re going to embrace you. We’re going to be a political party with integrity.”

The party will also be identified by its mascot – a rooster. “Roosters are the forgotten animals, like the poor people, the LGBTQ people, the transgender people,” Atwater said. “They have thrown these people away.”

Atwater said no one political party should dictate who is important. “Our party will invest in every citizen,” she said, and stressed that PAC (Political Action Committee) money will not be accepted. 

Dorothy Cooper commended Atwater on implementing an “excellent idea.” 

“It’s outstanding – the layout. But it’s a lot of work,” said Cooper, president of the NAACP in Crittenden County, Ark., and the former mayor of Turrell, a city in Arkansas, also in Crittenden County.

“I’ve always loved a challenge,” Atwater replied.

In her take on the emergence of a new political party, Reasal Catron said accountability is very important to her. “Your word is your bond,” she added. “Politicians need to be accountable.”

A prophetess and advocate for domestic violence victims and inmates that she opines are unfairly treated in the penal system, Catron said she’s not seeing the work from politicians. 

“Don’t tell me about what you’ve done, tell me what you’re doing now,” she said.

Catron is simply disillusioned with politicians and reluctant to vote for them unless they earn her vote.

“If someone wants me to come out of my house and wants me to vote for them, I want to see change,” she said. “We need representation all over.”

Atwater said if people believe in the message espoused by politicians, “they will vote for you.” 

She pointed to the more than 56,000 votes that she amassed in the gubernatorial primary as proof that her message about homelessness, poverty, and economic disparities resonated with voters.

Ann Yates added: “People will vote if they feel like they belong.”

A longtime business owner, Yates said the two parties have forgotten about people. “They don’t go into the neighborhoods and talk to people,” she said.

Atwater said “the people” will select the candidate instead of the party. 

She loathed the number of candidates who joined this year’s Memphis mayoral race as an example that too many contenders can thwart opportunities for the best candidate to win. 

“There should be a consensus candidate,” she said.