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DISCLAIMER: I do not speak as an authority on the role of Independents in our political system. However, what I would like to do is explore this topic with you on what impact the Independent voting block seems to have on our predominantly two-party system..
I am not approaching this as an analyst, but instead as simply a regular voter (having registered my whole life as a Republican) who is fascinated by how our unique approach to democratic elections brings strength to our republic, and how Independents contribute to this strength.
Where Does the Political Party System Come From, and Why Do We Have to Have It Anyway?
Our political party system was born at the same time as the United States Constitution.
The two parties developed quite naturally and of their own accord. They began when some took the side of Alexander Hamilton: he wanted a stronger central government. Others took to Thomas Jefferson’s side. He preferred to see the states have stronger independence from the control of a central power. Thus, the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were the first yin and yang of American constitutional philosophies, struggling against each other to determine which philosophy will dominate via who we choose to elect. Times change, however, and so do national concerns.
The Federalists and Anti-Federalists have morphed into parties that are now called the Republicans and Democrats. Otherwise, what remains consistent is that our system seems to prefer just two predominant parties, and the prevailing sway between them is generally between those who want more government interference in our daily lives and those who want less. This struggle between big government/small government ideologies, and the open discourse that springs from it, is what keeps this country in a perpetual state of course-correction.
Political dirty laundry is forever being aired at every candidate debate, and because we air it all, we are forever owning our faults and failures, which allows us to grow stronger from it. Once our disagreements fomented into a Civil War, but even that did not destroy our country as they thought at the time it might. Our country’s growing pains have occasionally hurt horribly, but a two-party system has catalyzed a whole lot of positive growth.
But What About All The Other Parties?
Other parties try to enter the United States system: The Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party and so forth. Down ballot elections seem to provide occasional success for these alternate party choices, but it seems to muck up presidential elections when put to the test. Ross Perot tried twice to win the White House as a candidate, once simply running as an Independent and once representing the Reform Party. He got lots of support, and many of his governing ideas and political ideologies had popular appeal, but a three-way race proved to result in a presidency that failed to have the confidence of the majority of voters. Bill Clinton won both times and quite handily, but neither win was by a majority of votes cast.
Which raises the questions, Would President George H.W. Bush have won a second term in 1992 if not for Perot’s candidacy? Would Bob Dole have won in 1996? The world will never know. But one thing is clear: If you hear the current complaints out of the mouths of people like Joy Behar that Trump’s presidency lacks legitimacy because he won only the electoral college but not the popular vote, think of the level of vitriol she and Whoopi would spew if Trump won because a third candidate, representing a third party, took a significant voter share.
So even though there is a multitude of platforms and points of view in the USA, a candidacy is always strengthened by belonging to one of the big two. Which is why Bernie Sanders, who would more accurately represent the Communist Party, is running as a Democrat candidate instead. And to his credit, he is doing a pretty good job in the primaries (as of the writing of this report, anyways).
That’s right, Senator Bernie Sanders fits best with Democrats, even though the DNC is entirely uncomfortable with the association. Bernie supporters know it, too.
Yet no one is suggesting Bernie Sanders be anywhere else other than right where he is, running as a DNC candidate.
Did I Say Our Country is Strengthened by the Two-Party System? Let Me Contradict Myself!
There is a flip side to this two-party coin: two parties mean too much power shared between the two. Up until Trump won the presidency, when he shook things up in Washington DC, it was fair to cast the accusation that “They’re all corrupt.” Whether there was a (D) or an (R) behind the name of the candidate, it did not seem to matter. For decades a complacency ensued:
“Is your representative corrupt?”
“Are you gonna vote for (him/her) anyway?”
“Yes, because the bastard you know is probably better than the bastard you don’t know.”
They all seemed to be cut from the same cloth, and it was just too painful to care any longer. Politicians were all bankrolling their position and their power. Some people suggest that having a system with more parties than just the Democrats and Republicans running the show might help to break up what is essentially a two-party oligarchy. This is, at the very least, a reasonable question. Other countries have more than two main parties that have pull, so why can’t we?
Some Personal Backstory That Explains My Perspective on This Subject:
I will confess that once, a decade ago, I was deeply involved in trying to unseat my local (Republican) congressman. The experience jaded me for a long time. I found out about all the selfish behaviors in my own party – down to the most local level. My motivation to unseat my representative was because I was concerned that he had been holding that chair for too long, doing not much in DC for us, mostly just friends with the local Chamber of Commerce to keep his position, and it was time to have a grassroots-lifted representative.
I believe in term limits (do ya hear that, Newt?). I found out quickly that certain people in different county-level Republican groups (from local Tea Party organizations to the local Eagle Forum chapter) were more busy tipping the scales for the candidate they felt was “more electable,” which was invariably the one that they groomed as their favorite out of their conservative club, and there was no honest cooperation between any of them. Meanwhile, the local head of the Republican Party had a long, storied career of being a RINO, glued to his seat of power for 55 years because a good ole boy system is a strong system indeed.
Yes, I found enemies all over my own political house. So the fact that the DNC is doing this exact same thing, manipulating their own system to play down Bernie’s candidacy and play up the candidate they feel is more groomed for the job, and willing to bend all sorts of rules in the process, is for me a familiar sight to see. Both political parties are guilty of indulging in this self-serving behavior. One party may be more guilty of candidate and election manipulation than is the other, I will not dispute this. But both are, never the less, very guilty.
As an aside, that particular Republican representative I sought to unseat ten years ago is still holding his seat, largely uncontested all these years. I’ll say it ‘til I die: TERM LIMITS, NEWT! In my humble opinion, as long as there is no forced refreshing of servants in office, corruption is inevitable.
Reconciling the Paradox : The Independent Voters:
I want to draw your attention to the paradox that I have set up: the two-Party system is awesome and strong, yet the two-party system is deeply flawed.
That is where the Independents seem to come in. Their voice has the power to set right where things can go wrong.
To make my point very clear, let me start by explaining what I mean by the Independent voter. I am explicitly referencing the voter who has not aligned himself/herself to an organized party with a platform. Those who belong to organizations like the Independent American Party or the Independent Party of Arizona are not who I am talking about. Those organizations hold to set political convictions that are established and known ahead of a voting cycle. They are no different than, say, the Libertarian Party or the Reform Party. My focus is on the true, unaffiliated, Independent voters.
So who are these Independents?
Independents come from a multitude of political positions and collectively represent probably every economic and social opinion that exists. There are at least 50 reasons that might persuade a person to register as an Independent, according to Independent Voter News. Some are Libertarian-leaning, some would consider themselves more Communist than Bernie (I am not sure if that is possible, but I leave room for the possibility that it might be true). Most are somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Some call themselves pro-life, some are perfectly happy with partial birth abortion as a woman’s right.
Many would declare that they are fiscally conservative but socially liberal, and many would say the exact opposite. Some are locked into watching the news cycle 24/7, and have highly refined opinions about politics. Some really don’t keep up with the news all that much, and just vote on how they feel about things the moment they step into the voting booth. There is absolutely no homogeneity of policies among those who call themselves Independent; all they have in common are their unwillingness to align to a specific political party. Which, of course, makes them an elusive bunch. Never the less, they are a large enough segment of the voting population that winning the presidency for either Democrat or Republican candidates requires winning over the Independent voter.
I am not an Independent voter; I will likely never be one. I am a very devoted Constitutional Conservative. Therefore, my political convictions are served best by the platform of the Republican Party, the party of Abe Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and yes, Newt, too, who did do his share of good constitutional and conservative legislation in spite of his abject failure on his term limit promise.
To err is human, to forgive is divine (forgive, but not forget). In the end, it is the platform that tells whether a party is worthy of my allegiance, and the Republican Party has remained strong on issues I hold morally dear: pro-life, pro-Constitution and all its Amendments, pro-business, pro-American Exceptionalism, pro-family values. For these reasons they have kept my allegiance and support. Respect is owed, however, to the non-party voters. Here is why:
A Demonstration of the Power of the Independent Voter:
The 2008 slogan “Hope and Change” turned out to be a brilliant slogan. The strategy was to trash the efforts of presidential predecessor George Dubya Bush (and I will not argue whether or not the criticism was well-deserved). The promise was to say good-bye to bad days, and Obama’s “hope and change” would bring brighter days.
It was a complete win with the Independent voter. No one asked what Obama was hoping for; no one questioned what Obama had in mind when he suggested “change” for our country. The slogan left all voters to fill in the blanks with whatever they imagined hope and change would look like, and Independents were on the whole willing to give Obama a shot based on that. Because, hey, “Si se puede.” Yet another chant that really says a whole lot of nothing if you think about it, but it sure plays nicely on the imagination. “Yes, you can.” And with this psychologically-crafted campaign, Obama swayed a plurality of Independents in his direction. Twice.
If you win the Independent vote, you win the White House. That’s the truth.
So How is the Independent Vote Going to Play Out in 2020?
If the secret to winning the White House is to win the Independent voting block, it is important to strategize around policies that have broad appeal. Independents are not held together with a platform of policies. They are not a homogeneous bunch, so keeping campaign promises vague (i.e, “hope and change”; “yes, you can”) is one good way to go about attracting them. Interestingly, that is not how Democrats are choosing to woo the Independents this time. This time, they are driving over the far-left cliff, and hoping Independents will come along for the ride.
My guess is that the Independent voter who considers himself left of Communist Bernie will vote for Bernie. Those that demand abortion rights even after the baby is born and crying on the table, they will vote for Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Warren or Klobuchar. Those that have bought into the climate change prognostication “the earth is going to implode in 12 years” is roughly the same group as those who are OK with infanticide. Got a lock on that group twice over: check! Yet these are very specific issues that fail to command broad appeal.
This leaves all the rest of the Independents in a quandary: they are going to have a really hard time not voting for Trump. Even if they publicly declare that they hate him, once they are alone with themselves in the voting booth, they will likely vote for Trump. Here is why:
- Trump makes jobs.
Sane people vote for job creators.
- Trump makes the stock market go up.
(A useful talent, just in case the earth does not implode in 12 years and you have to retire after all.)
Sane people are investing right now, even if in modest amounts. They do not want that money to go poof in a Bernie Communist Utopia.
- Trump is creating opportunity zones in inner cities for people that other politicians have forgotten.
In contrast, Democrat-governed places are going completely to sh… er, poo. Literally, poo on the streets. And syringes.
Sane people do not like human poo on their streets, they like new improvements on their streets.
So sane people will vote for the guy trying to prevent the poo, and providing the opportunity.
- Trump is trying to keep drugs out of the country.
Like it or not, The Wall and strong border control is helping keep drugs out of the hands of addicts. Those addicts have families that want a president who tries to help the addict they love not get those drugs. Removing fentanyl from our streets saves lives.
Sane people like that.
- Trump is trying to get violent gang members (who are also illegal aliens) out of our country.
Sane people are for this.
- Trump would prefer to see our tax dollars go to help our homeless citizens and our veterans before “undocumented persons” take our tax dollars.
Sane people are for this, too.
- Trump would prefer our healthcare tax dollars go to help our poor citizens and veterans before “undocumented persons” get them.
Sane people prefer this as well.
- Trump wants to end the endless wars.
All sane people want this.
- Trump is calling out the corruption and largesse of career government people.
What sane person doesn’t love a good swamp draining?
- I could go on for another 3,000 words, but I think you get it.
Therefore, ultimately, the fate of Trump lies on whether or not a preponderance of Independents are sane.
But Wait! There is More!
President Trump really knows how to hold big rallies, and his personnel have been keeping track of who attends. At the Ohio rally in January, an amazing 42.88% of attendees said they were either Independent OR Democrat! This is important because it is not just Independents that are swinging in Trump’s direction, it’s Democrats, too. And the reasons they give for abandoning their party include all the bulleted reasons above. Sanity is coming back in style.
What was that? I think I just felt the earth move: the USA is possibly taking a tilt to the right? If so, thank an Independent, and a Democrat as well!
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