As we celebrated Independence Day at the start of a long hot campaign season, it is worth remembering that patriotism is not the same thing as partisanship.
Our first president, George Washington said, “I was no party man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them…”
And the third president — and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, observed: “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all…”
The fact is that 41% of Americans describe themselves as independents — as opposed to Democrats or Republicans — according to an April Washington Post/ABC News poll. Independents are the largest and fastest-growing segment of the electorate. Back in 1945, they made up 15%…
…And the growth of independent voters has occurred precisely as the two parties have become more ideologically polarized than at any time in our recent history…
…A Pew Research Center Poll from 2010 asked why independents were independent. Sixty-four percent said it was because “both parties care more about special interests than average Americans.” Fifty-eight percent said it was because “I agree with Republicans on some issues, and Democrats on others” — they didn’t feel comfortable walking in lock step with either party…
Not incidentally, independent voters’ opinions tend to track closer to national opinions than either Democrats or Republicans. But this is no split-the-difference approach to politics — while some independents are conservative and others are liberal, in general they are closer to Republicans on fiscal issues and Democrats on social issues. In particular, independent voters tend to be the least religious segment of our electorate…
There is a mainstream dynamic driving the independent voter movement — they can be said to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal to libertarian — and they are frustrated with the partisan fights that hijack our political debates.
Independent voters are a rising tide, and they ultimately decide who wins or loses elections.
These declarations of independence are worth celebrating on July Fourth as a new expression of an old American tradition that will take on renewed importance in the long election season ahead.
Nothing here that many of the regulars at this site haven’t already figured out on their own. It’s a standard chuckle for some conservative to drop in — after a post critical of Republican duplicity — and blather about this nest of Democrats.
In practice, most Democrat Party membership associated with [American] regulars here are like the Labour Party members from the UK or Liberals from Canada. It’s a convenient way to participate in the choices allowed the electorate at election time.
If we were allowed a truly democratic system, say, runoffs narrowing down from all or none — to a 2 person winner take all contest – with limited pre-election debate and fixed equalitarian funding – then I think we’d see Tom’s comment in his email suggesting this post become a reality: “I think more than half of the population is Independent. Some just haven’t changed registration.”
I used to de-register after each Democrat primary – having joined for the only chance to have a vote for local folks worth supporting. It becomes a hassle dealing with bureaucrats barely competent at best.