Independents resist party dogma and political extremism
Posted by Danny Battista on September 24, 2017 at 4:00 PM
By Andrea Christelle Special to the Daily Sun - September 24, 2017
Independent voters want electoral reform that provides equal access to both sides of the ballot — for candidates and for voters. Last weekend the League of Women Voters of the Greater Verde Valley in Sedona and the American Association of University Women in Flagstaff held forums to learn more about independent voters. In our state and in our nation, registering without a party affiliation is increasingly popular. Nationally, 44% of registered voters are independent, and 34% of Arizonans are. This might be bad for political parties, but it could be great for American democracy.
It is easy to see why people who were Democrats or Republicans are no longer choosing to affiliate with those parties.
The DNC stacked the primaries to favor Hillary Clinton, presumably because she was a longtime loyalist who had raised millions of dollars for the party. To many, this showed that Democrats were more concerned with the Party and party loyalty than they were with an unbiased electoral system. This helps explain why people who might be reluctant to support Republicans may still have moral reasons not to affiliate with the Democratic Party.
Donald Trump, the Republican President of the United States, refused to unequivocally condemn KKK and Neo Nazi demonstrators. He then made a moral equivalency between these hate groups and people who oppose them. This helps explain why people who might be reluctant to support Democrats may still have moral reasons not to affiliate with the Republican Party.
When it comes to reasons why someone might not want to affiliate with either of the two major political parties, the list is long. Nevertheless, the independent is more complex than a voter who is alienated with party decisions, but is still effectively a D or R. I’s regularly split the ballot, and vote on the merits of individual people and policies. They transcend the flat “left” and “right” partisan profiles.
While independent voters have a deep distrust of partisan politics, they are not opting out of the American political system. Increasingly, they are organizing—in Arizona and across the country. What do they want? Electoral reform.
This strong desire for electoral reform is part of what makes it possible to unite progressive and libertarian independents.
We consistently hear about how the major political parties clash. What is more interesting is to see where they agree. In Arizona, both Democrats and Republicans have consistently opposed electoral reform that would put candidates and voters on an equal playing field. This occurred in 2014 when both parties actively opposed the Open Primary proposition that would have created a system where all voters and all candidates played by the same set of rules. Both parties also continue to oppose opening the Presidential Preference Election, which explicitly excludes independent voters.
PLAYING TO EXTREMES
In low-turnout, hyper-partisan primaries, the most extreme voters tend to show up, and candidates run their campaigns accordingly. Open Primaries would result in more centrist candidates and require candidates to appeal to a broad range of voters instead of a narrow slice of the electorate. Open Primaries would also enable an independent candidate to be one of two major choices for many offices. Arizona political parties do not want Open Primaries.
Both parties want it to be more difficult for independent candidates to run for office. independent candidates have to gather many times more signatures than their partisan counterparts.
Both parties want to make it more difficult for independent voters to vote in primary elections, and to keep them out of the Presidential Preference Election. Independent voters must request a ballot for each primary election. If people wonder why independent turnout in primaries is low, this is one reason.
Thousands of registered independents who wanted to vote in the last Presidential Preference Election were turned away at the polls. These independent voters were not apathetic. They were excluded from an election that their tax dollars helped pay for.
DISENGAGEMENT AS MYTH
Independent Voters of Arizona challenges the myths that independents are disengaged and uninformed. They claim the opposite. Jackie Salit, President of the national group IndependentVoting.org, says that independent voters want “political and economic renewal.”
Independents want candidates that will think for themselves and act in the people’s interest, not the party interest. They want integrity and honesty. They want an alternative to the parties that function as insider organizations with longstanding allegiances. Independents are fed up with partisan gridlock, and have an outlook that promotes partnership and coalition building.
With all of their enthusiasm for change, independents are not naïve about the advantages political parties have. Parties have infrastructure, money and people. They organize, raise funds, have large staffs, and a national network. Despite the behemoths they are up against, independents are not backing down, they are stepping up. They have a principled commitment to electoral reform, because they believe America should have a fair, just, and equitable electoral system—not a partisan one.
Independent votes matter. They represent 44% of U.S. registered voters, which is the single largest block. This grassroots groundswell could be the beginning of a new movement in democracy that is nonpartisan and citizen centered. Independent candidates and voters may be just what we need to stem political alienation and build a new wave of American political participation, by the people for the people.
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