The growth of the independent voter is derived from dislike of the dysfunction in Washington DC tied to our-way-or-no-way practices. Political Parties have become locked in.
If we are not elected officials, the best way to avoid political group think is to just get out of it. How? Well, to get started, we could register and identify as an Independent voter and then we could, regardless of Party, vote for individuals whose ideas most often match our own and stop voting for a Party.
Political Parties are supposed to bring order to the process of policy making. As party members, individual politicians have a ready-made group of allies that will usually cooperate with their efforts to pass and implement legislation. At the national level, this means that a rookie Congressperson is supposed to arrive with a network of allies that would support their efforts and that he/she would support in turn. That best works when the Party is made up of flexible and willing to compromise INDIVIDUALS. Otherwise a newly elected person basically votes as they are told.
Clinton Rossiter begins his classic book “Parties and Politics in America” with this declaration: “No America without democracy, no democracy without politics, no politics without parties, no parties without compromise and moderation.”
- Clearly we have little compromise and moderation in American politics so that would say we might be better off without Parties, doesn’t it?
Fareed Zakaria stated that a partyless system would lead to political dynasties, celebrity officials, and billionaire politicians.
The Democratic and Republican Parties have moderates and extremists but extremists are growing in numbers. Extremists typically don’t compromise with moderates, not even within their own party. The political process has become overly competitive and combative. The result is gridlock and public anger with government.
The Founders of the United States warned against Parties because they thought politics was supposed to be rational and collaborative, not competitive.
Not since 1912 has a new Party been created and it didn’t last long. Theodore Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party of 1912. It was nicknamed the Bull Moose Party. However, in France this June 2017, President Emmanuel Macron’s fledgling party is set to trounce France’s traditional main parties in a parliamentary election and secure a huge majority. France’s socialist and conservative parties that had alternated in power for decades until Macron’s election in May blew apart the left-right divide.
The Declaration of Independence includes these words: “We foremost hold truths to be self evident, that this nation was conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
While Americans have moved from state to state, job to job, young to old; there has been a political battle for control of the direction America takes. The direction is dependent on how we incorporate into our voting these words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:
That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth and shall have a new birth of freedom.
Does America move in the direction where we believe that all people are born free and equal before the law, that we all possess at least certain minimal rights that have to be mutually respected, and that we are capable of self-governance?
Or, does America move in the direction where we believe we are born into bondage, that our liberties are granted as a privilege, that most of us are not capable of self-governance, and that only a very few of us should enjoy the full blessings of liberty.
None of us can make that choice independently if we too tightly identify with a Party because members of a Party typically succumb to group think and we won’t make that choice independently if we vote a straight Party ticket. And, we should be careful that we don’t let a single issue tell us how we are going to vote on all the other issues.
The Problem of Putting The Cart Before The Horse
There is a science or a process or a formula, whatever you want to call it, for making change. Championing a solution before the majority agrees that a problem exists, before it has been defined, and before the pros and cons of all the solutions have been vetted makes change most difficult.
There is a clear path that change needs to follow and if it is not followed, we are stuck with the status quo. That path doesn’t start with the answer to an undefined problem and certainly doesn’t start before people agree that a problem exists. A leader starts from the beginning of the change process. 1. Generate consensus that a problem exists. 2. Define the problem and get agreement on that definition. 3. Identify the size of the problem or opportunity realistically and honestly and get agreement on that size. 4. Identify alternatives to fix the problem and objectively evaluate those alternatives. 5. Get a majority to agree to on the selected alternative.
The Problem of personalities and many issues hiding the core of a political Party.
The Republican Party of today is pro-business and the Democratic Party is pro-people. The former has accepted that wealth is accumulating in the top two percent of Americans and the latter has not and while both parties differ from issue to issue, these two core beliefs, pro-business v pro-people, are the foundation for the Republican and Democratic parties we know today.
Being pro-business does not mean people support greed and being pro-people does not mean people do not want businesses to be very successful.
Does being pro-business mean someone is materialistic or does being pro-people mean someone is more spiritual? No! But if it did we would again need balance between the two parties.
Material prosperity without spirituality leads to greed, lack of inner and outer peace, and war. Spirituality without material development leads to poverty and famine.
The Problem of Force taking the place of Power.
Force is used to achieve a means through the use of a hammer. Power is used to achieve a means through logic that serves the best interests of people.
The Problem of Obstructionism
Obstructionism’s roots lie in the powerful fringe wings of each party but carries over to the rest of a party’s membership due to party affiliated voting. Obstructionism is not leadership. Obstructionism is to leadership as sarcasm is to humor. There is a need to promote something tangible and in most cases that requires compromise.
The problem of deceitfulness
Voters are no longer being told the truth or given the facts. Voters only get spin. We should demand to get spin-free news. That starts by giving ourselves permission to recognize spin.
Politicians are destroying their profession by falsely discrediting the other party or members of it. Spin has become a game played by too many politicians and it includes defaming, libeling, slandering and intentionally trying to put a false negative label on the opponent or the legislation.
The problem of group think
When voters register with a Party they begin to participate in Party Group Think and now, more than ever, voters have stopped thinking as individuals. Non office holders need to register as independents and vacate allegiances to current Parties if they want to free themselves from Party Group Think.
In the case of voting for president and the US Congress, since the 1970s, party identification on voting behavior has been increasingly significant. By the late 1990s, party identification on voting behavior was at the highest level of any election since the 1950s. People overwhelmingly voted for their party’s nominee in the general election. If voters can’t get themselves to vote for candidates from the other party, then a third party is needed.
This problem is magnified by Party’s platforms being pulled away from their historical center where the majority reside and instead pushed into the fringe wings where the money and energy reside.
The problem of campaign financing
There is too much private money in campaigns. The campaign season is too long. Public funding of candidates is needed. Campaign reform is needed to retain our democracy.
The Democratic and Republican parties receive so much money from the powerful few that elected officials are overly dependent on that money to get elected and thus are too often puppets to the puppeteers that hold the strings. Who cares about the qualification of the politicians when they vote as a block and as told.
The voters that volunteer thousands of hours to help a candidate win an election are part of the fringe. They represent less than 15% of party membership. They are usually very liberal or very conservative. Politicians can’t vote against these people or they will support another candidate.
The problem of false wedge issues
There are issues that both parties have for decades supported conceptually but couldn’t agree on the details to pass legislation. Today those same issues are wedge issues. If one party is for something, the other party is against it. For decades both parties have wanted some form of universal health care and now it is a wedge issue. The Trans-Canada pipe line has its pros and cons but it is a wedge issue with one party talking about the pros and the other party talking about the cons. The list keeps growing.
The problem of Independents not having the power of an entrenched Party
Independents need unification and while “unified-independent” is an oxymoron, there needs to be a platform that attracts a voting block in order for moderates to advance from the Primaries and compete in National elections. That platform needs to attract moderates from both parties.
Often the best candidates don’t win their Party’s nomination because to win in the Primaries, they have to campaign to the left or right of their competition. But to win in a general election a candidate has to appeal to swing voters and that requires a more centrist campaign and be a person that has historically not been overly tied to far left or far right issues.
The problem of not knowing the basic platforms of current Parties
Why are voters registered as Democrats or Republicans? Have we asked ourselves that question and tried to be honest with ourselves? When did it happen? Why did we stay? This is discussed in some detail in this Hello Fred post.
- Older research has shown that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities have worked together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progressiveness.
- Newer research that includes brain maps, gene pool analysis, and unconscious attitudes shows the following generalizations:
- People who prefer a simple vision of good and evil, are cognitively inflexible, are fond of hierarchy, are inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death, and are unaware of their unconscious fears tend to vote Republican.
- People who are more open to reason and nuance and complex policy tend to vote Democrat.