Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Unity of Independent Voters: Not a Partisan Pleasure

Randy Schultz, writing for the editorial page of the Palm Beach Post, doesn't see dissatisfaction with the major parties as a uniter of independent voters. He's got some interesting observations here about the need for organization -- the "volunteers who staff phone banks, stuff envelopes and drive voters to the polls," the stuff of electoral politics in America.

But unity? In my opinion, unity is not a declaration of belief in some abstract principle. Unity gets built person by person, partnership by partnership, challenge by challenge. That's how organization gets built and what organization is. That's the very (revolutionary) foundation of our country. Our founding fathers (and mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, cousins, and neighbors and their mothers, etc.) did not come together over a neat programmatic issued by an established authority on July 4, 1776.

But the naysayers never tire of saying that independents don't stand for anything and Mr. Schultz is dead wrong when he says "nothing really unites them."

What unites independents - now (at least) 40% of the electorate - is, well, their independence. But if that isn't enough for you, for starters there's also the visceral distaste for partisanship that has clear partisans, according to USA Today, leaving the parties to the tune of 2.5 million since 2008.

And what's organizing independents right now is the fight for a nonpartisan level playing field for anti-party voters to participate in our political system. That's a big cultural change for America, one that is badly needed if we are to continue to progress as a people and as a nation.

And it just might not mean a third party.

Jackie Salit and independentvoting.org have been organizing independents on the ground since the implosion of the Reform Party. And they are having success. They have affiliates in 40 states, a small but very committed staff that raises around a million dollars a year to train activists all over the country, conduct grassroots campaigns such as the current push to get Congress to hold hearings on the second class citizenship of independent voters who are denied ballots in primaries in 33 states, and generally seeks to "diminish the regressive influence of parties and partisanship by opening up the democratic process."

Ultimately Mr. Schultz's message is: stay in the party system.

If people vote with their feet, the message is: We beg to differ!

THIRD PARTY

Schultz: Forget third party. Demand major change from major parties (Opinion blog, By Randy Schultz, Editor of the Editorial Page, Palm Beach Post) One big problem is that all those No Party Affiliation voters became disaffected for different reasons. Some think that the Democrats are too liberal. Some think that the Republicans are too conservative. Some would register with the Cynics Party, if one existed, because they can't stand either major party. Some are younger voters who, because the parties' old identities have shifted, don't identify with Republicans or Democrats. In other words, nothing really unites them.

INDEPENDENT VOTERS

Voters leaving Republican, Democratic parties in droves (By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY) A USA TODAY analysis of state voter registration statistics shows registered Democrats declined in 25 of the 28 states that register voters by party. Republicans dipped in 21 states, while independents increased in 18 states. The trend is acute in states that are key to next year's presidential race. In the eight swing states that register voters by party, Democrats' registration is down by 800,000 and Republicans' by 350,000. Independents have gained 325,000.

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