October 19, 2018

Independent Thoughts: Independent voting is a dilemma

I am accused of being a pointless voter. This is funny because I only became eligible to vote in local, state and national elections barely two years ago. My body of work is not expansive, yet, but that does not prevent me from being criticized by people who assume I support certain candidates simply to be contrarian. Of course, this can be a routine scenario for Independent voters in the United States because they support candidates and political parties that go against the “established system.”

The Democratic Party and Republican Party dominate the American political environment, yet they are not the only representatives of the way our democratic process functions. This is the argument Independent voters make, in order to cite their frustration of the two-party favored system. The statement is true, to an extent, until the data stops supporting the claim. Despite being the majority percentage in the United States, true Independent voters are still the overwhelming minority.

According to Gallup, in a poll ranging from Jan. 2, 2004 to Jan. 7, 2018, 36 percent of registered American voters are Independents. Thirty-three percent align with the Democratic Party and 29 percent align with the Republican Party. A total of 315 polls were conducted over this 14-year timespan. According to the study, support for Independent voting checked in at 34 percent, while Democrat and Republican support remained the same.

These are not the troublesome numbers. Just by looking at the data above, an assumption can be made that Independent voters should have an advantage at the polls. This is simply not the case because many of these same voters do not truly support “independence” from the two-party favored system. Gallup and The Pew Research Center says 91-92 percent of the Independent voting percentage (36) still lean toward either the Democratic Party or Republican Party, leaving only eight or nine percent of Independent voters truly pushing for something different.

What can be done about this? Sifting through more numbers and statistics, in an attempt to make an “educated guess” on what might happen, is one option. However, I thought it was important to listen to the ones who are in the eye of the storm. As mentioned in the past, Independent voters are ultimately the ones who will lead this charge because they have to. Nobody else is going to do it, so it is time to “take matters into our own hands” if this battle can truly be won.

Several comments from Independent voters, that I came across, suggest the battle is already won. According to the 36 percent of registered Independent voters in the United States, they would be correct. However, the 91-92 percent that still leans either Democrat or Republican is an issue that remains. What does the eight-nine percent need to do in order to facilitate change? This is where problems begin to mount because Independents have different viewpoints on how to take on the issue.

Standing up to the two-party political establishment is one thing, but one solution is to put more emphasis on supporting other political parties. This is also where the media come into play. Third parties, such as The Green Party, The Libertarian Party and The Constitution Party received very little publicity in the last election cycle. The mainstream assumption was the candidates of these parties had nothing to truly offer, but how would they know that if the majority of the focus was on the Democrats and Republicans?

To even stand a chance in the future, Independents need to push the agendas of other parties into the mainstream because the establishment is not threatened. The Democrats and Republicans are a threat to one another, but “outsiders” will continue to look up at them until there is a breakthrough. With that being said, however, many Independents think political parties are the problem.

This is something I hardly thought about, but a good point can be made from it. Do political parties prohibit the concept of a truly “free” election? In this sense, can money be the root of this problem? Foundations and donations can certainly have an effect, especially if the Democratic Party and Republican Party can use their massive platforms to keep themselves propped up. Would abolishing political parties make way for Independent voters to truly feel part of the election process? Considering the recent 80 years of history, one could argue this might be a possibility.

Above all else, however, Independent voters need to take a stand by placing more Independent candidates in office. If the framework is going to be based on the two-party establishment, then getting more Independents in office is going to be the most effective way. It is tough for Independents because there is so much gray area. What constitutes being an Independent is based on the broad framework of going against Democrats and Republicans. Addressing this dilemma is tough, but eventually there needs to be a breakthrough.

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