It’s popular to be an “independent voter”. About 40% of the electorate describes themselves as “independent”. You’ll find them into all walks of life and political niches. In every news broadcast, talk show, and political discourse, “independents” seem to be the new key political demographic for politicians. So many people are calling themselves “Independent” that political wonks are considering the death of the two party system. “Independent” is the new political “cool” and I hate you all.
Ok, so I don’t hate all independents, just the 70-80% of independents that are really closet partisans. In many respects, centrist leaning organizations have done a wonderful job of advertising independence in voting. Who doesn’t want to think of themselves as “independent”? It’s a la carte political positions for one and all. Republicans have done a wonderful job with their self-inflicted political sabotage. Republicans are near universally hated on a national level. They’ve utterly failed to do anything of note, and have succeeded in bringing this country to the brink, crossing over that brink, and otherwise grinding to a halt the normal everyday business of government. Not only THAT but they’ve fielded some of the most notoriously bad candidates for political office I could possibly imagine (Mr. Todd “legitimate rape” Akin springs to mind). So it’s no wonder the GOP have lost members to “indepedency”. They’re image is pathetic right now. I wouldn’t want to be associated with them now either.
I know voters who call themselves “Libertarian” and vote for non-libertarians candidates. You are a useless waste of political capital. If you like libertarian ideals, don’t vote GOP and don’t call yourself an independent. The GOP are not libertarians, they will never be libertarians. You are setting your own cause back, because, (if I can speak in the language of Libertarians for a paragraph) you’re only going to advance pro-corporate, pro-statist, non-personal autonomy philosophies and policy. Listen to me Libertarians, you will never move the GOP. At best, they’ll superficially shift their positions a little to better market to you, but it’ll never happen. I’m sorry. You need to vote 3rd party. This is the only way, the ONLY way, you will get a clear message past the mainstream corporate interests and the GOP establishment. It’s also the only way to hold elected officials accountable to your values.
There are other reasons for voting “independent”. Quirks of your state primary laws can make it tricky to be one or another party. You think it’s no one’s business what your party is. You don’t want to get harassed for support every few months by your favorite political party. You like to think of yourself as an independent, even though the odds suggest you really aren’t. Because you don’t agree with everything on what you imagine your party platform to be and don’t want to sound like you do. I suspect that the last one resonates with a lot of people. But here’s the thing, if you have always voted one way, and always will, tell people that’s what you are. And no, “that one time” doesn’t count. Remember all those “Reagan democrats”. Yeah they’re not “independents”. They’re Dems that changed their mind for one election. If you converted from one party to another don’t say you’re “independent”.
So what has any of this to do with my antipathy for “Independent voters”? Because you needlessly confuse the conversation. Who is talking is as important as what is being said. “What does it matter”, you ask. “if I’m one thing or another, does that change the value of my opinion to my elected official?” It shouldn’t but it does. When the national party talks to the electorate and they see the only people crazy enough to still call themselves Republican, you’re going to get crazy policies and candidates because they think that’s what you want. Moderates and centrists need to stand up and yell over the crazies. People need to say, “I’m a Republican and I think you’re NUTS.” “I’m a Republican and your candidates are so crazy I’m going to vote for the other guy”. In a weird way, DEMs have the opposite problem with their independents. Your policies get artificially pushed towards the center. Admittedly that’s where my own comfort level is, so I might have a bias in that direction.
Strictly speaking I shouldn’t really be poking solely at Republicans in this piece but Dems have a different set of issues. But the same issues of message and clarity are still in play for them too. Independents, as they are now, are like a crowded stadium everyone yelling for their favorite policy. What you want is a bunch of smaller conference rooms that voters can tour where you can calmly advocate for your position. “Hello, I’m a ________ and I want ________)” “To thine own self be true” — Shakespeare. It works for politics too.