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Power of the Vote: How to Force Parties to Depolarize

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It may seem like independents have an overwhelming deck stacked against them in the political arena, both in power and money.

Yet any group has a tool in their arsenal that ultimately forces parties to depolarize the election–the power to get out the vote.

In the Journal of Economics & Politics, researcher Justin Valasek took a novel approach to measuring the impact of get out the vote efforts on political figures.

Regardless of who was doing the get out the vote campaign, the result is critical–it forces both sides of the political spectrum to decrease political polarization.

There’s a certain amount of common sense to this: the party faithful already intend to vote, so to bring more into the fold the politician has to become more ‘palatable’ to a greater audience.

(GOTV) forces both sides of the political spectrum to decrease political polarization.

But this also goes against conventional wisdom that the liberal side of the political spectrum always fares better in high voter turnout. While there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, both sides must respond by depolarizing their campaigning, and addressing real issues important to the valuable center.

The key for independents is that even a small group committed to a regional get out the vote drive could have a huge impact on the tone, debate, and outcome of a political election.

This means that independents can steer elections, before gaining enough momentum to launch viable campaigns.

The downside is that get out the vote campaigns are expensive and take quite a bit of organization, something that independents have never been really good at.

But when compared to the overall cost of launching a full-fledged independent candidacy, this is still a pretty cheap — and yet still effective — tactic.

While the outcome still has a ‘party-member’ winning the election, public engagement, forcing the candidate to make concessions, depolarization, and real public debate all improve the entire voting process.

Independents need to start someplace, and getting back to the very basics of civic duty might be the best place to start to sway the entire political process.

Photo Credit: Gts / shutterstock.com

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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70 comments
Jeff Marston
Jeff Marston

An issue I have here is the tendencies of parties/campaigns to disregard the whole notion of appealing to others and concentrate on destroying the other candidate through negative campaigning to the point that all but the most partisan even bother to turn out as independents and others say, "a pox on both your houses."  This is what those campaigns seek and it becomes a game of simply getting hard core voters to he polls.  

RichardWinger
RichardWinger

@Jeff Marston The election reform that does the best job of ending negative campaigning is Instant Runoff Voting.  That is because candidates don't want to offend supporters of their opponents, because they hope to win 2nd place or 3rd place votes.  So candidates become markedly more positive to their opponents.  How great it would have been if the IVP had put a measure for IRV on the ballot in California instead of top-two (of course I realize it is the legislature that put top-two on the ballot).

RichardWinger
RichardWinger

There are two pending reforms that can be passed without that much difficulty, and which would really shake things up.  The National Popular Vote Plan would be revolutionary.  Having a direct popular vote for president would force a complete revamp of our presidential elections.  It would no longer make sense for voter qualifications to be different in different states, relative to the presidential election.  It would be too crazy that in a national direct popular vote for President, ex-felons in some states could vote, but in other states they could not.  It would be too crazy that adult US citizens living in Puerto Rico, and the other US territories, can't vote for president in the general election.  It would be too crazy that in some states people could register on election day and in other states registration closes 30 days before the election.


I am convinced that if the National Popular Vote Plan gets close to having enough states to go into effect, that would trigger a strong move for a constitutional amendment to eliminate the electoral college and have a national standard for who can vote, when people can register, and how candidates get on the ballot.


The other pending reform, which will take longer because it must be fought out state by state, is instant runoff voting or possibly approval voting.  IRV is on the Maine ballot this year and I think it will pass.  If we can just get it in one state, it will pick up steam, just like same-sex marriage did after Massachusetts started it.  Or like marijuana legalization.

Julie Schulman DeLuca
Julie Schulman DeLuca

Merl Miller. Just vote for Trump. What have the "Career Politicians" done for our country?? Made themselves rich! Trump doesn't need the money.

Jason Vaillancourt
Jason Vaillancourt

I'm all for getting the vote out but until we remove Diebold from our electoral process, it's hard to promote. We also have a rigged debate format and I think America has finally had enough. Live Free!

Dissident Politics
Dissident Politics

"Independents need to start someplace." How true. All new things from the rise of independents as a political power to the spread of a new ideology (from ISIS brand terrorist religion to political objectivism based on human cognition) has to start somewhere. Usually the start is a one person or a small group of advocates that somehow manage to finagle their way to recognition, if necessarily not acceptance.

It still seems that an organization that operates an online umbrella coalition is a way to start. An central online source could foster voter registration, e.g., by providing online registration forms and instructions on how to do it.

My attempt to foster a coalition of the unhappy/independent a couple of years ago failed. People like Lessig, Wheelan and others weren't interested. All potential leaders wanted to go it alone, although they were at least polite enough to not tell me to sit down and shut up. That was nice of them.

About 6 months ago when IVN started publishsing pieces by the Centrist Project and some others, IVN was functioning vaguely like a coalition focus point.

Anyway, others interested in change and reform see the question clearly. Philip Tetlock, a social scientist who argues for objectivity in politics put it this way in his book Superforecasting:It could be huge - an “evidence-based forecasting” revolution similar to the “evidence-based medicine” revolution, with consequences every bit as significant. . . . . Or nothing may change. . . . . things may go either way.” Whether the future will be the “stagnant status quo” or reform “will be decided by the people whom political scientists call the “attentive public. I’m modestly optimistic.

Tetlock seems to have it about right or is maybe a bit too pessimistic. The time frame may stretch out many years longer than reformers may want, but my sense of it is that society is inching slowly in the right direction.

Andew Gripp
Andew Gripp

@Dissident Politics

It is always easy to scapegoat the mainstream media, but they decide what the attentive pubic should focus on. We see this on a daily basis. Caitlyn Jenner arrived, and there was a national dialogue for several weeks about transgender issues. Imagine what would happen if CNN and other networks reported on the shenanigans of political parties, the real shenanigans that are really crimes against democracy (I'm thinking of the things reported by Richard Winger about limiting ballot access, or the machinations of the CPD).

But it doesn't focus on these things, and so there is very little discussion about how we might improve our politics.

IVN is obviously a good forum for this, but whatever its influence, it will take "the powers that be" (to quote a title of a Halberstam book about the media) to really shake things up.

I have no idea what it will take for this to happen. Ballot and debate access issues are complicated and dry, so the media won't take them on out of concern of boring their audiences and hurting their ratings.

It's a real chicken and egg problem. Does the public at large not care because the media doesn't report on it, or does the media not report on it because the public doesn't care?

I think it is largely a cultural problem. If tomorrow the public realized the media is feeding them sensationalistic slop and boycotted the networks until they did their jobs properly, then we would start to see the change we need. 

Getting the public interested in this stuff is therefore necessary before the MSM media realizes it needs to reform itself. I wish I had the answer. Perhaps some kind of public display of outrage is in order. But who would attend a mass rally to open up the presidential debates, or call on the legislatures to ease ballot access? 

Dissident Politics
Dissident Politics

@Andew Gripp 

As far as I can tell, the relevant "powers that be" are independents and people unhappy with the two-party status quo and/or gridlock, corruption* or stupid policy.

I don't advocate going into the streets and expressing outrage. I prefer ice-cold, focused, relentless determination to overthrow the status quo. Controlled fury, but fury without the undue, unconscious biasing of reality and common sense that comes with emotion sort of gets at the concept. It doesn't have to be loud or flashy - that may even be counterproductive. Incremental change over years may work just fine, assuming we have the luxury of the time.

It may take more than people simply boycotting the media. Unless I misunderstand the biology, most people (maybe >90%) want a safe, trusted place to go for psychological comfort and coherence-making. That's the point of looking to (i) an umbrella coalition of some sort that is armed with (ii) a better political ideology (objectivity). An organization alone with nothing new to offer is probably cold, unappealing comfort for most people. An intelligent, non-threatening ideology with no supporting organizational framework is probably also unappealing to most people. It seems that both pieces are necessary.

* Corruption is defined as our politics relative to other countries, most of which are far more corrupt than the U.S., e.g., North Korea, Russia, China, Brazil, India, the entire African continent, Southeast Asia, etc.

Merl Miller
Merl Miller

1932 Our government doesn't work. Our country is broken by corrupt politicians. Get Hitler a try. That worked well, didn't it.

Merl Miller
Merl Miller

This is the only sensible remark so far.

Chicho Blanco
Chicho Blanco

Independents can definitely impact local elections. The national elections are still rigged for a two party system.

Paul Couturier
Paul Couturier

Thank you Robert Weber! The abuse I often get from fake Independents makes everything I say worth it!

Julie Schulman DeLuca
Julie Schulman DeLuca

Our government doesn't work. Our country is broken by corrupt politicians. Give Trump a try‼️ Bill Clinton lied as president to the entire world... Obama lies about everything... Hillary lies also about everything. I'm giving Donald Trump a businessman a chance...he knows how this lying, corrupt government works. With $18 trillion in debt we need someone like him‼️

Charles Roberts
Charles Roberts

The technology exists to enable a motivated independent candidate to outflank print, airwave and cable media, especially in local races. Will anyone use it?

Jim Smith
Jim Smith

As I look at election over the last 30 years I'm not seeing the difference. That must be some kind of short term hope.

Liz Toy
Liz Toy

Except that sometimes there is a statewide election where one candidate has political experience and is talking about issues, and the other major candidate is a recruited newby who may have business experience but no clue about politics and no people skills---and how dare anyone ask what he would do if elected! I was part of a group of people campaigning for 3rd party candidates that year. Together we got more votes than the margin between R and D, and were able to get the lesser of 2 evils (at least he had a voting record) elected and defeat the clueless, insulting newby.

Liz Toy
Liz Toy

A look at Oregon registration shows that even a "deep red" (more R than anything else ) district has more people who are not R (NAV + Indep. Party + D, and if one does a spread sheet of victory margins for legislative seats and the registration outside of major parties in those districts, often those not registered in a major party is a larger number than the victory margin. In other words, those voters have been deciding the makeup of the legislature for years. And in Oregon we have one legislator who says that she keeps a voter registration card in her office drawer, and if her caucus ever pushes her too far, she will re-register NAV.

Cecilia Marie Motherway Fields
Cecilia Marie Motherway Fields

Loved Bernie then he ran on the Democratic ticket. You vote for Bernie you're voting Democrat. If you want a strong independent party then you stay faithful to the party. Thus creating another "....party faithful".

Jim Smith
Jim Smith

The problem with voting for a candidate other than the popular Republican or Democrat is that it shifts the balance of power into the favor of the people. Big corporate donors pay big money to keep control over our government and the need people to be gullible and motivated to surrender their government to big corporations by voting for the two party farce.

Joan Hadley
Joan Hadley

All SCSH residents take note. Your vote here is very important.

Andrew Cona
Andrew Cona

Vote for Bernie.. Independent running democrat to destroy the two party system

Russ Bischoff
Russ Bischoff

- Enough of Washington DC's bought and paid for puppets and their traitorous trade and immigration policies that have destroyed the real American economy and the future of the American people.

Donavan Spencer
Donavan Spencer

No, they won't people worked so incredibly hard to get Johnson 1% of the vote in 2012. Unless we can force our way onto the duopoly pre election dual press conference they call a debate, nothing will change.

Russ Bischoff
Russ Bischoff

– Wake the heck up America – If it wasn't for Trump, our politicians and media would still be talking about peripheral social issues rather than the core issues facing the American people, the real American economy and the future of our country. We need a major change in this country – Because it's become painfully obvious that both parties are just doing the bidding of their masters, while lamely trying to look like they're trying to represent us – Let's face it, neither party really wants to fix the core economic issues like outsourcing, illegal "immigration" and the importation of foreign H1B visa workers, because they want the cheap labor – For way too many years now, all that either party has been giving the American public is lame political posturing, tokenism and rhetoric – They treat the issues as political footballs and just point fingers at each other or even worse yet, just ignore the real core economic issues altogether – They've used peripheral social issues for years to polarize and distract the American people to the left and the right, while they sold us out to other countries like communist China, India and Mexico with the complicity of both sides of the media who are owned by a handful international corporations. It's Not Rocket Science – Since the free traitors have had their way of it, our largest export has been American jobs and money. At least Trump, Carson, Sanders, Webb and Santorum are finally bringing some of the actual core economic issues out into the light of day – Let's face it, if more Americans would have listened to Ross Perot back in 1992, we wouldn't be in this mess right now. For the last 25-years our government has allowed and enabled our country's industries to get sucked out to countries like communist China, India, Mexico, etc and allowed illegal aliens and H-1B foreigners to continue to pour into our country and take away income-tax-paying American's jobs and drive down wages. Good news for the American People would be more full time jobs with occasional wage increases and without getting benefits taken away – And we all know that that's not happening. Unfortunately, because of what our so-called leaders from both parties have allowed and enabled to happen to our country and the American people, there are continuously more and more Americans falling out of the middle class, through no fault of their own. Wake up America – We've become a consumer driven debt ridden society. Over the past several decades, all that our traitorous politicians from both parties have been doing is selling out the American People, by stalling, spending, removing protections and allowing illegal aliens to continue to pour in and American jobs and industries to pour out, and all while collecting their American tax-payer funded paychecks, benefits and whatever else they get on the side from their various lobbyist friends. Nowadays it's obviously not about Americans being either lazy or uneducated as many try to profess, but about wages, benefits, expenses and regulations in other countries that are not even remotely close to the wages, benefits, expenses and regulations in our country – It's not just happening with blue-collar jobs – It's happening to engineers, IT people, biotech workers, customer support, procurement, managers, etc......................... And the American citizens on the lower end of the skill spectrum need jobs too. It has all happened way too fast – Our government leaders should have put measures in place to make it slower, so that it wouldn't devastate our country, which has no chance when competing with other countries that don't play by the same rules or have pay scales that are even remotely close. It's Not Rocket Science – We need a much larger volume of income-tax-paying American citizens working again in order to generate enough revenue to fund The United States of America – It's not rocket science – If Americans aren't working – The America that we all know and love is not going to continue to exist – It's about the volume of dollars and jobs going out our country vs. the volume of dollars and jobs going out. Our huge trade deficit and indebtedness to foreign countries like communist China is obviously not in the best interest of our country or the American people. Something has to be done because our current system is not working – Other countries like Germany, Japan, Sweden, Canada and China protect their domestic industries, citizen’s jobs and business and it's about time that we start doing so as well. Bringing manufacturing back home to the USA is going to end up being not only a key to restoring our economy, but to maintaining our national security as well. The American People need actual Loyal American Leaders who will start coming up with some sensible measures and putting them in place to stem the tide or this is going to continue to have a devastating effect on the United States of America and the American People. The only real fix for our great country is to bring back businesses and jobs to income-tax-paying American citizens. That's where our government leaders have to step up and put some sensible measures and incentives in place to keep jobs here in the USA or the real economy and infrastructure of the country we love will be destroyed along with the future of the American people. The bottom line is that "Our Government" has to protect domestic industry and the jobs that those industries provide – If they do that, the rest will take care of itself. The American people will need good jobs with health-care benefits in order to be able to pay for the services of those educated doctors, lawyers, college professors, etc – It can't all be chiefs and no Indians – There is an equally important place for both of them in America. Being conservative is all well and good - Our constitution is great – But, our failed trade and immigration policies are not. The ridiculous concept that protecting our own country's and citizen’s physical and economic health is somehow socialistic is bizarre – It's not socialistic – It's patriotic and loyal – And trying to sell us anything to the contrary is traitorous. But, on the other hand, random minimum wage increases are just a smoke screen without addressing the root of the problem – First we'll have to bring back domestic industries and businesses to the USA and income-tax-paying US citizens – And that's going to mean securing our border, adding tariffs/VAT, providing tax incentives to keeping jobs and industries here and employing US citizens as well as adding disincentives for outsourcing / hiring illegals / abuse of the H1B foreign visa worker programs. NEWS FLASH: Our leaders are supposed to be elected by the citizens of the United States of America to represent the interests of those citizens and the country itself – They are not supposed to be representing Wall Street, lobbyist, international corporations, the global marketplace (WTO, NAFTA, TPP, KORUS), foreign citizens, foreign interests or illegal aliens – And it's about time that all of our so called leaders started honoring that fact. Enough of the bought and paid for puppets that have destroyed the real American economy and the future of the American people. What the American people need are leaders that will put the best interests of our own people and country first and foremost, especially our veterans.

William Bill Hamilton
William Bill Hamilton

If elections were effective and fair, congress would outlaw it. Just saying!

Johnny Ray Kersey
Johnny Ray Kersey

Thanks Gary . That's because of the establishment if there were term limits then there would be no establishment. Our freedom depend on electing right person for the right reason not just for party if my person has to go independant then I will vote that way.

Emmett von Braun
Emmett von Braun

start running more independents at the local level, like town council, mayor level, and try to work our way up. It would be easier to start with a few small victories rather than going for a big ticket right away.

Rick O'Connell
Rick O'Connell

Gary A Wilson None of the above should be a choice on each ballot.

Gary A Wilson
Gary A Wilson

bigger doesn't mean better - just means easy to corrupt

Kerry Woods
Kerry Woods

unfortunately, it is the Constitution that is at times too ambiguous to be effective after 230 years of political intrigue. we need more specificity in the Constitution, which would have inhibited pols from making definitions to suit their strategies.

Joel Martinez
Joel Martinez

There are Voting rules that need to change. The only way is to get involve and work for change.

Rick O'Connell
Rick O'Connell

Gary A Wilson We're losing our democracy before our own eyes. #VOTE4BERNIE

Johnny Ritchie
Johnny Ritchie

The non voters and the division within the 99%, of ALL the voters is what keeps the 1% in control, with little legislation for the common good of the 99%.

Mary Sjogren
Mary Sjogren

"Satanists on the Supreme Court"? "Spit-swapping, gay-bladed marriage"? Yikes! The republican party's obsession with other people's personal lives, particularly their sex lives, is part of why I'm no longer a republican. I'm decidedly uninterested in controlling my fellow citizens' private lives and personal contracts - including marriage contracts. I AM interested in economic policy, foreign policy, tax policy, education, healthcare, and infrastructure.

Jon Jørgen Illum
Jon Jørgen Illum

You bet. That's why we are better. We vote for the person, not the party.

Mary Gribbin
Mary Gribbin

Gary A Wilson - Sanders is an Independent that is running on the democratic ticket. I will be voting for Sanders.

Johnny Ritchie
Johnny Ritchie

LOL, Far left to far right with everything in between. The 1% remains in control with the division of the voters.

Warren Donaldson
Warren Donaldson

I'm a realist...the proper side of any given issue isn't a center right or left thing. Independent thinking is was makes us independent voters.

Rick O'Connell
Rick O'Connell

Gary A Wilson But not all states? Seems like what's good for one would be good for all.

Gary A Wilson
Gary A Wilson

Supreme Court has ruled in several states that closed primaries are unconstitutional

Joel Martinez
Joel Martinez

We all Need to get involve in process, get the Vote out.

Gary A Wilson
Gary A Wilson

Simplest definition - puts the Constitution and the people ahead of partisan politics

Ellyn Darrah
Ellyn Darrah

Paul Couturier - Was there a mass exodus? We have continued to grow in every state. Satanists on the Supreme Court? I hadn't heard that - what makes you think that? Did they disagree with your personal line of thinking? If a law is passed by Congress it can be Challenged and sent to the Supreme Court for study and a decision. If you disagreed with the Law - did you fire your Congressperson? Personally, I would rather that people be allowed to live their private lives with dignity as long as it doesn't impact me. We may need to usher in a new era of mutual respect where we can civilly disagree yet not hate each other.

Kerry Woods
Kerry Woods

the more conditions that are attached to the definition of "independent" the less independent voters will be likely to accomplish.