It is no secret that our electoral system has been rigged by Democratic and Republican lawmakers to ensure that their candidates face as little competition as possible. But, national sentiment is undergoing a historic sea change that could finally challenge this entrenched duopoly.
A new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News finds that Democrats and Republicans barely constitute a majority when one tallies their percentages together: less than a third identify as Democrats (31%), less than a quarter call themselves Republicans (24%), and a whopping 40% describe themselves as Independents. Of the self-proclaimed non-partisans, 18% lean Democrat, 18% lean Republican, and 9% do not lean in either direction.
This raises a basic question. If so many people are unwilling to identify with the Democratic and Republican parties, and prefer to describe themselves as Independents, why do they continue to vote for Democrats and Republicans rather than Independents or third party alternatives?
There are two conventional answers to this question: 1) these voters are not “really” Independent; rather, they “lean” toward one major party or the other but refuse to identify with the label; 2) the hurdles encountered by third party and Independent candidates are simply too great to be overcome. Clearly, however, these two issues are interrelated. Given the systemic bias in favor of the Democratic and Republican parties, voters do not really have any choice but to vote Democrat or Republican when it comes time to cast their ballots, if they vote at all.
Overcoming the systemic bias in favor of the legacy parties is one of the greatest and most pressing political issues facing the people of the United States. Obviously, the representatives and allies of the Democratic and Republican parties have little or no interest in working to reform the system that ensures their monopoly on public office at all levels of government. Yet, if just half of the eligible voters who typically opt not to vote rather than vote Republican or Democrat, instead chose to cast their ballots for a third party or Independent electoral reformer, that individual could very well win in a landslide.
This November, California voters have the opportunity to elect an outspoken electoral reformer for Secretary of State, Libertarian Party candidate Christina Tobin. Tobin was the national ballot access coordinator for Ralph Nader’s 2008 presidential campaign and is the Founder and Chair of Free & Equal, which advocates election and ballot access reform nationwide. At the very top of the issues page on her campaign website, Tobin lists “Justice for Independents” and notes the double standard typical of the Democratic-Republican ballot access regime:
“California must stop treating independent voters as second-class citizens. California makes it almost impossible for independent candidates to get on the ballot. In California, 21% of registered voters are independents. Yet, while members of major parties who run for statewide office in California need to collect only 65 signatures, citizens registered as independents are required to collect 173,041 signatures statewide.”
Among other things, Tobin advocates the protection of voter choice, instant runoff voting, and proposes a number of election administration reforms that would not only level the political playing field, but also save tax payer money.
Of course, the conventional wisdom states that a ballot cast for a third party or Independent candidate is a “wasted vote,” since such candidates have little chance of success. This is the self-fulfilling prophecy that the Democratic and Republican parties rely upon to ensure the reproduction of the reigning two-party state.
The conventional wisdom is political folly, though. When Democrats and Republicans win elections, all too often it is We the People who lose.
But, the tide is starting to turn. Hopeful signs are emerging as Americans lose patience with the Republicrats. The seeds of an Independent Revolution have been sown and are just beginning to sprout.