Summer of Discontent: Independents speak out

In the wake of the debt ceiling crisis, there has been an astonishing wave of criticism directed at the two-party state and duopoly system of government.  For many Americans, the debt debacle appears to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.  But, will their anger translate into action?

Sometimes it seems as if not a day goes by without a new survey or poll measuring the depth and breadth of the nation’s frustration with its elected representatives, as well as underscoring the exodus of people from the major parties. Democrats and Republicans are fond of arguing that these individuals, who now account for roughly 40% of the electorate, are disengaged, low information voters, or closet partisans.  Though such an outlook may be comforting to the advocates of the major parties, it is typical of their political myopia.  They fail to appreciate the principled character of the Independent movement. Independents from around the country and across the political spectrum are now speaking out in force. 

Reflecting on the bipartisan debt deal signed into law earlier this month, Mike Tower pleads with readers of North Carolina’s Times-News Online to declare their independence from the major parties.

     “Clearly, the actions that were so painfully approved are so minor in the context of the incredible size of our financial woes that it boggles any reasonable mind. . . . I have repeatedly pleaded that we all re-register as “unaffiliated” as soon as possible as a first step in order to change our own thinking and to send a strong message to our leaders. This might even lead to the establishment of a third party,” writes Tower. 

Tower is not the only Independent who feels that the crisis proved, once again, the inefficacy of the two-party state. 

     “The current debt-ceiling delusions may result in a broader understanding that the two-party system, the corporate duopoly, no longer functions to further the rights and interests of citizens, and that the longer we are fooled by this belief that reform can come through these formal structures of power, the less empowered we are going to become,” writes Chris Perry, from a progressive perspective, in Ohio’s Lakewood Observer.

Even moderates are arguing that the two-party system should be scrapped, a suggestion that would have been seen as distinctly immoderate in the not too distant past.  In a letter to the editor of LJ World in Lawrence, Kansas, George Lippencott writes:

     “Perhaps the only way we can address hard problems like our debt crisis in the political environment prevailing today is to establish one or more centrist parties to which the moderates can gravitate. The abrupt and erratic progress when the electorate infrequently grants political control to one of the existent parties may just be too disruptive to justify the continuation of our two-party system.”

Nor were conservatives pleased by the outcome of the bipartisan agreement.  In Fort Wayne, Indiana’s News-Sentinel, Brian Secor has declared his independence from the Republican party. 

     “It’s time I declare my independence from the traditional parties and join up with the tea party.  Some will say, “If you do that, you’ll ensure Obama’s re-election and guarantee the ruin of this country.” To them I say, “Just what do you think the Republican/Democratic political monopoly is doing now?” writes the lifelong Republicans.  “I will no longer choose between the lesser of two evils,” he continues.

The very same sentiment was expressed by Bob Samuels at The Huffington Post from the opposite side of the duopoly divide. 

     “If it is true that Democrats are the most effective representatives of the conservative agenda, then it is clear that we need to promote a candidate who is not tied to either party,” he states, concluding, “This desire to go with the lesser of two evils means that we are still only hoping for an evil.” 

The crisis has also led to renewed calls for reforms such as nonpartisan elections.  But some argue that drastic measures are necessary. 

     “The only things bigger than our national debt are the egos of the politicians and pundits . . . I think our two political parties should be abolished. Everyone running for office should be an independent so he or she can vote for the good of the country, not their parties,” writes Al Ifversen of Arizona in a letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

Of course, it is not necessary to abolish the parties.  They can be defeated at the ballot box.  All that is required is for Independents to begin supporting Independents.