Editor's Note: This editorial was originally published in the U-T San Diego
A vote for an independent candidate is no longer mere symbolism. icPurple.org congratulates California’s courageous independent candidates Linda Parks, Chad Condit, Chad Walsh and Nathan Fletcher. Through each of their campaigns, these leaders proved one common reality: Independent, nonparty candidates are now legitimate competitors in American politics. The “centrist majority” has been awakened, and the match has been struck. Each race from California’s June 5 primary election tells this story in a different way: In the case of Chad Walsh for California Assembly, Walsh will advance to the November general election by pulling a truly remarkable showing of 45 percent of votes against his entrenched party opponent, a longtime politician with enormous name identification.
In San Diego, with little more than two months to compete as an independent, Nathan Fletcher rocketed from the relative unknown to achieving 24 percent of the vote in the four-way race and assembled a vast coalition of pragmatic, solutions-oriented voters and community leaders. Given the enormity of investment by the parties dedicated to negative messages tearing Fletcher down, his relative success is all the more amazing.
Both Chad Condit and Linda Parks demonstrated respectable showings in their House races with Parks taking 18 percent of the vote among six candidates despite vicious and relentless party attacks and Condit achieving 15 percent of the vote among five candidates in one of the most politically targeted races in the country. This has very rarely, if ever, been seen before. In the face of vehement attacks from both parties, it is truly remarkable that these independent leaders developed ample resources and popularity and achieved double-digit near-wins while demonstrating viable bases of support.
This election moves us a step closer to ending our paralysis at the hands of partisan politics. Independent leaders like these Californians and Angus King of Maine are running for office in pursuit of thoughtful solutions to today’s serious problems, sending a clear signal to Washington, D.C., and state houses that “enough is enough” with politics for politics sake.
The recent Pew Research Center study points out that party identification is declining, while independents are on a dramatic incline, and that 43 percent of independents identify as squarely moderate. The future is bright for the independent movement. But the work has just begun, and we have a long road ahead.
In voting for independent leaders, the “centrist majority” is sending a clear message that politicians at the local, state, and national level need to pull out of partisan gridlock and get back into the business of solutions. We don’t need combative politics, we need constructive politics. The important work of governing our country should be done with dignity, with pragmatism, with diverse coalitions, with consideration for compromise, with authenticity. This message is important to independents at large, and these values, along with the needs of their district, are independent leaders’ chief priority, not partisan politics or dogmatic purist affiliations.
Other recent studies have shown that approximately 40 percent of voters cannot align themselves entirely with either of our main political parties. And this is why the election of independent leaders is critical – to express the voice of the 40 percent “centrist majority,” and to bring solutions-oriented leadership and legitimate compromise back into our political system. In a country that celebrates innovation and diversity in all we do, our rigid commitment to stale, unforgiving party lines is baffling. The very politicians who walk the halls of Congress preaching the need for new ideas for a new economy actually, and unimaginatively, vote the party line almost 100 percent of the time. This has to change, and this election is proof that it can.
The movement to the middle has just begun. A vote for an independent leader in November is no longer just a signal. It is now a viable opportunity for real political change in our country, and for a return to civil discourse.
Co-Founder, Gateway, Inc.