You’re Not Alone – Lessons from “The Emperor’s New Clothes”

Month 3, August 2013

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.

– Hans Christian Andersen, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”

Is the control the two parties have over our politics part of the natural order of things, or just a relic of an earlier time?

Put more simply, do the two parties represent most voters? It’s become so clear to me in month three of keeping this diary of my campaign for governor that the answer is clearly, strikingly, “no.”

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People tend to think of Massachusetts as a deep “blue” state, dominated by Democratic voters. The trouble is, it isn’t true.  Only about a third of voters in our state are registered Democrats.  Only about 1 of every 10 voters is a Republican.

A majority of voters – nearly 53 percent – are independents (described as “unenrolled” under Massachusetts law). The number has been growing, and Massachusetts now leads the nation in the percentage of its voters that are independents.

What’s going on?

A voter told me this week that for her it had gotten to the point where it was easy to predict what a politician would say based on the letter next to his or her name.

“You never find out what the person really thinks, just that they’re good at saying what they’re supposed to say,” she said.

This kind of thing turns people off. As another voter put it, “they think we’re stupid.”

The irony of this is that Massachusetts is a state full of very smart people, and hugely innovative businesses and industries. Our economy has done better than most in these difficult times. And it’s a state that has been at the forefront of making sure we are all treated equally before the law, and in our lives. But, even with all this success, the great failures of our political processes have become ever more clear.

The problem is this. The two parties – the old regime – have kept their hold on government by telling people there are only two choices. Left, or right. Democrat or Republican. Their way, or the highway. When, I ask, will it be time to start building a new future, free of this false choice?

Voters want to start now. What surprises me isn’t so much that voters want this, it’s that so many voters don’t realize that they’re not alone. And so to everyone reading this, I say – you are not alone. The change you want starts by people like you taking that brave step of saying what so many already know – “The Emperor has no clothes.”