I have found, in talking with thousands upon thousands of voters that this is the most powerful message I share with voters. You are not alone in feeling like our elected leaders and candidates aren’t listening to you.
You are not alone in wanting a government that focuses on the right answers, not the most politically expedient ones. You are not alone in believing that as Americans, we are capable of so much more.
Here in Massachusetts, a record 53 percent of voters have now chosen to be independent of the Democratic and Republican parties. Most people think of Massachusetts as a solidly Democratic state, but only 35 percent of voters here are registered with that party. Even the Republicans are smaller than most realize -- only 11 percent of voters are registered with them.
There is plenty of news about how polarized our politics is, but I think what’s worse is how disconnected things have become. Today only 19 percent of voters say they trust the government to do the right thing all or most of the time – down from a high of 75 percent at the time JFK was elected.
What has happened?
Partisan primaries, fueled by special-interest dollars, choose the Democratic and Republican candidates that are each supposed to represent about half of us. Except that they don’t.
In the recent U.S. Senate special election in Massachusetts, only about 10% of voters actually participated in those primaries. Since the candidates have so few voters to be accountable to, the influence of their parties is more defining than it ever has been. It’s a kind of aristocracy – and you can see the kind of complacency and entitlement in how the candidates talk, and how they act.
A few current examples:Here in Massachusetts, one of the Republican candidates for governor recently said that democracy works better when “both” political views are represented in government. Both?
Just the other day, a leading Massachusetts newspaper reported on members of our legislature (Democrats and Republicans) spending tens of thousands of dollars of campaign donations on personal expenses -- fancy hotels, expensive dinners, gifts for staff, for starters.
And a number of Democratic candidates in the current gubernatorial race say they want to be governor not to deal with any particular issues or how, specifically, they could serve voters, but because they are “ready” for the job.
Most voters can’t imagine spending someone else’s money on themselves, but far too many political leaders do.
Most voters want to learn about an issue before forming an opinion. Most of our leaders want to find out what their parties think.
Voters, in this sense, are to be pandered to, so as to collect their votes, in a modern version of the oblivious “let them eat cake.”
In my independent run for governor and creating the new United Independent Party in Massachusetts, I believe voters are involved and supportive because they see a way to build something genuine, and lasting, something that will change this entire, outdated dynamic.
At a recent event, a voter told me how enthusiastic she was to support this movement. Still, she asked, how do we make sure that you, and the people who join with you, don’t become just like the people you will replace?
It’s a tremendously important question that gets to the very core of what American democracy is all about. When we were all taught in school that America is an “experiment” in self-government, it means something very important.
Our founders were making the statement that in the new nation they had created there would be no King or Queen coming down to solve our difficult problems – all of this was up to us. And so, if we see that a new aristocracy has descended on our country, only we can change it and only we can hold the people we elect accountable for representing us in the right way.
It’s been said that important social change happens when a majority of people realize that they are, in fact, in the majority. Here in Massachusetts, the majority of voters are ready to build that pragmatic future together. It’s happening, and it’s because so many of the people are learning something so important and fundamental – you are not alone.