While many Americans like to describe themselves as independent voters — especially at a time when neither major party is particularly popular — when push comes to shove, independents largely remain loyal to one side or the other.
Right now, the Democratic and Republican parties are heavily institutionalized: everything from the election laws to the data to the funding works in the favor of the two partisan teams.
Independent voters matter when you look at the political landscape through the lens of a person concerned with democracy, and not as a political consultant concerned with winning what has become a “Game of Elections.”
What this perspective may indicate is that voters, on the whole, are becoming dissatisfied with the two teams altogether. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t Republicans and Democrats that are appealing to independent voters; it means the partisanship that drives the discourse, the debate, and, ultimately, policy is causing people to disassociate with the game altogether.
When less than 10% of voters participate in party primaries and 95% of general elections aren’t competitive because of a variety of practical concerns like gerrymandering, the rise of independents might not matter.
Why is this important, despite Sullivan’s suggestion that it isn’t?
Because states like Washington and California are creating nonpartisan elections where parties can’t control the outcome by limiting meaningful participation in our democracy to the small partisan bases.
There will be a ‘silent revolution’ as more states enact nonpartisan election reforms. It will be silent because often times the same people will get elected. The same party will appear to have control. But, the voters whom these elected officials are accountable to will change.
Why does this matter?
Because right now, those of us who live in the political weeds don’t realize how much we talk to ourselves. We play a game where the rules have been written to support simplistic conclusions offered by a superficial two-sided debate.
It will be a revolution because we, who are responsible for the political discourse, will have to talk to independent-minded voters once again.