In a Nation Full of Independents, Why Do Independent Voters Get So Much Hate?
Our last election was disappointing, to say the least. I say this not necessarily from one political camp or the other, but because the majority of Americans seem to agree with this sentiment.
Those of us voting in the last election mostly voted from necessity, and not from true inspiration for our candidate. We voted from fear of what our opposition might unleash upon our nation, and not on the merits of the candidates.
Watching the results — the greedy, indulgent chuckles of Fox News or the dead-eyed, prophetic doomcasting of MSNBC — much of our country let out a collective sigh and marked its calendar for 2020.
Of course, there is no indication that 2020 will be any better. In fact, many of us are beginning to feel as though we’re trapped on some deranged seesaw, struggling against the ballast of political propaganda, hatred, misdirection, and an increasingly hysterical call for opposition or support.
It’s hard enough finding that hazy center where the truth probably lies: In the age of internet trolling and super PACs, it’s practically impossible.
Independent and moderate voters often get a bad rap in today’s politically tense climate. Oftentimes, if you tell someone you’re an independent, they make the assumption that you’re either not politically informed or that you don’t have any passion and are therefore “sitting on the fence” or “mushy middling.”
Yet, the majority of America identifies as independent: as of November 2017, 42% of Americans identify as independent, as opposed to 30% Democrats and 25% Republicans. This suggests that much of America knows or has some sort of feeling that the two-party setup isn’t doing what it needs to for the people.
So why do we so often get stuck defending our views to the hyper-partisans?
If you’re a politically aware moderate, I have some advice.
Keep Doing What You’re Doing
Really. There aren’t enough of you out here. Being moderate does not entail being undecided — it simply means you judge and weigh each political opinion using the familiar tools of your common sense and moral compass.
If you are true to yourself and others, your opinion will rest strongly on the issues you are passionate about, and somewhere in the middle on those you are less aware of.
Further, you staunchly encourage dialogue between opposing factions. Those of both parties are willing — often excited — to speak with you and try their hands at convincing you of their beliefs. You will take time, though, to back their claims and find evidence as to what the truth actually is before making any kind of firm decision on how you feel.
We need more of this today — steady, careful consideration. It’s what brings about informed voting. Independents, moderates and third-party supporters aren’t “mushy middle” voters. We do have firm beliefs — but we solidify them by considering both sides to a topic.
Let me be clear, I don’t believe there are “two sides” to issues like hateful displays of nationalism, racism, and sexual harassment and assault. When I say look at both sides, I mean look at the opposing party’s proposals for issues related to our economy, how much defense we actually need, how much money we can put toward much-needed programs for our low-income citizens, which of those programs are actually working and what processes need revision, etc.
I lean liberally on most issues, but there are plenty of places that I am willing to identify where the Dems are screwing up. Looking at the evidence and research on important subjects instead of just automatically siding with the party you tend toward is so necessary. It helps us make more informed decisions at the ballots. In that spirit, keep on keeping on.
All that said, there is nothing worse than someone centrist through willful ignorance. Even the most hardened zealot from left or right field will have some basis to their beliefs.
Saying you think everyone’s too political doesn’t make you any better or less irritating than your hyperpartisan neighbor. It just means you’ve preferred burying your head in the sand over researching the forces directly governing your life.
If anything, taking the centrist position requires more research on your part: Twice as much, in fact. In diving headlong into an issue and dispelling the bulk of your prior assumptions, you’ll need to examine multiple biased sources — very few media outlets are entirely unbiased today — and see where they overlap. Further, you’ll need to review the facts: contradicting data, emerging global trends, etc.
So do a little research. Open up the newspaper, watch the news, maybe even read up on the history of the issue. Keep your finger on the pulse of emerging trends, and build your foundational understanding — where and when the problem appeared, where it’s been and where it’s going.
You’ll find it’s easier to subscribe wholesale to one ideology or the other without proper investigation of individual developments, but that it’s more rewarding when you understand the political machinations in all their complexity.
Tailor Your Philosophy
It may sound as though I’m suggesting you start at square one every time you consider something remotely political. When you’re building your initial centrism, this is exactly what you should do. However, in due time you’ll streamline your process when analyzing a situation. You’ll learn to trust your objectivity, honed from hours of careful consideration and research.
As previously noted, centrism is not a void. Rather, it is the belief that somewhere in the mire of politicized and biased forces, there is truth to be found. It rests somewhere between competing ideologies. Your central point may not correspond with the next moderate thinker — indeed, there are both liberal and conservative-leaning moderates. With enough time, you will fall somewhere on the political spectrum.
The difference, then, between you and the average political cretin, is the time you take in determining your philosophical position. Many simply ally themselves with the teachings of their parents, the opinions of their peers and the snappy calls to action from the TV, seeking evidence as a sort of validation for their already-entrenched position. You seek evidence, read stories and analyze situations — all so you can correctly pinpoint your philosophy.
It is exceedingly unlikely you will go through this process of self-discovery and still land cleanly in one political camp or the other. Because we know by now anyway that the two-party system isn’t working for our country and it’s not answering the actual needs of the people.
I mean this in the least facetious way possible: You are the bridge over an ever-widening political maw. We have reached a fever-pitch in rhetoric and ad hominem attacks, and those so staunchly aligned with one party or the other that they refuse to listen or back their opinions with the really challenging research are simply denying themselves the ability to truly understand how politics work.
Remember something: United we stand and divided we fall. The more we waste our time attacking each other and not coming together to find tolerant, responsible, and actionable fixes to our problems, the easier we make it for the corruption that does exist within government to conquer us.
Editor's Note: This article originally published on the author's blog, and has been modified slightly for publication on IVN.