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OPINION: Political Independents Deserve Respect, Recognition in Our Elections

by James Morrison, published

As a staunch independent voter, I write in response to two op-ed pieces in the Aug. 19 edition of the Arizona Daily Star. Both pieces were thoughtful and contained interesting perspectives on our political system. Yet, each contained glaring misconceptions that should be addressed.

In the first piece — “Parties should reassert control over primaries” — columnist Jonathan Hoffman laments what he sees as a lack of party control over primaries. To the contrary, except in those few instances where states have adopted truly open primaries (such as “Top Two” or ranked choice, which the author finds objectionable) the major political parties exert undue control over the primaries at taxpayer expense.

In Arizona, the term “open primary” is a charade; a classic example of taxation without representation. No one, who wishes to vote, should have to affiliate with a political party — even temporarily — to do so. Voters should own their vote and should be permitted to vote for the person deemed best suited for the position in question, not for a party.

Nothing in a “Top Two” system, for example, prevents an organized party from vetting candidates and giving its endorsement to the candidate of its choice. But in such a system, voters also have an opportunity to cast a vote for the person who can appeal to interests beyond the narrow partisanship as dictated by party activists.

Emerging assessments of recent primaries using these enlightened systems show increased voter participation and a broader range of choices. I would agree with one aspect of the author’s concern that “perhaps we should get the government out of primaries.” To that I say, taxpayers definitely should not have to fund purely private, partisan activities; the political parties should solely bear that expense.

In the second piece — “Independents can help break partisan gridlock” — guest columnist Chuck Josephson (who identifies himself as a longtime party activist) seeks to blame the independent voter for the hyper-partisanship that infects both of the major political parties.

I respectfully suggest that it is just as valid to choose to be an independent as it is to chose to be a Democrat or Republican. And while it is true that some independents have left their former party in disgust, many new and younger voters have never belonged to a party precisely because they find the rigid ideology and angry partisanship so unappealing.

The dirty little secret is the fact that the two-party duopoly is operating to the satisfaction of party leaders. They have to cater only to the wishes of the party faithful while the ever-growing numbers of independents are effectively disenfranchised.

So while our political system is dysfunctional, the party system is working as intended. The two-party system is, in effect, an unregulated political industry that is able to operate successfully while catering to a declining base of customers. (What industry wouldn’t like this scenario?)

Contrary to one long-held misconception, independents are not simply people who “lean” to one political party or the other. So I vehemently reject the author’s proposed solution that “ndependents and party-shunners must pick whichever party they generally agree with.”

Why not open the primary process to allow for a wider choice of candidates and permit independents to cast a principled vote for the person of their choice? There is nothing sacred about the two major parties, and we would be wise to remember George Washington’s admonition in his farewell address about the inherent danger to our Republic of “factions.”

Editor's note: The author wrote this as a letter to the editor to the Arizona Daily Star, where it originally published. It has been modified slightly with permission from the author for publication on IVN.

Photo Credit: Leremy /

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