Much like CNN did recently, Fox News had its own panel of independent voters to discuss the 2018 elections and the current political climate. This panel, however, did not start off with a soundbite question about Donald Trump or any other political figure in the US. The primary focus was: What are independents looking for in the midterms?
The panel was comprised of Michael Willner, a director for the Serve America Movement (SAM); Cathy Stewart, vice president of national development at Independent Voting and IVN editorial voice; John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries and IVN editorial voice; and Aaron Commey, chair of the Manhattan Libertarian Party.
It wasn’t just a panel of independents; it was a panel of people who are heavily involved in the growing movement to reform America’s politics and elections. These are people who make it a top priority to keep their finger on the pulse of what independent voters are looking for as they face a system that marginalizes their voice and disenfranchises them.
The opening question for each of the panelists was simple and, honestly, where the focus needed to be: What are they, as independents and voters outside the two party apparatus, concerned about in the 2018 midterms?
“Solutions,” says Aaron Commey. “Somebody’s who candidate is offering actual solutions.”
Commey pointed to the governor race, where he says the major party candidates are just bickering back and forth. “I’m not him”; “I’m not him.” Meanwhile, there is Libertarian Larry Sharpe in the race, who Commey says is offering his experience as a businessman to provide ideas and solutions.
I think independents are looking for candidates, whether they are independents, Democrats, or Republicans, who are willing to go up against the establishment -- not just in Washington, but in their own party.John Opdycke, President of Open Primaries
“I think independent voters are looking for candidates who can get the job done, that can work on policy first, put their party aside,” says Cathy Stewart. “But, I think there is another level to understand who independents are. We are voters who are saying we want to be free from the political parties. We think part of the problem is the political parties.”
Stewart cites a summer survey of 5,000 independents conducted by Independent Voting. She says her organization found that the number one reason a majority of respondents gave for why they are independent is that “the two political parties have failed the country.”
“I think independents are looking for candidates, whether they are independents, Democrats, or Republicans, who are willing to go up against the establishment — not just in Washington, but in their own party,” says John Opdycke.
“That’s something independents are attuned to, is candidates who are willing to not just attack the other side — that’s easy, everybody can do that — but to go up against the orthodoxy and the hierarchy in their own party and say, ‘We’re going to put the country first.'”
The media is obsessed with the generic ballot for US House races. The host points out that with just two weeks away, in the tightest races in the country, the Democratic Party’s lead in the generic ballot has evaporated. So what does that say about what people can expect in November?
“I think voters have to go to the polls and decide who the better candidate is, regardless of the party label,” says Michael Willner.
The panelists also challenged the notion that independent voters are “leaners,” arguing that it is an attempt by partisan pollsters and media talking heads to put independents back in the box they’ve chosen to jump out of.