The Rise of the Independents

US Party IdentificationMy single biggest personal rebellion has been in being a political independent. Ross Perot’s Presidential run in 1992 inspired much of my generation to question the existing two party political system. At that time, I was too young to vote for Perot. I ended up making a t-shirt and wearing it to school. He earned 19% of the popular vote.

After the 1992 election cycle, the percentage of Americans identifying as Independent rose steadily for half a decade and then fell back down as the Republican party rose in 2004. However, since 2004, both parties have continued to tank while Independents are on the rise, now at historic levels.

At this very moment, the day after Super Tuesday, Pundits and talking heads are on the news explaining what voters like me are thinking – how we are going to react. I don’t think they get it at all. However, I’m not going to try to explain or sell you the Independent point of view. What I do want to bring attention to is the momentum behind the indie movement in politics happening right now.

Today, I’m supporting and expecting to vote for the Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders decided to run for President via the Democratic party. He does not identify as a Democrat. As a party outsider running on their ticket, he is drawing an enormous amount of support from Democrats. So much so, he may win their nomination – holy crap! On the flip side, he is still bringing over Republicans as well. From my father, a devout conservative: “If it’s Clinton and Trump, I’m voting Trump. If it’s Bernie and Trump, I’m voting Bernie.” This is not an uncommon sentiment. Bernie has support for reasons that have nothing to do with party affiliation. Those who are very focused on party politics are just not seeing what’s happening outside of their context.

My significant other and I recently moved out of our apartment and started a community house. Looking for housemates, we posted a Craigslist ad that included a mention of being Bernie supporters. We were overwhelmed with Bernie-centric responses. Many wrote that they knew they wanted to live with us based on that one point alone. While it would be easy to trivialize that experience as an inconsequential story, it had a profound impact on my perception. I now see that the energy of Independent political thinking is driving the momentum of the Bernie Sanders campaign – and it’s beautiful.

Bernie is building a culture of participation and immediacy. The people – especially Independents –  love it. He is building a “machine” made of people. He is enabling those people to have a voice and know they can use it. The “machine” behind the political revolution really is us. It is growing in size and running in the background of this campaign, quietly shifting the tides. Will Bernie win? I’m not entirely confident that he will be the Democratic candidate – perhaps. However, I think that Bernie will probably be our next President.

Bernie may not get enough delegates to supplant Hillary. What will happen next? It is a fallacy to believe that Bernie is a dedicated Democrat. I expect him to choose to stay in the race. He would then have the lion’s share of support from the 40%+ of Americans who identify as Independent, including myself. He would pull over a huge portion of the Democratic base, which is already below 30% of the nation anyway. He will also attract many of those fleeing Republicans who comprise even less of the nation than the Democrats. Those numbers add up to a win for Bernie.

The only message more powerful than electing Bernie Sanders as President will be doing so without the support of a major party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Comment

Zaskoda

After composing this piece, it was brought to my attention that Bernie Sanders made a pledge in 2015 not to run as a independent. Bernie’s words:

“What I did not want to do is run as a third party candidate, take votes away from the Democratic candidate and help elect some right-wing Republican. I did not want responsibility for that. So what I said at the beginning of the campaign is that I was not going to run as an independent. And I say it now, that if I do not win this process I will not run as an independent.”

Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bernie-sanders-on-why-he-wont-run-as-in-independent/

I would expect Sanders’ to keep his word. However, the polls have shown that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, may not be able to compete against the GOP front runner, Donald Trump. The last Gallop poll showed Hillary Clinton at a 52% disapproval level and Donald Trump at a 57% disapproval rating. Sanders consistently continues to lead Trump in the polls by larger margins than Clinton. A lot of voters view Clinton as part of the establishment they no longer support. Given the dramatic rise in independent voters over the last decade, I could imagine a future where Bernie choosing NOT to compete against Hillary – thus disengaging the Independent vote – could help Donald Trump more than hurt. The polls change every day, so we will see in due time.

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