The Growing Number Of Independent Voters: Not A Smart Move!

Disillusionment with the economic conditions of America have led growing numbers of Americans to abandon their party loyalty and registration in the Democratic and Republican parties, and to register instead as Independents.

This is supposed to be a good thing, as it indicates separation from the two major parties. But in actuality, it is NOT a good thing, as it decreases a voter’s opportunity to affect political change.

This concept going around that an “Independent” or third party can somehow win over enough support and revolutionize the party system we have had since 1854, when the Republican party was created, is a fallacy, as our political system has never allowed for such a concept, certainly not for the White House, and only very rarely for a seat in Congress or a Governorship.

One can count on the fingers of both hands the number of independent candidates for office that have been elected. We can think of Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent Socialist who managed to be elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate as a true independent.

We can think of Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who most recently beat out a Democrat and Republican to retain his seat.

We can remember Governors Angus King of Maine, Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, and Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, but all were actually party members who broke with the party and won a three way race.

There are a handful of other people who at some point were elected on an independent or third party line, but after being identified as a Republican or a Democrat in earlier elections. These include three senators who were part of the group that I wrote about in my book TWILIGHT OF PROGRESSIVISM: Senators George Norris of Nebraska, Robert La Follette, Jr. of Wisconsin, and Henrik Shipstead of Minnesota–all during the New Deal era of the 1930s.

As far as the White House, the closest any third party or independent candidate has gone is Theodore Roosevelt, former Republican President running as a Progressive in the 1912 election, winning six states, 88 electoral votes, and 27.5 percent of the vote.

So the thought that an “Independent” party or candidate is the future of American politics is just a dream. It will not happen, and by people abandoning the major parties in their registration, they actually are cutting down their voting power by half, as in most states, they cannot vote on Primary Day, and therefore only can vote for the choices made by Democrats and Republicans who have stayed with the party and tried to bring change from within.

So, truthfully, the move toward independent voters is actually based on ignorance of the realities of our political system. How it will play itself out on Election Day 2010 and 2012 is anyone’s guess!

11 comments on “The Growing Number Of Independent Voters: Not A Smart Move!

  1. Mark Phillips February 16, 2010 8:08 pm

    The growing number of citizens becoming Independents is exactly what we need for the survival of our system of government and our country

    When you register as an independent, Politicians can’t take your vote for granted based on your party. They actually have to earn it. The assumptions that certain areas are “red” or “blue” states will no longer be predetermined as the bulk of the voting public becomes independent. Witness the recent election in Mass. Although a Republican, Scott Brown’s success was due in part to the fact that 50% of voters in Mass are registered voters independent of a party. Voters who were fed up with the status quo came out in force and it resulted in an unexpected outcome. History may not show precedent with a large number of independents having success, but I believe we are at an unprecedented time and our way of life as we know it is at risk. History tends to repeat itself in the long term. If we do not gain control over an out of control government including the petty political bickering and “let them eat cake” mentality things will come to an end one way or another.

    We are at a point where politicians are going to have to prove worthiness and loyalty to the citizen instead of the special interest. This is one way to make sure this happens.

  2. Ronald February 16, 2010 10:09 pm

    Wow, it is GREAT to see my cousin finally participating in my blog! πŸ™‚

    However, I think if you believe Scott Brown is going to be a different kind of politician, you will become very disillusioned. This man was very lacking in leadership or creativity in the Massachusetts State Senate, and simply ran for the Senate as a long shot, and took advantage of a very weak, boring, uninspiring opponent. It is likely that Joe Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s son and former Congressman, will challenge Brown in 2012 and take back the seat for the Kennedys. Brown is a shot in the pan, a media star who will quickly be forgotten. He is not a true independent and was bragging about being the 41st vote, so he is not the future in the sense of representing real change.

    And it is still true that in most states, if you register as an Independent, you can not vote in primaries when candidates are picked for the election, and the only true Independent candidate in recent times to be elected is Bernie Sanders of Vermont. I fear that your hope of truly independent politicians is not going to occur. History tells us we cannot expect basic change, as long as the minority can overule the majority as in the Senate filibuster threat! πŸ™

    Thanks so much for contributing and please continue to do so! πŸ™‚

  3. Dale Sheldon-Hess February 17, 2010 2:35 pm

    I think the point of contention here is one of “is” versus “ought”.

    If someone is upset with both of the two major political parties in the country, they “ought” to be able to communicate that in a way that can actually improve the situation.

    But registering/voting for a third party “is” counter-productive and self-defeating, for precisely the reasons describe in the original post. At least, it us until at least a third of the voters can settle on a single third-party to all get behind (which is how you end up with a Senator Sanders; Vermont is about 2:1 on Democrats vs. Republicans, but half the Democrats, or about a third of all voters, will vote for the Vermont Progressive Party candidate.)

    It ought not be that way; but it is because of the way we count votes, which is prone to spoilers in any race with more than two candidates.

    But there are spoiler-free voting systems… which I discuss regularly on The Least of All Evils (

  4. Mark Phillips February 19, 2010 5:03 pm

    My comments about Scott Brown had nothing to do with whether he will be a good politician or not. My point was how the large population of independents were clearly a deciding factor in getting him elected and how I believe they will be the deciding factor in elections moving forward.

    I am also not suggesting that someone join a third party. I am suggesting that people who feel that the two major parties no longer represent them, should register as a voter independent of a party. If you are really happy with your party and it’s not just a matter of not liking the other guys, my hat is off to you.

    I agree with Dale in that we all need to communicate in a way that helps the situation. I definitely want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. But I also believe that the finger pointing and ridiculous behavior of both parties is the problem. I am focused on what needs to be fixed and who can do it as opposed to this destructive us vs them mentality.

    In addition, I am not talking about the viability of an Independent to get elected. Although it would be great to have a party that actually represents the citizens of this country. The point I am trying to make is that the Republican and Democratic politicians will not be able to be elected just based on their party affiliation any longer. They are now going to have to earn the votes that used to be gravy for them if they want to get elected. These votes are independent and can go either way. And I think that you will continue to see big losses from well established politicians and big wins from newcomers with new ideas. If these newcomers don’t do what they say they will do, they will be replaced as well. People are fed up and starting to take notice of how their government is failing them and it’s about freaking time. It’s not about Brown or Kennedy, and it’s not about Democrats or Republicans, it’s about finding people who will do the right thing and fix what is broken.

    As far as the spoiler vote argument goes, my vote has value. When I vote it means that I believe this person will do his/her best to represent us. I have to look at the person, not the party. If that means that my choice doesn’t win, so be it.

    The primaries will always have plenty of people who are lemmings and will ultimately agree with everything their party says. I don’t think I am missing anything. I cannot institute change if all I have to work with is the far left or the far right. Without the middle, there is no communicating and there is no compromise.

  5. Robert B. Winn February 20, 2010 5:43 pm

    How is it not a smart move? When the United States began, all voters were independent voters. There were no organized political parties until the election of 1800. George Washington had it right. Political parties are self-created societies that take away the freedom of the people.

  6. Judy Stevens September 2, 2010 7:42 pm

    The problem isn’t that the number of independent voters is a bad thing but the fact that neither party represents the people. Their large number of Super Delegates (Republicans have the same thing but don’t call it that) shows how back room politics influences the party platform, candidates, and even election out come.

    The American people election after election have opposed the illegal wars of aggression, bank bailouts, off shoring, privitization sale of our Common Wealth, open borders for a union, money to religious groups, etc. yet they ignore them.

    We know they don’t give a hoot about what we want. Money speaks from corporations. That is not democracy.

  7. Brandon September 21, 2010 4:40 pm

    FUCK the failed two-party system! πŸ˜‰ It’s time for a revolution. An Independent revolution.

    I find it funny how so many people, esp. Independents, complain about our two-party system, yet they do NOTHING about it, like voting for third-party candidates! If all the Independents started voting third party, they’d have a significant ripple effect on elections. Indies are, what, 40% of all voters in this country now? Of course, you’ve got a lot of the stupid-ass leaners, who CLAIM to be “independent” but are really just RIIEN or DIIEN (Republicans/Democrats in Everything But Name). I call Leaners phony Independents.

    The Leaners, of course, are no less partisan than the party voters, and some studies suggest they may be MORE partisan, but they hide behind the “indie” label just to feel special or whatever. Or they just don’t like their parties in general anymore and don’t wanna be associated with the PEOPLE, but still believe in them ideologically. It’s very weird.

  8. Brandon September 21, 2010 4:49 pm

    So many people complain, but they don’t have the political will to actually DO something about it! It’s such a shame. THAT’s the reason why it’s “bad” for Independents to go Indy, not because there’s something inherently wrong with it in and of itself. It’s simply that partisans are too damn stuck to their own party and won’t even THINK of voting for a different one, and there are too many others who’d rather vote for the lesser of 2 evils than consider actually voting their conscience. If you ask me, lesser of 2 evils is mostly a wasted vote. People like to twist THAT around and instead say voting third party is “wasting your vote”, but that’s bullshit. At least I voted for the guy I wanted to win rather than hold my nose and do this strategic voting bullcrap.

    It’s not even that strategic! You’re just desperately trying to get the guy in power who seems LESS of a douchebag and who will fuck things up just a little bit less than the REALLY evil guy. If people would actually stop the groupthink and all the other nonsensical thinking, we could start a real Independent revolution in this country.

    That’s why I will NEVER be a party voter. I will always remain Independent. All parties do, in the end, is is reinforce groupthink and make people lazy. I mean, look at the Democratic platform of today! With the exception of social issues, it’s not a whole lot different from the New Deal era! It’s just a little more updated and extended to deal with today’s economy. The Democrats never consider OTHER means of getting their ends achieved. And the GOP is as neocon as they come on foreign policy.

    I can’t believe my professor actually EXCUSED lazy partisan voters who use the letter D or R as a way to give “information” about candidates to help decide who to vote for. If I were him, I’d condemn those lazy and ignorant voters. Why is it so “hard” for people to inform themselves about basic political happenings??

  9. Brandon September 21, 2010 4:50 pm

    In my first primary election ever, this year, I actually did vote for the Libertarian candidates, few as they were. I sure as hell didn’t like any of the Republican or Democratic ones running. I’m not about to sell my principles for expediency. I’ll take the high road.

  10. Bob's Big Boy July 5, 2011 11:56 am

    Progressive? I think not. This perspective serves the Republican party on this issue. “…they cannot vote on Primary Day…” Only Republicans have primaries that are closed to non-Republicans. Independents may vote in the Democratic primaries along with any Libertarian, Communist, or otherwise.

    I am disappointed that a “progressive voice” would not understand the basic tenets of choice in politics.
    “…choices made by Democrats and Republicans…” Party leaders choose whom they will endorse, and only those few are accepted during primary races. The “choice” is an illusion created by those already in power. How can anyone voting in a primary honestly “bring change from within?” They cannot; the choices were already narrowed/watered down before a single vote could be placed.

    The truth is, unfortunately, that most independent politicians aren’t allowed to even attend national debates (a la Ralph Nader 2000, 2004, 2008), much less be placed on the ballots. That is the true illusion. Presidential elections have become a dog and pony show with no moral substance, no populist perspective, and no progress–only carefully executed, corporate-funded marketing.

    Americans need an actual alternative to the broken, corrupt two-party system. Being independent forces the candidates to think outside their dogmatic party lines and face thinking voters instead of party-voting sheep.

  11. J John Baran November 24, 2011 8:59 am

    More a question. Is the 45% independent figure today, double that in 1980 ?

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