Gallup Poll: More Americans Identify As ‘Independent’ Than At Any Time In Over Sixty Years
A new Gallup poll helps to quantify the American electorate’s increasing disenchantment with the nation’s two-party electoral system.
Gallup has been polling Americans’ political identification for over 60 years, and for the first time a staggering 40% of all Americans now identify as Independent, versus 31% who identify as Democrat, and 27% who identify as Republican.
Fourteen percent of those who identify as independents reported leaning to the Left, whereas eighteen percent reported leaning to the right.
At a time of near-unprecedented economic turbulence, and when more Americans feel negative towards their government than at any other time in history, there appears to be a real opportunity for a Third Party to enter the fold and to offer the country real solutions that neither of the two major parties appear capable of delivering.
The Strategic Rationale Behind The Left’s Criticism Of President Obama: FEAR
There are essentially two major camps left-of-center in American politics, and the divisions between the two are often as deep and wide as the rifts between the two major parties.
One camp is composed of Democratic partisans — a group that goes to great ends to stifle any and all criticism of President Obama and other Democratic politicians.
Commonly referred to as ‘Democratic loyalists’, ‘Obamabots’, ‘Obama Loyalists’ ‘Obama apologists’, ‘sheeple’ … they are fueled by a deep conviction that the Democratic Party — no matter what they do and how far to the right they swing — must have our full unflinching support to ensure their eventual reelection.
Anytime the Left criticizes Obama’s initiatives or policies, or calls for primaries or third party options, Partisans immediately condemn them as “helping to elect Republicans”.
Partisans have succumbed, fully and completely, to the ‘lesser of two evils’ rationale.
To fully appreciate how insignificant policies are to the partisan mind, consider that most of them absolutely loathed Ronald Reagan in the 80s, yet now ironically adore President Obama. Never mind that his actual policy record sits to the right of Reagan’s along the left-right political spectrum.
The second camp is composed of progressives — a group whose loyalties lie ONLY with progressive policies. These individuals relentlessly pursue the truth irregardless of which party suffers from their findings. Unlike partisans, they refuse to cherry-pick, or engage in historic revisionism, or even to pull punches as a way of sparing Democratic politicians embarrassment.
Commonly referred to as ‘the Left’, ‘the populist Left’, ‘truth-tellers’, ‘the professional Left’, ‘non-partisan Left’, ‘ideological purists’, … they tend to vote Democratic, but will at times — depending on the options available to them — consider voting for Greens and independents.
The Left has been especially critical of President Obama over the last three years. He won a decisive victory in 2008 having campaigned on the following progressive platform: a public option as the vital component to any health care reform legislation; allowing the re-importation of prescription drugs; ending Bush tax cuts; scrapping the Patriot Act, which he deemed ‘shoddy and dangerous’; ending the warring policies of the neocons; closing GITMO; ending ‘Too Big to Fail’ on Wall Street (so as to avoid future TARPS); rewriting job-killing NAFTA-like trade policies, etc. etc. Once elected, he instantly turned his back on all these campaign promises, instead cutting back-room deals with the wealthy entrenched interest groups who profit from the very deep structural problems he vowed to reform.
All this begs the following question: Whose Strategy (Partisan or Progressive) Is Most Likely To Yield Meaningful Progressive Change?
Again, Partisans preach that within the confines of a two-party system, you MUST ALWAYS support and defend the ‘lesser of two evil’ parties. And so as an extension of this belief, they view the Left — always shining a light on Obama’s betrayals and pro-corporate, non-progressive policies — as merely sabotaging his 2012 reelection prospects, thereby ensuring we get stuck with a Tea Partier President.
But this partisan assessment is both simplistic and naive.
To fully appreciate the strategy of Progressives, one must focus entirely on what motivates politicians to legislate the policies they do: FEAR. If politicians don’t fear you, they are free to ignore you.
Like all Americans, politicians fear losing their jobs. The two major competing groups that directly impact their reelection prospects are the powerful entrenched entities who fill either their or their opponents’ political coffers with millions of dollars, and the constituents who will actually cast the votes.
Why Politicians Fear Entrenched Corporate Entities Far More Than Voters
Deep pocketed special interest groups have only one objective: to ensure that all legislation passed and signed into law continues to enrich them and advance their own narrow self-interests (often to the detriment of the American public).
Of great significance, is their mercenary approach to influencing the legislative process. Their loyalty lies with whatever party legislates their agenda. One wrong vote and they will reroute tens of thousands of dollars slotted for one politician directly into his opponent’s war chest. Similar to Progressives, their loyalties lie with the policies being legislated.
Voting constituents, conversely, are largely too timid to provoke this same level of fear in their politicians, and this is a direct result of our deeply-flawed two-party political system. By punishing or even criticizing Democrats, partisans fear they risk empowering Republicans.
So naturally Democratic politicians factor their supporters’ reluctance to punish them into their decision-making process anytime their campaign promises meet resistance from the powerful entrenched-interest groups. It is precisely this ‘lesser of two-evils’ mindset that all but ensures Democratic politicians put entrenched corporate interests above their own supporters’ interests.
The Media’s Role in Ensuring America Remains Partisan
The main-stream-media (owned by these same entrenched corporate interests) helps to do its part to solidify a public partisan mindset by largely replacing serious news coverage and thoughtful policy discussions with a focus on partisan gamesmanship and the most extreme elements of the ‘other’ party. This blatant distraction — a refocusing of the public attention away from the issues that matter — lulls each side’s voters into complacency. It grants a non-principled President even more leeway to betray the interests of his own supporters. He can quietly serve the entrenched interests, in exchange for millions in campaign contributions, and yet still remain confident his constituents — shocked by the nightly broadcasting of extreme Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh rhetoric — will continue to support him.
Is it a mere coincidence that Fox News Chairman Roger Aisles — who serves as the Republican Party’s propagandist-in-chief — decided to cancel Glenn Beck just before the 2012 Election cycle? Aisles understood better than anyone that Beck provokes fear and disgust in Centrists and Leftists alike. And that fear has a way of overshadowing the deep-seated feelings of betrayal shared by MANY who campaigned for Obama in 2008. Aisles knew that MSNBC and CNN would continue to devote an exorbitant amount of time each night focused on Beck’s crazy conspiratorial rants, and that this could only frighten and energize a largely disenchanted electorate to vote Democratic.
Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et al actually steal the spotlight away from Obama’s right-of-center policies. Obama’s Milton Friedmanesque initiatives have failed to spark outrage amongst many Democrats, because they are completely captivated by the circus clowns on the far-Right. When liberal pundits roll clip after clip after clip of antics from the fringe-right, they divert their viewers’ attention from things such as the NAFTA-like ‘free trade’ deals Obama is quietly pushing through — gifts to multi-national corporations which will result in the exportation of hundreds of thousands more American jobs, and during one of the biggest unemployment crises since the Great Depression. They neglect to remind their viewer that Obama routinely slammed these very NAFTA-like trade deals during his campaign, promising his supporters he’d rewrite NAFTA if they elected him.
Why The Progressive Strategy Is Our Only Hope For Change
Progressives are of the mindset that the only way to transform this country into a more progressive one, is to heighten politicians’ FEAR of their own constituents in a way that rivals the fear instilled by deep-pocketed interest groups. Progressives know that politicians strategically move towards their ideological base, whenever confronted with political insecurity.
When the Left calls Obama out in a way that penetrates the inner-beltway bubble — and becomes quantifiable by corresponding poll numbers — the President’s political advisers interpret this as voter repudiation. They realize his policy pendulum has swung too far Right in favor of entrenched interests and to the detriment of his own political stability. And it’s at this moment he begins to fear his supporters — the ones who elected him, and who will actually cast the votes in 2012. This leaves him with little choice, but to pivot towards his base and attempt to diffuse rising populist dissent.
Therein lies the key crucial difference between the two camps:
Progressives understand that when a President’s poll numbers drop he is more likely to push progressive priorities to appease his supporters. As such, the Left doesn’t believe its criticism of Obama in any way threatens the ends it hopes to achieve: progressive policies. If Obama stubbornly refuses to pivot to the Left then he has only himself to blame for a disenchanted, unenergized base come election time.
Partisans are always in campaign mode — viewing actual governing as little more than the muddy tracks of a perpetual horse race — and thus equate lowering poll numbers as a precursor to defeat. Therefore, as a group, they are incapable of ever pressuring their politicians to champion progressive causes or to promote meaningful change.
The message partisans continue to send to their Democratic representatives is this: “Just ignore me and everything I want, because I intend to campaign for you and vote for you regardless of what you do. I’ll even lie for you and cover up how you’ve screwed me every which way til Sunday — anything to ensure those scary Republicans don’t win.”
The Left hopes to send them the exact opposite message.
The US founding fathers, like today’s Progressives, understood that the one vital ingredient for maintaining a robust democracy is nothing less than FEAR itself:
“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
Well, today, we find ourselves living in a state of corporate tyranny, where change has become nothing more than a campaign slogan. Partisans have no one but themselves to blame for this sorry state of affairs.
How An Instant-Runoff Voting System Would Restore Democracy To America
One year ago — as Americans counted down the final months of the Bush Presidency — a progressive firestorm ushered the Democrats into power with a resolute mandate for CHANGE. The electorate had turned its back on nearly a decade of neo-con lies, the biggest warmongering con job in our nation’s history, war crimes, mismanaged disaster-relief efforts (Katrina), a gutting of the Constitution and the rule of law, a staggering debt, and the collapse of our entire financial system. The country (and the entire world for that matter) took a deep sigh of relief that the Republicans were gone and that CHANGE was on its way.
And here we are approaching Obama’s one year mark, wondering “where the hell did our CHANGE candidate go to?” The Democrats — though nowhere near as destructive as the Republicans before them — have proven to be every bit as corrupted by our two party system. I just recently blogged about this — pointing out that progressives would eventually have to punish Democrats at the voting booths for turning their backs on real change and instead pretending the status-quo was essential for bipartisanship.
The U.S. political system has become a government for and by the political elites and special interest groups — largely immunized from voter outrage by our ridiculous two-party system. The whole notion that this is a ‘democracy for and by the people’ has become something of a farce, not unlike Fox News calling itself ‘Fair and Balanced’.
Take for example, health care reform: an overwhelming majority of the American people want a robust public option as part of a health care reform package, as does an overwhelming majority of American Physicians. Well, TOO BAD for us, because that works against the interests of the political elites who are shoveling millions of dollars into their political coffers by the health insurance industry and lobbyists, as well as lining their spouses up with cushy high-paying jobs (i.e. ask Senator Joe Lieberman’s wife, Hadassah about that). And if you even think about voting against these corrupted Politicians — for say, a 3rd Party Candidate — then you’ll soon watch your 3rd Party candidate defeated, and know your vote unwittingly helped elect some Republican freak-show candidate a la ‘Michele Bachmann‘.
What is needed is an underlying overhaul of our system’s electoral processes. Something that would strengthen our democracy, by better aligning our politicians’ interests with those of the electorate. Two possibilities come to mind:
1) Publicly funded elections (i.e. ending all campaign contributions). This is the most obvious solution.
2) The Preferential Voting System (also called Instant-runoff voting)
Instant-runoff voting — adapted by the Australian and Irish Democracies, as well as by others — is one where each voter ranks a list of candidates in order of preference. The 1st choice candidates selected on the ballots are tallied, and if none of the 1st choice candidates gets a majority of the votes, then the candidate with the least amount of #1 preference rankings is eliminated and his/her votes get redistributed to the remaining candidates (the ones indicated by the #2 ranking preferences). This process repeats itself again and again until one of the remaining candidates has reached a majority of total votes.
EXAMPLE: Here’s a sample ballot for this kind of voting system along with fictitious candidates to show how it works:
Let’s assume you like John Citizen the best — he’s a Left leaning 3rd Party Candidate whose platform is in line with your own principles — so you make him your #1 Preference.
Mary Hill, the incumbent, is the Democratic Party candidate. She speaks a good game, but has proven to be beholden to special interest groups, and continues to legislate in a way that puts their interests above your own. You make her your #2 preferred candidate.
Jane Doe is the Libertarian Candidate. You find yourself on the same side as Libertarians on some issues, but at the polar opposite on others. You decide to make Jane Doe, the Libertarian, your #3 preferred candidate.
Then there’s the Neo-Con, Joe Smith (the Republican candidate), and Fred Rubble (another Far-Right freak show). These misfits won’t ever get your vote — so you leave them blank.
So the voting precincts close later that night, and all the votes are tallied. Your #1 preference, John Citizen only got 5,000 #1 preference rankings and the Libertarian Jane Doe (your #3) only got one thousand, and Fred Rubble (Freak Show) got a hundred. All three of these tallies are a mere pittance when compared to the top two-party candidates, Mary Hill (Democrat), and Joe Smith (Republican), though neither got a majority of all votes cast. Therefore, the candidate with the least #1 preference rankings (Freak show Fred Rubble) gets eliminated, his votes get redistributed to the #2 preferences, and the ballots get recounted, and this process is repeated again and again until a majority is reached by one candidate. Your vote for John Citizen ultimately gets converted to your #2 preferred ranking, Mary Hill.
When the dust clears, and a majority has finally been reached, it appears the Democratic Candidate Mary Hill BARELY wins, beating the Republican candidate by only two thousand votes.
Do you see what just happened here, and the resulting impact it would have on the U.S. political system? Your vote for the Left-leaning 3rd Party Candidate, John Citizen, didn’t automatically ensure the victory of the dreaded ‘Dick Cheney equivalent’ Joe Smith — who would have clearly won within our current U.S. electoral system.
In an Instant-runoff voting system two important things are achieved:
- There’s no longer an incentive to vote strictly along party lines. Citizens can vote their conscience without worrying about “throwing their votes away” or “ensuring that the greater of two evils gets elected.” As a result, many people would begin to vote for third party candidates, thus ensuring a gradual end to the current two-party stranglehold.
- The overall will of the majority always gets realized in the outcome of each election. In this example a majority of the electorate clearly wanted someone from the Left to win (either the Democratic Candidate, Mary Hill, or the Left-leaning Third Party Candidate, John Citizen), and they ultimately were awarded that — a winner from the Left. Under our current system, the candidate from the Right — the Dick Cheney equivalent, Joe Smith — would have won this election, despite the fact the majority of those who voted clearly preferred candidates who leaned Left.
Had we used this Preferential System in the 2000 Presidential Elections what would have likely resulted? Ralph Nader would have gotten a hell of a lot more votes, and Al Gore would have ultimately won a decisive victory over George W. Bush.
Just something to think about …
Forcing Democratic Politicians To Legislate Progressively
One thing has become crystal clear over these last nine months — the Democrats do not give a rat’s ass about the core concerns of the Progressive movement. On the campaign trail ‘candidate’ Obama said all the right things and with eloquence; with passion. He articulated a whole host of issues important to us, and […]