Independents Aren’t All That ‘Independent’

MY TURN-I have always had to smirk when someone turned to me and said, “I am registered as an Independent.”

It was as if this single statement empowered them to be part of the trendy movement that demonstrates that they aren’t influenced by any particular political party. Yet in my mind I begin to think “what part of the conservative agenda seems to attract you? 

The racism? Sexism? Gerrymandering? Voter suppression? Desire to only support the wealthy? The obvious all-white male preference? Lack of understanding of healthcare for all? Constant depletion of the many programs that we have paid into? After a short conversation with these people, they typically expose the fact that they either lean left or lean right but want to have a “choice.” 

I grew up in a liberal household but am also thankful for attending a very politically aware and open school. We held debates to talk about legislation that was being considered, various candidates, and the pros and cons regarding international affairs. My parents and family encouraged this process as it was part of the development of critical thinking. However, my personal line was drawn when I realized that the conservative side of the political realm had only financial gain for themselves while they reduced the American people to simple fodder. 

A healthy Democracy is based on a system of checks and balances. Many are unaware that our founding fathers would get together to try to move things forward, only to find themselves in a constant state of argument. They would go from debating to almost fist fights! Government and politics form a messy business, but the one thing that the founders of our Democratic experiment knew is that no one gets their way 100% of the time. Compromise is an important aspect of governing and everyone must walk away from the table thinking that they got a “win.” 

In today’s political circus we are seeing something that even the founding fathers hoped wouldn’t happen. The checks and balances have gone awry allowing one side of the arena to take hold and institute programs that are upsetting the balance, taking money away from we-the-people and giving it to the wealthy, eliminating projects that protect the planet, and in essence, establishing a conservative agenda of keeping the people poor, uneducated, unhealthy, and living in fear. 

I am sorry, you cannot be an “independent,” sitting on the fence post and approving these actions. 

The Problem is…Independents Like the Title 

I have had discussions with quite a few independents and while I want to respect their views, it inevitably comes down to the fact that they like the title because they don’t want to be “forced” to endorse a particular individual they might not agree with on one or two issues. They also seem to have a snarky sense of “pride” in the title, and yet don’t understand that whether we like it or not, we STILL have a two-party system. When push comes to shove, if you vote independent, you have thrown your vote away, so why bother? 

In a Pew Research Center article they include the following: 

“Among the public overall, 38% describe themselves as independents, while 31% are Democrats and 26% call themselves Republicans, according to Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2018. These shares have changed only modestly in recent years, but the proportion of independents is higher than it was from 2000–2008, when no more than about a third of the public identified as independents. (For more on partisan identification over time, see the 2018 report ‘Wide Gender Gap, Growing Educational Divide in Voters’ Party Identification.’)  

An overwhelming majority of independents (81%) continue to “lean” toward either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. Among the public overall, 17% are Democratic-leaning independents, while 13% lean toward the Republican Party. Just 7% of Americans decline to lean toward a party, a share that has changed little in recent years. This is a long-standing dynamic that has been the subject of past analyses, both by Pew Research Center and others.”  

Let’s face it, not everyone likes politics. It can run the gamut from craziness to the outright boring. However, those individuals who are busy decorating their kid’s lunches or planning their next golf game don’t take into consideration is that “politics” affects our very existence. Not voting or voting independent may make you “feel” like you aren’t being manipulated or that you are making your personal statement on what you don’t like about a candidate or party, but in the meantime, those who DO have an agenda that may be adverse to yours are passing laws that take away from your life, livelihood, and children or even adjust what type of curriculum your kids have in school. 

Independent Voters Like to Think of Themselves as “Special” 

Independents may not like the constant argument and finger pointing of the Democrats and Republicans, but that is just an excuse. In reality, they have a platform that they support pretty much all of the time, but to make themselves feel special, they choose to register “Independent.”

I had a conversation with a neighbor who was “Independent” and I walked away shaking my head. While this is only one individual, it explained a lot. I must first indicate that she is Caucasian, around 50, a mother of grown children, hardly ever worked in her life (and doesn’t think she should have to). She swears that she was a Democrat who turned into an Independent, yet when you speak with her, she spews prejudice, bigotry, and always has “Fox” on her television. When she offers some wacko aluminum foil hat conspiracy theory, I counter it with facts and data. In turn, I am told that I am hateful, and she blames me and others like me for causing them frustration. When I give her information on the characteristics of fascism, and the fact that Trump, his administration, and the Republican Party are supporting 12 of the 13 characteristics, I am blamed for what is wrong in the country. Hmmmm, doesn’t sound too “independent” to me. 

In 2016, Vox offered an excellent article called: 9 media myths about independent voters, debunked. 

“We have spent the past several years studying how Americans feel about political parties and why so many of them proclaim they are independent. The result — published in our recent book Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction  — is a complicated portrait of a politically diverse group of people. 

We find that what distinguishes independents from partisans is not their political positions. In fact, most independents aren’t independent at all. They hold clear partisan preferences, but they utterly refuse to identify with their preferred party. Our goal is to investigate what makes independents so bashful and what this might mean for politics.” 

The article continues with: 

“As we write in our book: Independents, political scientists argue, are nothing more than partisans who don’t want to admit that they are partisans. Despite decades of surveys, political science articles and books that reach this very point, the media often trumpet independents as voters untainted by partisan bias, unattached and poised to change the course of history by voting for the candidate that makes the best case during the campaign. This type of coverage is frustrating for many academics.” 

And this is a very important aspect of the article: 

“We conducted more than a dozen experiments and surveys across the country and came to the following conclusion. To put it plainly: 

People think that being independent is cool 

Using large, nationally representative samples of American adults, we randomly assigned some to tell us how they might go about making the best impression on someone new they meet. Others were asked to explain how they could make the worst impression. A striking consensus emerged that identifying as independent makes the best impression and identifying as a strong partisan (either Democrat or Republican) makes the worst. Partisans admitted to us that even their own party affiliation makes a negative impression on others. 

People want to present themselves in the most positive way possible and being a partisan does not seem all that impressive. Much of what people see in the news about the parties is ugly. Candidates are angry, and party activists often seem stubborn and aggressive. As a result, it makes sense to tell people you are independent.” 

Taking the Easy Way Out 

Choosing a political party automatically labels you with the good, the bad, and the ugly. In essence, it is the difficult selection, because even when you don’t agree with the entire agenda of the party, you carry it with you. This is especially noticeable in today’s erratic and troubled Republican Party, who seems to have adopted every possible negative aspect and is forcing them down the throats of the American people. They are achieving it with a culmination of misinformation and outright lies so that they can hold onto their base. 

It’s SO much easier to simply say that you are an “Independent.” Keeps the conversations from veering into anything that could be volatile, and you can continue talking about the sports game, the recent addition to the house, or whether or not you should paint your walls ecru or taupe. 

There will always be those of us that take on the mantle of party choice. We do this, because we have learned life’s lessons. Like an unruly child, you may love them with all of your heart, but sometimes you just don’t like them. It doesn’t mean that you throw them away, you simply work with them to get them back in line. 

I would rather be identified as a lifelong liberal and Democrat, whose goal has always been to work together for the benefit of the people, bring equality to all, offer a safe haven for those that are oppressed, seek healthcare for all of our citizens, and protect our only home — our planet, than to sit on the fence just to be “cool.” 

But then, that’s me.


(S. Novi is a journalist who worked in the media and continues to seek out truth and integrity. A liberal and one who is suspicious of cults and empty promises. She is a member of Medium.com and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.