Polls indicate that a significant plurality of voters identify as independents rather than as aligned with any political party (see Gallup, Party Affiliation, trends from January 2004 through January 2020) yet they (as an independent I should write “we”) are all too frequently legally excluded from an essential role in the electoral process, the selection of candidates in state supported primary elections. There would be a logic to that if the major political parties on whose behalf primary elections are “staged” also disdained independent votes in general elections but of course, that is not the case, it is not the case at all. In this, “independent voters are like battered wives or husbands or parents who stay with their abusive spouses or children, or others in unequal and unfair relationships who for myriads of reasons, don’t dissolve them and leave but rather elect to stay and suffer, not infrequently paying with their lives for having done so.
The abusive partner in such relationships frequently expresses deep remorse after an abusive incident but does not change his or deportment, instead, both parties develop convoluted justifications why it is best to stay together, usually deeply flawed. “It’s for the sake of the children” or “I can’t make it on my own” are all too frequent excuses of the abused in personal relationships. In politics, we have been conditioned by the major parties and most of all, by the purportedly “mainstream” media, to vote against perceived “greater evils” rather than in favor of someone or something in which we truly believe, the latter being referred to as flights of unrealistic, idealistic fantasy. According to our political abusers, each election is essential to avoid cataclysmic doom and each is the most important election of our lifetimes, perhaps ever. “This is no time for decisions based on ethics or morality” we are told, just “hang on to the life vest and swim towards the lifeboat, who cares if it’s not your own”!
Hyperbole competes with hypocrisy, both clothed in lies, to manipulate us into one of two virtually identical paths leading to a circular future whose main features are more wars, less education, less social welfare, less effective infrastructure, and less and less civility. Lately, identity politics and illusory divisive issues (abortion and gun control being two) are used to increase our polarization, not just by the Democratic Party, although that is its modern hallmark, but by the GOP as well. Families are divided, friendships are sundered, and the same old crew keeps guiding our ship of state, taking turns in the main deck but never providing the majority of us who identify as independents with a key to even the locker-room, we are expected to sit politely in the stands, grumbling a bit perhaps, but cheering as directed by the not terribly attractive cheerleaders.
As with most victims, an important part off the blame is ours. How many times will we keep accepting the same excuses? The same rationales? The same threats? The same falsehoods. The same political opioids to which the political elites in both major parties seek to addict us? Still, … the blame also belongs to the few talented and decent people who run for political office under the banner of one of the two major political parties having bought into the myth of “change from within”, of only by getting elected can I accomplish something positive, and I can only get elected as part of the establishment I hope to change. These include some wonderful options: Tulsi Gabbard today, in the past, former Senator Jim Webb and former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, indeed, the list is way too long. Party loyalty uber alles is not a good thing, indeed it is a very bad thing, a terrible thing, for candidates and for voters and most of all, for elected officials. But that seems the operative rule.
The fault also belongs to the most talented and decent people among us who refuse to participate in the filthy game of politics, who refuse to run, people like many of my Citadel classmates, people like many of the artists I know, the civic minded writers, painters, sculptors and photographers. Wouldn’t it be interesting of our leaders were drafted? I mean, really drafted, not in orchestrated charades. Drafted without aspirations for dynasties or future speaking “fees” (i.e., bribes) or pensions, just, as in the case of convicted prisoners, serving their time in the hope of being set free at the end of their terms?
So, … to something we can accomplish now.
I propose to all independents, as a starting point, that we reject all candidates from political parties that do not permit us to vote in their primary elections or otherwise participate in their candidate selection processes. A bit of self-respect demands at least that! If we’re not good enough for the former, we sure as Hell ought not to participate in the latter.
There is a worldwide wave pejoratively denominated “populism” of voters who refuse to toe the lines established by traditional political parties and the “mainstream” media. Just this week, the wave smashed into Germany and Ireland (see, e.g., “German & Irish voters make it clear they want real change. Establishment puzzled & fails to understand that the problem is THEM” and “Sinn Fein’s historic breakthrough is a long-overdue rejection of the status quo and a cosy[sic] two-party system” in RT for February 11, 2020). Can we bring that wave home to the United States of America where it purportedly started in 1776?
Something to consider, a starting point in breaking free of the abusive relationship we have endured for much too long.
Boycott those who boycott us!
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.