Recently, I rewrote a presentation on political parties because I felt that it needed to be updated. While looking for supplemental materials that will be used to generate an in-class discussion, I found polling data from earlier this year that indicates 42% of people surveyed self-identify as “political independents,” i.e. they don’t claim either the Democratic or Republican label. It’s a significant phenomenon that journalists and pundits have discussed at length (click here for a story). Just what does this other label mean in a political system dominated by entrenched parties that leave many dissatisfied with everything from institutional operation to the policies that are enacted? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, independent is defined as follows: “not affiliated with a larger controlling unit…not looking to others for opinions or guidance in conduct.” Here I’ll admit that I’m a bit perplexed by how these folks categorize themselves. It’s not that I think anyone should have to choose a side. That suggestion would be antithetical to our foundational, democratic principles. Instead, I question how truly independent a person is when he or she allows him or herself to be corralled into casting a ballot for a major party candidate as many of them do (click here and here for stories). All that does is legitimize and reinforce a flawed system that some people claim should present voters with more options.