Independent voters?

us-party-identification-yearly-averages-1988-2015Recently, 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.

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