People often say—or write—”I’m an independent. I vote for the man (woman), not the party.” Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Nobody wants to follow blindly or be taken for granted, so being an independent sounds like a well-thought-out position to take, doesn’t it?
I wonder how well these ‘independents’ understand our political system. Have they ever studied political science? Not government, but political science—the study of how political power is achieved and maintained.
The United States is governed by a two-party system, and thank God for that. Look at the instability of nations which have multiple parties. There is little continuity in the running of the government as the various parties jockey back and forth.
Party leaders must put together coalitions of splinter parties in order to gain a voting majority to govern, and as soon as one of the splinter parties becomes dissatisfied with whatever the coalition leaders are doing, it can remove its support, frequently causing the fall of the government and bringing on a need for new elections. This is a costly and inherently unstable system.
Under our two-party system, I may be unhappy during the times when my party is out of power and the fools (Well, they’re not MY party, so they must be fools.) running the government are screwing everything up, but at least I can count on some continuity. If we elect a Senator for six years, he/she will be there for six years, barring unforeseen circumstances. I don’t have to worry about a government crisis forcing him/her to run again sooner than that.
One of the little understood but inherent facts of a party system is that our votes not only support a candidate, but they also support his/her party. If I vote for a Republican for the Senate, I’m voting to keep Mitch McConnell as majority leader, whether I really like him or not. If I vote for a Democrat for the Senate, I’m voting to return Harry Reid to power as majority leader.
Maybe I don’t like the Republican running but I’d rather have McConnell than Reid in power. I have a choice to make, and I need to understand the ramifications of that choice. If I vote for the Democrat, I voted for Reid, whether I wanted to or not. Vice versa if I voted for the Republican.
Okay, maybe you never thought of that, but it’s pretty easy to see. But let’s say I like Reid and Obama and other Democrat leaders and want to support them in national elections, but I don’t like the Democrat running for the state House of Representatives in my district, so I vote for his opponent. This is a state matter and has nothing to do with national politics.
Think so? Think again. Political parties get their power from the grass roots. The more individuals they can get to identify themselves as party members, the greater their power. And the more state and local offices they can win, the greater their power.
That state representative has the ability to appoint people to positions of power. In concert with others of his/her political beliefs, he/she can affect legislation that directs the state government. Wielding this power helps to build his/her party. A governor has even more power to fill appointive positions and steer legislation in the direction he/she wants, once again building the power of that party.
People register surprise when I tell them I’ve never voted for a Democrat in my life, but I couldn’t, since I understand these principles. In 1978, I was tempted to vote for a Democrat named Kent Hance for Congress. His opponent, George W. Bush, was a man of little reputation or accomplishment at that point in time, and Hance was a man of courage who held conservative convictions, and I admired a lot about him.
I nearly voted for him, but I knew that a vote for him was also a vote of support to Tip O’Neill, the Speaker of the House, Robert Byrd, the Senate Majority Leader, and Jimmy Carter, arguably the weakest, most ineffective President we’ve ever had. That was a trigger I couldn’t pull.
If your beliefs more or less line up with those of the Democrat Party, by all means vote that way. If they line up more with the Republican Party, then vote that way. But if you don’t like either party and think voting independent is the way to go, then at least understand the ramifications of what you’re doing. They’re probably much more far-reaching than you realize.
What are your thoughts on voting?
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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