What “Independents” don’t seem to want to accept

This got me thinking today.

Party question

“Do you really think independents give a damn about the party?”

That’s an interesting question on a couple of levels. The one I’ll address here is how the question can easily be turned around.

Do you really think Democratic or Republican apparatchiks
give a damn about Independents?

I know a lot is made of the idea that fewer and fewer people admit to being a member or supporter of either party, but the parties both know whom they can count on to actually show up to vote.

You know who it hasn’t been? Independents.

Only 57.5% of eligible voters cast a vote in 2012. 93 million eligible voters didn’t vote in the last presidential election.

Even in 2008 – hailed as the highest turnout in 40 years – and arguably one of the most historically important elections in this country’s history, the turnout was a pathetic 61.6%.

Remember when you were in school? That would be a failing grade; maybe a D- if you were lucky.

So, if 42% of Americans claim to be Independent, why aren’t voter turnout numbers much, much higher? The best explanation I can come up with is that it’s the party loyalists who can be counted on to show up in greater numbers. The data seem to back that up.

It’s “the base” the parties play to, not the Independent voter. This is also why I remain mystified as to why Sanders supporters get so pissed off about how the DNC isn’t doing more to help Sanders. Why should they? Like me, he’s a “Democrat of convenience.” Makes me wonder what the Vegas odds are that he switches back to Independent after the election.

Vote by Party IDBack to the numbers.

Of the voters who did show up in 2012, CNN’s “Vote by Party ID” data shows that 38% said they were Democrats, 32% said they were Republicans, and 29% claimed to be Independent. (Where’s the rest of the 42% of Independents?)

And, how did those 29% who said they were Independents actually vote?
45% to Obama
50% to Romney
5% Other

Now, let’s assume those percentages don’t change for 2016. Yes, I know we all want to believe that Americans are much more engaged this time, but I’ll wait to see it before I believe it. In fact, I think there’s a hell of a case to be made that turnout will be historically low precisely because the choice will be between Clinton and Trump, two candidates with historically high unfavorables.

But back to this exercise and the assumption.

Let’s go ahead and double the 5% of Independents who voted Other in 2012 to 10% for the 2016 election. 10% of the 29% percent who claimed to be Independents and who didn’t vote for one of the 2 parties last time would be 2.9% of the total votes cast.

Could Bernie get more than 3% of the total popular vote running at this point as a write-in or as an Independent? Probably, but let’s not ignore some important facts.

  1. 7 states don’t allow write-ins and 35 states require paperwork to be filed to be a write-in
  2. The process is even more onerous for getting on each state’s ballot as an Independent
  3. The deadline for being on the Texas ballot as an Independent and having any kind of shot at their second-highest 38 Electoral College votes was on May 9th

So, you write off Texas because it will take The Second Coming of Christ before Texans vote for a Democrat, and you write off the 7 states that don’t allow write-ins if you want to go that route, and you’re left with an awfully big and steep uphill climb.

Then, there’s this.

Bernie has already gone on record as saying he will support Hillary if she wins the nomination.

All that being said, yes, I think Bernie could capture more than 3% of the popular vote, but then what? Well, then he runs squarely into the Electoral College.

I’m old enough to have voted for Ross Perot. Twice. He got 18.9% of the popular vote in 1992, more than any other third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 (27.4%) and Millard Fillmore in 1856 (21.5%). They all lost. Big.

Let’s think about Perot and his almost 20% as the most obvious modern corollary to what Bernie might be able to do. Think about this: Perot got almost 1 in 5 votes, but do you know how many Electoral College votes Ross got with almost 1 in 5 popular votes?

None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
(Fillmore got 8 out of 296, and Roosevelt got 88 out of 531.)

In 1980, when I was voting for John Anderson along with the other 6.6% of the popular voters, he, too got zero Electoral College votes. The sitting president, Jimmy Carter, got 41% of the popular vote, and he lost 489 to 49 in Electoral College votes to Reagan.

Yes, anything is possible, I suppose. It’s not over until it’s over, and all of that.

Yes, I’m going to remain hopeful that maybe *THIS TIME AROUND* Independents actually will make a difference, but after more than 3 decades as an eligible voter, I’m just going to admit that I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m going to just go ahead and ask for some forgiveness now if I seem to keep coming off as sounding skeptical that, come November, we will have anything other than a Clinton versus Trump election.

What I really, REALLY hope to see is that Sanders and my fellow supporters of his don’t squander everything that has been gained this election cycle. There’s something happening here, and we have to be careful that we’re not the ones who kill The Revolution just as it’s getting started.

We can keep this going. We can work together to take back the Senate and the House. We can take back governors’ mansions and state capitols and municipalities and school boards, but we can only be successful so long as we don’t figuratively kill each other off and leave the Democratic landscape a scorched Earth.

For my money, everything gets a lot harder with Trump in the Oval Office. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is on you Bernie-or-Buster types more than anyone. Sorry, but it’s just plain ridiculous to think taking three steps backwards is the way to someday progress forward. Those three steps back, BTW, come from having to endure having all three federal branches controlled by the GOP.

Call it fear-mongering. Call it cowardice or capitulation to The System. Call me a Hillary shill or a Shillary troll or whatever. I’ve heard at all already. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t care.

You may feel like this is telling you how to vote. Maybe it is, but I think this needs to be said to all my fellow Sanders supporters, and especially to the Bernie-or-Busters:

Your vote can make a statement, or it can make a difference.
Choose wisely.

 

Additional reading:

So far, turnout in this year’s primaries rivals 2008 record; March 8, 2016, Pew Research Center

Election Center 2008; CNN

Electoral College (United States); Wikipedia

Road to 270: CNN’s electoral college map; CNN

Hillary Clinton Was Liberal. Hillary Clinton Is Liberal; May 19, 2015, FiveThirtyEight.com

 

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4 thoughts on “What “Independents” don’t seem to want to accept

  1. I rarely respond to your thoughtful and provactive posts, largely because you’ve said it so well, my post would only be a “me, too!” But some things you post are just plain awesome and I respond, as I am doing now, just for the sheer pleasure of telling you how great I think you are! We may have differences in our political preferences, but your grasp of the the political situations we face sometimes speak my mind exactly. This is one of those occasions.

    The lack of knowledge and understanding among the electorate of how the political system in our country operates is astounding to me. I never studied PoliSci in college, and I can’t say that even I myself have what I would consider to be a full and thorough understanding of the process. I am an “average voter” in many ways — I’m not one to take my issues to the streets, though I have been a union member at times and a very vocal one, and I have participated in many street marches for a variety of issues. Even having been registered with the Democratic Party designation for all of my life, I have not always agreed with their stances or their candidates, but I have always supported the Democratic candidate because, generally speaking, they have best represented my opinions and desires for what the government should be and do.

    As a Democratically-leaning voter, I have always had conflicts with the Party. Only for two short periods of time was I actually a card-carrying member. Even during my union involvement days, I did not always vote as my union suggested. In some ways I have always been “independent” — my own version of “independent”– but I have always found that Democratic candidates have represented more of my interests. I also have always wished to have my vote count in the primary process, and I have always registered as a Democrat.

    As a child of the civil rights era, raised in the South and totally in support of efforts to empower and equalize the African-American community’s participation in our society and their treatment as equals under the law, I saw the Democratic Party as the only one that agreed with my perceptions and feelings about the direction our country should take. At 13, I was an ardent Kennedy supporter even before I could vote. When I turned 18 in 1967, I couldn’t wait to register to vote, and I registered as a Democrat just in time for the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. The events at Kent State in 1970, while Nixon was President, followed by the later events of Watergate, cemented my belief that the Democratic Party was my standard bearer. Yet for all of my political life — the only exception being the few years of my young adulthood from 1974-1980 — I have not been a member of the Democratic Party. I still am not, though I register as one so that I can participate in choosing who will represent them. I am not a loyalist to much of anything, least of all to a political party.

    All of this to say that in this election, I have been excited and thrilled to find such a strong candidate in Bernie Sanders, and I was elated at his deciding to join the Party and run an all-out campaign against my candidate, Hillary Clinton. Why? Because for over two decades the forces of the Right have dominated any and all efforts to drag this country into the 21st Century, and the Democratic Party has increasingly moved to the right of center, where they no longer represent much of my interests. Bringing in a strong adherent to leftist politics was a long-awaited breath of fresh air. The stronger his campaign grew, the happier I was, because I believe that Hillary herself agrees with my more left-of-center viewpoint. Despite what her detractors say, she is a thoughtful person who is firm in her beliefs until she can fully consider alternatives presented to her. She does not change her mind easily or quickly, but if she is convinced of the rightness of something, she can be convinced to change her position. I feel that because she is caught up in the politics of the Party machine, she has lost some of her unique viewpoint. I was my hope that Bernie’s influence would bring the Party’s faithful back closer to the center, maybe even slightly left-of-center, where I am standing. While I have never been active in party politics, remember, I am a union person. I participated in the political processes of unions for more than a decade as an RN. I have attended conventions, and I understand the processes that are used and applied during the convention elections. Party politics is very similar. An outsider like Bernie Sanders, while he will never be fully embraced by the Democratic Party machine, is viewed by many within the Party structure as a vital element to shake up the Party and help its more liberal, left-leaning elements gain power and attention from the Party loyalists and the candidate. In short, they can give Hillary political support to stand on her own against the more conservative elements of the Party, to push the Party platform to represent her own idea of what a President of the United States should be doing for the country at this time. An idea, I believe, which is more liberal than any of her more recent Democratic predecessors. Like you, I hope this effect occurs. I hope that the left-leaning elements of the Party are smart enough and strong enough to recognize their power, and to use that power for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

    1. Wow! Thank you so much for your kind words, but even more so for such a thoughtful and insightful comment! Let me encourage you to start your own blog so that others may benefit from what you have to share!

      1. Thanks! It’s an idea I have been considering for some time, with you as my example of how it should be done. Every time I think to begin, life steps in and delays me. But I remain committed to that goal. Thank you for your leadership — you’ll be the first to know when I begin my blog.

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