Friday, June 29, 2012

Rise of The Independents (53% Say Neither Party Represents American People)

A new survey from the polling firm Rasmussen Reports shows that the majority of Americans believe that neither major political party represents the American People.

This poll confirms what I, and other folks like me, have ben saying for some time - that increased political polarization was pushing moderates and centrists out of two major parties making the fastest growing political affiliation "Independent" or no affiliation at all. The purging of moderates from both the Republican and Democratic parties has led to increased political polarization between them, making them less representative of all of the American people.

Loss of Centrists = Paralysis

The far-right Republicans began the effort to boot moderates out of their party, calling centrists "RINOs" or Republicans In Name Only, in the mid 1980s. Over decades, conservative activists and political commentators established a rigid dogma to which every Republican candidate and officeholder had to subscribe: Tax cuts are always good in all circumstances (especially for wealthy campaign donors), no tax increases of any kind, anti-abortion, pro-vouchers (privatization for more profits) for schools, less regulation always, intolerance of homosexuals, exclusion of any religious/spiritual thought outside of fundamentalist Christianity and no gun regulation of any kind.

And, the Democrats did the same thing when they purged their party of centrists, especially from the South and West, calling them "DINOs" or Democrats In Name Only. The far-left, urban Democrats on the coasts turned their backs on their rural, southern and western party members when they established a counter-dogma to the Republicans: Tax the rich always, never reform or cut entitlement programs, permit open borders, never offend ANYONE (especially a pro-Dem voter), guns necessarily turn good people into sociopathic killers, religion and faith is for stupid people (unless they vote for us), anything goes social mores, abortion should be legal in all circumstances, legalize marijuana, resist any and all efforts to reform public education and regulate/strangulate the evil energy industry at every turn.

With the elimination of centrists and moderates from both major parties, the pragmatic center at the heart of our political institutions was lost. Political centrists are generally less ideological and more willing to listen and negotiate. Centrists are willing to make compromises on small issues in order to advance progress on the big ones.

Now that they are absent from the legislative process, our legislatures are populated with extreme partisans who are either incapable, or unwilling, to make any concession for the greater good. Every issue is a wedge issue and every disagreement is cast as a "battle" or a "fight" to "take back" America from the other side. Consequently, our political institutions are paralyzed, incapable of solving our nation's pressing problems.

Most People Don't Think Like Politicians

As the polls are beginning to show, most people don't think like politicians. You and I survive and get ahead in this world by communicating, talking and negotiating with our families, friends, co-workers, employers and customers every day. We serve our clients by listening to their needs and earning their business by coming up with creative ways to help them. We know that a binary, black-and-white approach rarely gets us ahead, because life doesn't work that way.

We are forced to deal with our challenges to our closely held assumptions and often find greater peace and joy by working together to achieve a common goal. We have to balance our budgets, sacrifice lower priorities daily for more important needs. When we see our political leadership amount to little more that being Complainers in Chief, we wonder aloud how anyone could have voted for them.

What is the solution? If you listen to the candidates, political commentators and elected officials, they'll tell you that we need more of "us" and less of "them." As a practical matter, given our fractured political landscape, neither of the major political parties will ever win enough of a majority in the House, Senate (with its absurd filibuster rule) and the White House to impose their will on the country. And, if they do, then there will be a rallying cry from the other side to "take back" America, again.
The political ping-pong match never ends, because both parties have a strong interest in maintaining the "battles" and never actually solving our problems. If they did, then they wouldn't have any hot button issues with which to anger their supporters and motivate them to willingly write a check.

And, The Winner Is...

The big winners of the two-party duopoly are the multinational corporations with interests that are not necessarily aligned with those of the American people. Or, for that matter, any people except for their executives, legislators and judges they have bought with campaign contributions and other special benefits. No wonder you and I don't believe that either party represents us.

But, why is it worth it for politicians to sell themselves so easily? After all, don't they have to look at themselves in the mirror? Surely, in a land of 350 million people there are others qualified to serve?

The answer is that candidates might sell themselves easily, but they're not on the cheap.

They profit mightily from legal corruption. Until recent passage of the STOCK Act, insider trading by Congressional members was legal! And, the STOCK Act did not repeal the even bigger, and more profitable business of supplying Wall Street with "political intelligence" (I know, an oxymoron). In a recent survey, the Americans who increased their wealth the fastest were members of Congress!

The End Game

I don't believe that either party has a final end game, other than to maintain the status quo and enrich themselves at the cost of the American people. Keeping the polarized political bases red-hot angry, guarantees a steady flow of campaign cash and partisans showing up at the voting booths. Big donors are pleased, as they back both major parties.

Third Party Rising? Not So Fast

The answer must be that we need a third party to counter the poles of the right and left. The obstacles to an alternative to the two-party duopoly, however, remain high. In fact, in another Rasmussen Reports poll, 63% of Americans believe the current system discourages third party candidates.

It shouldn't come as any surprise that the two major parties have done just about everything they can to promote and solidify their political brands by making it next to impossible for third party candidates to obtain Electoral College delegates.

The duopoly has been so successful, that our political brand-scape is akin to being able to choose between only "Coke" or "Pepsi" in the soft drink aisle. What if I'm in the mood for something lighter, say a Fresca, or different, like a Dr. Pepper? Sorry, in the Republican-Democrat duopoly, you only have the choice of two slightly different shades of cola. Seven-Up and Sprite drinkers are left out cold.

Winds of Change

Bottom line, things change, although not always at the pace that we would like to see it. The current duopoly will persist so long as we accept it. So far, there's enough Americans buying into the "us-versus-them" model to maintain the status quo.

But, fundamental change usually comes when one least expects it and from an unanticipated direction. For example, who would have thought that the self-immolation of a desperate fruit vendor would ignite what we now know today as the Arab Spring? I don't believe that the catalyst for change in America will have to be so extreme, but when it comes, there will be no mistaking it.

Maybe the first step is to go online and change your voter affiliation from one of the duopoly parties and choose "Independent" or "Unaffiliated."


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