Third Party & Independents Archives

Independent Does Not = Centrist

During the past several weeks, while I’ve been pushing “content” into my new blog The Hankster—little scraps of news items from the independent campaigns for governor getting off the ground in Texas, Oregon, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maine and Illinois, the fight for an open primary initiative in Oregon, the ongoing and recurring initiatives for independent redistricting commissions in California, Ohio and Florida—several op/ed pieces have come out in the New York and national press forewarning a third party presidential run in 2008.

Recent Gallup polls tell us that 34% of the electorate is now independent, while 33% are Democrats and 32% are Republicans. (This was news in the bipartisan world because in 2004 Dems were at 34% and Repubs were at 36%, independents at 30%, and what they noticed was that the Dems are now 1 point ahead of the Repubs!) Scott Rasmussen is nervous about the ultimate "spoiler" campaign by a third party candidate on the hot button issue of immigration, Thomas Friedman is "hoping" for a third party campaign built around the hot button issue of energy, New York Magazine splashed quite a bit of ink on The Purple Party, and John Avlon continues to advocate for a "centrist "third party.

I like Avlon's stuff the best for two reasons. One, he's the only one talking about independent VOTERS, as opposed to the magical third party candidate who might drop from the sky after the major parties drop another notch or two in popularity. And two, I think what Avlon is raising about "centrism" is important for independents to understand, discuss--and object to vigorously.

Independents are centrist (some other pundits use the term "moderate") because if you have Dems on the left and Repubs on the right, there must be a middle, right? The Gallup poll creatively places the independent column in the middle. Most mainstream media and polls talk about Dem or Repub-leaning independents. But unless I missed something, the Cold War is over and "left" and "right" have little meaning in today's global economic/political world. It's too late for centrism. And independents are not in the middle--we can't be categorized that easily according to ideology.

Independents are people who are beginning to create some options that aren't in the playbook of the two-party left/right system. They split their votes. They vote for the person, not the party. They abandon unhealthy long-term loyalties, such as black New York City voters did in the 2005 mayoral election. (See Jackie Salit's analysis "The Black and Independent Alliance".) They don't like partisanship. They don't like political parties and the exclusive clubhouse culture that dominates American politics.

Some of us might even be considered extreme independents. And it's not too late for creative responses by independent voters that can lead the way out of the crisis we face in our democracy.

Posted by N. Hanks at May 14, 2006 9:22 PM
Comment #148210

I’m all for 3rd party candidates, as long as we can start saying which candidates we pick 1, 2, 3, and 4. Otherwise, we run the risk of having a candidate that wasn’t a majority pick, which is kind of contrary to whole point of democracy.

Posted by: Max at May 14, 2006 11:33 PM
Comment #148216

If an independant moderate or centrist party candidate emerged they would have my vote.

Posted by: Amani at May 15, 2006 12:06 AM
Comment #148248
But unless I missed something, the Cold War is over and “left” and “right” have little meaning in today’s global economic/political world.

Man, are you Wrong!

Posted by: Betty Burke at May 15, 2006 6:32 AM
Comment #148256

The Independents I know, N. Hanks, are not moderates, most of them anyway. They are left on some issues and right on others and some of them are very extreme in some of their right or left leanings. Church and state issues is one where many where I live, in the Hill Country of Texas, are very right sided. But, they are adamantly leftist on individual rights and liberties.

To those who do not follow political news and trends, the labels left and right are fairly meaningless. But for those who do follow which way the political winds blow, left and right still have clearly defineable meanings, though they are not static on many issues, (e.g. illegal immigration for example).

Very encouraging article N. Hanks. Thanks.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 15, 2006 7:56 AM
Comment #148322


Betty is correct. Without the cold war all we have is left vs. right. There are no external military threats, only the one BushII made up to get re-elceted. What we need is a candidate who can create a new and constructive purpose for our nation.


Although left and right might be difficult to define, they seem clearly observable by the priorities expressed by the holders of those view points.

Posted by: Dave at May 15, 2006 12:54 PM
Comment #148357

I’m an Independant, but only because the Republican Party has moved away from me. They are bolting to the left as fast as they can.

I’m taking a liking to the Constitution Party now. They have this crazy idea that we ought to just do what the Constitution says, and NOT do what it doesn’t say. That’s too extreme for most “modern” (insert your hyphenated name here) Americans.

Posted by: David C. at May 15, 2006 3:42 PM
Comment #148373

I’ve been an independent for most my adult life. And on the right all my life. I left the Republican party back in 1970 because of their liberal views on most things.
I also know that there are some issues that those on the right would call me liberal because of my views on them. But most of the time I fall into the conservative category.
While there are independents that are centrist a whole heap of us are either mostly conservative or liberal.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 15, 2006 5:37 PM
Comment #148414

W stands for Wrong! Here in Texas, especially in the 2 independent governor’s campaign, Independents come from across the spectrum. Those of us in the Kinky Friedman for Governor campaign come from across the “left/right” spectrum. The difference between us and them is that we are banded together to end the dominant, closed system. We are all in agreement that neither party meets the needs of anyone but their hard core constituents. We do not argue policy, we argue for a revolution from the voters. From my conversations it is clear that the “Center” is really people who hold views from both sides and oppose various aspects of both sides. So the term “center” is much more balanced than it appears. Here, the attitude is “If you are in office, you are part of the problem, not the solution.”

Posted by: moksha at May 15, 2006 7:16 PM
Comment #148433
I’m an Independant, but only because the Republican Party has moved away from me. They are bolting to the left as fast as they can. Posted by: David C. at May 15, 2006 03:42 PM

I’ve been an independent for most my adult life. And on the right all my life. I left the Republican party back in 1970 because of their liberal views on most things.
Posted by: Ron Brown at May 15, 2006 05:37 PM

The scary parts are
(a) you’re both serious
(b) I can’t imagine what’s liberal about the modern GOPer.
Posted by: Dave at May 15, 2006 8:13 PM
Comment #148476

What’s conservative about the GOP?
They are fiscally or socially conservative.
They want to destroy the Constitution.
They haven’t used common sense in my life time.
What’s conservative about that?

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 15, 2006 9:43 PM
Comment #148567


Did you mean -they “aren’t” fiscally or ….-?

They are very socially conservative. They used to be fiscally conservative. Now they’re a bunch of greedy %^*(&$!#s!

Posted by: Dave at May 16, 2006 8:30 AM
Comment #148595

Yeah, I ment aren’t, thanks.
Your right, they are greedy %^(8,*#S!.
Show me a party that aint.

Posted by: Ron Brown at May 16, 2006 11:12 AM
Comment #148967

Thank you all for your comments and your hearty ‘welcome’ to WatchBlog! I agree that we need non-partisan elections and other electoral reform like IRV (Instant Runoff Voting) like Max said. The parties continuously find ways of limiting our choices by closed primaries, outrageous ballot access requirements for independents — after all, they’re just looking to stay in office, not to be part of a national dialogue on policy… “a bunch of greedy %^*(&$!#s!” as Dave put it!

I also thought Dave’s comment about Betty’s comment was really on target: “Without the cold war all we have is left vs. right.” I have been working in local and national left-right coalitions for many years now, and what I’ve found that we agree on is that partisan politics is dangerous for the country.

Clearly independents have the numbers. And I would venture to say that most Americans are libertarian at heart (small l)—wheather left or right.

So let’s keep organizing!!!

Posted by: N. Hanks at May 17, 2006 2:17 PM
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