Being an independent in a two-party system

Devon Martinez

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    Election years are tough for everyone, but for Independent voters, it is also confusing. It feels as if you are heading to no destination. The major political parties cater to you because the Independent vote is what helps them win, but the problem is, Independent views are diverse, and some completely disengage from the political system.  

     But there is one thing many Independents share: a pessimistic outlook on the current two-party system.  

     According to Pew Research, nearly four-in-ten Americans (38%) identify as Independent; around 13% of Independents lean Republican, 17% lean Democrat and the remaining 8% are politically disengaged.  

     Pew Research shows that what Independents have in common are their negative views on political candidates, parties and partisans.  

     The Independents who lean toward a political party will not join the party due to negative opinions of that party, the candidates and the platform. They might, for example, agree economically with a party but have completely different ideas on social issues.  

     Republicans and Democrats were more optimistic when asked about their political parties, candidates and platforms compared to Independents and claimed to be more satisfied with their choices.  

     According to a Gallup poll in 2016, 57% of Americans said they believed a third major political party is needed, an 11% increase from 2012. There is yet to be a poll this year, but the trend is that more people are searching outside of the two-party system.  

a ballot drop off box.
Ballot drop box in front of University Center. Photo courtesy of The Scribe archives.

     I am featured in this data as I have recently declared independence from any political party. The difference is that I left a minor party, and I was never a part of the two-party system.  

     What inspired me to change my political affiliation was that my entire identity was attached to the party, and, therefore, I became a partisan. Now, I feel free to pick and choose the ideas and policies I support, like a buffet menu, without the guilt of abandoning my tribe; before it felt like a school lunchroom. I felt as if I had no choice over what ideas I could support, because the party chose for me. 

     I do not have a hatred for Republicans or Democrats; I just do not want to feel tied to either party. I know that we will never agree on everything, but I want a political system that places value of what is right over who is right. And I do not want to have negative feelings about the political system; I want to watch debates that are catered toward finding truth and not about owning your political opponents—though, it does make for some exciting YouTube videos and memes.  

     Earlier this year, Eric Weinstein, the managing director of Thiel Capital, and host of the podcast The Portal, spoke extensively about the “Radical Center.” He defines the “Radical Center” as Independents that are not satisfied with the current political system because they are not partisan. Some people, according to Weinstein, might be conventionally conservative or liberal, but they would rather debate for the search of comprise instead of dominance.  

     And he might be on to something since Independents, like myself, are not married to our ideas. Instead, we are leaving the two-party system because we are dissatisfied with the system.  

     So, if you know people who are voting third party, please do not attack them. Instead, be empathetic; understand that they are dissatisfied, and this group deserves to be listened to because soon we might represent 50% of the population. 

     I hope they address the growing number of Independents and people dissatisfied with the political system by changing the two-parties. But as an Independent, I will not hold my breath too long for this dream.