Today, December 7th at 3 PM ET
Join Cathy Stewart for a Virtual Conversation with the Authors of The Independent Voter
The Independent Mindset, Beyond Politics?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Independent Voter, and I congratulate the co-authors for writing a well-documented, highly readable, and timely volume. I especially appreciate the scholarly attention given to the manuscript. Plenty of literature is reviewed, and that will only help readers deepen their understanding of what may be framed as “the politics of independents.”
I was especially interested in reading Chapter 5, Can Independents Be Key to Bridging the Political Divide? as well as the short section in Chapter 9, The Independent Mindset. Reading both sections gave me pause for thought and reminded me of two experiences—one professional and the other personal.
I am a retired academic who, years ago, was given the assignment to lead a group of colleagues to design a new and different undergraduate program. We did what you would expect academics to do: we read just about everything we could about undergraduate education and what others were doing to (use a worn word) “innovate” the student space. The review elevated our understanding, but (as we soon discovered) only within the limits of the subject matter we were studying, that is, what others in higher education were investigating, doing, and writing about.
Frustrated by the feeling of being limited, we reached out to colleagues for advice. One peer encouraged us to expand our frame of reference beyond the literature on higher education—even education writ large—and to explore ideas in other fields that we could apply in our quest. To make a long story short, we did just that and (in the end) found an unfamiliar field to be the most helpful, which was quantum physics.
That decision pushed us beyond our individual and collective comfort zones. But we plugged away at it, and the new program, which was truly innovative, launched with ideas drawn from a field with which we were heretofore unfamiliar. That was over a quarter-century ago, and while those of us involved back then are no longer associated with a program, today, the endeavor is larger and more vibrant than ever.
Now, for the personal story. I am drawn to being an Independent for political reasons, and I suspect one reason is not atypical. I tried affiliating with the parties, first with the Republicans, as a Moderate Republican, influenced as I was by politicians like Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits. After the Republican Party moved more to the political right, I tried being a Democrat for a while, but (again) felt out-of-step with a party that hugged the center as I personally migrated more and more to the left. In each case, I experienced considerable agita from following the party line.
That is the political chapter of my road to being independent. The longer chapter has nothing to do with politics, but it influences my political preferences and choice-making.
I am independent—in spirit and practice—having been disappointed (and burned) multiple times by institutions of all sorts and across all sectors. Being independent means making choices that best meet my preferences and aspirations. While liberating, that choice is not without weighty consequences. I have learned to live with my independent spirit, although doing that has been quite challenging at times.
Although it may seem that my personal experience over time sealed the deal in my being an Independent politically, I know that is not the primary storyline here. I realize today that I have always had an independent spirit. With pressures and expectations in play, I tried to be what others were, which (for want of a better word) I’ll call “affiliated.” But that never really worked for me, even though part of me wishes that it had because life would have been much easier that way.
How many can others relate to my story? If there are more than a few, then that conclusion may open the need to explore works of literature that go beyond the traditional boundaries of political preferences and choice-making.
Frank A. Fear is professor emeritus, Michigan State University, where he served as a faculty member for thirty years and worked in various administrative positions for nearly twenty years. Frank also writes about issues that intersect sport and society.
The Independent Voter — the Hope for Developing Democracy and a Twenty-First Century Economy
Do partisan voters, politicians or the media understand what it means to be an independent voter? No, but that’s starting to change. Independent voters are often portrayed as people who don’t want to get involved in politics, or as partisans who want to maintain their privacy as to their political opinions, or as people who are “centrist” or “wishy-washy.” But the recently published book, The Independent Voter, by Thom Reilly, Jacqueline S. Salit and Omar H. Ali, actually opens the curtains as to who we really are . . . people who consciously reject the “us versus them” mentality, reject being plotted one-dimensionally onto the traditional ideological spectrum, and reject the two-party system that we’re boxed into. We are people who understand that there are better ways of “developing democracy,” and we’re hoping that society can envision with us a new paradigm, and that together we can have the courage to bring it to fruition.
The book shows how the political Parties have been able to maintain power and how independent voters, voters not affiliated with a Party, have been misunderstood, ignored, and even suppressed, and how the deck is stacked against independent candidates . . . despite the fact that independent voters represent a greater share of the electorate than either Republicans or Democrats. Chapter 6, titled, Free the Voters, opens with a 1992 quote by Theodore Lowi:
There is a dirty little secret that sophisticates have been hiding from the masses for three or four decades. The secret is that the two-party system is dying . . . the two-party system has been kept alive with artificial respiration through state laws biased against third parties and through artificial insemination by federal subsidies and other protections sold to the public as ‘campaign reform.’ The two-party system would collapse in a moment if all the tubes and IVs were pulled out.
Exploring this idea alone would be a big eye opener for a lot of people who don’t realize the many ways in which the currently arranged structure continues to perpetuate a flawed system that breeds corruption. There are so many ways in which the Parties have inserted themselves “between the people and their government.” While we’ve been seeing progress lately, it’s not a quick, steady march to full recognition and equal rights for independent voters. Every time we start to move the needle, the power dynamics have a way of slowing it down. The book alludes to how partisan polarization keeps people from opening their eyes at the present time:
While the Democratic Party reform agenda is built around Protecting the Vote by battling various forms of suppression (real or imagined), and the Republican mantra is to Stop the Steal by combatting fraud (imagined or real), the need to Free the Vote and the Voter from the heavy restraints and manipulations at the hands of institutionalized party politics remains largely ignored.
So many people are so preoccupied with “the other side” that they fail to see that reforming the system itself is the real answer, that it could create new and healthier dynamics that would go a lot further to solving current issues than our current yo-yo of the back-and-forth full-scale attack. The keepers of both major parties seem to feel threatened by the rise of independent voters because the only world they know is seen and understood through a partisan lens, and their sole focus is about which party will win control in the next election, and independent voters can’t be predicted or controlled.
The book provides an example of the political prism of independent voters:
Whereas Democratic Party activists tend to see the corporate sector as the pinnacle of corruption, many independents believe that while Wall Street is guilty of many sins, the political system itself produces the most pernicious and actionable corruption. On the other side of the aisle, Republicans often preach that Big Government represents the fundamental evil in US society. Independents have a strong libertarian streak. But they also see a particular and necessary role for government in redressing the overreach of capitalism.
We can’t create something better if we’re boxed into a corner that we can’t get out of. The book quotes Pat Choate (Ross Perot’s vice presidential running mate) in Saving Capitalism (2009):
We are at an in-between time – a tumultuous moment when free market absolutism is dying, but a widely acceptable form of sustainable twenty-first-century capitalism has not yet been born.
Choate’s quote seems even more true today than it was then, and we urgently need to implement the kinds of reforms that will “free the voter” and allow us to develop a twenty-first century economy. This book — its authors, collaborators, and the work they’ve done and are doing — represents the Hope that it can be done. And it’s a joy to see more and more people understanding and joining the movement.
Tiani Xochitl Coleman is a mother of five, a graduate of Cornell Law School, and President of New Hampshire Independent Voters and New Hampshire Ranked Choice Voting.
The Independent Voter is simply the best book on American politics I’ve ever read. Seamlessly combining the perspectives and locations of its authors, the book tells the story of the American political system from the vantage of point of the future, of what is (hopefully) becoming. Or to put it another way, it is written from a complete historical perspective. Simultaneously looking back and forward while being rooted in the current situation. It troubles the unidirectionality of time. Kurt Gödel would be proud!
And it’s a great read. Reilly, Salit and Ali write clear and engaging stories and analyses that give us insights into what makes the American political culture tick – a story buried by the partisanship of traditional or social media – and what independents are getting organized to transform. The book explores this from a variety of angles and vantage points. A must read.
David Belmont is a multi-media artist, community organizer and long-time political reform activist. He was Ballot Access Coordinator for Dr. Lenora Fulani’s 1988 presidential campaign and is currently a researcher for Independent Voting.
Who is the Independent Voter?
Can only speak for myself — a black woman (senior citizen) who is registered Unaffiliated in North Carolina but who was a Democrat until 2016. There I am in the James Baldwin’ quote: …profound assumptions on the part of the people…
Along with many others I had accepted the idea that black folk were Democrats and lived by that assumption. I did not wake up one morning with the idea of voting Green. It happened over a period of time as I beame politically educated about politics in this country. The final straw was the Democrats ignoring the will of the people and deciding who would be the candidate in 2016. This year those Democrats went to extreme lengths to keep Matthew Hoh off the ballot in North Carolina.
Having supported Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and this year Matt Hoh, it was a refreshing change to work as a volunteer and then to have a candidate on the ballot that I could vote For and Not Against! We need candidates who are committed to the people and not to corporate donors.
I believe this duopoly must be upended but I have stopped short of actually joining a third party. I would like to see parties abolished as I see little hope if money is not removed from our political system. It seems more reasonable to concentrate on local races and in those states with ballot initiatives where change is actually possible. I would like to know the authors opinion in this regard.
Juliette Leak lives in North Carolina and describes herself as “an Independent finding her voice”.
Join Cathy Stewart for a Virtual Conversation with
Thom Reilly, Jackie Salit and Omar Ali
The Authors of The Independent Voter
Tomorrow, December 7th at 3 pm ET.
Difference Without Separability1Denise Ferreira da Silva
Reilly, Salit, and Ali have produced a thoroughly well-documented harbinger of a transformative movement of voters outside of the moribund but still dominant US two-party system. Their analysis reflects the multidimensional diversity of those American voters who choose to affiliate other than with the two major political parties. Independents whose emergence defies ideological categorization are outside the political establishment but at the core of creating cutting-edge unorthodox processes for ordinary people to drive a broad expansion and revitalization of American democracy.
Independents have been catalysts for change throughout American history, and two major parties have consolidated their control of politics and elections such that today partisanship is constitutive of government. About 40-50 percent of the electorate, 70 million people, are independent voters. Independents are shut out by party control. The inclusion of independent voters requires more democracy, it requires opening the primaries, it requires a redistricting process not based on a balance between the two major parties but based on a nonpartisan process led by ordinary citizens. Independents are calling for nothing less than a total rebirth and renewal of American democracy.
At the nation’s founding African Americans were constitutionally excluded from citizenship in the country which was largely build on their enslaved bodies. But there were those enslaved and free, of color and white, who spoke out and petitioned to combine opposition to slavery with the cause of American Independence 2. It took a Civil War to end slavery and then a Civil Rights Movement to begin to dismantle structural racism and fully integrate African Americans within the American nation – a purpose and promise still unfulfilled. A fundamental question remains as to whether independents can lead reform of our democracy for the full participation of all. Independent movements and leaders, as the authors detail, are trying to answer that question in the affirmative.
The methodology of independents Bridging the Political Divide is explored. The two parties divide the American people but quickly join together in direct opposition to any threat to their mutual vested interest in controlling the political mainstream. The phone conversations by Independent Voting volunteer callers, who consider themselves progressives, to independents who had voted from Donald Trump in the 2020 election were examples of the kind of bridge building to cross ideological divides. One of the callers pointed out that “Listening is learning. I am not aware of a more transformative tool for escaping the painful abyss of our current political environment. Without it, we have nowhere to go.” Indeed, such qualitative listening and dialogue creates the possibility of moving beyond ideology and coming together to build an inclusive American community.
In the United States, the sacred fact of the voter as a nonviolent tool has meaning beyond preference for a particular candidate or party, as Taylor Branch writes in At Canaan’s Edge America in the King Years 1965-68, “the most basic element of free government – the vote… Every ballot is a piece of nonviolence, signifying hard-won consent to raise politics above firepower and bloody conquest.” The African-American community’s long fight for full voting rights continues in the face of voter suppression today, independent voters join in demanding full and equal voting rights in all rounds of elections including the primaries. No person should be required to join a political party to exercise the right to vote.
The crisis in American democracy of governmental dysfunction, political polarization, voter suppression, closed primaries, restricted ballot access, closed debates, and gerrymandered districts extend into matters of life and death of the American people. We have experienced the ongoing crisis from the pandemic, which is occurring in the midst of a crisis in access to decent housing, quality education, employment, and the so-called diseases of despair – alcoholism, depression, and drug use. Millions have died due to the lack of quality health for all. A massive infusion of nonpartisanship into all aspects of government to prioritize the health and well-being of the American people over partisan self-interest is needed. Independents are an important force to bring about such better possibilities for our country meant for all.
All to make impossibly possible
Political emancipation abstract able to fly
Standing on the cold concrete city streets
Near high rise projects and elite stores
And muddy back roads and farms of small towns
Petitioning with people from all over and back then
At Lexington and Concord at Philadelphia at Gettysburg
At Selma still. Are they free yet? Can we Be?
All the declarations and intentions gone awry
Like the plants unable to breathe die
Like the last best hope she could only whisper dissent
Like the wind take her up listen ensemble sing.
Day begins again let us all begin again with none left behind
Where all the dead except everywhere.
Can we end violence? Dr. King believed and was killed
What are we to do now? War everywhere and within.
Fragments fear, hard as the broken pieces breaking broke promises
Somehow we can write the country together anew
Even after all we have been through together it all for all.
1 Ferreira da Silva, D., On Difference Without Separability, Fundaca Bienal de Sao Paulo, 2016, pp. 57-65.
2 Ali, O., In the Balance of Power Independent Black Politics and Third Party Movements in the United States, Ohio University Press, 2020, pp. 14-17; Ortiz, P., An African American Latinx History of the United States, Beacon Press, 2018, pp. 14-18.
Join Cathy Stewart for a Virtual Conversation
Thom Reilly, Jackie Salit and Omar Ali
The Authors of The Independent Voter
December 7th at 3 pm ET.
The Independent Voter is a concise, creative, and comprehensive story of how Independent voters, despite having grown in number to exceed those of either major political party, remain in the shadows. As my friend and fellow Virginian Damien Hughes noted in his post a couple of days ago, we have enormous potential energy just waiting to become kinetic – a force that transforms democracy in America. I’ve been politically independent for three decades now after Ross Perot woke me up in his campaign for President. As they say, it’s darkest before the dawn, and I’m not the only one who can see that despite (or maybe because of) some very discouraging events in the last several years, we are witnessing an awakening of sorts by millions of voters to the fact that they have the power to improve our elections and their foundation – the way we engage in political dialogue. This book is a tremendous and timely contribution to that effort because on the one hand, it is written for people interested enough in the phenomenon portrayed by the media to hear our side of the story, and on the other hand, it features extensive documentation of research to satisfy anyone skeptical yet open-minded enough to consider that it may be time to shine a light on our concerns and proposed solutions.
Members of P4P will not need convincing, and many of us have seen some or even most of the ideas in this book before. However, it offers a great reference for our ongoing efforts to inform and persuade other voters who have not yet declared their independence or seek solutions to problems they experience in their own states. I bookmarked a number of good quotes, but my favorite is the list in the Conclusion of Chapter 10. In response to the question, “How can we free American voters from the corrosive control of political parties?” the authors propose “separation between the institutions of government and the functions of political parties” by the following rules:
- Any and all offices that govern, adjudicate, or administer any aspects of the electoral process must be elected without party affiliation.
- Appointees must be independent of party designation.
- Any and all elections for public office should include all voters, regardless of their stated affiliations.
- No American shall be required to join a political party or organization as a condition of voting.
- No taxpayer dollars should be used for party business, including primaries, if the parties decide to hold them as a means of endorsing a candidate.
- No constraints on voter or candidate mobility should be permitted.
- Sore-loser laws, which are in effect in 47 states, and currently bar candidates from running as an independent if they lose a primary, should be abolished.
- Anti-fusion laws in place in 42 states that prevent polticial coalitions from forming, should be abolished.
- Any and all laws and regulations enacted by the parties to protect their incumbency, control, or advantage should be declared unconstitutional.
- Ballot access laws should be fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory against independents.
- Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring federal government approval of changes to election law or practice) should be restored.
- Voter registration should be automatic and nonpartisan.
This is a very ambitious manifesto that I am proud to endorse. Our movement has been about four decades in the making, but as the book explains, the principles and events that justify these changes go back much, much further in our history. I hope this publication marks the beginning of our emergence from the shadow into the sunlight.
Steve Richardson is a founding member of the Virginia Independent Voters Association. Steve was a member of the Eyes on 2020 National Cabinet.
The Independent Voter: Chapter 2-Independents in American History
By Al Bell, Arizona Independent Voter’s Network
It is clear that Independent Voters have been making a difference in election outcomes for some time at national and states levels. Yet, mainstream political commentators don’t understand who these pivotal voters really are. That is not surprising; a lack of information and a surplus of disinformation, combined with a large dose of elitist arrogance, conceal this important sector of Americana from accurate appraisal.
Fortunately, that is changing. The Independent Voter sheds a fresh light of clarity on these citizens. I have been asked to comment on Chapter 2: Independents in American History.
If you are going to remember but once sentence from Chapter 2, make it this one:
Insofar as the United States of America has been an invention, independents have been its revolutionary driving force, reimagining it over and again through their political action.
You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
We learn early on that President Washington was not a fan of parties. He was a master of understatement. Throughout reconstruction, independent movements, including rarely visited collaboration between Black and White poor American farmers, emerged, faded, and reemerged again. This early history reflects the first of two important threads throughout the book: an emphasis on the seldom-told story of Black Independents who sought electoral parity and scored significant achievements.
Later, with a different cast of characters, a similar grasp of the interdependence underpinning our society took hold. “Independent” remains a supreme irony of terms, given that the label we have accepted for ourselves is anchored in reference to those wily parties. Beyond ironic, actually.
Chapter 2 reveals a rocky path toward the 21st Century that did not anticipate the recent exhilarating leap in visibility of Americans who choose to continue that troublesome habit of thinking for themselves. They own a proud, though painful, heritage. Attention, analysis, and invention are now on steroids regarding these Americans. I think the major reason, as revealed in the ahistorical 2022 elections, is the tragically incompetent governance delivered by the duopoly. They behave like two scorpions in a bottle. And the people finally noticed. Mostly, but not only, Independents.
The book’s second pathway, set up by Chapter 2, tracks a major component of the independent movement centered on independentvoting.org and its earlier incarnations.
There are many other important players in the drama, but none with such an unbroken record in modern times.
Which leads to my final observation. Our Great American Experiment is a worthwhile experiment. This book and the chapter reviewed here offer dynamic evidence that thoughtful, dedicated patriots, acting without high-powered allies, have made a powerful difference. As I said before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is a co-founder, with Richard Sinclair, of the recently initiated Arizona Independent Voter’s Network, designed to link the Independent Voting community for greater effectiveness. Al served on Independent Voting’s Eyes on 2020 National Cabinet, working to get the 2020 presidential primaries open to independents across the country.
Register below and join the virtual conversation with the Authors of The Independent Voter on ZOOM
December 7th, at 3pm ET
In 1960, three political scientists and a social psychologist from the University of Michigan penned a 573-page treatise called The American Voter, which continues to impact the political thinking of our day.1 One of the book’s claims was that most voters cast their votes based on their party identification, and that independents (at that time, only 23 percent of the voting population) are the least attentive to the political process. Partisans have long since referred back to this seminal work, and political scientists and pollsters have insisted ever since that independents aren’t really independent—they’re “leaners.”
Fast forward to 2022, where a new, comprehensive study of contemporary American politics has been published, The Independent Voter. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says in his review on the back cover, “The Independent Voter does a fantastic job chronicling the rise, and the power, of the fastest-growing segment of the electorate in the United States.” And a fascinating and instructive read it is. But just as interesting is who the authors are, and why they came together to write this book.
Thom Reilly is a Professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University, with a distinguished background in public service, including most recently as Chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education; Jacqueline Salit is President of Independent Voting, and one of the country’s foremost leaders of the independent voter movement who played a vital role in the presidential campaigns of Lenora Fulani and Ross Perot, and the mayoral campaigns of Michael Bloomberg; and Omar Ali, Dean of Lloyd International Honors College and Professor of African American political history at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, whose independent political journey included working as a field organizer on Fulani’s 1992 independent presidential campaign.
Most recently, Reilly and Salit became co-directors of the Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy at ASU, a new opportunity for exploring who the independent voter really is.
These three authors might seem an unlikely partnership, but, it turns out, unlikely partnerships have been key to the history of our movement.
Full disclosure here. I worked behind the scenes on The Independent Voter between August, 2021 and May, 2022. My role included overseeing the benchmarks the authors had to meet to hit all the deadlines; conducting extensive research; creating thousands of endnotes; and copy editing. I got to live and breathe the book in its many iterations. I was immersed in FEC records, surveys and polls, and prior studies. Working closely with my intrepid colleague, David Belmont, we parsed statistics and extrapolated findings from data. I fretted over citations, commas, and conflicting styles from chapter to chapter. Some of the material was new to me and eye-opening; much of it was familiar due to my many years as a field organizer working in the trenches.
Since the book came out, I’ve had the chance to read it from a fresh perspective. One thing that strikes me most is how comprehensive a work it is. The Independent Voter covers the early history of the movement, which historian Omar Ali traces back to the 1840’s; documents study after study of independent voters; highlights the many misrepresentations and misconceptions that have been force-fed to us for generations; and details the nitty-gritty on the many lawsuits, legal challenges, and existing barriers to independent political activity. The book is studious and fact-based (I was one of the fact-checkers!). It also has heart and soul, with a timely foreword by Democrat-turned-independent Andrew Yang, who recently helped instigate the formation of the Forward Party, as well as a stirring afterward and poem by African American doctor and longtime independent activist Jessie Fields.
There are too many highlights from the book to list here, but one of my favorites is the chapter “Independents Speak: ‘We’re not a Party. We’re a Mindset,’” which contains statements by and photos of 23 diverse independents and their allies from around the country. In this chapter you can see, hear, taste, smell and touch the realness (we’re not leaners!) as well as the seriousness of a small but significant sample of diverse individuals who have chosen this path. As the book’s authors put it:
… one hears repeatedly their call for being treated with respect and recognized as independents—neither closet Democrats nor Republicans—and deeply concerned about moving the country forward in inclusive and democratic ways. 2
To paraphrase the famous editorial written in 1897, “Yes, Virginia, there are independent voters!”3
I’m grateful to have been part of producing this important book, and the long journey—with all its twists and turns down the independent road—and I’m ready and eager to participate in the creation of our next chapter.
Caroline Donnola, formerly the Executive Assistant to Jackie Salit, recently retired and is currently a freelance writer and editor.
1 Campbell, A., Converse, P.E., Miller, W.E., and Stokes, D.E. (1960) The American Voter (unabridged edition). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
2 Reilly, Thom, Salit, Jacqueline S., Ali, Omar H. (2023) The Independent Voter. New York: Routledge. Page 91.
Converting Potential Energy Into Kinetic Energy
There is clearly a hunger for change in our country’s politics. Consider the state of American politics for the past quarter of a century. Our last six presidents have been George HW Bush (R), Bill Clinton (D), George W Bush (R), Barack Obama (D), Donald Trump (R), and Joe Biden (D). Like the pendulum on a grandfather clock, the balance of power in the nation’s highest position keeps swinging back and forth between R and D. Why? I personally believe it’s because our country is desperately seeking some sense of equilibrium, and because all it has to choose from are extremes from the left and right, it tries to create that balance as best as it can by handing the reins over to the opposite party again and again and again. The million-dollar question is this, then. How do we, as independents, give the nation what it craves in a system that’s clearly rigged in favor of a two-party system?
First, we need to provide independent voices a unified place to come together, to be heard, to share their diverse viewpoints, and to feel a sense of belonging and hope for the future. An independent who has no allies quickly becomes a non-voter, and non-voters won’t help independents get a seat at the table in American politics.
Second, we need to begin to change the rules to create a level playing field. We need to fight for reforms such as Final Five voting. We need alternative voting systems that encourage people to vote their conscience without fear of the spoiler effect. Examples include STAR voting, approval voting, and so on. (I’ve avoided mentioning RCV only because I personally oppose it as a viable alternative, but that’s a topic for another discussion.) We need to eliminate big money from politics as much as possible (perhaps through democracy dollars?) so money doesn’t have the death grip it currently has on every aspect of our politics from campaigns to influencing how people vote. We need term limits. Part of our current problem is that our Founding Fathers intended for people to hold office as a short-term act of public service (see George Washington and his reasons for not seeking a third term) but somewhere along the way, politics became a profession. Career politicians are often ambitious, uncompromising, and willing to put their need to maintain power over the needs of the country they’re allegedly serving. There are dozens of other changes in the rules needed, but an exhaustive list would be enough to fill up a book, so I’ll stop here.
Third (and most importantly), we need a tangible plan with measurable metrics. It’s one thing for us as independents to say we’re beginning to see positive change. It’s another thing entirely for us to convert this unique opportunity into something that has a real impact on people’s everyday lives.
In science, there’s the idea of potential energy and the idea of kinetic energy. Potential energy is energy that has the potential to do work but isn’t actively releasing its stored energy or applying force to other objects. An object’s potential energy is based on its position. When potential energy is released, it’s called kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. If an apple is sitting on the floor, it has little potential energy. If I take the apple to the top of a building and hold it off the edge, it has a lot of potential energy. But either way, it has no kinetic energy until its potential energy is released.
Right now independents are like an apple that’s gone from being on the floor to being held over the edge of a building. I believe our next step as independents is to devise a plan to release our potential. Once that happens, like the breaking of a dam, a wave of change will ensue that cannot be stopped. But if we don’t act quickly enough, a new generation of independents will turn into a generation of cynical, apathetic non-voters who have been jaded into believing that change is simply not possible. And if we as independents collectively squander this wonderful opportunity we’ve been afforded, then perhaps the cynics are right. The time to act is now.
In The Independent Voter, Chapter 7 — “Independents Speak: We’re Not a Party, We’re a Mindset” Damien says:
“As independents, we are not undecided; we’re unimpressed. Unimpressed with having to settle for the lesser of two evils, the scare choice in the marketplace of ideas, unimpressed with a system that promotes us versus them, and rewards the demonization of anyone who has a different point of view. Unimpressed with leaders who spew hatred into our discourse and kneel at the altar of partisanship at the expense of those whom they pledge to serve. Unimpressed with a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability, and a lack of solutions year after year after year. We want politicians who are elected for their problem-solving abilities, not their party alliances. We want leaders who are open-minded enough to listen to all sides of an issue. We want those who can bridge the divide between points of view and find real, lasting solutions. We are independents, and we are here to stay.”
Damien Hughes is a software developer, a member of the Virginia Independent Voter Association, and a volunteer Slack community moderator for the cross-partisan, anti-corruption group RepresentUs.