The authors of this book have been working in the independent space for a long time, but it’s only been a decade since Jackie’s book “Independents Rising” started me on my own personal journey as an activist. I was a late bloomer, but better to show up late than not at all. In that regard, I read the highly anticipated book with a sense of frustration and hope.
I have been politically independent my entire life. For me, personally, independent means having never been a formal member of a political party. Do I care about issues and try to be informed? Sure. Do disapprove of Congress’ performance and believe the system is broken? Sure. Do I still vote? Sure- when I’m allowed too.
Therein lies the frustration. As some reading this will certainly relate, I live in a closed primary state. I’m barred from voting in the most consequential election. When eighty-plus percent of elections are decided in a primary, why bother?
“As American existential psychologist Rollo May warned in his book Power and Innocence (1972), power is the ability to not only cause change but also to prevent it.”
The book shows how the two major parties collude to retain control of our political process and details the barriers erected on the state and federal levels to prevent competition from outside the duopoly. Only about half our states have an initiative and referendum process and, in Florida, our legislature is continually making it harder for citizens to take direct action when our elected officials ignore the will of the people. When we play by the rules and win, they change the rules.
Florida now requires 60% approval for passing initiatives, restrictions have been placed on petition gatherers and, most recently, the legislature has attempted to pass laws limiting the amount a single donor can contribute to a petition drive. So, where’s the hope?
Hope is in the numbers. The number of independents is impressive and continues to grow. However, diversity within the group, with an emphasis on our youth, is perhaps more important that the sheer size. Furthermore, after the adoption of Final Four Voting by Alaska in 2020, and Nevada approving Final Five Voting this year, I believe those currently joining our ranks are doing so at a major point in our evolution. There is real momentum and I’m seeing a coalition of reformers, who may have had separate and sometimes opposing agendas in the past, supporting and promoting these reforms.
Independents are having a moment, and I believe the authors saw it coming. I thank them for their timely contribution of this new book.
Steve Hough is a lifelong independent and became an activist for political reform after retiring as an accountant. He is the director of Florida Fair and Open Primaries.