Most of us can think back to a time when we had a very clear cut view of politics and we never dreamed of having issues with ideological dysphoria. You were a Republican or a Democrat and if you were neither, you were considered to be a subversive of one stripe or another – Libertarian?, Green Party? It was Black or White, or if you prefer, Blue or Red – Purple need not apply.
Republicanism was an interchangeable term with conservatism, or so it seemed. Liberalism was an alternate term for Democrat. Then along came the advent of the independent voter. Actually voters (and non-voters) who considered themselves as non-partisan began to appear on the radar screen of political scientists in the late sixties, but they had been around for quite some time before that. ThirdWay.org reports that independent voter enrollment surged by 28.4% since June 2008. And Gallup released a survey in 2015, showing that 42% of potential voters regarded themselves as independents.
There are various explanations on what accounts for people breaking ranks with the traditional totems of the two-party system, but the one I’ve heard most often from fellow political junkies, is that the traditional parties have over promised and under delivered. Says Bill Hillman of Independent Voters of America, “We’ve got a government with very little accountability; we’ve got a government with no productivity; and we’ve got an increase in partisanship on both sides, which means they become less accountable and they do even less.”
But politics has become even more complicated than just party affiliation or non-affiliation. Voters, in larger numbers, are not subscribing to the standard optics that Democrats and Republicans serve up to their base. More people are now looking at each policy issue on its own particular merits and rejecting the party “combo meals”.
Voters declaration of independence, is just the first layer of fracturing of old reliable political molds. Look beneath the surface and you will find people – many people, who entertain views that if they were a set of clothes they would have fashion police showing up in a S.W.A.T. vehicle. It is as though non-conformity has become somehow in vogue – which is a shock, because we know that independent thinking is largely frowned upon.
I don’t want to hold up any of my friends as a classroom exhibit of messed up political DNA – that would not be fair or considerate, so I will present myself as an example. I do not fit comfortably in any of the politically oriented Facebook groups I am a member of. Why? Because:
- I am anti-War, but pro- National Defense.
- I believe we need to secure our borders, but I think a continuous wall along the border is impractical and needlessly wasteful.
- I believe there is an element of the 1% that has successfully looted the country – many of whom should have been imprisoned, but I don’t believe pure socialism will answer the problem.
- I maintain what I think is a healthy concern regarding immigrants, some of which are not compatible with the values of Western Civilization, but I don’t believe every Muslim is out to murder me.
- I believe in limited government, but I don’t necessarily buy into full on anarchy.
- I think law enforcement has a role in maintaining safety and that most police are professional, but I am disturbed by the culture in some law enforcement agencies and certain trends that suggest the emergence of a police state.
- I believe unborn life needs to be defended, but I don’t believe that abortion will be eliminated by federal laws or a presidential decree, but rather, as we win hearts and minds in our local communities.
- While I think there may be situations where military response is obviously called for – such as an attack on one of our embassies, I do not believe we can sustain our role as the patrol cop for the entire world.
I could go on, but it would not add much to what I am illustrating here – a bundle of contradictions. Maybe you see some of these kinds of incongruities in your own Weltanshauung.
Make no mistake – there still are those among us, who subscribe to rigid standardized political litanies. The best examples are the hardest of the hard core Clinton and Trump supporters. The minute you deviate from the liturgy of their personality cults, you will be branded an enemy or, heaven forbid – a troll.
If a Hillary or Obama follower finds you guilty of political heresy, you will be referred to as a “fascist”. If you offend the stock sensibilities of a Trump sycophant, they’ll stick the label “Marxist” or “Communist” on you.
There are roughly 20 percent of the electorate on both of the extreme margins, screaming through the fence and spitting on each other. That leaves the rest of us adults in the political middle to sit down with each other and have a conversation – to agree and when necessary, polite-fully agree to disagree. Can we try it? I’m in.