Submitted by Aaron Arkin.
Every election cycle, pollsters break out the electorate into three groups: Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. I would love to be counted as an Independent, especially in a world where each Party’s narrative and policies contained something with broad appeal: ideas that would aim for a public good. Then, I could look at where candidates stand on issues, and decide which candidate best represents my views of what is important and what should be done. I would also focus on the candidate’s character as an element for consideration. Party affiliation would not be the deciding factor to get my vote.
Historically, Independent Voters made their choices in just that manner. And they were an important part of the electorate because, unlike the Party Base which faithfully votes the Party’s Ticket, Independent Voters had to be wooed. That meant politicians who wanted to improve their chances of success had to appeal to voters beyond their Base. And that meant politicians had to identify with a greater portion of the electorate, broaden their appeal, and reign in extreme views. The more independent Voters, the better: all good for Democracy.
But in today’s world of identity politics, single issue campaigns and voters, culture wars and mindless tribalism, perhaps calling yourself an Independent Voter means either you’re not paying attention or you are so turned-off by politics that you refuse to be associated with either Party. When self-described Independents do vote these days, I wonder if their choices come down to either a last minute ‘what-the-heck’ decision, their views on the candidates personality, the influence of a recently-seen political ad, or a reliance on an opinion from someone they think knows more about the issues at stake than they do.
I receive a lot of mail asking support for Democratic causes and candidates. And I do try to support them because I agree with many, though not all, of their arguments and proposals. But, I’m not a “party” Democrat. In fact, I come down solidly on the conservative side on some issues. But these days I mostly support Democrats because, to me, Republicans have lost moral authority and are no longer an authentic (small d) democratic Party. They have blocked and politicized judicial appointments, obstructed important and needed legislation, worked to disenfranchise voters they think will not support them, and have been complicit in eviscerating important institutions and social safety nets. They have no vision or coherent narrative that I can see: show me a Republican National Health Care Proposal that has the comprehensive coverage and affordability most Americans need. Presently, the Republican Base is in thrall to one person who has no consistent ideology, cares only for himself, is incapable of empathy, and who is corrupt, incompetent and ignorant (anyone for a bleach injection?). And because, almost inexplicably, he has broad appeal to the Republican Base, most Republican office holders’ show slavish devotion to him in an effort to get re-elected.
Because Trump’s Republican Base has been so pivotal in distorting our politics, I’ve set out below my take on the Republican Base, the things most of them believe, and why they are wrong:
- Climate change isn’t happening, or if it is, it’s not because of human activity. This despite irrefutable scientific evidence and the extreme weather events that have been predicted and are now taking place, and which directly correlate with the increase in CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels;
- The pandemic is a hoax or at the very least has been exaggerated by Democrats in order to pursue a liberal agenda. This despite (as of this writing) there have been over 550,000 deaths due to Covid-19, and our health-care system has been stressed to the breaking point. And we’re still in the middle of it;
- Wearing a mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is an assault on individual rights and personal freedom. This despite the fact that requiring mask-wearing was intended to be, should be, and demonstrably is, a public health safety measure;
- Trump lost the last election through fraud. This even though he was several million votes behind and every State’s Secretary of State validated the elections as fair and without evidence of fraud that could overturn the result; and despite numerous Courts’ rejection of 60 or so legal challenges by Trump minions, including by Federal Courts presided over by judges that Trump placed on the bench;
- The Second Amendment mandates no limitation on gun ownership such as universal background checks or a ban on assault weapons. This even though these common-sense measures preserve Second Amendment rights but will save lives in a country that has the highest incidence of death by firearms of any advanced industrial nation;
- National News organizations are biased against Republicans and their President. This even though the top-tier news organizations are noted for their assiduous fact-checking, for making corrections when they find error, and have been recognized by international awards for their comprehensive research and reporting standards;
- There is a Deep State with its own agenda that secretly controls the workings of government and is morally corrupt. This despite a lack of any evidence, and mindless of the fact that the vast majority of civil service employees are capable, do excellent work unbiased by politics, and are where they are because of a commitment to a tradition of public service;
- The State’s institutions should be dismantled or eviscerated. This even though those institutions provide the services we all depend on to preserve our health, safety, the environment, our financial institutions, and our economic well-being;
- Government financial support and favorable policies should be directed more towards large corporations and wealthy individuals; and taxes that support this largess should remain regressive. This despite an economic inequality that hasn’t been seen in this country since the 1920s;
- Alliances with other countries weaken the US. This even though history has shown time and again that alliances with countries holding similar values actually strengthen each country’s position, both economically and security-wise, and that the resulting liberal world-order alliances led by the US since WW II improved economic conditions for average citizens both in the US and around the world;
- Immigrants have flooded the country with felons and sexual predators. This even though statistics show the recent immigrant population is responsible for a smaller percentage of crimes than the general population, that they contribute more to the economy than the economic support they receive from the government, and that they enrich our country culturally.
I’m sure there are more examples. My point is that these beliefs reflect a willful rejection of reality, and sadly by a significant percentage of self-identified Republicans. Again, I’m not a Democrat (party affiliation) and I do find some Democratic Party proposals poorly researched and wasteful. But civic-engagement requires making choices in elections; and the least worst choice is always the better choice.
So, come on Republicans, call out and disavow demagoguery, populism, and the politics of division. Regain your conservative mantle and moral authority. Work to broaden your appeal and your political Base. Do a better job vetting your candidates. Offer sound and well-researched proposals. Reach out to other Parties. Compromise when and where you can, and put country before personality and self-promotion.
Make me an Independent Voter, again.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.