Unintended Political Consequences

Current Affairs

There’s a great post in a local Arizona political blog this morning on the consequences that have naturally arisen by new laws here (in around the United States) that allow people who have not chosen a political party in their voter registration – the rising number of “Independent” voters.

“In the past, that type of voter had to chose a party when he registered, or face being completely excluded from a primary.  The rise of independent voter is a direct result of ‘reforms’ advocated by the Star and Republic that allow independents to vote in either party’s primary. 

The Star is beginning to understand the result.  Registrants who chose a party now tend to be loyalists, and party loyalists generally represent the more extreme ends of each party.  So the newspapers’ efforts to eliminate partisanship have done what hard core Democrats and Republicans have been unable to do–drive the moderate DINOs and RINOs from the party.  The two big tents have been exchanged for a variety of little one. 

Now the Reformers have awakened to the fact that it’s harder to elect moderates in primaries if all the moderates call themselves independents.  That’s because moderates get little help from the formal party structure and it’s expensive to identify and turnout intendant voters who in the past would have registered as Republicans or Democrats.  Moderates have to target ALL of the independents even though only half will vote in their primary.  Conservatives simply have to target the remnant and they have a built in grassroots network to help. 

The reason political parties arose is that they help get people elected.  Allowing independents to vote in each party primary seemed like a way to OPEN the process and weaken the parties.  But the reform-rs are now realizing that they have actually driven the moderate voters out of the party by giving them a viable alternative.  So now the two major parties are more extreme and the legislators they elect are more extreme as well. ”

Seems like a very reasonable analysis to me… and it explains why more and more people are complaining that they are feeling as if their voice no longer matters in the political sphere.

Read the rest here.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

1 Comment

  1. This is precisely why I have never reregistered as “independent”. My feeling, going off my octagenarian polisci prof’s advice at community college, is if you want to have a say in your party, you have to be a part of the party, and though I’ve been tempted to become an “independent”, his wise words from an era when party membership was important have stuck with me. It’s not only that moderates or even the more extreme cannot make it, usually, but that rather it’s party-machine hacks are the most likely options to be selected and promoted, and their extremism isn’t to the left or the right but to the pocketbook.
    Frankly, I don’t think those who are independent should whine if they’re not willing to sign up to a party and work for a candidate they’re willing to vote for. “Independent” status is a cop out when folks don’t want to have to do the hardwork of politics, hard work that this our cities, counties, states, and this republic depends upon to remain sound.
    And I’m not sure about that “extreme” charge on the whole. It seems we still have quite a few moderates in both parties (favs of mine like Olympia Snow or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Christine Todd Whitman or Robert Byrd or Jim Webb) and the “extreme” monicker is simply too easy because “moderate” and “center” are in the eyes of the beholder. I could be considered extreme on some issues depending on where others stand in relation to my deliberated thought on issues, for example, because I’m neither pro-choice nor pro-life but rather advocate the German model on abortion, because I support civil unions, because I support fiscal responsibility (read balanced budgets) through either tax increases or budget cuts or both, because I’m against too-quick free trade agreeements, or because I support our remaining in Iraq to take care of our obligations to the Iraqi people. See how that complexifies the easy tendency to label folks the “extreme”. In my opinion that label has been overworked by those who claim to be in the middle and it fails to allow for real complexity with real people who give real thought to particular issues.

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