Is There Such a Thing?

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NONPARTISAN? INDEPENDENT? With registered Independent voters now outnumbering Democratic or Republican registered voters, the words 'non-partisan' and 'independent' get misused and abused by partisan interests. Many voters don't trust words like these because of their abuse and misuse. It is understandable. Like everything else, these words are used by partisan groups and individuals for political advantage. Let's clear up some of the confusion.

A good deal of the confusion comes from obvious conservative and liberal organizations calling themselves non-partisan or independent. But, that doesn't render these terms useless. My mother used to say when I was growing up, "Consider the source." She might say today, If it walks, talks, and acts like Democrat or Republican while calling itself non-partisan or independent, consider the source. This advice still works today.

Some definitions are in order.

Independent - An independent voter reserves the right to vote for the best candidate regardless of which Party, if any, they belong to. Most independent voters could be characterized as liberal or conservative leaning, depending upon the measurement of their values, issues, and policy preferences at any given time. But, this does not make them less independent as voters.

The latest ABC Washington Post poll this week highlights many issues over which independents may split on partisan candidates for election.

In the first Washington Post-ABC News poll since the Democratic nomination contest ended, Obama and McCain are even among political independents, a shift toward the presumptive Republican nominee over the past month. On the issues, independents see McCain as more credible on fighting terrorism and are split evenly on who is the stronger leader and better on the Iraq war. But on other key attributes and issues -- including the economy -- Obama has advantages among independents.

There are only 5 major party supported candidates running for president this year, and Senators McCain and Obama lead that pack by large numbers over the Libertarian (Barr), Independent (McEnulty and Nader), and Green Party (McKinney) nominees. But, Obama and McCain are the only two candidates with the support money to put their faces and names before the public in a way as to make them household names. Thus the election of the president in November is between major party candidates.

But, in a very real sense, it will be independent voters who will decide the popular vote between McCain and Obama. That fact, does not make independent voters partisan. It simply reflects the reality that these two candidates are viewed as having differing sets of strengths and weaknesses to choose between.

Independent voters are also defined by their vastly greater potential to vote against incumbent politicians currently in office. Amongst registered Democrats and Republicans, the potential of voting against their Party's incumbent is extremely small. Independent voters however, have a much higher potential for voting out an incumbent and for a challenger from another party, even if their leanings are toward the party of the incumbent. This is not true of most independent voters I suspect, but, a vastly larger percentage of them than can be found in the amongst Democratic or Republican registered voters. (I am unable to locate any research on this.)

As the Poll cited above indicates, Independent voters are likely to decide to vote for McCain or Obama, depending on whether they view economic issues or, the wars in Iraq and against terrorism, as their most important issue on election day. This fact in no way makes independent voters partisan or even partisan leaning, though many may have such leanings.

In short, to be an independent voter is to be a voter who weighs the candidates against the pressing issues of the day, and decides based on which candidate for office appears most capable of addressing and resolving those issues.

Non-Partisan - This term is the most confused and abused in our political circles and media jargon. But, it does have a specific, and often useful meaning. Strictly speaking, the term means not controlled or influenced by, or supporting, any single political party.

But, it is a loaded word, because it carries with it the following synonym's meanings as well: unprejudiced, just, nonaligned, unbiased, independent, uninfluenced, unaffected, uninvolved, unimplicated, unbigoted, objective.

And very partisan interests and high priced lawyers and political advisers exploit the meanings of those synonyms in their usage of the word 'non-partisan'. It is a term that must be considered by a time reference. For example, if you answered yes to the following question, you would very likely be defined as partisan: "Have you now, or ever in the past, or do you reserve the right to, in the future, to either contribute to, advocate for, or become a member of, any political party".

But, non-partisan only has meaning in a time framed context. One can be partisan in the 2006 elections and approach the 2008 elections in a non-partisan fashion, having learned something of the value of making choices by criteria other than political party name or affiliation.

VOID is sometimes accused of being partisan because its advocacy for voting out irresponsible, corrupt, or ineffective politicians may work in the favor of one political party or another. In 2006, when Republicans held the majority in Congress, some Republicans viewed VOID as a partisan Democratic Party leaning organization. In the 2008 election, the shoe is on the other foot, and some Democrats now view VOID as a shill for the GOP. This is all nonsense however.

Vote Out Incumbents for Democracy's position predates these elections and was never predicated on any consideration of which party was in power at any given time. VOID was founded on the democratic principle of the vote, much discussed at the founding of our country, which clearly gives citizens the power to remove politicians from office if the government they participate in does not live up to their expectations.

There is nothing partisan in voting in consideration of one's own interests. Nor is there anything partisan in voting in consideration of the future circumstances in which one's children and grandchildren will live. Voting in consideration of one's own best interests, in fact, is the heart and soul of the ideas of voting and elections.

What is difficult to understand, in light of these basic principles, is why voters continue to re-elect their incumbent politicians over years and decades of government ineffectiveness, waste, fraud, and abuse of power in the offices of government? But, one only has to recognize that two centuries of experience and historical knowledge have been acquired by the political parties on how to stay in power.

And they have acquired a very large bag of tricks to insure their reelection, to include making legal a number of practices which oppose the idea of informed consent of the voter. The use of tax payer dollars by elected officers to send their constituents political propaganda which favors the incumbent and their reelection is but one of these. Elections are partisan political events. Logic would dictate, that if an informed consent of the voter were paramount, such mailings would at least be paid for by the political parties, not the taxpayers, and with all the parties in government having equal access to the content within those mailings.

But, informed (unbiased) consent of the voters is not paramount to politicians. Nor, is their welfare or future of their children. Politicians in this respect are no different than voters in that they will act in their own best interest wherever feasible. And getting reelected is considered by nearly every politician in their own best interest. There is no mechanism in our political system to hold politicians accountable for the results of government, other than the vote by the citizenry.

And if the citizenry chooses partisanship over non-partisan self-interest in considering the candidates for elected office, then the nation and our future are all the worse for it. The enemy of the voters and their wish for responsible and accountable government capable of preserving their quality of life and extending it to their children in equal measure, is the political parties themselves. Political parties serve but one master, and that is control of power. All, all other values, criteria, and pursuits are secondary to this master.

That is why voting out incumbents on a regular basis when the results of governing do not meet voters expectations, is the only rational and intelligent course of action. If voters would consider what is said here, it is clear vast numbers of them would agree and begin to act differently on election than they have in the past.

The challenge is to get voters to consider what is discussed in this article. America enjoys freedom of expression, not free communications. To communicate to the population of our nation is an incredibly expensive prospect. That is why, if VOID's message is to ever reach the ears of the majority of American voters, we few must spread the word and convince those hearing it of the importance of their spreading the message for consideration, and so on.

Failing this, political parties will rule our future, and that is no future most of us would want for our children. A future defined by the aspirations for power is no future at all for America. That future cannot and will not make first priority: good jobs, safe infrastructure, available medical care, quality education, just and fairly applied laws, and peace and security in our world, neighborhoods, and homes. Political parties are the voter's enemy, and non-partisan independent voters constitute the hope and salvation for our nation's future.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on August 11, 2008 4:48 PM.

Republicans Upset, No One's Listening was the previous entry in this blog.

What's A Republican To Do? is the next entry in this blog.

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