Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where are the “independent” Politicians?

Approximately one-third of the electorate is composed of people who do not ascribe to either the Democratic or Republican Party, while the other two-thirds are almost evenly split between the Democratic and Republican parties. The Independents are generally people who believe the Parties are too partisan, too close-minded, and are beholden to special interests. They have a point. In fact, if Democrats and Republicans were polled, a sizeable number would likely agree with the Independents but feel they have no other alternative.

Politicians of both persuasions continue to adhere to the lines drafted by the Party big-wigs and consultants. Once they commit to the Party position, they do not look back and do not question it. Only when it changes or electoral support for the position softens to an intolerable degree do they change their stance. Remarkably, the American people return these politicians to office approximately 90% of the time. How can our citizens then bemoan the conduct of officeholders when they themselves continue to re-elect them? The answer lies in the fact that there really is no viable alternative for citizens at this point in time. Given the two choices of committed partisans, they can either vote for one of them or stay home. Increasingly, they choose to stay home and who could blame them given the choice, or lack thereof, they currently have.

There are significant policy differences between a Democratic and Republican candidate, and your vote really does matter. However, your vote does not matter as much as it could if there were another viable option besides the Democratic and Republican Parties.

A credible third party would provide a choice for people, would cause politicians of all persuasions to be more open-minded and thoughtful out of electoral necessity, would cause an enlightenment among some partisans towards a more transparent and ethical government, and would force the Democratic and Republican Parties to rethink their strategies. The days of divide and conquer would likely be over since the divided could readily unite behind a third-party candidate and a campaign of fear and smear could backfire if two other options were available for voters. Neither the Democratic nor Republican parties could take their own voters for granted and both would have to work incredibly hard to peel Independents away from the third-party candidates, causing both parties to tone down their partisan rhetoric, appeal to the middle, and be forced to develop more thoughtful ideas and positions.

Of course, a credible third-party brings with it its own problems. A third-party would weaken the traditional Party system which is currently the general vehicle for voter turnout, citizen mobilization, and political information. However, grassroots organizations and blogs are good replacement vehicles and will only grow stronger in the years ahead. Third party candidates elected to office could wreak havoc by holding up legislation, nominations, and fiscal appropriations. But then again, Democrats and Republicans do this all the time, so such a fear is not dependent on third-party existence.

The truth is that the birth of a credible third party in the 21st Century might not be a bad thing. In fact, it may be just what our nation needs at this time in our history. Only by having open-minded officials who are freed of purely partisan agendas will a healthy and thoughtful political dialog ensue and our nation’s most pressing needs be met. A third party may help accomplish such feats.

Michael M. Shapiro, founder of, is an attorney who resides in New Providence, New Jersey. He currently serves as the Chairman of the New Providence Democratic Party and as Editor of The Alternative Press, Contact Mike at