Weekly Column by Sharon Byrne
People register as a decline-to-state (DTS) voter because a) they never have identified with a party or b) because their party has alienated them. Anger with your party doesn’t necessarily translate to jumping to the other side, though some do. David Mamet, author of Glengarry Glen Ross, went from a corporate-greed-hating-liberal to conservative… after he moved to Santa Monica.
But this isn’t a story about conversion to the other side. This is about becoming an Indy, short for independent voter.
There’s a lot of Indies. A 2011 Gallup poll reveals a record 40% of Americans identify themselves as Independents. That’s bad news for political parties, who count on loyal followers to propel them to victory by voter registration numbers alone.
Indies swing elections. They swung 2008 for Obama, and 2010 for the Republican takeover in Congress. Swings like this are not unusual. If the winner of the last election failed to deliver, Indies feel little angst about ousting them.
Indies also know that continued party dominance is not desirable. Parties often advance their cause at the expense of the taxpayer. Party affiliation is likely declining as a result. It doesn’t help that parties have thoroughly mastered the art of eating their own. Dems throw women and minorities under the bus, and threaten protests of such treatment with the loss of civil rights, or Roe V Wade. Republicans drown their pro-business old guard under neo-cons, the religious right, and the Nascar crowd.
Party factions alienate moderates. When a party wins a majority, factions within it begin infighting for domination. The winner then pushes increasingly extreme positions that would seldom pass a mainstream sniff test. Our local Dems push a Progressive Platform of Pedestrian Peculiarities (bulbouts), Plastic Prohibitions (bag ban), Prolific Pensions, Pot, Pee (homeless), and Polemics. It makes no sense to anyone outside that inner circle, and little sense even to some insiders. Someone should tell the Progressive Arch Druids to exit the echo chamber, and check in with reality. But they too eat their own when challenged. Moderate Democrats have fled, or been ousted as a result. Even the (progressive) mayor appears to be distancing herself from the camp.
Parties sell out, so why sign up? Both camps bilk taxpayers, and pander to special interests. Republicans have raised taxes. Pro-environmental Dems have been on the payrolls of oil companies seeking generous offshore drilling rights. Check out maplight.org. Look at campaign contributions flooding in right before a key vote in Congress, and see how that vote went. We have the finest government money can buy. Literally.
Think Different. Registering as DTS might sound like politically dropping out, and for some, it is. But many Indies are hard sells, increasingly immune to party rhetoric. They process political issues differently by stepping outside of polarized positions and seeing things from another angle. They want progress rather than partisanship. The really engaged Indy has a bias-filter is set permanently to ‘high’, often reading multiple news articles on an issue to get at the truth. They’ve learned all news outlets are slanted, and can identify the degree of slant. They read blogs from the left and right to see how emerging issues are shaped and messaged. They look for candidates that can work across lines. They avoid candidates low on qualifications, but high on party-machinery.
Locally, there are two upcoming races where Indies will decide the outcome. This will be the first year California sees the effects of redistricting and the open primary, where the top two vote-getters advance, regardless of party: