Read a great Wikipedia article on Independent Voters - the reasons for their increasing numbers, as well as the relevancy of political parties. I find myself agreeing with the section of the article dealing with the impact of dealignment
Scholars who conclude that there has been a significant rise in independent voting and a concomitant dealignment of the American political system also often conclude that democracy has suffered as a result.
I do agree with this.
These scholars argue that political parties play a critical supportive role in democracies. Parties regulate the type and number of people seeking election, mobilize voters and enhance turnout, and provide the coalition-building structure essential for office-holders to govern. Parties also serve as critical reference groups for voters, framing issues and providing and filtering information. These functions, it is claimed cannot otherwise be accomplished, and democracies collapse without them. Only political parties serve these roles.
Ditto. There are some people who look to groups like PDA and DFA to fill roles that they feel the Democratic Party can't or won't perform anymore. That is why I feel that President Obama's top campaign advisors morphed his Obama For America campaign into Organizing For America to create an alternative group for Obama supporters to join instead of the Democratic Party after the November 2008 elections.
Dealignment—the rise in the number of independent voters—has an extremely deleterious effect on democracy, these scholars claim. Dealignment leads to the rise of candidate-centered elections in which parties and ideologies play little part. Without parties, candidates rely ever-more heavily on mass media for communication, political action committees (PACs) for funds, special interest groups for staff, and political consultants for expertise. The increasing reliance on mass communication leads to a withering of political discourse as the sound bite and an emphasis on the horse-race aspect of politics becomes the norm.
This also tends to increase the importance and value of money in politics, since mass media, staff, and consultants all cost money.
This limits the amount and kind of information the public receives, leading to less choice for voters. When voters can stay at home and watch television rather than participate in civic life, the public no longer perceives the need to become involved in democracy—and so the civic life of the democracy withers.
And we wonder why voter turnout continues to drop as money becomes more important than ever in politics?
As PACs and interest groups become more important, the number of people speaking to the public, providing political information and different political choices and views, declines. Additionally, PAC and interest group spokespeople may not be representative of the public or the groups they claim to speak for, creating disenfranchisement of various (often minority) groups.
Other than the increasing number of talking heads on TV - most of whom seem to speak for their corporate masters - I would tend to agree with this last statement. It seems that no one is able to speak for me unless I pay them to speak for me. At the national and state level, my party's elected public leaders seem to have forgotten our party platform.
As independent voting and ticket-splitting rise, parties seek to insulate themselves from the whipsaw effect of elections. The power of incumbency becomes increasingly important, and accessibility by the public declines. Parties seek increasingly moderate positions in order to stay electorally viable, further limiting political choice ("both parties look and sound the same"). As the parties distance themselves from the average voter and seem to offer limited policy options, dealignment worsens. As ideology plays less and less a part in elections, it becomes more and more difficult for parties to forge coalitions of like-minded officeholders.
But they do seem to be able to forge sub-coalitions of opposite-minded officeholders - like the Blue-Dog Dems in our Party. There doesn't seem to be an opposite number group in the Republican Party - that party seems to have no problem dealing with the Tea Party taking on moderate Republicans while we get nothing but grief when platform-oriented Dems take on Blue Dogs.
Governmental deadlock becomes common, further encouraging independent voting as citizens perceive "their" party to be ineffective. As ticket-splitting rises, divided government becomes the norm, making it even more difficult for office-holders to enact and implement policies. Politics becomes increasingly volatile, with first one party and then another governing.
Thus we saw the whip-sawing back and forth from 2004 to 2006, to 2008 then 2010.
Although parties once held politicians accountable for their actions, their increasing irrelevance in politics leads to a decline in accountability (and thus even less responsiveness and less democracy). The "Imperial Presidency" becomes more important, since single officeholders with great power become the only politicians capable of governing.
And we wonder why Obama won't give up the power that he inherited from Bush even though he ran on reforming the excesses of power?
Other scholars conclude that dealignment has not harmed democracy. Political parties have adapted to the realities of large numbers of independent voters, it is argued.
Have we adapted for the good, or just because?
The candidate-centered election has actually revitalized parties, and led to new party structures and behaviors which have allowed parties to survive in the age of mass communication. A minority view, however, suggests that the evidence for a resurgence of political parties too equivocal, and that scholars lack the theoretical concepts to make such judgments.
I feel that scholars lack the practical experience to make such judgments.
Yet another strain of thought has concluded that "realignment" is occurring. The slow "secular realignment" is not yet over, these scholars say. Regional differences in the level and impact of dealignment simply point up the fact that major shifts in political coalitions are occurring. Slowly but surely, these studies conclude, realignment is happening and will be obvious within a generation. These scholars argue that the surge in independent voters which began in the 1960s has ended, and that there are distinct signs that partisanship is on the rise again.
I can see that partisanship is on the rise, but I feel that the folks with money want to prevent grassroots party activists from taking advantage of that partisanship. Look at the rise of the Tea Party. It's almost totally funded by the same folks who have made big money through the governance by the regular Republican Party. The Tea Party is sort of a conservative caucus within the GOP, but then again it really isn't. Tea Party types aren't running for party office within the GOP. They are just doing their own thing and running their own candidates for elected public office. They aren't actually taking over the Republican Party.
So now instead of trying to build our party, we actually see some Dems encouraging the formation of third parties which will do nothing more than siphon away some of the very voters that we need to become active partisan Dems.
Name all the Tea Party candidates
That didn't have an R beside their names. There is no Tea Party to speak of. It is a radical faction of the Republican Party that is effectively pulling that party farther to the right.
I've been on the periphery of the independent movement nationally for a couple of years now. Whether it is good for democracy or not is moot in comparison to the reality of its growing numbers. This pattern is not happening spontaneously out of thin air. It is a reaction to the failure of the parties themselves to govern effectively, transparently and honestly.
I left the Democratic Party roles in North Carolina because of policy and political differences. The adulation of people like Basnight, the corruption of Easley, the fall of Jim Black, etc., were intolerable, but the continued support for bankrupt policies pushed me out the door. The lottery, incentives for polluters (Titan Cement), the inability of Perdue to clean house on boards and commissions, and more.
I am proud to say I have never voted for a Republican since I first voted in 1972. What's more, I have and will continue to support individual Democratic candidates. My wife and I are in the $500K range of funds raised over the past ten or so years. That said, I don't see myself re-registering as a Democrat anytime soon.
The fastest growing segment among UNA/independents is the progressive fringe, which is a big change from the independent movement that took flight with Ross Perot. In the current environment, the failure of Democrats in Congress to push for single payer was a stake through the heart for many progressives, as is the continuing war in Afghanistan, the continuing war on drugs, the continuing domination of the agenda by corporatists.
I don't disagree with much of what you're saying, but the sad truth is, people don't leave institutions for casual or frivolous reasons. They leave because those institutions no longer represent their interests and ideals.
Is the Democratic Party better than the Republican Party? Of course it is. But that's like saying gum surgery is better than a root canal. Better to simply brush your teeth and floss.
I've often thought that
I've often thought that parties should be relegated to "invisible" status with regards to the machinery of government. It would be easy to make a case that NO public policy and NO public monies should be in any way be used to acknowledge or to support the existence and operations of political parties. The word "party" does not appear in the NC Constitution.
I wonder why Bob Orr isn't questioning the subversion of government by parties as part of the agenda at the NC Center for Constitutional Law. I guess that's because Art Pope doesn't want him to.
Does the freedom to associate appear...
...in the NC or US Constitution?
There you go - we have a right to assemble and petition. You think that an assembly of "one" will do any good? You think that a bunch of individuals who aren't collectively able to get together on the same thing will do any good?
No - our political parties are a direct off shoot of the right to assemble and petition. The parties are just an association of people who assemble to consult for our common good, to instruct our representatives and apply to the GA for the redress of grievances. End of story!
BTW check out Sec. 10:
It would seem that requiring someone to pay for ID before they can vote is a direct violation of the NC Constitution. Can't those Locke-ian/Pope-ists read?
Wake County Verified Voting
Is there really an national indy movement?
If so, then where is it? It seems not to be centered around a party, but around having "choice" to do whatever you want. To vote for this guy/party this year, and this other guy/party next year.
Let me ask you this question: do you think workers are better off standing up to corporate American and their employer on their own or are they better off as part of a union of employees who can engage in collective bargaining to get better working conditions, etc.?
We are much better off building up our parties to be as big and powerful as possible from the ground up. When we let Obama pick the head of the DNC and then ru his con with ObFA/OrgFA, then we are letting him divide us because the real power of the People threatens even Barack Obama - or perhaps it's just his campaign gurus and financial backers who are scared?
I want to see us stop bitching and crying about how bad the mean Republicans are and how evil the Koch Brothers are. I knew we were gonna lose big time in 2010 based on the insistence of following the ObFA/OrgFA playbook that worked so well from December 2008 through January 2010 (NOT!).
So the question is - do we actually kick out ALL the members of the old leadership team that lead us to a historic defeat in 2010, and bring in some new blood who is dedicated to some "old school" party-building based on the 50 state/100 county strategy we used successfully from 2005 through early 2008 - or do we keep them on and let them rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic?
“Don’t Mourn, Organize.”
Wake County Verified Voting
National independent movement
From what I know, the movement is specifically and aggressively non-partisan, not focused on party at all. The focus instead is on breaking down barriers to ballot access, restrictions on voting based on party affiliation, the role of parties in governance, etc. I may be wrong, but that's my understanding.
Una/third party member for 19 years
I left the Democratic Party in 1986 and did not come back until 2005. During that time I became very active in third party politics, helping form the NC Green Party and serving as a national co-chair of the United States Green Party.
I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to get anything done and/or have a platform for my causes, I was going to have to re-join the party. With what was going on within the Democratic Party at the state, national and local level (Dean-National, Meek-State, Evans-local) I felt comfortable reregistering Dem and generally I have not regretted my decision.
There are times I do not agree with party policy but you have to have a seat at the table to have your voice heard and in this state that requires you to have a D or a R after your name.
Such is reality--
The Democrats, the party in which I am registered, is:
-the party of treason when it declared war on the US in the War to End Slavery, the perpetrator of the deadliest struggle for another half century, who then had the gall to stupidly think themselves set upon
-the party of slavery, postwar apartheid, Jim Crow, literacy tests, lynchings, rape, murder, oppression, false imprisonment, convict labor, wage fraud, absolute anti-unionism, oppressive and mean laws, neglect of citizens in the extreme for well over 200 years.
-the party of hypocrisy, social injustice, vindictiveness, ignorance, poverty and legalized violence.
-the party of suppressing women, chattelization of women, child labor in the mills,
-the party of extreme and vicious white men, leaders who took every advantage possible of the black, poor and Indians.
-the party of Andrew Jackson and Indian genocide, the party that entered into three wars in the 20th century and supported wars on both sides of that timeline
It is not a pretty picture, it is a terrible and miserable picture. Our Democratic ancestors put the current Republican crowd to shame -- and current day Republicans are derived from those same Democrats who switched and resumed race baiting under different colors.
My ancestors were part of all that fabric and I hate it and to some extent them. There is really little or no progressive patina one can put on all of that. It is significant that the Republicans in the 1970s and 1980s put on the cloak of racism and injustice, taking with it Democrats in the south who remained racist, recidivist, mean, ignorant, vile and hateful - no matter their station in life.
A few quotes from Kennedy and others do not matter. Obama has no clue.
I remain with the Democrats because I can clearly see the alternatives in the conservative camp, and it is not any more delightful, if not worse, than the history of the Democrats. I do not see the arousal of a progressive movement like the late 1800s and early 1900s, which while they did not get office, seriously affected the trajectory of the country ever since. And,
the Democrats of that era were scared to death of fusion politics, joining of blacks and poor whites - deathly afraid.
I remain in the Democrats to hopefully have some say, but I never take them or anything else for granted.
OBTW, when will the NC Democrats devise a strategy for dealing with the Unaffiliated other than to ignore them?
Just a reality check late in the evening.
History aside...I agree with your feelings.
I think the problem is politicians of all stripes who project the image of standing for or doing something useful...and the image never becomes reality. What does become reality is the agendas of those who are buying influence.