The Pew Research Center has been tracking Americans’ political party “identification” for more than 20 years. A few weeks before last year’s election, their annual survey found 33 percent of American voters identifying themselves as Democrats and 29 percent as Republicans.
The remaining 34 percent of voters identified themselves as independents — not affiliated with either of the two so-called major parties. That’s right: The real plurality in America today is made up of voters who are neither Republicans nor Democrats.
Congress? Well, in the Senate, 52 percent identify as Republicans, and 48 percent effectively identify as Democrats. (Yes, there are two “independents” in the Senate — but they are in all respects Democrats)
In the House, 55 percent are Republicans and 45 percent Democrats.
Let’s call that the “Duopoly Disconnect”.
How is it that a plurality: More than one-third of Americans consider themselves neither Republicans nor Democrats, but virtually ALL of those attempting to govern in Washington are members of the two-party duopoly?
The answer is actually pretty simple: It’s rigged to be that way. And the rigging has been done by the Duopoly.
A Bipartisan Duopoly means nothing gets done
And why does it matter? We need look no further than the insanity we just witnessed as the U.S. Senate tried — and spectacularly failed — to do anything with a health care system that is financially terminal. Obamacare was imposed on us by a party-line-toeing Democrat majority, and we now have a two-party duopoly so narrowly split that doing anything substantive appears impossible. Nowhere in these equations is there room for compromise, adult policy-making, or frankly, real concern for the consequences of action and inaction.
A “crisis” so dire a couple of weeks ago that senators were putting on a display of working through the night and postponing their precious August break is now just too difficult to handle, and can apparently wait indefinitely.
That’s what happens when we have devolved to a point at which the politicians in Washington are entirely about keeping score, winning or losing, and preserving their control.
Imagine a world where even a handful of elected representatives weren’t locked into the Duopoly, and could actually focus on governing. Independents who might actually look at a problem and try to solve it, without regard for whether it had an “R” or “D” label on it.
Who knows? Things might actually change.
Fighting to open presidential debates
That’s why I have long fought to open presidential debates to credible, third party candidates. Let’s give all those independent voters a chance to see and hear new ideas, and stop telling them, via exclusion from debates, that they can believe what they want, but that in the end, there are only two choices.
Who decided there are only two choices?
And that’s why, in every state, we need to fight for ballot access laws that don’t discriminate against third parties and independent candidates by placing ridiculous obstacles in their way.
I served two terms as a Republican governor in an overwhelmingly Democratic state with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. It had all the makings of partisan paralysis. But we found a way to govern. While not everyone agreed with the outcomes, by most accounts, at least we did our work and moved issues that needed to be moved.
That simply isn’t happening in Washington, and millions of Americans are paying the price. Whether because of a broken health care system, a tax code that is laughably unfair, or a bureaucracy that is out of control.
It’s time that the 34 percent of Americans who are neither Republicans nor Democrats are allowed to participate, rather than being forced by a rigged system to simply watch as the duopoly games are played.
(Photo of Gary Johnson talking to a crowd of supporters at a rally on August 2016 in Salt Lake City, by George Frey/Getty Images)