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Why So Many Independents

Each week, LA Progressive’s editors pick what they regard as a particularly insightful comment from one of our readers, both to draw attention to one particular reader’s thoughts and to encourage more readers to weigh in with their opinions. This week’s pithy "Feedback Friday" response comes from Robert Winn, who commented on the article by Frank Fear, "Why So Many Independents?

I registered independent the first time I voted and have never registered any other way. My reasons for this were that I did not like either political party. Over time I came to realize why.

The first voters in the United States government were not political party members. The first candidates for political office in the American political system were not political party members. They were independent voters and independent candidates. We know this because although there were factions for or against certain things, there were no organized political parties until the election of 1800, when a political party started by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison took over the American government.

Prior to that time, George Washington was still warning against the formation of political parties in American government in 1796, a warning his successor John Adams continued to repeat. Washington’s assessment of political parties was that they were “self-created societies” that had no place in governments that hold elections. If we take Washington’s reasoning a step further, then he was saying that independent voters and independent candidates for public office, the kind of voters and candidates that existed, were necessary and that free governments could not exist without them.

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But the election of 1800 changed all that. Jefferson’s popularity and the duplicity of Hamilton in telling his followers to vote for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney instead of John Adams resulted in a political party being placed in charge of the nation. Since that time party politicians have passed unconstitutional state election laws designed to keep independent voters and independent candidates from participating in the government. Andrew Jackson and his Vice-President Martin van Buren mounted a campaign at the time they re-organized the Democratic Party into the modern Democratic Party to convince Americans that political parties were necessary in American government. The result of these efforts was a strong pro-slavery party which started a Civil War.

The Democrats are still the strong party of the two-party system as the Republicans keep trending toward the final stages of the weak opposition parties that preceded them: the Federalists, the National Republicans, and the Whigs, all of which went defunct. These parties seem to agree on only one thing, that independent voters and independent candidates will not be allowed to participate in the government.

It is too late for the two-party system. They are on the way out. The voters are tired of party politics. While political parties were largely successful in their efforts to keep independent voters and independent candidates from influencing their party contentions, they were unsuccessful in one endeavor that will prove fatal to the two-party system. Their best efforts to stop independent voter registration always came back to haunt them. Everywhere they actively tried to force people to register as members of political parties, they ended up with more independent voters than they would have had if they had just left it alone.

The number of independent voters decreased steadily after 1800, resulting in the Civil War because there was nothing to temper party contentions over slavery, and was still a single digit percentage of voters when John F. Kennedy was President. From that time independent voters have steadily increased to almost half of the voters, while percentages of Democrats and Republicans have declined. But independent voters are still treated by the parties as though they were still a small minority. They are not allowed to vote except by permission of political parties. They are prevented from running for office by unrealistic nomination petition signature requirements. Federal courts habitually rule against independents in court cases when they seek redress of grievances with regard to these injustices.

But the days of these two corrupt and evil major parties are numbered. They are too inept and inefficient in government to continue in power. As soon as independent voters once again start running against political party candidates in elections, the people will choose independence, and the two party system will wither and die. There is no disagreement in government that cannot be better discussed among independent voters than among political party politicians.

The strength of independent candidates in the present political climate is what party politicians perceived as a weakness. Independent candidates can run against each other in the general election. That makes political parties unnecessary, just as George Washington said they were and makes independent voters and independent candidates necessary, which Washington forgot to mention.