I’m often contacted by candidates looking for support and networking opportunities among independent voters. But a recent request for assistance was unique and encouraging. Let me explain....
The call came from a gentleman running in a partisan contest County Commissioner in western N.C. I’ll call him “Mr. I” for independent. One of the major parties has put forth a candidate who is currently unopposed. Mr. I considered it so vital he not align himself with either party, he’s opted to do it the hard way, by collecting the 6000 signatures required to get on the ballot. Mr. I could have easily accepted the nomination of the party without a current candidate, in fact they were recruiting him to run on their ticket.
I have to admit I was impressed. There are several N.C. politicians who run and serve as a Democrat or Republican but they’re really what we refer to as “closet Independents”. They will often break ranks and go against the marching orders of their party, to vote on issues that are important to their constituents. Most often, they are reprimanded for doing so by their parties, not by the voters. And let’s be clear, voting, as an Independent is a non-partisan action, not bi-partisan. There is a difference. These “closet Independents” know that good governance requires independent non-partisan thinking, free from party politics.
Back to our candidate. When I asked him why he had chosen the monumental task of running as an unaffiliated candidate, when there was a simpler path to the ballot, his reply was, “Our problems are like a house on fire and we need to send a fire truck to put the fire out. It doesn’t matter who is driving the fire truck, only that it gets there in time. Right now, both parties are arguing about who’s going to drive the fire truck. And all the while, the house is burning down”. He’s right. Both parties are supremely successful at staying in office but have no strategy for solving the difficult problems that a diverse society, such as ours, face. Once again, our government must work in a non-partisan way, not bi-partisan.
Both parties behave as if they are quasi-governmental institutions. They talk of which party “controls” the House or Senate, instead who is “leading”. They protect their Red and Blue states and districts with partisan redistricting, closed primaries and draconian ballot access laws. N.C. Independents, along with Independentvoting.org, support initiatives that would open up the process for more non-partisan government.
Currently, Independents represent 25% of registered voters in N.C. In several states, Independents are left out of the primary process entirely and we have no representation, whatsoever on the bi-partisan Federal Elections Commission or on state and county Board of Elections, the very institutions overseeing the administration of electoral laws. As our numbers grow daily, out pacing either of the major parties, our discontent with the restrictions on our voting rights becomes more palpable.
There is much talk today of Independents being identified as “closet partisans”. When I vote in a N.C. primary as an unaffiliated, I must choose to align myself with one of the parties if only temporarily, if I am to participate in the primary election at all. Given only two options, I’m accused of being a “closet partisan” when I do choose. It’s a circuitous argument. If N.C. employed top-two primaries, along with Instant Run-off Voting, then all voters, partisan and unaffiliated alike could participate in the primary process in a non-partisan manner.
As Jackie Salit, President of IndependentVoting.org, put it. “In my mind, if we want to shrink the size of government, we can start by shrinking the unchecked power of the political parties.” Our Independent candidate, who is running for County Commissioner, against many odds as an unaffiliated, is putting Ms. Salit’s advice into action.
Donna Moser — Highpoint, NC