Despite the reported increase of Americans self-identifying as independents according to the latest poll results Cilizza decides to throw some rain on independents’ parade by saying:
Before we get too far down that road, it's important to remember that talk of a third party and the reality of it are too far different things.
He cites a study that shows deep divisions among people who consider themselves independent, the very real institutional hurdles to building a third party, and that even if a third party candidate does emerge in the 2012 or 2016 elections, that it is highly unlikely that their candidacy will lead to the creation of a viable third party. He cites the example of Ross Perot to illustrate this point.
Cilizza’s whole angle on the rise of independents irks me. Because the entire thrust of his piece was to defend the status quo of the two major parties. His entire piece was basically an argument directed to independents saying “you are in no position and will never be in a position to really challenge the status quo. You might as well just give it up and play politics the way the two major parties want you to play it. Get with the program and STFU!”
Cilizza wasn’t that blunt but he essentially meant the exact same thing if you followed his arguments to their logical conclusion.
There are so many ways Cilizza could have handled this. He could have asked the question: why are so many people so disgusted by BOTH major parties that they are self-identifying in rejection of them in far greater numbers than in the past? What makes them stink so much that people are rejecting their label?
Then perhaps rather than piss on independents and third-party supporters and condescend to them, he could have turned the tables on the major parties and asked of them: both major parties must be doing something wrong – what can they do to get people back into the fold? What can they do to get people to support them and self-identify along their lines instead of just being compelled to play politics on their terms because two-party politics is all the system supports and is built on?
Of course, he doesn’t do that. He would much rather poke a stick at independents without acknowledging the fact that they are constituents and that declaring independence is an effective way ordinary people can and have registered their disgust with the failed policies and politicians of the status quo. Isn’t that a democratic act and which deserve a bit more respect than he is giving them?
The bottom line for people like Cilizza is to defend the two-party system. The bottom line for independents like me is that democracy is broken, the two major parties are not cutting it in terms of representing the interests of Americans in any adequate way, and we must find a way to fix this broken system. The logical extension of the independent point of view is to ask: what needs to be done to revitalize democracy? What needs to be done to promote greater participation, transparency, and to involve ordinary people in democratic practices? What needs to be done so people in positions of representing The People can have their trust and confidence?
Cilizza and those who make the same arguments that he does completely miss and dismiss these points because deep down they could care less about participatory democracy. They only care about the two major parties and preserving the status quo. They are perfectly content to serve as shills to the two major parties without challenging them or demanding that they answer all the hard questions that deserve to be posed to them.