Partisan Identification

Independents Rule but GOP, Dem, & Media Establishment Says Everything Is Fine

Why are historically low numbers of voters identifying as Democratic or Republican? Because they can.

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Gallup
Amazon

For years now, Gallup takes the pulse of Americans partisan political affiliation. As Matt Welch and I argued in our 2011/12 book, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, the most interesting trend of the current "Libertarian Moment" is voters' increasing resistance to identifying with either the Republican or the Democratic Party. Here's Gallup's gloss:

In 2015, for the fifth consecutive year, at least four in 10 U.S. adults identified as political independents. The 42% identifying as independents in 2015 was down slightly from the record 43% in 2014. This elevated percentage of political independents leaves Democratic (29%) and Republican (26%) identification at or near recent low points, with the modest Democratic advantage roughly where it has been over the past five years.

In Declaration, Matt and I put the move away from strong party identification as of a piece with greater individualization in virtually all aspects of our lives, where we have more and more choices to personalize our social, cultural, and commercial activities and communities. Simply put, there are more ways of being in the world and we use fewer and fewer broad categories to describe ourselves. Think Tiger Woods' ethnicity, which the multi-ethnic golfing legend described as "Cablinasian" in a nod to his Caucasion, black, Asian Indian, and Southeast-Asian heritage. Or think of the late David Bowie, whose insistent and playful shape-shifting provided a road map of sorts for constantly creating new and different identities.

David Deeble

The result is what we dubbed "the Libertarian Moment" or technologically enabled "comfort with and demand for increasingly individualized and personalized options and experiences in every aspect of our lives." We also talked about how politics is a lagging indicator of where America is headed: "It will be the last area of our lives to be transformed, but you can already see the old order breaking down."

That's what you're seeing in those Gallup numbers and in the 2016 presidential race: the long, slow end of party politics as usual. If the general election ends up being a contest between Hillary Clinton and any of the currently leading Republicans, it will be like choosing between Godzilla and Mothra, smallpox and the plague, or a giant douche and a turd sandwich. The country's two major parties, established before the Civil War and running on fumes for a long, long time, no longer represent, unite, or inspire many of us. 

Which is not a problem for most of us, who are choosing to get on with our lives in the glorious scrum of human activity that exists beyond the zero-sum Thunderdome of electoral politics. Whether it's creating the sharing economy or digital culture or accepting gay marriage and pushing for drug legalization and criminal-justice reform, we're getting on with our lives.

Of course, party leaders and folks in legacy media are quick to assert that nothing much is going on here, folks, just keep on walking by. In today's Washington Post, for instance, Philip Bump rebuts what a headline calls "the growing myth of the 'independent' voter."  Because don't you know when you factor in "leaners" (voters who refuse party identification but typically vote for one or the other party), the parties' proportions grow. When Gallup, for instance, includes leaners, the final tally has Democrats with 45 percent of the vote and Republicans with 42 percent.

That's true as far as it goes, even though it still leaves 13 percent of voters designated as "true independents." That's more than enough to sway any election and it's more than it was even a decade ago:

Washington Post

And yet even as they try to minimize the growth of independents, writers such as Bump acknowledge:

This is a long-term trend, but it clearly overlaps with what we're seeing in the presidential race. People may consistently vote for Republicans, but they would rather call themselves "independents." There's an appeal to being an outsider and to outsider politics that's reflected in how people see themselves.

Indeed, it's worth asking why there's growing "appeal to being an outsider and to outsider politics," which is especially pronounced among millennials, who are markedly less partisan (and more libertarian) than their elders. For answers, just look at what's on offer in the Democratic and Republican presidential-nomination races.

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97 responses to “Independents Rule but GOP, Dem, & Media Establishment Says Everything Is Fine

  1. Gillespie and Welch writing a book together is like Bowie and Jagger recording a duet.

    Discuss.

    1. You mean they have sex with each other?

      1. I saw a poll recently that showed fewer people were identifying as only heterosexual. More people say “mostly” heterosexual. So, why not Welch and Gillespie?

        1. I’m not saying they wrote it in bed together, not saying that at all. I’m just sayin – hold on, it’s harder to type one-handed than you’d think.

          1. They’re both fans of anime, right? Clear signal.

            1. The Gillespie/Welch yaoi visual novel was just greenlighted on Steam, btw.

              1. I’ll subscribe to Steam when the Moynihan/Soave novel is completed.

              2. You just made that up.

    2. “Look, we’re both smart guys, we’ll make piles of money no matter what we do, so let’s not work too hard, yeah?”

  2. No true Independent ever votes for a major party nominee.

    1. At least no self-respecting one does.

  3. Sorry, I’ve seen way too many people claim to be independent who fully support the Democrats in every way to put much stock in what they’re calling themselves.

    1. I think that it could be argued that we’re having as big a socialist moment as we are a libertarian one.

      Look at the rise of OWS, the popularity of Sanders, the recent (successful) pushes to unionize certain industries, the election of honest-to-God socialists in local governments while rejecting more traditional democrats- the rise of the word ‘progressive’ over ‘liberal’.

      1. I think that it could be argued that we’re having as big a socialist moment as we are a libertarian one.

        GOOD!

        Finally, good vs evil. DEATHMATCH!

      2. I think the case that this is a socialist moment is at least as strong as the case that this is a libertarian moment.

        Who has gotten more of what they want over the last, I dunno how many years? The proggy/socialist/authoritarian/fascists, or the libertarians?

        1. I’m in a conciliatory mood this morning, so I’m going to say “it depends”.

          We libertarians have more material choices than ever before. The socialists, however, have more indirect control of my daily life and the value of my dollar.

          1. I struggle mightily with the idea that more consumer choices offsets or outweighs the vast expansion of government, either in principle, or under some kind of utilitarian calculus.

            A well-furnished jail cell is still a jail cell.

          2. It really does depend. Us shitlords have not had it easy. In the 60s, they took our schools, buses, and water fountains. In the 70s, they took marital rape from us. In the 90s, we couldn’t slap our secretaries’ asses no more. In the 00s, making fun of homos was suddenly offensive. And now, trannies are people too?

      3. We are having what we have every 8 years after eating shit, a bowel moment.

    2. Both parties really. In a “I don’t agree with the party on ever detail but I’ll be damned if those people get into power” sort of way.

      1. Pretty much. “I’m an independent, but we can’t have far-right extremist lunatics running the country” is what I see more often than not.

    3. Observe the gaping chasm between stated preferences, and revealed preferences.

      What you actually think versus how you want to be perceived.

      1. Yep. All those I’s seem to pull the D lever.

        1. There’s some who pull the R lever and then claim they pulled the D lever. Having anonymous elections is probably worth a couple of points to the GOP at the national level.

        2. I heard you like to pull the D lever when no one is looking.

          1. I heard you troll here.

            1. Come on, Sevo, pulling levers was a painfully obvious euphemism for masturbation and, ipso facto, hilarious!

    4. There’s only one true State Of Independence.

      1. TMFT, man! TMFT!

        +1 Jon and Vangelis

    5. But enough about the H&R trolls.

  4. From the days of the Roman Republic, there have really only been two political parties: Optimates amd Populares.

    1. Which one did Starscream belong to?

      1. Optimates, obviously. He cowers so well.

  5. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
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  6. There are only two players in the battle between good and evil. Libertarians vs the Proglodytes. We have to take over the GOP like the progs took over the Dems before the final battle takes place, probably on a plain in Kansas. There we will meet the progs and the progs will look to the eastern sky and wait for their savior Obama to appear in the clouds and save them, but he doesn’t appear, and the progs have no weapons, because weapons are scary. Then we win. The end. Amen.

    1. and the progs have no weapons, because weapons are scary.

      *Standing ovation*

    2. But the Proglodytes are legion and their leaders are willing to sacrifice anything for power. There is no hope.

      1. Bullshit. We can bring Kurt Russell. The proggies won’t stand a chance.

        1. Well, he did kill a lot of the ‘T’roglodyes before they ate him, so there’s that.

        2. We can bring Kurt Russell.

          And Joe Rogan, Clint Eastwood, Drew Cary, Vince Vaughn, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Woody Harrelson…

          Of course the proggies have pretty much everyone else from Hollywood, but I like our chances.

          1. Whoever has Chuck Norris wins.

        3. I heard he was dead.

      2. Meanwhile the Libertarins believe in leaving people the fuck alone. Not exactly a winning recipe for beating back the Feelz Brigade.

    3. on a plain in Kansas

      Quivirageddon?

      1. *applause*

  7. So whycome TI flushed down Fox memory hole?

    1. Because being an independent is a cheap and easy way to avoid odious political arguments, and none are more odious and boring than libertarianism.

  8. My first job out of High School was at St Paul and over the next 5 years Iearned so very much. Seeing the hospital torn down tears a small piece of my heart out. The Daughters of Charity and the doctors and staff of St Paul Hospital will always be with me.
    ???????????http://www.HomeSalary10.com

      1. Sounds like she was a candystriper who contracted some gnarly STDs. Tragic, really.

  9. The real question is what would David Bowie think about all this…

  10. 13 percent swings an election, yes. But it swings it from D to R and from R to D, which you may notice are swings that already happen every single election in our lifetime regardless of how many independents there are.

    I understand the calculus of someone styling himself an independent while mostly supporting an existing party, because I partake in it myself to some extent. It’s not an evil thing, just (at best) people trying to make good decisions that actually make a difference, or (at worst) people trying to improve their image while voting the same as always. But let’s not pretend that 13 percent that might be willing to switch their vote from R to D and back are serious fuel for third-party growth, at least until we see any evidence at all of actual third-party growth.

    1. I see a lot of click ads telling me that I can get growth of my “third party.” That’s what you are talking about, right?

      1. Report back with results, please.

      2. Membership is swelling.

        1. Swingin D’s

    2. i got called for one of these polls once… and they really really push to pick a side. it was almost 10 minutes of me explaining how i go from one side to the other on various issues. explained over and over that i voted for candidates from both parties, depending on the race, and the specific issues involved…. explained that i am registered as a libertarian……. he wrote down that i lean right….. they look for any hint of lean… and he went with it when i said, “on the current big issues of X, Y and Z”

  11. Could we never post that mockup of Hillary Trumpton? It reminds me of Robert Blake in Lost Highway.

    1. The scariest picture I have ever seen.

  12. Sorry, but “Lots of libertarians are independents” is not the same as “Lots of independents are libertarians”. Donald Trump doubtlessly has lots of support amongst independents. So, probably, does Bernie Sanders.

  13. The number of people who claim to be Republicans or Democrats may be dropping, but I see little evidence that the number of people who actually ARE Republicans or Democrats is declining in any way shape or form.

    1. Are they deluding themselves, lying to pollsters or feeling shame?

      1. Mostly the first, and a little of the third. I think like a lot of things in politics it’s a signaling exercise. IE: “I’m tired of both parties, even though I vote Republican in every single election.” That sort of thing.

        1. Guilty. I

      2. “You tell the pollster a lie….then you have to go sit in the penalty box for two minutes. And feel shame.”

        1. You’re going to get Rufus involved in this convo.

    2. Once states allowed voters to vote in “open”primaries, there was no benefit to registering as affiliated with one party or the other.
      In the past, unless you identified as an R, or a D, you couldn’t participate in deciding who your party’s nominee was. Now there is no down side to registering as an “independent” no matter how far you lean towards conservatism or communism – the two choices, out there.

      1. I live & vote in California. Until the primary system is changed such that the order of the state primaries gets shuffled around every four years, it doesn’t matter what I do in the primary, the decision is made before it ever gets to California.

  14. Everything is fine. What are people gonna do, vote third party? “Go ahead, throw your vote away!”

    They’ll still get elected, they’ll still have sycophants and cronies funneling money to them.

    1. Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.

  15. You know who _else_ didn’t identify as a Republican or Democrat..

    1. Henry Agard Wallace?

  16. Just for grins, here’s the polling at this point in the 2008 Dem primary:

    Hillary Clinton 42%, Barack Obama 27%, (Clinton by 15%)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N….._primaries

    And the 2016 Dem primary:

    Hillary Clinton: 48.3%, Bernie Sanders 35.5% (Clinton by 12.8%)

    http://www.realclearpolitics.c…..-3824.html

    She had a bigger lead over Barack in 2008 than she does over Bernie in 2016.

    1. But Bernie doesn’t have that – what was the word – “historic” quality about his candidacy.

      1. Affinity for deodorant?

  17. My first job out of High School was at St Paul and over the next 5 years Iearned so very much. Seeing the hospital torn down tears a small piece of my heart out. The Daughters of Charity and the doctors and staff of St Paul Hospital will always be with me.
    ???????????http://www.HomeSalary10.com

  18. Try doing the voter-candidate match at either Project Vote Smart or On The Issues, and you’ll be surprised not only at how close some candidates are to you on issues, but also their relative ranking in closeness to you.

  19. I call myself independent because I don’t want to be tallied by an existing party.

    It is a rarity that I get an opportunity to vote Libertarian, so that means I have to chose one of the others to fill out my ballot.I’d have no problem voting for a republican or democrat with the right values. I’m just not holding my breath to see one.

  20. …and why aren’t they trouping into the Libertarian arena?

  21. Republican pundits insist that the candidates must appeal to the center to win even though so called moderates keep losing. the truth is the right wing wants somebody to represent them , not the squishy middle. They are angered when they campaign as a conservative and act like big government, big spenders, and government control creeps.

    1. Meh… The Government’s Own Party feels the exact same way about “liberals”, “marriage”, “Bolchievisimus” and “racial Christianity” as it did when it answered to NSDAP in Germany. But I have a plan. All whacked-out christianofascists believe in Virgin Birth (See Jesus, Samson…). Since Roe v. Wade they have adopted piecemeal Swamp Fox abortion-banning tactics. So IF their support is so valuable to us (and not the leper’s bell it’s been for the Prohibition, Tea, and Republican parties), why not replace our present cowardly straddle plank with a manly declarative statement that the Libertarian Party absolutely calls for a total ban on Virgin Abortion! We’d gain some “right-wing” religious fanatic support, sidestep being lumped in with the rest of the military-industrial John Birch Society interventionist racial collectivist agenda, and show anatomically-correct regular gals who they have nothing to lose but their chains by voting libertarian once in a while.

  22. Team Red or Team Blue = it’s all the same = endless wars and attacks on our liberty.

    Team Blue=
    But Bush
    No boots on ground
    Bush started it – sniff sniff

  23. “The country’s two major parties, established before the Civil War and running on fumes for a long, long time, no longer represent, unite, or inspire many of us. ”

    If the Democrats and GOP are so lackluster, how come we don’t have more third party and indepdent candidates? If the parties were so weak and anemic, surely they wouldn’t have, between the two of them, 98 of 100 Senate seats (2 independent senators), 434 of 435 House seats (1 seat is vacant), and 49 of 50 Governorships (1 governor is independent).

    You want me to believe there’s something real to the growing “independents”? Point to changes in how people vote. Until you do that, you’re looking at a change in identification but not a change in behavior. And between identification and behavior, I know which one actually impacts my life.

    1. Texas state vote patterns show libertarians getting nearly 3%, yet unverifiable secret ballots counted by Jeb Clampitt Bush and cronies all show maybe 1% (same as in 1980) as if we’d not grown at all since . Nihilists will say that’s just correlation and OUR DemoGOP would NE-VAH defraud the vote counts! (Just ask Kerry). So… ask for a long password that will let you look up how your secret ballot was counted. If anyone chosen at random had the ability to check that his or her vote had not been switched, then the proposition would become general and valid for all individuals. I ALWAYS ask for the verifier when I vote, and get a “I was Suckered” sticker instead. I would bet money national election reporting “renames” 2/3 of all libertarian votes cast. I’d win too… if there were a way to settle the bet.

    2. Google “nixons-anti-libertarian-law”
      Within 24 hours of the LP forming Richard Nixon signed a law literally bribing the media by transferring campaign subsidies from taxpayers to entrenched looter political parties. That has since frozen much of the political progress obtainable through the spoiler-vote-and-platform approach that got “us” the income tax and prohibition amendments. Repeal of all such laws is part of the Libertarian Party platform. We’re not stupid.

  24. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.

    ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.com

  25. Not to be a pedantic motherfuck but the first sentence should read, “For years now, Gallup HAS TAKEN the pulse”…Tense issues there.

    Sorry all. As you were!

  26. This isn’t a libertarian moment until a critical mass of voters SUCCESSFULLY force the reduction of the size of government. That includes scaling back the police state, military, taxes, spending, regulations and all those stupid laws so often exposed here at Reason.

    Until then, it’s just wishful thinking and dreaming-out-loud.

    In short, in order to qualify as a libertarian moment, the USA actually has to be libertarian in nature!

  27. There wasn’t, isn’t and won’t be a “libertarian moment” in our lifetimes. What we are seeing is a schizophrenic moment, one divorced entirely from the real world. Supposedly Americans don’t want the same old two parties any more so the top two polling candidates are elderly white people without a single new idea. Socialism? Trade wars? Ending immigration? Taxing the rich?

    Really?

    It seems that half of Ron Paul’s supporters have gone over to Trump who, if Sanders wasn’t in the race, could easily be the least libertarian candidate since Lyndon Johnson.

    Hating the establishment is not the same thing as wanting liberty. The libertarian movement has always been infested with nihilists who aren’t interested in freedom. They only want to destroy what is. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend. He’s not even an ally. He’s an even worse enemy.

  28. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.WorkPost30.com

  29. When are we going to get a Bernie-Trump morphed photo? One of those on the refrigerator door would really take the temptation out of between-meal-snacks!

  30. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.buzznews99.com

  31. My first job out of High School was at St Paul and over the next 5 years Iearned so very much. Seeing the hospital torn down tears a small piece of my heart out. The Daughters of Charity and the doctors and staff of St Paul Hospital will always be with me.
    ??????????? http://www.Jobstribune.com

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