The ranks of political independents are growing.
In 2005, Americans self-identified evenly among Republicans, Democrats and independents. Between 2005 and 2013 the number of independents swelled to 42% while the number of Democrats and Republicans fell to 31% and 25% respectively. Individual beliefs are notoriously difficult to change, however. This shift is therefore more likely the result of changes in the parties themselves than in the underlying electorate.
The rise of the Tea Party has made the Republican Party increasingly extreme and strident; the Democratic Party has, to some degree, responded in kind. This explains why moderate voters are less willing to affiliate with either party.
Unfortunately, as the political parties have become more extreme, the legislative process has slowly ground to a halt. Political gridlock hinders constructive government action to create jobs and improve the economy and therefore harms the American people; however, the alternative may be worse. If either party is successful at claiming control of both houses of Congress in the upcoming election, it would be empowered to implement an extreme agenda that is already repelling voters. So neither divided nor unified control of Congress represents an attractive alternative.
There is also a third, less obvious, alternative, which can be found by combining lessons from Washington and Maine.
In Washington, Democrats enjoy a majority in both houses of the state legislature and were prone to advance a highly partisan agenda. The agenda was in fact too extreme for even some members of the majority's own party. As a result, two moderate Democratic Senators, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, joined with all 23 Republican legislators to form a Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) with Senator Tom serving as majority leader. The MCC was not just an extension of the Republican Party from which it drew the bulk of its membership. Rather it was a bi-partisan organization that offered committee chairs to legislators from both parties and simply curbed some of the more extreme Democratic initiatives. The implementation of the MCC in Washington State has not been without its problems, but the result has been some constructive solutions to state challenges.
In the case of Maine, the state has arguably the most moderate senate delegation of any single state. In fact, Independent Senator Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, today endorsed Republican Senator Susan Collins in her re-election campaign. The two moderate senators from Maine have way more in common than they do with either Republican Ted Cruz or Democrat Barbara Boxer. The state motto of Maine is Dirigo, Latin for I lead. Could Senators Collins and King take a page from the Washington State playbook and form an MCC allowing them to lead a bi-partisan coalition?
In Washington State it only required two Democratic senators to tilt the scales to a bi-partisan solution. In Washington D.C., a dozen senators from the two parties would be enough to anchor a stable coalition. Potential candidates might include Republicans Murkowski, Kirk and Corker, and Democrats Manchin, McCaskill, Testor, Kaine, Warner, Heitkamp and Donnelly. Then even if Republicans gained a majority in the Senate, the MCC would still have the ability to maintain a bi-partisan agenda. If an MCC could be implemented in the House of Representatives as well, we could put political gridlock behind us and move forward with a constructive agenda that serves all Americans. Then perhaps the political parties might be able to start reclaiming some of the independent voters they have lost.
Ned Witting is a successful American business owner, entrepreneur, a political junkie, and the author of Political Gridlock: It's Time for a Reboot. A political moderate, he has attended both Republican and Democratic conventions but has never found a home in either party. He is the recipient of the Boy Scout Silver Beaver distinguished service award and is happily married to his sweetheart of more than thirty years.
Author of "Political Gridlock"
The Political Divide Ain't What It Seems
by Ned Witting
May 13, 2014
America isn't nearly as divided as politicians would have you believe. Despite the popular perceptions to the contrary, there are actually Democrats who are Christian, NRA members who support gun control, Republicans who are LGBT, businessmen who are environmentalists, and politicians who are not on the take.
Ned Witting is a successful American business owner, entrepreneur, and political junkie. A political moderate, he has attended both Republican and Democratic conventions but has never found a home in either party. He is the recipient of the Boy Scout Silver Beaver distinguished service award and is happily married to his sweetheart of more than thirty years.
by Ned Witting
Published by Authorhouse
Published on 3/7/2014