Independence Day can celebrate the spirit of independents
Anderson edited "Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework" (Springer, 2014), has taught at five universities and ran for the Democratic nomination for a Maryland congressional seat in 2016.
In 2026 America needs a Declaration of Independents, one that will mark the 250th anniversary celebration of the Declaration of Independence. Yes, our great country, mired in deep conflicts, entrenched polarization in Washington, and pathetic hostility needs to turn to individuals and groups which are driven by an independent frame of mind to rescue us.
In the last Gallup poll 41 percent of Americans identified as independents. The independent frame of mind that is so sorely needed should not in itself reflect a particular ideological point of view. Thus it should not be a centrist point of view which reflects a middle ground between the Democrats and Republicans. Nor should it be a radical centrist point of view which reflects a unique synthesis of both parties or some standpoint that transcends them but still preserves core ideas from both. What is needed instead is a burst of independent candidates and organizations that stand for points of view that differ from the two mainstream parties. There might be six independent points of view, including libertarian, green, moderate centrist and radical centrist.
Ideally the independent candidates for office would win races and reduce the power of the two major parties. The upshot would be that Democrats and Republicans would face challenges from many independent perspectives, and they would lose many of the races. Attacked from so many points of view, they would not be able to withstand the onslaught.
This is ideally how things would evolve. The goal would not be to ruin one or both parties. Instead, it would be to put both parties in check and compel both parties to work with the independents in their district or state or nationally to reach tripartisan solutions to problems. Indeed, it is time to jettison the goal of achieving bipartisan solutions because it rests on the controversial assumption that there are only two legitimate points of view to be reconciled. This is not the case in the United Kingdom, France, Germany or Israel. We must strive to make it not the case in the United States.
The challenge will be to cultivate and celebrate an attitude of independence that motivates enough citizens to vote for the independent candidates without blasting the two major parties. For what is needed is not a war against the Democrats and Republicans but an honest departure from them. The reason this strategy might work over a five to ten year time period is that there would be no consistent target for Democrats and Republicans to bring down. There would only be a temperament to criticize, and it would be hard to criticize a temperament that revolved around freedom of thought and disappointment with rigidity, hostility, and dysfunction.
The attitude that would be targeted would revolve around what used to unite us -- a love of independence. The Declaration of Independents we need will rally around the value of independence that grounded our country 250 years ago. Whether the issue is the environment, guns, immigration, family policy, foreign policy or racial relations, we need a third force in American politics that will shift the focus from the boxing ring fight between the Democrats and Republicans to a challenge to both parties from multiple ideological points of view.
In the United States, what we need now is not so much multiple parties but multiple independent perspectives. Parties are organizational machines and are very useful for the Democrats and Republicans, especially for raising money. A frontal attack from another party is not likely to succeed. We need the same ingenuity which defeated the British in the Revolutionary War -- attack the enemy from a range of places at once using guerilla tactics. Head-on warfare would have failed against the stronger British armed forces.
Likewise today. You can't go after the Democrats and Republicans head-on. Instead, individual races need candidates with an independent temperament which stands in different ideological places. Together, however, these independent voices will gather steam and leverage the momentum of other independent candidates and groups. Gradually, the independent temperament will strengthen, until it becomes a third force in American politics.
Structural changes will be needed in the electoral system, including ranked choice voting and open primaries. But independent candidates and voters and moderates from both parties need a broader strategy to move forward. Although there need not be and should not be one orchestrating organization, a set of organizations, individual candidates and the media, traditional and social, can create the revolution.