Sometimes I wish my politically moderate opinions were as sexy as the extreme ones some use to elicit a strong response from people.
I just don’t share those views. I don’t think I can help it. I’m the son of two people who came from opposite sides of the tracks. My dad is the son of a small-business owner who still runs the family business with his brothers today. For somewhat practical reasons, my paternal grandfather leans a bit to the right. My mom was the daughter of a truck driver who campaigned hard for JFK.
The shaping of my own political views goes a little beyond that, but there’s the tip of the iceberg. I ended up somewhere in the middle of the two.
This column isn’t meant to revolutionize the way you think about political parties. I don’t need you on my side. I don’t have a side for you to be on. As a matter of fact, I can’t stand the sides. I’ve been a political independent my entire life, before I could even vote. Since then, I’ve voted for Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and even a Rent Is Too Damn High candidate. (What can I say? My rent was too damn high at the time.)
According to Pew Research Center, the percentage of independents — people registered as neither Republican nor Democrat — reached an all-time high in 2014 (at least since data started being kept in 1939, the most recent year available.) At its lowest point, at the end of World War II, only 15 percent of the population identified as independent.
Particularly during this year’s presidential primary season (at times both excruciating and enthralling), I am once again reminded why I’m not registered with any political party. I’m sure there are plenty of people who grew up like me and ended up being a partisan. And it’s not like I have a problem with most people who choose a particular side of the aisle. As a matter of fact, I think I tend to get along pretty well with most people, probably in part because I stand pretty close to the middle of the political spectrum and can typically see where they’re coming from.
But back to the primary. I do find it close to hilarious that at the end of the day, Donald Trump, the clear leader of the Republican primary — who has won more than twice the number of states anyone else has up until now — could end up losing the nomination because he may not earn half of his party’s delegates. I won’t lose sleep if he loses the nomination, but in my book, a win is a win. If nobody else gets more votes than the guy, maybe someone better should have run, right?
And how about those “superdelegates” in the Democratic campaign that tip the scales for the establishment candidate? The national Democratic Party chair even said it herself on CNN. Superdelegates, or “unpledged delegates,” exist to “make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in the position where they are running against grassroots activists.” That’s the ethos of one of the mainstream parties in our “democracy?” Nevermind, the one called the “Democratic” Party! Right now, it’s estimated that Hillary Clinton has close to 475 superdelegates and Bernie Sanders has about 30. It would be an entirely different race if they didn’t exist at all. Crazy thought: Imagine if those numbers were flip-flopped. Sen. Sanders would be ahead in the delegate count.
And if you think this is just a national problem, check out the local headlines. Speaking of parties with ironic names, we don’t cover the Conservative Party that often because they’re not much of a local presence anymore, but maybe we should. The county chair of the party that is supposed to be the “conservative” one was collecting a public paycheck while conducting party business at a golf course and a casino — and he’ll still get a public pension after being found guilty on federal charges. Yeah, he really cares about your tax dollars, right?
Of course, some Conservatives will probably find a convoluted way to defend those actions, but political parties have a way of doing that. Political parties need to protect their own interests.
Yet people continue to pledge their allegiance to these parties, as if the parties themselves actually care about us.
So I guess I’m “holier than” all those party people, right? Maybe I am. But at least I’m not alone: I’m part of a growing trend that openly and proudly states that I honestly couldn’t care less what party you belong to. If you’re the best candidate, you’ll get my vote. Usually, “best” ends up being very relative — it’s typically, like, the “least bad” candidate — but I can’t attach myself to one side of the political aisle.
Often there is a middle ground on issues, yet each major party — battling for its own dominance — continues to dig in its heels, refusing to try and find it. Maybe as the country seemingly continues to get more divided, a party with candidates of its own will pop up somewhere between the major two that my fellow independents and I can latch onto.
I’m not holding my breath, though.
Joseph Pinciaro is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review. You can reach him at 298-3200, ext. 238. Follow him on Twitter @cjpinch.
Photo credit: Flickr/juggernautco