I know 2D politics. I was a political party leader, often labeled a conservative. In fact, I was a former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party. I've written hundreds of raw meat conservative articles, commented often in the press, and produced and hosted several TV public affairs programs here.
That changed with a speech I gave at Republican Women Federated luncheon about a year ago.
In that speech I roundly criticized both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberal progressives. More importantly, I highlighted one of the largest and most powerful U.S. voting blocs -- the independent voter base. I noted that independent or 'declined to state' voters are rapidly increasing n all states. Rasmussen Reports estimates that 32% of all U.S. voters are unaffiliated.
My Republican audience was not pleased with my speech.
I realize now through that speech, I had moved beyond two-dimensional politics. I had entered a third dimension of American politics - one that includes the independent, non-partisan voters.
Let's take a look at independents. Independents despise party politics. They've fused the two political parties into one; they see Republicans and Democrats joined at the hip. They reject incumbents, and don't discriminate - they have the same contempt now for President Obama that they had for President Bush in 2008. They see cronyism among the Democrats (green industry loans, for example) and among Republicans (defense contracts).
For them, both parties have their political correctness and ideological addictions. Republicans have their Tea Party advocates; the Democrats embrace the 'Occupy Wall Street' activists. The parties protect their constituencies -- Republicans, the "haves" (no new taxes); Democrats, the "have-nots" (more taxes, more entitlement programs.)
Independents are just plain disgruntled. They're looking for solutions to basic problems.
Independents are also fickle, and vote irregularly, but they have decided most elections, even in San Francisco.
They represent a challenge for citizen journalists.
It's too easy to cover political demonstrations - whether it's Tea Party rallies at state capitols, or demonstrators camping near Wall Street. Visually, demonstrations are predictable: shouting crowds, tense police, batons swinging, and the arrested dragged to waiting police vans and buses. When you view demonstration videos in Cairo, Teheran, or New York, at G5 meetings and union marches, they're dramatic, yes, but unless there's a rare regime change (Egypt) demonstrations are political cul de sacs (Iran, 2009.) Note that in the case of Egypt, President Mubarak is out, but the military is in firm control with no elections in sight.
The real power rests with the silent majority -- the non-partisan voter who rarely attends demonstrations, ignores primary debates, and who is engrossed in his or her job (or is looking for a job.)
The 2008 presidential race was decided by independents, as will the 2012 race. Mainstream, alternative and citizen journalists must capture this nebulous, hidden American voter who wants answers, and finds two-dimensional politics boring, unproductive, and often irritating. A challenge, since most news and commentary slants either left or right.
That must change. It's no longer a Darwinian two-dimensional political matrix. We've entered a fusion of left and right, and beyond. A three-dimensional paradigm. If we ignore the elusive independent voter, we'll miss the new world of American political electoral power. We'll also miss the 'news.'
This piece is veteran public affairs producer Art Bruzzone's first contribution to Off the Bus, the Huffington Post's platform for citizen journalism. If you would like to participate in citizen coverage of the 2012 elections and American politics, please sign up at www.offthebus.org.