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Howard Steven Friedman

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Save The Independent Voter From Extinction

Posted: 11/02/2012 2:11 pm

For some voters, there is no thinking involved. They are kneejerk voters for one party or another, regardless of the candidates or how disgruntled they might be with their party. Nothing will bring them to vote for the candidate from a different party. Many of them vote exactly the same as their parents, as if they inherited a gene for Democrat or Republican along with their hair color and height. This is a very comfortable world to live in, unencumbered by the need for facts or options. They vote unconsciously, completely removed from any decision-making; or as many of them like to say, "I finished doing my thinking about politics years ago."

Some voters cast their ballot based on only one issue. Whether it is gay marriage, women's rights, tax policy, or military spending they only need to know where the party stands on that one issue in order to decide. Those who vote based on a single social issue tend to be those same party loyalists I mentioned above. Single-issue voters on non-social issues sometimes move parties over time. Some single-issue voters focused on American-Israeli relations moved to the Republican side with George Bush 43rd and have no intention of moving back this election. Some single-issue voters passionate about the military moved over to the Democrats as they saw greater support for veterans under the current administration than under the Republicans.

The voters who are truly independent seek to analyze candidates' positions to determine which candidate is most aligned with their viewpoints. This group is a rare breed, one that is likely overestimated in many polls (just ask yourself what percent of the people you know haven't already decided who they are voting for). Independent voters long for more choices yet America is currently trapped in its two-party system. These voters are starving for data, information, meaningful dialog, fact-based debates and intelligent reviews of policies and proposals.

But with the polarization of media coverage, objective sources of information continue to be drowned out by the shouting matches that dominate the airwaves. Independent voices are quashed by winner-take-all-elections, the Electoral College and the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Independent voters suffer during debates that consist of well-rehearsed zingers and memorized rhetorical, fact-less diatribes. This Commission effectively prevents third parties from participating by requiring a 15 percent polling rate before a candidate may join the presidential debates. Before the Commission began moderating the elections in 1988, the League of Women Voters was in charge; the league resigned as debate moderator, claiming that "the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter." Yet that fraud persists to this day with little momentum to overturn the two parties' effort to silence other voices.

Independent voters need information to make decisions and options on which to vote. They need to know that democracy involves thoughtful consideration of candidates, the present situation and the future. If independent voters are not fed these vital necessities, they will soon become extinct, along with the fading light of America's democratic process.

This story originally appeared in Huffington, in the iTunes App store.

 

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