Political Thoughts with Richard Bleil
A couple of days ago (as of the writing of this post), a Democratic Congressional member (I forget which house) announced that she was leaving the Democratic party to declare herself an “Independent”. I must admit that a few years ago when a Republican did this, I did cheer, so it would be, I’m afraid, hypocritical of me to jeer this decision. Honestly, with the extreme polarization of politicians and parties today, I’m just as upset when all Democrats vote along party lines as I am when all Republicans do the same. I honestly believe there should be a much stronger “independent” representation in politics than currently exists. In fact, I was, and still am, very disappointed that Bernie Sanders didn’t run for president as an independent.
Today, I read of another Democrat who sidestepped questions about if he was also planning on abandoning the Democratic Party. Apparently he had made some comment about “thinking for himself” of some such phraseology which was taken by the press as being ready to abandon the party. I seem to recall this happening last time as well, when the Republican became an independent and the press immediate launched into a flurry of “who else”. Now my thoughts are awhirl with how I feel about this practice.
I cheered the Republican desertion as a statement of the extremism of the Republican Party. I would like to think that the Democratic party is more middle-of-the-road, but this may just be wishful thinking as they tend to align with my personal morals. Congress and politics has become more of a “winner-take-all” game, instead of the compromise and debate system that it should be. The parties seem to be looking to punish each other, and instead of seeking the win-win solutions, they want to ensure losers even if their win is not as great as it could and should be. Instead of thinking about the American people, they’re thinking about sticking it to the other party.
This, in my mind’s eye, aligns with the concept that more independents is a good thing. When a politician is independent, it means that they are more likely (but not guaranteed) to vote what in their mind is the best solution, not what the party wants. And, yes, an independent’s stand may better align with one party over the other, but not being beholden to the party, they can stray from the party line more easily.
On the other hand, once aligned with a party, politicians are supposed to be able to stray from the party line as well. Running as a Republican or Democrat should be a message to the voters of the proclivity of the way the candidate will vote, not a guarantee. Unfortunately, the financial support given to candidates from the parties means that the parties do have the power to coerce votes along their desired lines, or even punish those who vote against the party. So, yes, by all means, I support, at least conceptually, the step of leaving the party.
And yet there’s another line of thought that must be considered. After the midterm elections, with both sides of the house having majorities by very slim leads, changing parties does change the power of the party in power, and perhaps could even tip the majority giving the leadership to the other party. This is a big deal. When Mitch McConnel was the speaker of the house, he robbed President Obama of his Supreme Court nominee by simply refusing to bring it to the floor even for debate, let alone a vote. This is not only an example of how much power the controlling party has, but also a demonstration of how the power can be abused by those who would usurp their Constitutional duties in favor of their party.
By abandoning their parties, both of these Congresspeople who left their party basically lied to their constituents. They ran under their parties to get elected, and once in Congress simply said, “nope, no longer with this party”. While I applaud independent thoughts, I do have a problem with the hypocrisy of using party money and advertising to get into Congress, then abandon their promises to the people who voted them in.
So I have no solution and am not trying to convince anybody to agree with me because, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m struggling to determine on which side of the fence I fall. But it’s an interesting thing to consider, if it’s better to be independent or aligned with a particular party, or if it’s a form of making a statement on the polarization of Congress or a lie to constituents to abandon the party under which one is elected. All I know is that these thoughts are going to keep me awake tonight.