"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” ~ President John Adams, 1789
Forget the Tea Party and the Coffee Party and Circle of Moms and MoveOn and all those other trumped-up, rabble-rousing, soundbite manipulators. I believe far more people uphold independent, moderate beliefs than either extreme Republican or Democrat zealots dare to admit. Unfortunately, independents are the round pegs that don't fit into square conservative or trapezoid liberal holes, and there's not a single politico who runs the middle ground with sure feet, because it's believed there's no money scattered across it.
During the presidential election, I have the opportunity to vote for a wider variety of candidates without Republican or Democrat designation. However, I can never simply remain Independent and vote based on the issues and for the people who seem to approach solutions effectively: for each caucus, primary, or local/county/state election, I have to pick a side. I have to change my voter's registration card after every election in order to participate fully in the democratic process. I've never considered my voter's registration card to be a "buy only one admission" ticket to the political circus, but it appears to be that way.
I will never lean too far to one side or another, because as an independent, I respect the individualist aspects that make each person and situation unique. I know fundamentalist Christian Republican conservatives who love and support their gay children. I know atheist liberal Democrats who organize welcome home rallies for our troops. Some people may think I have a lack of conviction, that I'm sitting on the fence.
I personally believe it's much harder to maintain an authentic fair and balanced opinion as an independent because it requires far more attention to make a decision than simply saddling up to the group that is yelling the loudest.
So, if anyone wonders what one independent voter thinks, here are just some of my views.
For the office of the president, I want a combination of Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs: shrewd financial management with a no-holds barred progressive attitude toward innovation and results. I don't want someone I can have a beer with or someone who looks good on a poster. I want a CEO of the United States who expects every department to be accountable and fiscally sound, creating great achievements with government dollars to benefit everyone in the country, not just the PAC-sponsored initiatives. These qualities are not singularly aligned with one party or the other, but measured by acumen, performance, and character.
There should be full transparency of all government programs and budgets. Instead of the media trotting out another picture of a crazy-eyed dancing monkey, there should be in-depth reporting on each government program and its impact. Only journalists who uphold the fourth estate, not pundits masquerading as journalists, should be allowed to report the facts.
The Electoral College cripples the political process. No longer do we need to travel three days on a swayback horse in a snowstorm to reach a polling station. Yet the two parties rely on this archaic posturing to further drive home the division. We cease to have a true democracy as long the Electoral College exists. While we're on the topic of voting: we put astronauts into space, why can't we devise a universal voting mechanism?
Consumers, not Republicans or Democrats, are directly responsible for the collapse of manufacturing in the U.S. because we want products now and inexpensively, instead of saving longer for what might be better. Our massive need to acquire has put the entire country in desperate straits. Buying cheap sent the wrong message to heads of companies, who determined if we wanted products for less, labor needed to be reduced, and consequently shipped manufacturing out of America. We turned our backs on companies that employed workers for honest wages and decent benefits. It's really not that hard to understand.
So, on this topic, resolute job creation in the United States should be the top priority of political leaders and other captains of industry. We should lead the world in developing efficient energy solutions, because we're one of the few countries with the diversity of landscape to try all the options. (An aside: I would really appreciate someone telling me why water powers much of the Southwest and not massive solar arrays.) We have the potential to use technology to advance health care, and some of the best minds to do so. We should put people back to work building infrastructure that benefits everyone, not just a chosen few. Don't call it The "New" New Deal – call it common sense.
If someone accepts welfare payments to care for the size of his or her family at the time of application, that person shouldn't be permitted to have any more children until off the program and gainfully employed. Why? To better care for the whole family and hopefully reduce the cycle of dependency and poverty. Without the continued struggle to feed, clothe, and house so many people, there might actually be more opportunities for each member of the family to attain higher education and sustain quality employment. People on welfare should receive mentoring, be required to volunteer for charities, and have access to counseling services to help everyone move forward in a positive manner.
In fact, all governmental social programs should have the same basic components of success. To teach and encourage while also providing temporary support is a demonstration of humanity that we should be proud to offer our fellow citizens in their time of need.
Enough of the religious rhetoric. An example of hell on earth has never been more apparent than in the past decade. What part of "separation of church and state" do you not understand? You have no right to imply that my or my neighbor's beliefs are wrong, especially if they don't harm anyone else. You can't convince me only members of one type of religion know what's best for America. You will never make me believe that Democrats don't have faith or don't love their children. My spiritual foundation and rational mind won't permit me to acknowledge fear or condemnation from people who really don't know any more than I do about the supernatural (yes, I chose that word specifically – look it up), and you should be ashamed that you spread such vitriol nonsense.
Bring our troops home. Enough already. It's time for America to lead by example. Let the skilled members of our armed forces rebuild schools and roads in our communities, support our beleaguered police forces by helping them target and eliminate crime that threatens both urban and rural areas, and combat the terrorists we have within our borders. When we demonstrate we can maintain civility in our country, that's when we have the right to dictate to others what democracy really is.
I advocate for low-cost birth control and responsible biological education. But if a woman is forced into sex against her will, especially in cases of rape and incest, and conception occurs, she shouldn't be required to keep a fetus. She should have a medically-safe choice. For people against abortion, I understand your concerns. But focus first on rectifying the quagmire that represents the foster care and adoption systems in this country, and encourage science-based, not morality-based, sex information presented by medical professionals in schools.
Why do we continue to make education in the United States a caste-based system? It's infuriating to hear some politicos constantly criticize people who focus on intellectual solutions, as if a display of ignorance is the best way to connect with the populace. A literate society is a civilized society. We should all be responsible for creating progressive learning structures that are less reliant on advertising dollars for funding.
I’m simply one independent. But I'm also a homeowner, a business owner, a savvy consumer, and an intelligent, strong-willed woman who doesn't hesitate to cut through the clutter to get to the facts. I'm exactly what extreme members of the two-party system don't want.
But after more than 200 years, the mold has to be broken.
Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
8.29.11 @ 6:18p
Funny, I agree with you on every point, yellow dawg Democrat that I am!
katherine (aka clevertitania)
8.29.11 @ 9:11p
I'm not clear on why you're changing your Voter Reg card? I've never changed mine, regardless of whom I'm voting for. Now granted, I don't go around casting ballots for a ton of GOP candidates, but I have occasionally voted for a moderate enough local Republican candidate, if I thought he was a better choice than the Democratic equivalent.
But I've never had to change my card to reflect anything.
katherine (aka clevertitania)
8.29.11 @ 9:24p
Also, I agree on most points except; why is a woman obligated to let a fetus grow inside of her because she chose to have sex. When a person has sex, you sign no contract agreeing to gestate a fetus.
I see the perspective of the other side, but their argument is still horrifying; that having a uterus means we are not allowed to have sex without 100% effective BC, unless we are willing to give birth. No one has a right to force us to choose between abstinence, sterilization or child-rearing.
8.29.11 @ 11:23p
The difficulty of a feature like yours is that you've said so many things, across a wide array of topics, that a conversation is largely impossible.
I'll pick two items on which to comment: First, I'm not entirely sure where you're headed with your "religious rhetoric" paragraph. Separation of church and state doesn't bar people of faith from participating in the civic discourse, and "non-religious" thought (and speech) is no less a product of a system of belief than "religious." "Vitriol" has come from the "non-religious" as much as from the "religious."
Second, the argument for "science-based, not morality-based sex information" is, in my view, specious. A "science-based" approach to human behavior, together with the abdication of a previous moral consensus (the so-called "Judeo-Christian ethic"), is what is responsible for our current predicament, because a "science-based" approach dehumanizes humans by treating us as "mechanisms."
8.30.11 @ 12:57a
Katherine, to participate in certain elections in my county, you have to declare your party. Then, about a month later, a new card arrives with that party designation, and I have to change it back to Independent. I've asked about it a few times, and don't receive a logical answer.
William, I do not elect my public officials on the basis of their spiritual belief system any more than I would the color of their skin or their gender. As an employer, I would not hire someone based on those factors.
8.30.11 @ 1:06a
(con't) While those factors may contribute greatly to a person's experiences and perspectives, I do not respect a candidate who uses religion as the bedrock of the campaign.
I don't believe there is anything dehumanizing about studying the body, the correlation between hormonal changes and behavior, and even the basal biological responses to the natural inclination to procreate. While some scientists may compromise ethics for personal gain, many scientists believe in God. (con't)
8.30.11 @ 1:16a
Science and faith coexist in the educated mind and the open heart. But the Bible, as an example, doesn't explain why Johnny and Susie tingle when they kiss. We should not teach children to fear the wondrous machine that is the human body. For that matter, some people of faith might believe the body to be one of their entity's most amazing creations. But for every teen who takes an abstinence pledge, there are 10 others who explore sexual situations simply because they have been told not to.
8.30.11 @ 7:40a
I think you've made my points for me, especially in the last item: "Science and faith coexist...." So, in fact, do politics and faith, economics and faith.... Your original essay is the place where you argue for pushing faith out of the civic discourse, and out of the scientific discourse as well.
Why people do precisely what they've been told not to is, in biblical terms, the problem of a fallen nature--something that, especially since the Enlightenment, thinkers have tried not simply to explain, but to explain away, to no avail. We're getting worse, not better.
Science, politics, economics without a moral compass (and I do not deny for a moment that people have used a false Christian compass, or used Christianity for false purposes) are doomed to fail, because they (science, politics, economics) have no built-in self-controls.
I am a Christian--I hope you could tell. I am a reluctant Republican. The Tea Party is as much an abomination as the "rainbow coalition." I am glad to see Bachmann decline in the polls, but not all that pleased to see Perry float to the top--there's not much to choose, but Obama's compass is like Cap'n. Jack Sparrow's too, spinning every which way. I am concerned about what kind of US my grandsons will grow up into, because we continue to reject what actually could give us hope.
8.30.11 @ 8:51a
"Science and faith coexist in the educated mind and the open heart" is my main point on that particular issue -- but as you said, when operating under a false religious compass, it's likely that both the mind and heart are closed. That is the debate I present in the column.
The Christians who I know and love to not rise to a level of conceit and seek an elected pulpit to preach intolerance, extremism, and bigotry, as in the definition of extremism: "to violate common moral standards." And let's face it: few elected officials, regardless of faith (or lack of it), truly enter that arena to serve in selfless capacity the positions require.
Some conservative extremists accept only their definition of morality and decry any other form of belief without proof of the existance of either. Like Bachman's "law" degree: their practices aren't founded in fact. Consequently, I don't trust their abilities to make fair and just decisions nor their judgement of condemnation in situations where faith isn't required.
I support an individual's right to pray each morning and find a center from which to operate throughout the day, but religion really shouldn't be a factor when deciding on job creation, for example. Faith may root the principles for the development of the other, but you're not going to make me feel better about being unemployed when instead of creating solutions to that problem, you take up air time to talk about how God is using earthquakes and hurricanes to make people pay attention to politics.
katherine (aka clevertitania)
8.30.11 @ 8:50p
I must emphatically disagree regarding "Science without a moral compass." Tracey is right; this is precisely the problem with religious rhetoric within politics & science.
Morality is subjective, and despite how some think (not assuming that Will does), a book doesn't get to decide what is moral for the rest of the world. Nor do people without faith lack morals. Subjective morality needs OUT of politics/science. It is one of the reasons stem-cell research has been held back for years.
katherine (aka clevertitania)
8.30.11 @ 8:55p
Also William, I must argue against the suggestion vitriol is equal on both sides. When a story about that very separation appears on Fox News, and their Facebook page lights up with 'good' Christians arguing that all atheists deserve to be tortured, put to death, even raped.. I have never, in my entire life, heard an Atheist make such comments regarding 'all' of any faith.
Tensions are high on both sides, but I've never seen the like to the nastiness of "Christian Soldiers."