Let me make it clear here that I'm not talking about the Independence Party, that strange, dwindling rightward-leaning entity that attracted voters who seem to believe that finding the oddest candidates possible is a cure-all for American democracy. No, I'm talking about the true independents - non-affiliated voters who exist outside the political parties.
An essential thing to understand about the general election in New York's 24thcongressional district is Democrats are not the majority of voters... and neither are Republicans. Republicans have a plurality, which means that the Republicans have the largest number of voters, but a majority of voters in our district are non-Republicans. So, if the race this autumn is between a Democrat and a Republican, and every single registered voter turns out, and only Republicans vote for the Republican candidate, the Democrat will win by a double digit margin. The same is true for the Democrats, of course.
The independent voters make up the difference. With the help of independent voters, the candidate of either party can obtain a majority.
The candidates know the importance of political independents, of course, and that's what makes them behave in odd ways at times. Many in the Democratic Party seem to have interpreted the role of independents as a call to move toward Republican positions. They call this position "moderate", but it really amounts to a shuffle toward the right, only taking the positions that Democratic voters support when those positions are "safe". In this context, a safe position is one that does not anger most Republicans.
This strategy seems mistaken to me, based on the flawed assumption that if political independents are neither Democrats or Republicans, they must be something in between. Democrats who adopt this perspective are only able to think in two dimensions, unable to consider that political independents might be going in a completely different path than just the straight road that exists between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
This morning, I am asking Democrats who adhere to this limited point of view to expand their perspective on the political landscape, and consider for a moment that political independents might not be half-Democrat, half-Republican hybrids, but rather, something completely different. Independents are independents.
For a novel political strategy that could completely befuddle the Republicans and lead to victory in the general election in November, an intelligent, imaginative Democratic candidate could go a long way by supposing that independents are independents because they value political independence. In this way of thinking, political independents are not necessarily rejecting the policies of the Democratic or Republican parties as much as they are rejecting the concept of political parties themselves.
If this concept holds true, then a Democrat who leans rightward and supports Republican policies sometimes will not be regarded any more favorably than a Democrat who plays the role of a "good Democrat" and always supports the Democratic Party line. After all, this supposed moderate Democrat would not be moderate at all in the minds of independents, because he or she would still be operating within the system of political parties, merely switching flavors from the Democratic line to the Republican line from time to time.
I am suggesting that, for many political independents in our district, the political party system itself, whether it is Republican or Democrat, is regarded as immoderate, an extremist political imposition on the democratic process. The way to attract their support, therefore, is not to reject a few policies from one's political party in favor of a few policies from the other political party, but to demonstrate the identity of a true political maverick who is willing to operate independently, and move away from the talking points of both the Democratic and Republican parties, when it is important to do so.
The way to establish such a position is not to abandon Democratic ideals, but rather to embrace them. I'm talking about the positions that the majority of Democratic voters, as well as the majority of Americans, support. End the war in Iraq. Censure Bush. Do something serious and meaningful to slow down global warming - NOW. These kinds of positions are supported by the majority of Democratic voters, and most Americans support them too, but the established structure of the Democratic Party is still so frightened of its own shadow that it has rejected them.
The way to appeal to independent voters happens to be the way to appeal to the majority of Democratic voters in our district: Show that you're motivated by principles, not by party. Show that you're more interested in being a good American than in being a good Democrat. Show that you're not afraid of angering Democratic Party bosses like Rahm Emanuel. Show that you're a real leader, which means that you are your own boss.
The math is simple: A "good Democrat" cannot win the general election.
Republicans outnumber us, and won't be fooled by feints to the right or ambiguous policy language. Independents hate the idea of politicians who pledge to be good followers of bosses who reside behind the scenes.
What we need to take back the 24th district is not a Good Democrat, but rather, a Bad Ass Democrat.
Wouldn't it be exciting to watch that kind of candidate shake up our district?
We have three candidates in the running for the Democratic nomination: Leon Koziol, Michael Arcuri, and Les Roberts. I'll leave it up to you readers to conclude which one of these would be able to take on the role of Bad Ass Democrat with the most credibility.