In barely two weeks, Republicans will converge in Cleveland for the Trumpocalypse, a fact-free and hate-filled gathering likely to be as scary as it will be entertaining. A week later the Democrats will assemble in Philadelphia in a focus-group-tested pander fest, as tightly scripted as the visualize-world-peace answers at a Miss Universe contest.
If you feel left out, you have plenty of company. You can search across the fruited plain and nowhere will you find a political convention for the affiliation that more Americans identify with than any other – independents. According to Pew Research, the share of indies now stands at its highest point in more than 75 years of polling: 39 percent. And although other surveys slightly disagree, the point is the same: a plurality of voters has no place to call political home.
This large island of independents is a habitat of shruggers, doubters and contrarians. There’s room for nuance in their thinking. Millions of these middle-grounders are actually leaners who sorta, kinda, maybe like most of what one party stands for – and then find out that they share a label with Sarah Palin.
As someone who thinks Democrats are ossified on education and afraid to speak out against the PC censors in their midst, and who finds Republicans horrific on science, guns and nearly everything else, I went online looking for a party hookup. In one quiz, after answering a dozen questions, I was found to be a moderate Democrat. In another, said to test your political DNA, the result was scornful. “You’re not much of a joiner” was the conclusion. “We’re kind of surprised you took the quiz.”
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You get dinged as more of a lefty for saying you “mostly agree” that the government needs to do more to make health care affordable and accessible, and sometimes doubt the existence of God. What sentient human doesn’t share those thoughts? And I was labeled “apolitical” in the other analysis largely because I loathe tedious gatherings of the self-righteous and long-winded – “active political participation,” as it’s called.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t vote in every election, a dutiful citizen, hoping for a day when my kids can attend college without going broke or my Congress will actually investigate things that matter to everyday people.
A few years ago Gallup found that 58 percent of voters said a third party was needed because Republicans and Democrats do such a poor job representing average Americans. There is hope of that happening this year.
The Republicans, on the verge of nominating a man with the temperament of a sociopath, someone who praises a murderous dictator while damning the American troops who fought him, should crack up and break apart.
For years, this party stood for something – lower taxes, a lighter government hand, personal responsibility, global engagement. After Cleveland, they will stand for nothing but the bombastic tyrant who lets the smallest thing get under his very thin, very orange skin. From Trump, you hear more praise of Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin than for Lincoln or Reagan. The Republican base created this monster; by the power of hubris, he should destroy their party.
More important, Republicans have shown no interest in governing. After at least seven probes, more time has been spent investigating the four American deaths at Benghazi than was spent on the attacks of 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. All to conclude that the crazy conspiracy theories concocted about this tragedy have no basis in fact.
Where are the exhaustive inquiries into why so many Americans are falling behind? Where are the subpoenas of the people who rigged the financial system to a point where it crashed the global economy? What is the legislative response to ideas favored by huge majorities of the people – simple gun measures to keep terrorists from getting assault rifles, or a boost of the minimum wage? And how are the people’s representatives dealing with an epidemic of murder of our fellow citizens by police officers?
Well, you know the answers. Attacking the opponent’s party is the only game in town. The leaders of this Congress do not legislate. They stage show hearings to keep them in office.
The Democrats, though more representative of issues that people care about, need to call out the fringe of their party on campus, in town halls and elsewhere who are enemies of free speech. When Bernie Sanders had his microphone forcefully taken away from him by a Black Lives Matter protester, it was, in fact, a shameful thing – no matter how important the cause. Instead, too many Dems let it pass.
So wish for a crackup in Cleveland, where Trump and maybe Newt Gingrich – with six wives between them – will represent the party of family values. And hope for a course correction in Philly, where Democrats might listen to working-class voters who feel betrayed by the corporate elites in power suites.
Wish and hope – weak words, admittedly. But it’s all the crumbs that we political orphans, an underserved majority, can count on over the next month.