Half the people reading this likely identify as independent voters


Read this Commentary in The Orlando Sentinel by Florida Fair and Open Primaries Director  Steve Hough:

“In a monthly survey, Gallup asks voters whether they consider themselves a Republican, a Democrat or an independent? Their March 2023 survey revealed 49% consider themselves independent.

With these kinds of numbers, why are independents ignored and denied full rights of participation in the electoral process? It’s likely due to a follow-up question asking whether the voter leans more to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. Without delving deeper, this allows political scientists and pundits to erroneously conclude that we are not truly independent. I’m a lifelong independent, and I’m sure I’m not alone in taking offense.

As the director of Florida Fair and Open Primaries and a Florida task force leader for Veterans for Political Innovation, I interact with people who have discarded their longtime party affiliations and young new voters who are registering without declaring a party affiliation. We are a military-friendly state, yet half of military veterans maintaining a nonpartisan stance after serving cannot vote in our primary elections. I believe there’s a better explanation for the phenomenal growth of self-proclaimed independents than to suggest that we are being deceitful….”



Can Independents Be a Bridge Over Our Partisan Divide?

Insightful piece on the role of independents by Thom Reilly, co-director with Jackie Salit of the Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy at ASU

Our findings show that independents have social networks that are structurally different from those of partisans. Specifically, we found that both Democratic and Republican respondents were more likely to frequently talk about politics with independents than with members of the opposing party.”

Read the article in Gathering.Com


What Independent Voters Did on Election Day and Why

The Uses of Independent Power
by Jacqueline Salit

Nov. 15, 2018

Independent voters came out in force, grabbed the system by the lapels and gave it a good shake. Independents comprised 30% of the electorate, up from 28% in 2014.  In all, almost 34 million non-aligned voters cast ballots.  The increase in the number of independents who voted as compared with the last midterms was 38%, whereas Democrat/Republican voting rose by 25%.  While the parties were dedicating themselves to “bringing out their base,” independents chose to be a major part of the equation in 2018.

Suffice it to say that independents are swinging between cycles of disruption and cycles of stabilization, all the while searching for systemic changes that will take us to new ground.  Independent rather than partisan ground. That’s the essence of the post-election story, which actually began in late October, two weeks before Election Day.

What did these unpredictable independents do?  They broke for Democratic candidates by 12 points.  In the last midterms they broke for Republicans by 12 points.  In other words, there was a 24-point swing over four years’ time.  The voters who elected Barack Obama in 2008, then took away the Democrat Congressional majority in 2010, backed the GOP and then Trump through 2016, changed the make-up of the federal government yet again.  They also put a number of governorships in the blue column.

The impact?  A check on the White House and a two-party balance on Capitol Hill for the first time in 8 years.  But there’s more.  There was a sweep for key political reform initiatives in six states including nonpartisan redistricting in Michigan, Colorado and Missouri with votes of between 61% and 71%. Restoring felon voting rights won in Florida with 64%.  Remarkably, the typical drop off in totals from top of the ticket voting to initiative and referendum voting did not occur.  In Michigan, 96% of those who voted for Governor also voted on Proposition 2.  In Colorado, 98% voted at the top and in the reform contests.

In Florida, where the results are still being counted for Governor and Senator at the time of this writing, votes on the felon rights question totaled less than 5,000 fewer, and the results were decisive.

Though none of the official exit polling probed the voter makeup for the reform proposals, the turnout by independents combined with an across-the-board clamor for systemic change drove these victories. The percentages of “yes” votes rival those of the term limits movement of the 1990’s, which swept every state that allowed statewide initiatives by totals as high as 77%.

For now, independent voters can be pleased with the results.  Not because we want to be Democrats, but because overall we felt more aligned with sending their candidates to congress.  Many independents had the additional intent of defeating one-party rule and containing President Trump.

Independent candidates, meanwhile, had a tougher cycle.  While Angus King and Bernie Sanders—self-identified independent Senators from Maine and Vermont respectively who caucus with the Democrats—were re-elected, the new wave of independent candidates were shut out.  Statewide independent candidates in Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Georgia, and New Mexico had significant and highly qualified independent candidates, but they did not win, instead polling between 2% and 15% of the vote.

The new wave statewide independent candidate who came closest to getting elected was Steve Poizner, running for Insurance Commissioner in California, who came within two percentage points.  It is worth noting that California is a nonpartisan top two system state (the reform propelled by Schwarzenegger, the Independent Voter Project, Independent Voice and a coalition of reform forces) with a system that eliminates the so-called “spoiler” factor, which Democrats played this year for all it was worth.  In New York, two worthy tickets won ballot status for new parties, the Serve America Movement (SAM) and the Libertarian Party.

In many respects, the election produced the standard outcome of midterms where the party in the White House loses control of one or both houses.  If there was a wave, it was neither blue nor red.  Nor was it purple, the color sometimes used to denote independents, as if we are a blend of the existing parties or ideologies, rather than something altogether different.  It might have been an independent or reform wave, in which voters of many persuasions used the tools they currently have available to chart a different course, even as they took steps to create some new ones.

Naturally, the Democrats and Republicans are now analyzing and evaluating their outcomes, their strategies and their prospects for 2020, with prospective candidates jockeying for position.  Very little energy will be given by anyone to governing in a productive way.  The independents, while neither a party nor a unified force, have produced a range of leaders and power centers in our “becoming” movement.  These leaders, activists and organizers need to be talking with one another now, honestly looking at what strategies worked and what didn’t, exploring how to strengthen and develop our movement and how best to use the ample power independents demonstrated in this election.

# # #

Bonnie Reiss, We Were Lucky to Know Ya’

First published by IVN
April 11, 2018


I lost a friend last week, Bonnie Reiss. She died of lung cancer at 62. The disease spread quietly until it emerged full force a year ago. Its grip was relentless. And it would not let go.

Bonnie was a political woman, with a long resume of remarkable accomplishments. Most recently, she’d architected and led a new policy institute at the University of Southern California, named for its benefactor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the swashbuckling movie star and former governor of California.

Bonnie served in Arnold’s government as Secretary of Education and was an inner circle advisor for this independent leader who, while elected as a Republican, never towed a party line. For this, Bonnie was well suited, as she didn’t care much for the partisan culture. She’d seen it all. She knew how destructive it could be.

Bonnie had a rare talent for handling swashbuckling independent men, particularly iconic and famous ones. Arnold’s larger-than-life personality and style fit easily into her world, having cut her political teeth as a young lawyer working for Ted Kennedy, which led to a lifelong collaboration and friendship with members of the Kennedy family.

She was tough and savvy, she’d made her bones in the testosterone-filled world of government and politics. I’m sure she paid a price for that toughness, but she had an outrageous sense of humor and a deep compassion for people.

As I came to know Bonnie over the last six years, I could see the many ways that Arnold relied on her to hone the mission of the Schwarzenegger Institute — an eclectic and transpartisan blend of process and policy issues ranging from alternative energy to alternative political systems.

She shaped a unique agenda for these postmodern political times. This was not altogether easy, particularly when it had to fit into the filming schedules of a variety of Terminator sequels and prequels.

In my own way, I had come to rely on Bonnie, too. As an early architect of the independent political movement, I’d been in many go-against-the-grain situations, and saw that Bonnie had a genuine feel for political disruption, particularly the kind that crossed ideological lines.

We’d first met at the founding conference of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy in 2012, when she’d graciously given me a VIP seat to witness the event.

Because political reform was one of the Institute’s five interest areas and because Independent Voting, through its California chapter, Independent Voice, had been a force in the Schwarzenegger coalition that backed and ultimately enacted a Top Two nonpartisan primary system, I landed on the invitation list.

I was glad that Arnold was investing his hard-won political capital in promoting reforms like open primaries, but hadn’t expected to find that there was a figure in his celebrated vortex like Bonnie. I knew right away that she was a singular character.

Over the next six years, we created a chain of bi-coastal collaboration. I was a guest speaker at several Schwarzenegger Institute events. I brought Bonnie and her team into the chaotic world of the independent movement and the burgeoning political reform universe.

Together, with the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, we created a trilateral consortium to study and promote the rise of the independent voter. We met periodically over lunch at USC to scheme out overlapping strategies.

Once, when I was feeling despondent and angry about how universally male and macho the political scene was, I called her. She invited me to lunch at the swanky Hotel Bel-Air, where she was holed up for several days meeting with the heads of alternative energy companies (a prong of Arnold’s agenda).

I arrived 15 minutes early and was seated at a banquette near a half-dozen bejeweled Iranian beauties. Vintage Beverly Hills.

Suddenly, a commotion at the doorway drew everyone’s attention. Bonnie had arrived with Boo, her omnipresent terrier, in tow. She waved gaily and presented herself at our table, seating Boo in a chair with his head perched gamely over a plate, as if he were about to order a cobb salad and a glass of Prosecco.

We got down to business and I glumly told her “the tale of the tape,” a catalogue of arrogant male behavior in which collaboration was a commodity traded over a beer or a steak, and “little ladies” (I was in John Wayne mode) were grudgingly tolerated. The marginalizing of independent voters combined with the male elitism creeping into the movement was a toxic brew.

Bonnie and I were nearly the same age, with long but quite different career paths. She was the insider, I was the outsider. But, I knew she would understand the dynamics of being a woman in that mix. She listened sympathetically, told me not to worry about it, and instructed me to keep going on the path I was on.

“This independent voter thing is big,” I remember her saying. “Nobody gets it the way you do. One day they will all have to come to you.”

That was Bonnie. No victim talk. No wasted words. Always looking ahead. Always leading.

When it was time for dessert, Bonnie’s team joined us for coffee. Conyers Davis and Mebus Behrle, two of the most capable and caring political people you’ll ever come across, sat down with us. It was the first time the four of us had hung out together, and we chitchatted about the upcoming Senate race in California (happy talk) and the looming presidential contest (unhappy talk).

I was struck at the time by how devoted to Bonnie both Conyers and Mebus were, and I loved them instantly for that. When I got ready to leave, Bonnie stood up, walked over to me and put her arms around me. We hugged and she whispered in my ear, “my sister.” That was all I needed to hear.

A year later, I presented Bonnie with an Anti-Corruption Award at the annual awards ceremony of the Independence Clubs of New York City. She was already sick by then and couldn’t make the trip.

Instead, she sent a video recording thanking Cathy Stewart, the Coordinator of the Clubs, and me for the award.  We played it at the event and there she was, in her garden at home in Malibu, looking fervently alive and excited about all the plans we’d made to pry open the calcified political system.

The audience cheered.

What an indescribable loss. And, I must say thank you, Bonnie, for your friendship, your spirit, and your wisdom. I can never repay the debt. I will always remember you. Goodbye, my sister.

Post Script:  USC Schwarzenegger Institute Tribute to Bonnie Reiss here.

* * *

Dear Oprah, If You’re Serious About a Presidential Run, Call the Independents

First published by IVN
January 10, 2018


Dear Oprah,

I watched you at the Golden Globes on Sunday night.  Congratulations!  You looked beautiful and it must have been great to feel all the love in the room.

Now the talk is all about your running for President.  It seems a lot of people would like you to run, must be another sign that so many are sick of politicians. After all, that’s part of why Donald Trump won the election last year.

Less than 24 hours after your speech, the pundits and consultants got busy discussing all the ways that an Oprah candidacy would shore up the Democratic Party coalition. They said it would inspire African Americans—over a million of whom passed on voting for Hillary, unconvinced that Clintonian politics would truly benefit them— and women, especially those newly energized by the MeToo Movement, who were vocally represented in the Golden Globes ballroom. (Side note:  I think it’s a good thing for Hollywood to clean up its act.  It’s about time the industry took stock of its exploitative culture.  I do have to admit some sympathy with Megyn Kelly’s post-Globe remarks about how Hollywood has spent decades dictating a moral path to flyover country, only to have its own moral corruption exposed.  I wondered whether any woman in Hollywood said anything about Steve Bannon calling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.”  No?  Didn’t think so.)

Oprah, back to you.  Here’s my point.  In a split second, your speculative candidacy was being sliced and diced by the political professionals, and cast into a partisan (Democrat) baking pan.  I, for one, paused to ask myself an obvious if “verboten” question.  Is Oprah thinking of running for president as an independent?

Given how corrupt and self-serving the parties have become, and given how much power you have to move people to self-reflection and developmental action, I hope you are considering an independent option if you are at all serious about a run.  I’m sure lots of important people are calling you now, trying to influence your thinking.  All good. You are a strong woman and an independent thinker.  Don’t let the party bureaucrats contain your process, not when 43% of Americans now consider themselves independents, according to the latest Gallup poll out this week.

Along these lines, here is a list of calls I would urge you to make, to give you a more rounded and nonpartisan view of the possibilities.

1)  Call Dr. Lenora Fulani, the brash developmental psychologist and community organizer who ran for president in 1988 as an independent when she became the first woman and first African American ever to achieve presidential ballot access in all 50 states. She’d have a lot to share with you.  A reporter once asked her on the campaign trail which was harder—being black or being a woman.  She replied:  being an independent.  Of course, as an outsider, Lenora had to fight tooth and nail for press coverage (still does) while the media will attach itself to you like white on rice.  That’s a plus.  Talk to her.  She has a unique and independent wisdom and, like you, a deep following among women of color.  Also, among independents of all backgrounds.

2) Call Peter Ackerman.  Peter is a very successful business leader and an ingenious disruptor who believes the two party system is fundamentally corrupt.  He has spearheaded and funded a very significant court case to open the presidential debates to include an independent candidate, taking on the corrupt Federal Election Commission and the even more corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates in the process.  America’s political system needs a structural retooling to make it fair and viable.  He will inspire you with the possibilities that exist for doing so.

3) Call the leaders of the many sectors of the independent political movement.  Let us paint a picture of “the politics of otherness” for you.  Let us introduce you to grassroots independents from across the country and across the political spectrum who will tell you they want to get out of the trap of ideology to create a new America.

Oprah, you are a unique woman in many ways.  You walk the corridors of power and you haven’t forgotten the people—poor people, marginalized people, brutalized people—who brought you into this world and raised you up.  You said it yourself at the Globes.  A new day is on the horizon.  That’s inspiring.  And it’s also serious business.

I can help you with all the above.  Call me at 1-800-288-3201.  I’ll hook you up.


Bernie Offers Perfect Advice to Democrats, But Will They Listen?

Published by the Independent Voter Network (IVN) – April 5, 2017

Five years ago, outside of the public eye, a conflict flared inside the inner circle of Democratic Party power.

Simply put, it was this: should the Obama re-election campaign find a way to make an explicit appeal to independent voters? Five years ago, the answer was no. I know this because I was part of the discussion, though an outsider to it, whose counsel was firmly rejected. And though Obama won reelection in 2012 while losing independents to the GOP, the strategic decision to double down with the Democratic base and turn away from independents, the emergent engine for reform of the political system, laid the groundwork for Democratic defeat in 2016.

Last week, Bernie Sanders, the curmudgeonly crusader of the American left, called out his party’s failure to make those links: “Let me just say this, the Democrats will not succeed unless it attracts many, many millions of independents. The number of people who are now moving in the independent direction, as opposed to Republican and Democrat — it is growing. So if the Democrats are going to be successful, in fact that party is going to have to appeal to a whole lot of independents.”

Yes! But what does that mean, circa 2017, with the Democrats in opposition party mode trying to find a voice in a chaotic and uncertain Washington with a volatile and unpredictable Trump in the White House?

When I saw Bernie on MSNBC’s Morning Joe issuing this challenge, I called Charlotte Scot, an avid Bernie supporter in Connecticut and formerly the director of communications for the Democratic National Committee when Jimmy Carter was president. Charlotte had just appeared on stage with me at the National Conference of Independents, sharing her experience of how the power and energy of the Bernie movement had been dissipated by the party regulars. Charlotte became an independent and the audience cheered her decision.

She had seen Bernie on Morning Joe too and had already been tweeting about it. I asked her how she thought this fit in to the DNC’s latest efforts to restyle itself under Tom Perez’s leadership. “I don’t buy it”, she said. “The DNC does not want to change. It is already soliciting contributions from lobbyists, it may have asked all staff to resign but, it also just hired many former members of Clinton’s staff.  They are putting on a public show. Keith Ellison is now a deputy Director, but the party regulars appear to be running the show. These are the same people who let Donald Trump become president by favoring fundraising over hog raising farmers. By shunning every day Americans in favor of Hollywood elite. Bernie understood the people who were hurting but, how could the DNC ever support a candidate who doesn’t even own a tuxedo? Bernie is an outsider. He needs to run for president as an independent!”

We talked for a while and I told her the sad story of the Obama campaign in 2012, how I’d met with David Axelrod and David Simas to offer them the opportunity to rebuild Obama’s 2008 independent coalition, the one that had been squandered once he was elected, and the Pelosi Democrats started to set the agenda. This would require, I told them at the time, giving legitimacy to the fact that 42% of the country were not aligned with a party and demonstrating that the president understood why and respected our choice.

For a time, Axelrod and Simas engaged, asking for help on how to link reforms like including independent appointees on the FEC to social issues, like housing and jobs. But ultimately, they explained, the party stakeholders would not agree to terms, and so this course was abandoned.

Charlotte Scot speaks at “Crossroads for an Independent America.”

Charlotte, a veteran of the Carter campaign and the Carter White House, remarked “Jimmy was an outsider and the party didn’t like that. One DNC member quipped, ‘The Beverly Hillbillies come to Washington.” Had the Democratic Party supported President Carter we would have had clean green energy 40 years ago. After the 2016 Democratic fiasco the independent movement is even more vital.”

True that, I told Charlotte. We are the coalition of outsiders. And maybe, just maybe, Bernie is coming to see that he needs to support the outsiders in order to pursue his own goal of remaking the Democratic Party. Whether he can get the Democratic leadership to go along is another question.

Looking toward the 2020 presidential election, independent voters – now 44% of the country- have three main concerns. Can the players in independent politics find a way to come together to create a unified strategy, including a unified independent presidential candidacy?  Can the independent movement force the Democratic and Republican Parties to guarantee voting rights to the nonaligned in the 2020 primaries and caucuses?

Obama won the nomination in 2008 because enough state primaries allowed independents to vote to power his win over Hillary Clinton. Bernie, likewise, had huge appeal to independents and was forced late in the primary season to speak out for open primaries, though by then it was too late for a path to the nomination.

Third, can the movement propel reforms of the political process sufficient to transfer political power from the parties to the people?

Bernie, great to see you speaking out for a coalition of outsiders! Let’s sit down together and talk about how to bring our movements together. The tide is turning toward political independence. We felt the Bern. Now, let’s make the turn.

Louisiana has the Prescription for a Fractured Political System: More Independents

In just a few short weeks, Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States. His historic victory in November shocked the world.

All the talking heads, pollsters and pundits — myself included — predicted Hillary Clinton to waltz her way into the White House, but, of course, all the “experts” got it wrong.

Since then, we have been left floundering to find an explanation for how the firebrand Republican pulled it off. Though some have suggested Russian hacking or a poorly-managed Clinton campaign, I think the reason is simpler and something we should have seen all along.

According to a New York Times/CBS poll conducted just before Election Day, voters’ disgust with the American political system is at an all time high. When asked how the 2016 cycle had made them feel, 82 percent of respondents said the circus that surrounded the presidential
election made them feel “disgusted.”
That number shouldn’t surprise anyone — feelings of disgust certainly aren’t something new. Indeed, the results of the poll represent the same upwelling of discontent that inspired millions of Americans to protest as a part of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements — the same frustration that gave a candidate like Bernie Sanders a fighting chance in the Democratic primaries and ultimately led to the election of an outsider like Trump.

It’s a simple fact that people across the nation are fed up and want to be heard. With the exception of a small minority of partisans in both parties, Americans of all ideological stripes — conservative, liberal, whatever — feel disenfranchised, as if they have been left out in the cold by a political system dominated by special interests and wholly-owned by a ruling class.

So, what’s the solution?

In Louisiana, I believe the solution is the Alliance of Louisiana Independent Voters, a grassroots movement poised to shift the balance of power back to the people of the Pelican State — a prescription to the bipolar political system that is plaguing us now.

I’ve been involved in politics here in Louisiana for more than 40 years. I’ve seen both Democrats and Republicans run this state, but I’ve never seen the political system as dangerously polarized as it is today — and I don’t think it’s a problem unique to us.

For many years, America had a strong tradition of independent-minded, split-ticket voting. However, in the past decade that tradition has died, as voters have grown increasingly willing to vote against their own interests rather than vote for a candidate of the opposing party, leading to a culture of hyper-partisanship borne from Washington, D.C. and worse than any episode of House of Cards. It has allowed special interests and the money-elite to brazenly seize control of the political system, as lawmakers in safely-drawn districts worry only about where their next big campaign contribution will come from rather than their constituents’ concerns.

That’s wrong, and ALIV is on a mission to give the power back to the people. Through voter registration, education and outreach, we will enable voters to make informed decisions at the polls for candidates beholden only to the people, starting with a host of legislative races this year.

It’s time to take our political system back, America. We’re doing it in Louisiana, and I hope you will too.

Bergeron has spent four decades as a political consultant on Louisiana campaigns including gubernatorial races and city elections in Baton Rouge. He currently works as a political strategist and communications consultant.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Read the original article here

Nonpartisan Elections Crucial to Increase Voter Turnout

This article was written by Open Primaries Spokesperson Dr. Jessie Fields for the Albany Times-Union

I am a medical doctor, a community organizer and a political activist, and throughout my years of activism it has been deeply important to me to work to bridge the ongoing racial, social and ideological divides in our society.

At the end of the historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about the centrality of the right to vote. He said that the denial of the right to vote is at the very origins of “the root cause of racial segregation in the South.”

The quest for a more perfect democracy continues to this day. I believe that the essence of voting rights and the core value of the fight for voting rights, not only for black people but for all people, is that we all must have the right to vote in all phases of the election process regardless of our party affiliation, or lack of one, and that no one should be required to join a political party as a precondition for voting.

It has never made sense to me that the political parties get to decide who can vote and who cannot vote, who is on the ballot and who is not on the ballot, who can appear in the televised debates and who does not appear in the debates and what and how issues are brought forward into the public dialogue.

I have been a primary care physician in Harlem for many years. From 1944 until last month’s election, Harlem had only two congressional representatives: Adam Clayton Powell Jr., who served from 1945 to 1971, and Charles Rangel, who had served since 1971. It is an undeniable reality that a community that has the highest asthma rates in the country, some of the most entrenched poverty and worsening access to truly affordable housing, among other issues, has not had a way to demand accountability from those elected to serve it and has been politically marginalized by one-sided elections with low voter turnout.

So how do we increase voter participation and make elections more competitive? My most basic answer is that having a system with no barriers to voting is the way to increase voter participation. That’s why I believe that nonpartisan elections in which all voters can vote in every round of voting is a crucial next step in increasing voter participation in New York and throughout the country.

Allowing all registered voters to vote among all the candidates in the first round, with the top two vote-getters going on to the general election, creates more competitive elections. It is a simple equation here. Competitive elections give you a shot at increasing turnout. When Michael Bloomberg served as mayor, there were several attempts to bring this reform to New York City. It was an intense battle in which the political parties and almost all of the New York City political establishment vehemently opposed a ballot initiative for nonpartisan elections, and it was defeated.

Much has changed since those early battles. More and more Americans are choosing not to affiliate with a political party — 43 percent of Americans now identify as independent voters, including 50 percent of millennials and many young people in general. Many of them worked on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, but when they went to the polls in New York state to vote for the candidate they had been canvassing, phone calling and petitioning for, they were turned away and not allowed to vote despite the fact that everyone’s tax dollars pay for these elections.

Nationally, closed presidential primaries cost taxpayers a quarter of a billion dollars this year and excluded 26.3 million voters, including more than 2 million African-Americans. This is the biggest form of voter suppression in the country.

Indeed, 3.2 million independent, third-party and unaffiliated voters were shut out of voting in New York’s primaries this year. Consider that only 19.7 percent of eligible New Yorkers cast a ballot in the presidential primary and it becomes clear we have a crisis. It is not a crisis that will be solved with well-intentioned get-out-the-vote measures alone. Nonpartisan, open primaries set a context for a new way of doing politics. If we want to bring people together and increase voter participation, we must dismantle the structures that keep them apart.

See the original article here

Revolts, Reforms and Divides: An Independent Look at the 2016 Presidential Election

One of the (very!) few pollsters who got the presidential election right, Patick Caddell, had this to say the day before the election: “The political battleground is no longer over ideology but instead is all about insurgency.”

Caddell points to his polling in early October, which asked for reaction to the following statement: “The real struggle for America is not between Democrats and Republicans but between mainstream America and the ruling political elites.” 67 percent agreed, 24 percent disagreed.

On Election Day, the next wave of America’s anti-elite political revolt rose up. It repudiated the liberal status quo coalition of Hillary Clinton, dispatched the politically incorrect outsider Donald Trump to the White House, and confirmed that the new divide in U.S. politics is vertical, not horizontal. President-elect Trump and the Republican Party have a narrow mandate but a broad set of challenges, not least of which are reconciling the economic “deliverables” of his campaign, i.e., his promises of shared prosperity and growth, with a globalized economy that creates and distributes wealth in dramatically uneven ways.

This revolt, merely the latest world event shattering the worldview of so many, had many moving parts. Here are several that I see.

The Formula

Since 2008 and the election of Barack Obama, a new formula for winning national elections has been in play. The formula is Movement + Party Infrastructure = Victory. The Democratic Party, its “demographics are destiny” arrogance notwithstanding, did not win the 2008 presidential. It was forced by a black-led progressive insurgency, powered by independent voters and African Americans, to mobilize its vast infrastructure on behalf of Obama. That combustible combination won the election. While his re-election campaign in 2012 was a far cry from his 2008 movement/campaign, there was enough of an “echo” to power him to a second term. America did not want to expel our first black President from the White House.

Coming into the 2016 presidential cycle, the Democratic Party was shockingly blind to the historical reasons for its prior success. Instead it believed that the winning formula was Party Infrastructure + Identity Politics. But that coalition failed to hit its marks, and a depressed turnout among African Americans, a disappointing level of participation from Latinos, and the continued flight of independents away from the elitist Democrats to the anti-establishment Trump sealed their fate.

In contrast, Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee had their eyes wide open. Armed with their own insights into the winning playbook, their formula rested on the Movement + Party Infrastructure = Victory equation. The populist outcry against the elites and the collateral damage they inflicted on working class Americans, made visible by Trump and Bernie Sanders, was harnessed by Trump in the general election. Combining that with an upgraded RNC infrastructure with the power to mobilize traditional GOP voters, they redrew the electoral map. Crucial to that redrawing were independent voters.

What Did Independent Voters Do on Election Day?

Independent voters made up 31 percent of Tuesday’s electorate, the highest proportion since the advent of polling, or roughly 39.4 million voters. 48 percent of them supported Trump, 42 percent backed Clinton and 10 percent supported a third party or independent candidate or did not answer the exit poll question. The independent vote, only eight years earlier a vital component of the Obama coalition, was allowed by Democrats to drift away. More to the point, the partisanship of the Democrats drove them away, to great consequence. In the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin, independents provided Trump with his margin of victory over Clinton.

Independents—now 43 percent of the country— have been, and continue to be, a restless engine for political and economic renewal. In the Perot era, they were written off by the Liberal/Left as fascists, though the progressive wing of the independent movement—including yours truly—fought hard to build an independent left/right coalition with the Perot movement that lasted until 2000. In the Obama era, independents powered his overthrow of Clinton in the Democratic primaries and sought a place at the Democrats’ table but were turned away. Years of partisanship over country, privilege over sharing the wealth, and bureaucracy over democracy sent them looking elsewhere.

Bernie Sanders Could Have Been Elected President

Donald Trump, riding the wave of the populist revolt during the primary season, and benefiting from a fragmented field, captured the Republican nomination. Though his incendiary campaign rhetoric forced his fellow Republicans through a revolving door of denunciation and embrace, that populist appeal anchored and, ultimately, grew his campaign. In contrast, Sanders’ political revolution—made all the more difficult by having to go head-to-head with Clinton from the start—was halted by an anti-populist manipulation by the DNC, a super-delegate system that stacked the deck against him, and closed primaries in key states like New York, Pennsylvania and Arizona that locked out independents, including the so-called millennials, sympathetic to his cause. Nonetheless, Sanders came perilously close to a win. His “revolution” in the primaries was propelled by huge margins among independents in Wisconsin (72 percent) and Michigan (71 percent), two states where independents later broke for Trump. Though Sanders lost Ohio and Pennsylvania to Clinton, his margins there among independents were also huge—66 percent in Ohio and 72 percent in Pennsylvania. It is not unreasonable to conclude that if Sanders and Trump had faced each other in the general election, Sanders’ deep support among independents would have carried over and could have put the volatile Rust Belt—Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan—in the Democrat camp.

Political Revolts and Political Reform

A clarion call of the Trump and Sanders political revolts was “the system is rigged.” Of course, it is. In fact, it’s so rigged that it has even distorted how the political class—which does the rigging—sees reality! “De-rigging” the system is a long and hard road, mainly because the rules have been written to benefit those who make the rules. Perhaps the results of this election will finally propel a serious move to abolish the electoral college, a reform independents have championed for decades.

Still, some significant breakthroughs in the battle for systemic reform took place on Election Day. Here’s a quick review. With 63.7 percent of the vote, Colorado passed Proposition 107 to create an open presidential primary system that allows all voters to participate, including the 36 percent who are registered independent. With 52.5 percent of the vote, Colorado leveled the playing field for independents to cast ballots in state and local primaries.

With 52.1 percent of the vote, Maine became the first state in the nation to enact a Ranked Choice Voting system for all elections, a reform designed to mitigate the spoiler taboo of voting for independent candidates. Campaign finance reform initiatives passed in two states.

But the most cutting-edge breakthrough came in South Dakota where Amendment V, an initiative to adopt a statewide nonpartisan elections system, polled 44.5 percent. Though this initiative campaign—led by a rowdy cross-partisan group of local leaders—did not pass in this round, it broke this issue through to a new threshold and created a new roadmap for winning in the future. Previously, initiative campaigns for nonpartisan elections—from New York City in 2003 to Oregon in 2008 and 2014, to Arizona in 2012—had been stuck in the low 30’s, bombarded by negatives from party poobahs and “good government” types on both sides of the aisle. In South Dakota, with significant “matching grant” and political support from the premiere support organization for this reform—Open Primaries—an unprecedented local coalition travelled the rural and urban byways of this redder than red state. Their message was one of fairness, inclusion and accountability, and they nearly made it over the finish line. Amendment V polled 39,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton.

The Black Vote Shrinks, the Black and Independent Alliance Stalls

Key to a Clinton victory strategy was high turnout among African American voters, a mainstay of the Democratic Party coalition. However, not unlike what white blue collar Americans face in the dislocations caused by globalization, the poverty and unemployment in inner city communities have become more harsh and relentless. Political loyalty to the Democratic Party has become more strained, a third of younger black voters identify as independents, and, in plain English, Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama. Exit polls appear to indicate that 1.3 million fewer black voters cast ballots this year, as compared to 2012 and 2008. While Clinton polled 88 percent of those voters (Obama polled 93 percent in 2012 and 95 percent in 2008), that over a million fewer African Americans came out to the polls was part of the death blow to the Clinton coalition. It’s worth noting that the volatile coalition of blacks and independents (we sometimes call it the Black and Independent Alliance) which raised up Obama in 2008 deserted the Democratic Party in 2016. Whether and how it regroups and re-emerges is a poignant question for both communities and a challenge for their leaders as well.

The Minor Party Vote

While the combined vote for the top three independent candidates—Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), and Evan McMullin (Independent) was showing at 15 percent a month ago, the vote for minor party candidacies collapsed. Johnson is at 3.2 percent (over 4 million votes), Stein at 1 percent (over 1 million votes) and McMullin—only on the ballot in 11 states—had hoped to win Utah outright but managed 21 percent of the vote there. The Johnson vote is the third highest minor party/independent presidential vote since 1992. Ross Perot polled 19.8 million votes that year and 8.1 million in 1996, followed by Ralph Nader’s 2000 run which polled 2.9 million votes.

While this kind of collapse is not atypical for minor party campaigns, it has a different feel and meaning today. Largely, it would seem to signal that while America’s mass populist revolt is searching for a home, moving from platform to platform, the minor parties have not found a way to connect to it. No small part of this disconnect is the fact that the minor parties continue to sell an ideology, at a moment when the populist revolt is largely a rejection of ideology and partisanship. It is less about issues than it is about power. Pat Caddell’s findings at the top of this report underscore that trend.
Still, the venomous antipathy towards voting for independents within the mainstream media continues to amaze. On Election night, Chris Matthews told viewers on MSNBC that voting for a minor party candidate in this election was equivalent to supporting the Vichy government in France during World War II which, nominally neutral, was actually allied with the Nazis. He quickly withdrew the remark, but his co-panelist Joy Reid offered a friendly amendment, saying that her voting age children had a circle of friends who thought it was “chic” to vote for an independent. Fascist or fashionable, take your pick. Both Matthews and Reid believe that political correctness and voting for the establishment are the inviolable building blocks of an enlightened America. No wonder they never saw the revolt coming.

The Latino Vote

The Democrats believed that Clinton could muster a broad and deep majority among Latinos. 65 percent of Latinos nationally supported Clinton, while 29 percent cast their votes for Trump. In 2012, Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, while Romney secured 27 percent. The hoped for “demographics are destiny” Latino tide did not occur. And, interestingly, in New Mexico, 12 percent of Latinos voted for an independent candidate. In Arizona, where 41 percent of Latinos are registered as independents, 9 percent of the Hispanic vote went to independent candidates. The Latino vote is very much in play in this era of realignment, potentially a force for nonpartisan structural reform that will increase its political power in more fluid coalitions.

Contradictions and the Divide

If the voter revolt was both luminous and conflicted, it also revealed a country filled with contradictions. Donald Trump opposed any mandated increases in the minimum wage, but two of the five states that passed an increase in the minimum wage went for Trump. Even though Trump campaigned against undocumented immigrants and for building a wall at the border with Mexico, exit polling showed that 70 percent of voters want a pathway to legalization for undocumenteds. Consistency and certainty, hallmarks of more stable times, are rapidly disappearing.

In Hillary’s concession speech, the morning after the election, (ironically the best and most intimate speech of her campaign), she said that this election showed us that the country is more divided than we thought. I don’t agree. In this election, dominated as it was by the major parties, the vultures in the major media and the three-ring circus of campaigns, we saw how the parties and their support institutions prevent Americans from crossing the divide and creating new ways of coming together.
Many progressive people are upset and fearful about the results, worried that if the liberal coalition is now on the ropes, the country will turn irrevocably to the right. Best, perhaps, to have a look at the ways that the liberal coalition—with its insistence on identity politics and the blame game that accompanies them—fostered an environment in which a turn to the right was inevitable. Let us now be released from these ideological and authoritarian chains and seek new ways to build a new, independent, multi-racial, anti-establishment American majority.

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