As we mentioned in Part One, George Washington sternly warned us about the risks of a political system divided into two factions. We’ve failed to heed his warning, letting our two main political parties operate unbridled far too long. Our representatives in government no longer represent the people, but instead, represent their parties. These are troubling times, but fear not, there is a fix to the madness.
The two-party system has remained unchallenged in American politics for quite some time. People in America have laughed third parties off the stage and voted them out of the polling booths. Despite this, the Independent movement has been steadily gaining power as the two major parties have shown time and time again they are incapable of shedding their bias, dirty money, and extremist wings for the greater good. American voters crave a new form of politician.
The time for the independent movement is now. The largest barriers to an Independent movement in the past were public sentiment, fundraising, and a viable plan. All three of these barriers are currently being breached and bypassed.
Public sentiment toward the two main political parties has been changing drastically over the last few generations, serving as a testament to the parties’ inability to successfully serve the people. A Pew Research Center graph below shows it best1. In 2014, the “Silent Generation”, those aged 69-86, had 33 percent identify as Democrat, 33 percent identify as Republican, and 29 percent identify as Independent.
As you go through the generations moving from the Silent to Millennials, the Independent tag gains considerable ground. Millennials, aged 18-33, had just 28 percent identify as Democrats, 18 percent identify as Republicans, and a whopping 48 percent identify as Independents.
It’s evident the future citizens and leaders of this nation are bucking the two-party norm. The system itself is just slow to catch up. This isn’t because of lack of interest or voting power, but because, as Nick Troiano, executive director of the Centrist Project (we’ll explain who they are later) put it, “Both parties that don’t agree on much do agree on one thing: To make it difficult for new competition. They’ve rigged the rules in their own favor.”2
The sentiment mentioned above, combined with the new era of “crowdfunding,” social media, and improvements in payment technology have all balanced the financial battlefield for political candidates.
Social media can reach more people in a day than ever possible by traditional means. The monthly active users during 2016 for the three major social media sites Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter were 1.55 billion, 1 billion, and 320 million respectively.3
Due to improvements in payment technology over the years, these monthly active users aren’t just fans on the sidelines; they have some major financial power. Outside of the political realm, the viral “ice bucket challenge” in 2014-2015 raised over $200 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (AMS)4 and Houston Texans star J.J. Watt used social media and online fundraising to raise over $30 million for Hurricane Harvey victims in just 11 days.5 Inside the political realm, we’ve seen this success reciprocated.
Bernie Sanders, the populist, unconventional Democratic candidate for President in 2016, ran a very successful fundraising campaign from mainly individual donors. He was able to raise almost 202 million dollars from contributions of only 200 dollars or less.6 This 200 million almost helped him defeat an institutional party champion. That’s the power of grassroots campaigning in the modern political era, and it’s a strategy not exclusive to the two parties.
Viable Plan –
Unfortunately, the sentiment and fundraising can’t go anywhere without a viable plan, and the third-party method has a horrible track record in recent U.S. politics. Whether it be the Reform Party, the Green Party, or the Libertarian Party, few have been more than a blip on the radar. The attitude towards these third-parties in the American public, despite the many affiliated Independents, is generally poor. But there’s a new kid on the block, enter: Unite America (formerly, Centrist Project).
This project is a little known, highly ambitious, and rightfully justified attempt to change the way our government works, or, to be more precise, get it back to how it was supposed to work. Unite America is an attempt to create an institution that will provide worthwhile candidates the educational, financial, and strategic resources the traditional parties provide, minus the partisan pressure.
Unite America is not another doomed-to-fail third party. It’s a viable solution to the two-party gridlock in Washington. Unite America looks to find and back independent candidates who exhibit great personal integrity and take a pragmatic approach to solving our nation’s problems. Unite America’s role in the process will be to provide the “tools, training, and talent they need to run competitive campaigns without traditional party support.”7 Their goal isn’t to achieve a majority, or even close to one, all they aim to do is elect enough Independent Senators that, although a minority, will hold enough power to force the two traditional parties to work together and forfeit ideas that only serve partisan ends. They call it the “Fulcrum Strategy” and here’s why they think it’ll work:
So, as they ask, can it really work?
Public sentiment, financial means, and a viable plan have opened the door for an independent movement. Can American voters finally succeed in getting American politicians to pursue the national will over that of their party?
1 – http://www.people-press.org/2015/04/07/a-deep-dive-into-party-affiliation/
2 – https://www.c-span.org/video/?433724-5/washington-journal-nick-troiano-discusses-centrism-movement
4 – https://phys.org/news/2016-08-social-media-success-viral-campaigns.html
5 – https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/texans/2017/09/08/jj-watt-hurricane-harvey-relief-fund-update/648572001/
6 – https://www.fec.gov/data/candidate/P60007168/?election_full=True&cycle=2016&tab=raising
7 – http://www.centristproject.org/mission