‘Everybody’ is not to blame. Just the Democrats and Republicans

There’s a column on The State‘s op-ed page today from an unfamiliar (as in, not a regular) writer: Dick Meyer, chief Washington correspondent for Scripps.

The headline is, “Who’s to blame for Trump’s rise? Everybody.

Dick Meyer

Dick Meyer

Well, that’s misleading. In fact, the column only blames Republicans and Democrats. And of course, they richly deserve it. The rest of us — the great plurality of us, according to a recent Gallup Poll — are let off the hook. (I sent Cindi a note this morning complaining about the hed, but then I saw that the hed probably came with the column — The Commercial Appeal, the Scripps paper where I started my career as a copy boy, ran the piece with the very same headline.)

That poll shows 43 percent of us identifying as independent, 30 percent as Democratic and 26 percent as Republican.

Of course, there are are a lot of folks — such as Republicans, Democrats, the conflict-obsessed media and all those interest groups that fund themselves by goading us all to hate each other — who go out of their way to debunk those numbers. (And indeed, for us in South Carolina especially, it’s hard to imagine that America is only 26 percent Republican.)

Indeed, when you Google “percentage of electorate that is independent,” the first three links you get are headlined something like “The myth of the independent voter.” Basically, those essays break down the group identifying as “independent” and show most as leaning one way or the other, in terms of voting habits. These doubters say as little as 5 percent of us are truly hardcore independent.

That is in turn misleading. Of course independents vote for Democrats and Republicans; most of the time they aren’t offered anything else — and when they are, those “independents” are even more blindly ideological than the Dems and Repubs (say, Libertarians).

And if they vote more often for members of one party or the other, that can often be no more than an accident of geography. For instance, I vote mostly Republican. Why? Because I live in Lexington County. If I want any say at all in local or state government, I have to vote in the Republican primary. In fact, I think I’ve only voted in one Democratic primary since I moved to my current residence in 1997 — and that was the presidential primary in 2004, when there was no Republican alternative. I cast that vote proudly for Joe Lieberman. I knew he was going to get creamed here, and I wanted him to have my vote at least.

You will seldom see, especially out of the partisan cauldron of Washington, anyone giving us independents any respect. When they’re not debunking us, they’re insulting us. They think we fail to pick a side between the two rabid, snarling packs because we are apathetic and don’t bother to be informed. They completely miss the fact that many of us are independent precisely because we do pay attention and do think, and therefore do not buy our opinions prepackaged off a shelf.

But Washington journalists — who like to keep the options down to two extremes, because that makes it easier to cover politics like sports — generally ignore us. Our existence is inconvenient to their simple paradigm. Thus, they refer to Republicans and Democrats as “everybody.”

All of that said, and passionately believed, I wonder if it isn’t in the end true that “everybody” is to blame, including us.

I mean, say we independents do make up 43 percent of the electorate. What have we done to stop these whack jobs in the two parties from making a complete hash of our country’s politics?

Must give us pause.

49 thoughts on “‘Everybody’ is not to blame. Just the Democrats and Republicans

  1. Rick Temple

    I find these claims that Democrats are in any way responsible tor Trump’s rise outrageous. The Republicans, with their anti-science rhetoric and political strategies that woo racists, xenophobes and misogynists, are totally responsible for this political Frankenstein monster. Republicans, just ask yourselves this question (honestly if possible): How much chance would Trump have of being the nominee if he ran as a Democrat?

  2. Karen Pearson

    I found this column interesting enough that I plan to take it to our EfM group. I’ll be interested to see what others bring in. I don’t see either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Sanders as anything near the “whack job” that either Trump or Cruz are, but I agree that both parties need to be seeking and nurturing their upcoming statesmen. We must stop this constant demonization of “the other side.” Furthermore, since the parties aren’t showing the maturity to do it, we desperately need those in the media to step up and do the research necessary to determine what is and what isn’t factual. We also need to get rid of the real “whack jobs,” i.e. those talking heads that go out of their way to spin simple facts (and sometimes outright lies) into ad hominem attacks on those they disagree with.

    1. Howard

      Karen, who in their right mind would want the job… period? Other than fringe benefits the job doesn’t exactly pay all that well for a 24/7/365 position. All the position is going to draw is the egotistical personalities on both sides. The position also no longer earns the respect of the office holder. A President used to be a modern day god, now he’s the butt of late night television jokes. A day doesn’t go by where someone isn’t pointing their finger and blame at the President.

  3. Bill

    How many times do you need to convince everybody and yourself that you’re so above the fray?

    1. Karen Pearson

      I don’t know. How many times will it take for people to understand that it doesn’t need to be/shouldn’t be a “fray?” I can remember civilized elections where the candidates were not slinging mud, much less encouraging their followers to punch protesters. This is supposed to be a presidential election, not a cage fight.

      1. Bill

        On key issues that generally separate republicans from democrats,BW comes off as republican.
        It’s an awful election all round,but it could be worse;1968 Chicago

        1. Howard

          Chicago again… maybe they need to do something about that, it hasn’t gotten better in the past 48 years.

      2. Howard

        ” I can remember civilized elections where the candidates were not slinging mud,”

        Please… tell us more about Garfield vs. Hancock election.

        1. Matt Bohn

          For sure more refrained, but even then the Democrats tried to tie Garfield to Grant’s scandals while the Republicans portrayed Hancock as sympathetic to the Confederacy. Funny how things haven’t really changed that much.

  4. Howard

    If the Independents make up 43% of the electorate, why can’t they put up their own candidate? 43% in a 3 party race is a guaranteed win.

    1. Howard

      You don’t think 43% of the registered voters in this country can’t put together the money or the know how to get someone to run?

      1. Nick Nielsen

        That would require creating a party and essentially defeat the purpose of being independent.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          This is a job for…

          the UnParty! To be a member, all you have to adhere to is the following:

          Are there any fundamental, nonnegotiable tenets? Sure:

          • First, unwavering opposition to fundamental, nonnegotiable tenets. Within our party would be many ideas, and in each situation we would sift through them to find the smartest possible approach to the challenge at hand. Another day, a completely different approach might be best.
          • Respect for any good idea, even if it comes from Democrats or Republicans.
          • Contempt for any stupid idea, even if it comes from our own party leaders.
          • Utter freedom to vote however one’s conscience dictates, without condemnation or ostracism from fellow party members.
  5. Doug Ross

    People may self-identify as independent but I’d like to see the data on actual voting records. If you vote for one party more than say 2/3 of the time for President, Senator, and House of Representatives, then you aren’t an independent.

    Simple test: If you claim to be an independent, tell us who you have voted for in the Presidential elections. I’m guessing the number of people who voted for Bill Clinton AND George W. Bush is a much smaller percentage than 43% more like 4.3%. How about McCain and Obama? Or Obama and Romney? Anyone who did that would be a real independent (or more likely an uninformed voter).

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Clinton and W? Check. McCain and Obama? Check. (Obama and Romney in the general is impossible if you voted for McCain and Obama in the general. But I DID vote for Romney in the 2012 primary, so check…)

      And few would call me uninformed. That’s a common slur flung at those of us who think for ourselves…

      As for overall voting pattern, I’ve explained that: Where I live, most candidates are Republican, so I’ve voted mostly for Republicans.

    2. Norm Ivey

      I voted for losing candidates in every presidential election from 1980 until 2008, when I finally picked a winner. Looking back at that record, I realize I tend to vote for the candidate I most trust regardless of his or her party, with the possible exception of my Perot protest vote in 92 when I wanted to sit it out, but couldn’t bring myself to do that.

      1. Doug Ross

        Just to be clear, you never voted for Bill Clinton? You went for Dukakis vs Bush in 88, then Perot vs Clinton/Bush in 92 , then Dole vs Clinton in 96? It’s hard to fathom a Dukakis/Dole transition. Or were Bill’s escapades with Monica a driving factor?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I voted for Dukakis and Dole. I regret the Dukakis vote. Bush was a better president than Dukakis could possibly have been. (I didn’t vote for Bush in ’88, though, because while I had really liked him back in 1980, he had sort of lost my respect as Reagan’s veep. I had the same problem with Gore in 2000. I had really liked him in the 80s, back when I knew him and frequently had occasion to speak with him. But playing No. 2 to Clinton had sort of diminished him in my eyes. Bush was no Reagan, but tried to act like one. Gore was no Clinton, but seemed to follow in his wake. Even though that went with the job, it was unsettling to me.)

          The Dole vote was complicated. It was a lot like my vote for McGovern in 1972. If I’d thought either of them had had a chance, I would have voted the other way But since I knew they were going to lose, I voted for each of them as a protest against Nixon and Clinton.

          And this was before Lewinsky. Clinton had disappointed me in other ways.

            1. Norm Ivey

              I was disinterested in 1968. I was 7. In 72 I was anti-Viet Nam and pro-ecology. I wasn’t yet thinking in terms of politics.

        2. Norm Ivey

          Never voted for Bill. Perot in 92. Dole in 96. My views have certainly changed. I was more conservative in the 80s than I am now on many issues. Trust mattered in 96. I didn’t trust Bill, much as I don’t trust Hillary now. If Lindsey Graham (who acknowledges climate change) were to be the nominee against Hillary, I would have to at least spend some time considering who to vote for. The closest The Repubs will come to such a nominee is Kasich, and his recent rhetoric concerning alternative energy discourages me.

  6. Harry Harris

    “Independent” certainly doesn’t mean moderate or persuadable. Independent likely includes neo-nazi and communist, libertarian and socialist. Sanders was an independent senator who caucused with the Democrats until he decided to run for the Democratic nomination. The idea of those who identify as independent coalescing around a candidate is pretty far-fetched. Whoever are the nominees of the two major parties will attract in different proportions independents and party crossovers based on their positions and appeal as candidates. Unfortunately, the polarization we live through has a sizable block locked-in on each side, with candidates and platforms battling it out for a shrinking portion of the electorate. There’s also a rather large group (over 40%) who almost never vote because of a lack of motivation, some barrier or difficulty, or a perception that it doesn’t matter. One thing I’m convinced kills turnout is the negativity and caustic atmosphere caused by our campaigns. As noted in another post, the press and media do a poor job of vetting claims and fact-checking, which makes it harder for more casual voters to know what to believe.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, Harry, as I pointed out, on the rare occasions that we have independents as candidates, they tend to be more extreme than the party members — Bernie being a case in point.

      So yeah, that 43 percent (if it’s accurate) includes such fringes as “neo-nazi and communist, libertarian and socialist.”

      But I don’t think that describes most independents. But I DO think an awful lot of independents are in that category you describe who almost never vote, because the parties have so turned them off to politics.

      Those of us who are true independents and highly engaged in politics are probably a minority among independents. Mainly because we have nothing to rally around but the parties, which repel us.

    2. Norm Ivey

      I describe myself as Independent, but I recognize that many of my views lean left. I am persuadable by a well-founded argument by a trustworthy candidate. The only deal-breaker issue for me is climate change. Until the Republican candidates begin to take that issue seriously, they will not get my vote. Neither party will be the salvation or the destruction of the nation. This year, with Trump the likely Republican nominee, it’s vital that the Democrats win the White House.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I describe myself as punctual, fun-loving, family-oriented, and I wear socks that match. I don’t like long walks on the beach, because eventually you have to stop and turn around, and then you’re just walking back along the same path you were on, and where’s the fun in that? I’m a rule follower for the most part because it makes my life easier. I’m against the designated hitter, and I consider decaf coffee to be the most pointless thing on the planet, except for maybe non-alcoholic beer.

        You know, just an average American.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            The DH takes away personal responsibility, accountability, and makes pitchers into prima donnas.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Absolutely! The DH is unconscionable.

            And I’m with you on all that other stuff, too, especially the long walks thing. This is weird, I was JUST talking about that over lunch — that I’ll walk when there’s someplace to go, but not to walk a long distance and then just walk back… I feel bad about it because I love my wife and want to do stuff with her, but when I go on a walk with her in our neighborhood I keep wanting to head back after a couple of blocks, because I have this huge aversion to increasing the distance that we have to walk BACK. I start getting antsy and twitchy about it. Which prompts my wife to say maybe I should stay home next time, and she has a point…

            That is, I’m with you on everything except that you go with “punctual” first. That’s a little bit fascist, wouldn’t you say, Duce?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              But let me hasten to add that the UnParty is so broad-minded, so tolerant, that we’ll even let in fans of the American League, as long as we’re not talking about the Yankees… 🙂

            2. Doug Ross

              Do like I did this weekend and walk 17 miles in one direction and have your wife pick you up.

              As for the DH, I believe in excellence. When you take two of the five tools of baseball (run, throw, field, hit, hit for power) and allow someone who is not suited to perform them stand in the batter’s box, you’re getting an inferior product. For those very few pitchers who CAN hit at a major league level, nothing prevents a manager from writing their name in the lineup.

              Man on second, two outs, #8 hitter at the plate. What do you do in the NL? Walk him and pitch to the pitcher who’s batting .110 with a .200 OPS who then strikes out at a significantly higher rate than even a replacement level batter or else taps weakly to SS for an easy out. Bleh!! Pitchers pitch and hitters hit.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                “Man on second, two outs, #8 hitter at the plate. What do you do in the NL? Walk him and pitch to the pitcher who’s batting .110 with a .200 OPS who then strikes out at a significantly higher rate than even a replacement level batter or else taps weakly to SS for an easy out.” -Doug

                What inning is it? Is it a close game? Is it tied? Is it late in the game, and my starting pitcher (on deck) is already 6+ innings into the game? Do I have a good hitter on my bench to pinch hit with? Is your starting pitcher on the mound who happens to he a right-hander and I have a left-hander on the bench? If I pinch hit with my lefty, do you pull your starter and counter with a lefty reliever?

                It’s called strategy, Mr. Ross. I guess it comes down to whether you like checkers or chess.

                Oh, and it’s not how things have always been. Baseball (with apologies to William F. Buckely) “stands athwart history, yelling stop”. You can take your newfangled DH.


              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                That’s right. The manager has to employ strategery. That’s part of the beauty of baseball…

                The DH lets managers and teams avoid hard choices.

                You really want a great pitcher who can’t bat his way out of a paper bag? Fine, but accept the fact that you will have that weakness in your lineup. Just as if you pick up a great hitter who can’t field. You’ve got to make choices, and accept the consequences…

                1. Doug Ross

                  The “strategy” is all paint-by-numbers stuff. If YOU know what to do in the situation, then what’s the strategy?

                  Pitchers rarely pitch more than 6 innings any more any way so the 6th inning or later question is moot. The highest CG total for a pitcher last year was 4. Steve Carlton had 30! in 1972 and as recently as 1998 Curt Schilling had 15.

                  I’d like to see how many AB’s pitchers get after the 6th inning in the NL. So we’re only talking really about 2 AB’s lost per game per team. 2 lousy AB’s where you can start heading to the hot dog stand if there are two outs. There’s nothing worse than a first inning big inning killed by a pitcher striking out with the bat on his shoulder.

                  Only one pitcher (Madison Bumgarner) batted at a level that was anywhere close to major league level. He hit .247 with 5 HR. Meanwhile, Mets fans got to see ace pitcher Matt Harvey stroll up to bat 65 times and deliver 7 hits while striking out 31 times and walking ZERO times. If that’s the “strategy” you like to see, God bless you. I’m crazy in that I like to see professional hitters go up against professional pitchers. But that’s just me.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    From time to time, I also get a great deal of enjoyment out of watching an utterly unqualified player attempt to hit a baseball.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Steve Carlton? I’ll have you know that my wife’s first cousin Tim McCarver was Steve Carlton’s catcher (after he was Bob Gibson’s), so…

                  Actually, I don’t know what point I was going to make about that. I just still think it’s cool — all these years since I learned it, back when we were first dating — that TIm is my cousin-in-law, so I like to mention it…

                3. Brad Warthen Post author

                  It was SO choice…

                  I’m sitting there on the couch at my girlfriend’s house, where she has decided to undertake the task of organizing her family’s pictures. I’m digging around through a box of unsorted pictures, and I run across an official publicity photo that prompts two questions:

                  — What is Tim McCarver doing in an Expos uniform?

                  — What is Tim McCarver doing among your family photos?

                  Answer to the second question: “He’s my cousin.”


                  I was a huge fan of the 1968 Cardinals, and although I had several of their autographs (including Steve Carlton’s, obtained during spring training 1969 when he was a nobody), I had been unable to get Tim’s. I sensed that now I had a chance…

                4. Brad Warthen Post author

                  You know, if I could be a player in the majors and could choose my position, it would be catcher.

                  It’s definitely the coolest position…

          3. Norm Ivey

            I’m with the Libertarian on this one. Enough guys strike out without knowing a pitcher going to wiff every time. Put the ball in play.

              1. Doug Ross

                Analytics have proven that sacrifice bunts are not the best option for a hitter. They are used approximately 50% less often now compared to 1975. Saving an out is more valuable than moving a runner one base. Unless you have an incompetent batter at the plate (like an NL pitcher) who cannot draw a walk or put the ball in play.

        1. Norm Ivey

          I’m Independent.

          I’m with Bryan on guns.

          I’m with Brad on health care.

          I’m with Doug on military spending. And apparently walks. Not doing 17 miles, but I like to get out in the woods.

          I’m with Kathryn on many local issues.

          I’m with Bud on climate change, but not quite as doomsday about it.

          I think I’m with Barry on matters of education, but more optimistic. I know I’m with Scout.

          I’m with Philip on his thoughtful analysis of damn near everything.

          I’m with Howard on DST.

          I don’t like pina coladas or getting caught in the rain.

          I’m Independent.

          1. Norm Ivey

            And I really don’t know if my socks match most days or not. Really don’t care that much.

            1. Norm Ivey

              I’m with everyone on beer, unless you don’t drink it. And then I’m just kind of sorry for you.

  7. Bart

    Long walks on the beach are not my thing and if you do it during the day, you can get sunburned or at least I would. And the DH rule changed baseball and I stopped watching it on a regular basis after that.

    Query: who can actually describe or define what an independent is when it comes to political ideology? I know I cannot but still consider myself an independent. Sometimes I vote for the Democrat, sometimes the Republican, and sometimes if the choices stink up the process the way it is shaping up this time around, I will do a write-in. But, I always participate whether I agree with the choices or not. As John Denver so elegantly stated on the first “Midnight Special” when the voting age was lowered to 18, “If you don’t vote, don’t bitch.”

    I guess going by that definition, bud must vote at least 10 times during each election. JUST KIDDING bud, JUST KIDDING!!!!!!! In all sincerity, I really do appreciate your passion, whether I agree with you or not.

  8. bud

    bud must vote at least 10 times during each election.

    Of course I don’t vote 10 times each election, that would be illegal. I just get my dead grandparents and great grandparents to vote.

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