Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s highly publicized formal divorce from the Republican Party is not the big story. Speculation by the major media outlets that his move is a precursor to running for president as an independent candidate is also not the big story. The big story behind this high-profile declaration is the ever increasing number of people who feel politically homeless.
The politically homeless are voters and elected officials who are frustrated with both political parties. They are not just the true independent voters. They include more and more unhappy Democrats and unhappy Republicans, who may not always declare their independence from party politics. These frustrations are further agitated by a media establishment that continually tries to characterize candidates and voters with media-convenient labels, and to reduce a candidate’s policy positions to a series of sound-bites.
Most of the unhappy Democrats are rejecting the socialist policies of their party leaders, and they are not willing to follow blindly for the sake of the party. Most of the unhappy Republicans are upset because their party leaders have, at times, abandoned Republican principles, even with control of both houses of Congress and occupancy of the White House. Most notably, the Republicans blew an opportunity to restructure the Social Security system and Medicare, and for six years they spent money just like the Democrats to drive up the costs of the federal government.
It should not be a surprise that Congress has the lowest approval rating in modern times, according to a recent Gallup poll. And as usual, the Democrats are vigorously blaming the Republicans for everything that’s wrong, while the Republicans are promising to act like Republicans if they are given another chance to hold the majority. Meanwhile, very little gets done while the big problems get worse.
When Congress does agree on something the president will sign, it has turned out to be an incalculable abomination of the legislative process. A Republican-controlled Congress gave us the Prescription Drug Bill, and the Democratic-controlled Congress is trying to force the so-called Comprehensive Immigration Bill down our collective throats.
In fairness, the strength of the economy is a bright spot due to the Bush-led tax cuts of 2003, even though the Democrats are in denial that the tax cuts are working. In fact, the Democrats are contemplating letting the current tax rates expire at the end of 2010 to achieve an automatic tax increase. And when the economy starts to tank, of course they will blame the Republicans for having given too many tax breaks to the evil rich, and then trumpet the need to increase taxes on the rich to solve the problem.
This flawed economic logic does not work as well as it used to for the Democrats, and the Republicans attempt to co-pander to illegal aliens for their future votes in the proposed Immigration Bill is not working either. This causes more and more people to join the ranks of the politically homeless.
I experienced a surge of politically homeless voters firsthand in my 2004 bid for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. They were not only comprised of disgusted Democrats, rebellious Republicans and irate Independents, but many first-time voters looking for common-sense solutions to problems. They were not looking for politics and politicians as usual.
The politically homeless are rapidly becoming the real swing voters, because they are not just those voters uncommitted to a political party, they are voters committed to independent thinking and not just political thinking. Although the two-party system makes it more difficult to leverage these independent voters, the success of Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2006 as an independent candidate in Connecticut demonstrates that it can be done.
The current political landscape screams a severe lack of leadership in both major political parties and in Congress, which is certainly not a new revelation. The leadership challenges are not going to be solved overnight or in one presidential election, and it is not going to be solved if people just give up. The politically homeless have not given up. They are simply tired of politics as usual, partisanship as usual, political rhetoric as usual and a lack of real results as usual.
Like Mayor Bloomberg, the politically homeless want to keep all options on the table, and not in a box, a label or a sound-bite.